Establishing Trade Value Part 2: Position Players
In the second part of my three-part series on trade value, I am going to assess the position players, though I’m doing things a little differently this time. Instead of ranking every single position player on the active roster, I pretty much stuck to the regulars. Non-prospects like Alexi Casilla, Jason Repko, and Drew Butera might be useful as bench players, but they aren’t going to fetch anything of value in a trade. While the position players on the whole have been above-average, they have considerably less trade value than the pitchers. The Twins just don’t have many position players good enough to draw much interest, and aren’t likely to part with the ones who are. The rankings, and my snarky commentary, after the jump.
1) Delmon Young: The 24 year-old is having the best season of his career, though that isn’t really saying much. Delmon is batting .325/.357/.525 with an isolated power of .200 and weighted on-base average of .375, though he still doesn’t have a great deal of patience (his walk rate is just 4.9%). According to Fangraphs, he’s been worth just 2.1 wins above replacement this season (Baseball-reference.com, which uses a different defensive metric than UZR to calculate WAR values, pegs him at 1.2). Still, Delmon is young, cheap, and absolutely crushing the ball right now, making him a very attractive trade piece. However, with their lefty-heavy lineup, it’s extremely unlikely the Twins will even consider trading the best right-handed hitter on the team.
2) Denard Span: Span really hasn’t been quite the on-base machine this year as he has the past couple of seasons, batting just .270/.343/.363, with no power whatsoever. However, Span’s walk and strikeout rates are within career norms, while his .298 batting average on balls in play suggests he’s been a bit unlucky this season, so his offensive numbers should come around eventually. He’s also been at least an adequate defender in center field (1.1 UZR), and according to Fangraphs, is just behind Delmon at 2.0 WAR (Baseball-reference is a bit more pessimistic, at just 0.2 WAR). He’s locked up through 2014 for a reasonable $16.5 million, and probably wouldn’t be too difficult to move if the Twins wanted to trade him. However, given his offensive struggles, Span’s trade value is at its lowest point and he probably wouldn’t bring in more than a mid-level prospect or two in return. The Twins would probably get a better haul dealing an outfield prospect like Aaron Hicks or Ben Revere instead.
3) J.J. Hardy: Hardy suffered from a wrist injury, but he’s been batting .339/.361/.424 since returning from the DL. He’s still posting a .292 wOBA, though he’s been every bit as good as advertised defensively (his 6.8 UZR is second only to Alexei Ramirez’s 8.6 as best in the league). Again, since the Twins would have to sell low on Hardy, they will likely opt to hang onto him. Especially since he’s pretty much the best shortstop they have had, oh, since I was born.
4) Danny Valencia: The time to trade Valencia was probably last year, when he was considered a top prospect in the Twins system and other teams were actually interested in him. Valencia is batting .329/386/.382 in the major leagues, with almost no power (though his 0.70 BB/K ratio is pretty good). He’s a 3.1 UZR in 22 starts at third base, so he might make a serviceable third baseman. At this point though, Valencia hasn’t proven himself to be any better than the serviceable infielders available on the waiver wire.
5) Jason Kubel: Kubel is a corner outfielder with average power but below-average defense in the field (well below-average, -16.2 UZR). He’s cheap, with just a little over $1.3 million left on his contract (plus a $5.25 million option for 2011), but probably wouldn’t fetch more than a low-level prospect in a trade.
6) Orlando Hudson: If he weren’t hurt, Hudson would probably be higher than Hardy on this list. The O-Dog is having a nice season, batting .285/.356/.387 and providing very good defense at second (5.7 UZR). He’s only owed about million the rest of the season, so he’d be a reasonably-priced rental for a contender (per a stipulation in his contract, he cannot be offered arbitration, so no draft picks for anybody). As long as the Twins are fighting for a division title, however, they have no reason to deal the best second baseman they have had since Chuck Knoblauch.
7) Justin Morneau: Morneau’s concussion obviously affects his current trade value, but not as much as the $36 million left on his contract. That’s still a pretty team-friendly deal given the level of production the Twins have gotten out of their Canadian Crusher, but power-hitting first basemen aren’t exactly a hot commodity. Contending teams rarely need a first baseman unless something really bad happens, and non-contenders aren’t going to want to pay him $14 million a year for the next three years.
8) Nick Punto: With all of the injuries to the infield, Punto will probably get enough starts to qualify for the batting title, so I have to include him somewhere on this list. He’s awful at the plate, but versatile in the field, and unlike Michael Cuddyer, is a plus defender at every position he plays. Utility infielders are not exactly in demand, especially those owed about $1 million the rest of the season (and with a $5 million option for next year).
9) Michael Cuddyer: Cuddles plays a lot of positions, none of them particularly well (though first base is clearly his best position, at -0.1 UZR). He’s also a league-average hitter, and is owed about $12 million through 2011. The Twins aren’t going to find a trade partner unless they eat a substantial part of that contract. With Morneau out for an uncertain period of time, Cuddles probably isn’t going anywhere anyway.
10) Jim Thome: It’s not that Thome is having a terrible season, quite the opposite actually. He’s batting .257/.387/.533, and is the second-best hitter on the team, behind the injured Justin Morneau. It’s just that there isn’t much demand for a 39 year-old designated hitter with devastating platoon splits. That’s what the White Sox discovered when they dealt the then-38 year-old to the Dodgers at the deadline last year, receiving only a low-level infield prospect in return. Thome is more valuable in the lineup than he is in terms of trade value, especially since he’s getting paid just $1.5 million this year.
11) Joe Mauer: Mauer is having a down season by his standards, but he’s still arguably one of the best players in baseball since 2004. If he weren’t locked in to an 8-year, $184 million contract (that doesn’t even start until 2011), the Twins would almost certainly find a taker, even though he is batting below .300 for the first time in his career. Unfortunately, that contract makes Mauer impossible to move. The Twins better hope Man Muscles is just a bit banged up, and not beginning the decline phase of his career.