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The final and absolute trade chips ranking for 2019

Smith! Bumgarner! Everybody else!

2019 MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We’ve been tracking the various player values for over a month now and I think it’s safe to say that we’ve got a handle on the cream of the crop on this year’s team. You can look through all the previous rankings here:

Vol. I
Vol. II
Vol. III
Vol. IV
Vol. V

There’s not much change from last week, either, but since I’m declaring this the last ranking post until the offseason, I’ll go into a little more detail about the top five than I have in recent weeks.

Nobody wants to see the Giants maintain the status quo, but a not insignificant number of fans don’t want to see this whole thing get blown up just because it’s “what you’re supposed to do in a rebuild.” In fairness to that point, the Giants got to their literally unprecedented level of success by rejecting conventional wisdom, the status quo, and on base percentage; so, it makes sense there are still renegades held over from that time.

But the Giants were last good a long time ago. If they’re to get with the times, they will need to shave off the few decent pieces they have left and try to use that space to grow new goodness. Unfortunately, given the team’s lack of dynamism both on the major league roster and in the farm system, they’re not going to have the leverage to make a lot of high upside deals.

You might’ve seen yesterday’s talk about the Giants possibly being engaged with the Dodgers and Cardinals in some sort of discussion for Will Smith. The Dodgers are unlikely to part with any prospects in their top 15 for a “rental”, and the same might be true of most teams, even if gaining Smith for the rest of this season improves their chances of winning a World Series this year over the prospect who may or may not contribute for a few years.

But here’s where it gets interesting: most of the teams still legitimately in the playoff hunt have a lot of players outside their top 15 that are still projected to have significant “future value”. In last week’s ranking, I talked about MLB Pipeline’s “Overall” rating based on scout’s 20-80 grading system for prospects. FanGraphs has a similar measure called Future Value (FV), and it’s a lot more analytics/business-driven than that Overall value.

Pipeline’s “Overall” tends to be more of a here’s what kind of a major league player we’re projecting this prospect to be based on current scouting. FanGraphs, a shadow extension of MLB front offices, makes their “Future Value” sound a little more harsh:

FV stands for Future Value, and it’s the way we distill each player’s scouting evaluation into a single expression. Broadly stated, Future Value is a grade on the 20-80 scale that maps to anticipated annual WAR production during the player’s first six years of service.

A key distinction: Pipeline gives Heliot Ramos a “55” Overall grade, FanGraphs gives him a 50 FV. The more conservative number is the one teams will use when determining trade value, meaning FVs are the coin of the realm. It breaks down like this:

So, a 40 FV means that a player’s projected to make it to the major leagues and, probably, stick for a little while. That sounds like a solid baseline for trades. Obviously, you — and the Giants — would like to get back some major league caliber players in exchange for their best trade chips.

For context, the Giants’ FV leaderboard has just 23 players with 40 or greater FVs. The Dodgers have 33. The Yankees have 39.

For this final one, I’m re-calibrating based on FV versus Overall. One last time:

  • Don’t assume the Giants will pay down a player’s salary.
  • Don’t assume a player will waive his no-trade clause.
  • Players not on the 25-man roster could absolutely be traded, but ranking them is harder to define.
  • The Giants will only move him for a deal that upgrades some other area of the organization.
  • The assumed minimum value in return is a prospect with a scouts rating of 40 Overall value.
  • Player is more likely to be moved than player(s) ranked beneath him.
  • Player is either more or less likely to be moved than player(s) ranked beneath him but more likely to bring back a greater prospect return (minimum: one 40 Overall value player).

11. Pablo Sandoval

The Giants are least likely to move Sandoval, yes, because of the marketing — still gotta put butts in seats — and the Bochy factor, but he’s still more valuable than 14 other guys on the roster in that he’s cheap (makes the league minimum) and productive (he’s slugging the same as Shohei Ohtani in 26 fewer PA). It’d be a cheap pickup for a budget-conscious team genuinely trying to improve its depth.

10. Joe Panik

No longer the best defensive second baseman in baseball and his offensive performance is way down (.272 wOBA). It’s way more likely that the Giants non-tender Joe Panik at season’s end than trade him before the July 31st deadline, but if they get any sort of offer for him, they’d definitely move him.

Why would a team throw a 40 FV prospect the Giants’ way for a guy who might be done? The walk rate, strikeout rate, and still above average defense could still help out a team, especially one depleted by injuries up the middle.

9. Evan Longoria

He’s probably just a shade more likely to be traded than Panik if only because the power and defense are still very much there and the veteran presence and name brand recognition might be enough to convince a team to trade the Giants a 40 FV. His contract isn’t exorbitant, even if it lasts a long time, and for some reason, I’m still imagining the Angels making a move for him.

