The TigsTown team continues to break down the most valuable trade assets in the entire Tigers organization. Read about the top five below, and make sure to check out players ten through six, and the explanation of the rankings here:
Detroit Tigers Trade Value: Part 1
The Top Five
5 - Miguel Cabrera - 1B - Age: 32.3
Contract Status: Owed roughly $250 million from 2015-2023, $30 million club option in 2024 with an $8 million buyout, and a $30 million club option in 2025.
Performance: There isn’t a whole lot to discuss here. Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball, and probably one of the 20 best hitters of all time.
Projection: Unfortunately, most of the projection for Cabrera at this point is downward. There have been a few elite hitters who continue to produce big numbers into their late 30s, and Cabrera has the sort of intelligence, bat speed, and hand-eye coordination to join them. But history tells us that a large man like Cabrera is much more likely to see his body break down and his skills slowly erode, to the point that he’ll be a shell of his former self by the end of his contract. However, he figures to offer elite production for at least two more seasons.
Analysis and Return: Cabrera was, without a doubt, the most difficult player on this list to rank. There isn’t a team in baseball that wants his contract on their books, but there also isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t love to have him for the next 3-4 years. Teams would pay a premium to get the sort of production he’ll provide in that time, but the tail end of his contract is so unwieldy that the quality of what the Tigers get is almost directly related to how much of his contract they would be willing to eat.
4 - Anibal Sanchez - RHP - Age: 31.4
Contract Status: Owed roughly $7 million in 2015, $16 million a year in 2016 and 2017, and $16 million in 2018, with a $5 million buyout.
Performance: Sanchez is in the midst of his worst season since 2009, thanks mostly to a somewhat inexplicable spike in home runs allowed. But since 2010 he has been one of the most productive pitchers in the majors, tying Jon Lester for the 10th best fWAR(20.7) in that span.
Projection: Sanchez’s injuries in 2014 and his dip in productivity this season are slightly alarming, but he hasn’t lost any velocity and there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with his stuff. He’s a good bet to pitch at a well above-average level for about 190 innings a year until the end of his contract.
Analysis and Return: If Sanchez were having a better year he’d likely be even higher on the list, but he still makes the top 5 because #2-3 starters don’t grow on trees, and because his deal is actually fairly team friendly. To be sure, $16 million a year isn’t chump change, but it’s much less than the price of a acquiring a similar pitcher on the free agent market. The aforementioned Lester, for example, is a month older and will make $5-7 million more per year than Sanchez during the length on his contract. Even lesser pitchers like Homer Bailey and Rick Porcello are due to make more than Sanchez over the next three years. Sanchez would be an ideal target for teams poised to contend for the next few years, and that sort of piece could land the Tigers a strong return that could include young major leaguers, a couple of top-150 prospects, or some combination of both.
3 - David Price - LHP - Age: 29.9
Contract Status: Owed roughly $8 million in 2015, trade would eliminate qualifying offer draft-pick compensation.
Performance: While Sanchez has been a top-10 pitcher since 2010, Price has been a top-3 pitcher in the same timeframe. He’s a Cy Young winner, and a legitimate ace who threatens to throw a complete game every five days.
Projection: Pitchers are an inherently risky investment, but there’s been nothing to indicate that Price won’t continue to be an elite pitcher for the next 2-3 years, and a very good pitcher for at least a few more years after that.
Analysis and Return: True #1 starters are the hardest commodity to find in baseball, and teams will absolutely pay a premium to get an ace. Price is the sort of pitcher who can turn an average team into a playoff contender, or put a contending team on his back and pitch them to a World Series title. To land Price last year, the Tigers gave up a starting center fielder with a little more than a year left on his contract, a promising young backend starter with 4+ years of team control left, and a top-100 prospect. With only a few months left on his deal, and a trade eliminating the chance to offer Price a qualifying offer, the Tigers wouldn’t be able to get as much as they gave up to get Price in the first place. However, they could reasonably expect to land a solid veteran-and-prospect package equivalent to Austin Jackson and Willy Adames.
2 - J.D. Martinez - OF - Age: 27.9
Contract Status: Owed roughly $1.2 million in 2015, two more years of team control, free agent in 2018.
Performance: Martinez showed flashes of promise during parts of three seasons with the Astros, but he was an absolute revelation for the Tigers in 2014, finishing the season as one of only four outfielders to hit .300+ with 20 or more home runs. His high batting average was partially driven by luck, but the power was for real, and despite a few rough stretches in 2015, he has picked up right where he left off in 2014.
Projection: Hitters are generally considered to be in their prime between the the ages of 27 and 33, and Martinez has just entered that range. He may not get much better in the coming years, but that’s probably okay, because as it stands he looks like a threat to hit .270 with close to 40 home runs a year. The one area where we may seem him improve in 2016 and beyond is plate discipline, simply because pitchers will likely begin to pitch around him when they can.
Analysis and Return: On the 20-80 scouting scale (with 50 representing MLB average performance), Martinez is a 45+ fielder in an outfield corner, with 50-55 hitting ability, and 70+ power. That’s an absolute monster of a player. Homers are up in 2015, but a lot of teams are still starving for power, and will pay a premium to get it. Add in the fact that Martinez is in his prime and under team control for two more years, and the Tigers could just about name their price in any potential trade. The only thing holding back his value a bit is the fact that he’s headed toward his 2nd and 3rd years of arbitration eligibility, and he figures to get fairly hefty raises in each of the next two seasons. Still, in return for Martinez, the Tigers could probably expect a young starting pitcher or position player with all-star potential, or a package of players that includes at least one top-50 prospect.
1 - Jose Iglesias - SS - Age: 25.5
Contract Status: Owed roughly $600K in 2015, arbitration eligible beginning in 2016, free agent in 2019.
Performance: Iglesias has been lauded for his defensive ability since before he defected from Cuba and signed with the Red Sox in 2009. He has proven to be an absolute wizard with the glove, making routine plays with ease, and using his lightning-quick hands to get outs that few other shortstops can. He was never expected to be much of a hitter, and he didn’t do a lot in his first two stints in Boston, but he has defied expectations in the last two seasons he’s played, providing above-average offense thanks to a batting average over .300.
Projection: There is simply no way for Iglesias to get better on defense, and he’s likely to win multiple Gold Glove awards in the coming years. There’s technically room for improvement on offense, though his high batting averages the last few years have been partially luck-driven, and it’s unlikely that he ever hits more than 5 home runs in a season. One area where he’s likely to improve is on the basepaths. He has solid-average speed, but doesn’t always pick the best times to steal or take an extra base.
Analysis and Return: Iglesias and J.D. Martinez were absolutely neck and neck for the #1 spot on this list, but Iglesias eventually won out because he’s younger, cheaper, under team control for longer, and he plays a far more important position on defense. For years, many Tigers fans coveted young, elite-gloved shortstops like Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar, and Iglesias might actually be better than both. He’s been performing very well at the bottom of the order, but he appears to have the speed and on-base skills to be a solid table setter too. Add in the elite defense at the most important defensive position on the diamond, and the Tigers have a tremendously valuable player. A trade of Iglesias at this point would figure to net the Tigers a very impressive return that might include a good young major leaguer and a top-50 prospect.