Ranking the Trade Value of Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, and Francisco Lindor
Earlier this week, I asked our readers to rank the star players rumored to be on the trade block. I asked just two questions. The first asked readers to rank the players by how good they are right now. The second asked readers to rank the players by their trade value.
The first question proved to be an easy one, as 42% of the more than 2,500 responses had the exact same ranking.
To provide a little more context, here is how often each player ended up at a particular ranking:
There’s a very clear majority at each position, with the ranking going Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant. It likely isn’t a coincidence, but that is also how the players are ranked when it comes their 2020 projections on our Depth Charts. Given the players’ contracts and years of team control, asking for a trade value ranking is a much different question. Betts might be the best player, but he’ll be a free agent after this year and makes $27 million. Lindor and Bryant have similar salaries (around $18 million) and will both be eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, assuming Bryant’s grievance goes against him. Arenado can also be a free agent after the 2021 season, but he makes twice as much money as Lindor and Bryant, and has a player option at the end of the 2021 season for five years and $164 million.
Lindor occupies the first spot in the top five results. That the sixth response that has Lindor first only ranks 10th among the choices probably has more to do with the names that follow him than his standing with the readers. The percentages by vote looks like this:
It’s clear the readers favored Lindor, and it certainly looks like Betts is the second choice given that 45.1% of readers put him either first or second, which is 10 percentage points higher than Arenado or Bryant. After that, there’s a decision to be made about how to weight first place votes against last place votes. More than 40% of respondents put Arenado in fourth place, but the Rockies’ third baseman also received the second-most first-place votes. Here’s how each player looks when considering head-to-head matchups:
|v. Arenado||v. Betts||v. Bryant||v. Lindor|
When we compare head-to-head results, Arenado is clearly last, but there are a lot of people who feel strongly about his trade value in a way almost nobody seems to have felt about Bryant’s. If we did a 4-3-2-1 point system, Arenado comes out ahead of Bryant. Nearly everyone felt that Arenado is better than Bryant, but most of those same people believed that their respective contract situations made Bryant a better trade value than Arenado. That makes sense given that Bryant will earn about $45 million over the next two seasons before free agency while Arenado will earn $70 million. If Arenado is good, then he’ll be a free agent, too. If his performance falls off, he’ll decline to opt-out and take the $164 million he’s owed for his age-31 through age-35 seasons.
If we were to compare the responses to Kiley McDaniel’s Trade Value Series in July, we also see some disconnect. Like the readers, Lindor was clearly the best, coming in at number 13 on McDaniel’s list. That’s where the paths diverge, however. Bryant was ranked 25th although with around 20% of his team control gone since that time, he would almost certainly be ranked much lower relative to his peers if the list was done today. Both Betts and Arenado made the Honorable Mention section, but were behind Bryant. The biggest disparity seems to come in the rise of Betts and the fall of Bryant. The Cubs’ star didn’t close the year completely healthy, which likely played a role. For Betts, there’s the appeal of simply getting the best player, even if he leaves at the end of the season.
For the most part, I think the results are fairly predictable and likely representative of the sport as a whole (as well as the order I would have chosen when looking at the head-to-head results), but the Arenado first place votes really stick out relative to the rest of the results. That’s probably worth another post by itself.