8. Stephen Vogt

Backup catchers are probably more desirable to a contender than a 33-year old third baseman, a backup middle infielder who can’t hit, and Pablo Sandoval, but again, just barely. There’s not much separation in these 8-11 spots, and I’m not even sure if Vogt is quite as valuable as I’m making him out to be. But as I’ve said before — many, many times before — he does everything a baseball player can do averagely. He’s probably still more valuable to the Giants as Posey’s backup, but you never know. A team might get desperate.

7. Brandon Belt

Now here’s some separation. Belt has hung around towards the bottom of the rankings for the most part, but his value as the Giants’ best hitter is both a blessing and a curse. The curse part, of course, is that his being the best for the Giants isn’t really all that great for playoff contenders. He led MLB in walks in June with 24, but his fWAR was 0.0.

That’s the curse of most of the Giants’ roster: it’s virtually replacement-level. Nobody will want to trade for a replacement-level player, but Belt’s track record and, perhaps, a change in scenery would surely give him the aura of a player better than replacement.

On the season, Belt’s been just slightly more valuable (0.5 fWAR) than Miguel Cabrera (0.3), and as valuable as Justin Smoak, who makes far less than Belt and is a switch hitter. Out of this 7-11 bunch, I think he brings back the largest return (maybe one 40 FV and one 30-35+?). That contract will make it all but impossible to move him, though.

6. Kevin Pillar

He’s the Giants’ best overall player and the idea of him being a fourth outfielder or fill-in for an injured player on some contending team doesn’t seem at all far-fetched. Add in the extra year of team control and a very modest projectable salary and it seems like a no-brainer that he’s more valuable than the players beneath him.

Does he bring in two 40 FV guys? No. But probably what Belt might bring back in return. He’s ahead of Belt because he plays a more valuable defensive position and has a cheaper contract, making him far more likely to be moved.

5. Tony Watson

He’s been much higher in previous weeks, but I think his striking reverse platoon split — .865 OPS vs. lefties, .657 OPS vs. righties despite having allowed 5 home runs to righties — and 4.47 FIP (2.45 last year, 3.52 for his career) are red flags. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t get moved — left-handed relievers are valuable, even if they have weird splits in a small sample and perhaps especially in the last year of pitchers being allowed to face just one batter — but I’d scale down expectations on a return. One 40+ FV guy and many more suitors for his services versus 6-11 on the list.

4. Reyes Moronta

Morosi mentioned him in that previously mentioned Will Smith trade article and along with Sam Dyson we know he’s on the Dodgers’ radar. Moronta’s walk rate still limits the ceiling of his return, however, but I still think two 40 FV guys are possible, and I would think that would be the minimum requirement in order for the Giants to move such a young and valuable arm.

3. Sam Dyson

Dyson’s consistency, low walk rate, and extra year of team control gives him a little separation from Moronta. Like Moronta, he’s been as valuable as Adam Ottavino and Amir Garrett (0.7 fWAR), and just slightly less valuable than Kenley Jansen (0.8).

Maybe he and Moronta don’t net the Giants two 40s, but I can see Dyson easily getting a 40 and maybe two lottery tickets. That’s not the two 40s I assigned to Moronta, but I put Dyson higher because I think he’s more likely to be moved and because I think that he might actually be able to bring back three prospects.

Back in 2017, the Red Sox traded three prospects for Addison Reed. I’m not going to do all the research for those three, but a quality for quantity swap with a relief pitcher is a good move, especially if a team would be willing to make such a deal. Dave Dombrowski was Boston’s President of Baseball Operations in 2017, too.

2. Madison Bumgarner

What really squashes his value is the rumored availability of Detroit’s Matthew Boyd and Texas’s Mike Minor. Boyd’s younger, better, cheaper, and with a lot more control. Minor’s better, cheaper, and still has another year of control. You would want the Giants to move Bumgarner for more than just a single 40 FV guy, and I think it’s still a possibility, but maybe just a single 45 or 45+ FV player and, like, two 30-pluses.

Teams will want to add starting pitching and they won’t want to pay much for it. Even with modest supply, there’s not going to be that much demand, because there are so few teams trying to win, and fewer teams willing to part with 40+ FV prospects to compete. That limits the Giants’ ceiling and Bumgarner’s generic/average performance makes a spectacular deal all but impossible.

1. Will Smith

Sky’s the limit. The Giants will be able to get what they want. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. The Dodgers won’t part with anybody in their top 15 for a “rental”, but some team will part with someone from their top 10, and the recent track record regarding elite closers being traded at the deadline — even those in the final year of their deal — tells us that three players from a team’s top 30 is not an unreasonable ask. In fact, it’s the going rate.

This will be the weirdest trade deadline for the Giants in recent memory. But this will also be the last one like this for a long time, even as Farhan Zaidi remakes the organization. After this year, and unless the Giants hold onto Reyes Moronta and he becomes an elite closer, there just won’t be much worth moving and much to be gained from any move for the next few years.