We were recently reading a Bill Simmon’s column from ESPN, Page 2, entitled “NBA Trade Value Index.” In the article Simmons ranks the top-40 NBA players based on their respective values to their team. In theory a team would trade one of their players for any player ranked ahead of that player. Simmons takes into account more than the players ability. He considers various factors such as age, ability, contract, etc. With the Major League Baseball trade deadline fast approaching, this got us thinking. Which players in the Devil Rays organization are the most valuable to the team. So we set out to come up with a Trade Value Index for the Devil Rays. We weren’t so foolish to think we could rank every player in the organization, so we needed a logical cut-off. Our desire was to include every member of the 40-man roster as well as the team’s top prospects. So we decided to create a list that when finished would include every member of the 40-man roster, assuming that a number of players not on the 40-man roster would be ranked ahead of the last player from the 40-man roster. In other words, we would rank every player in the organization that is as valuable or more valuable than Travis Lee (the least valuable member of the 40-man roster). Ultimately this included 67 players.
In ranking the players, we considered many factors, including current ability, potential, contract status, age, as well as future with the organization. This last factor comes into effect if one player in the minors is stuck behind another player with more ability. For example, Elijah Dukes loses some value because the team has Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford already firmly entrenched on the major league roster and Delmon Young is slated to be the right fielder of the future. Another factor is team needs. Pitchers may be ranked ahead of a more “talented” fielder because the team has a stronger need for pitching at the major league level.
Ultimately, when looking at the rankings, the question should be, “If team A offered Player X, and they wanted one of two Devil Rays players, which one would the Front Office be less likely to part with?” For example, if the Florida Marlins offered the Devil Rays Dontrelle Willis…and they asked for either Scott Kazmir or Carl Crawford, which one would the front office be more willing to give up. In our rankings, the team would give the Marlins Crawford before they would give up Kazmir. So this is why a player like Julio Lugo is very low on the list. He does not have that much value to the team. He is an extremely talented player, but he makes a lot of money and he is a free agent at the end of the season and not likely to be resigned by the team. Therefore it would take much less for another team to acquire Lugo from the Devil Rays than a player like Wes Bankston even though Lugo is clearly a better player.
A couple of notes on the Rankings…
- We aknowledge that there may be errors in the “Contract Status” and “Roster Status” columns and strongly encourage anybody to let us know so that we can have the most accurate information.
- We are confident that most players are at least in the general area of where they should be ranked. However, this listing is a work in progress and we are open to any ideas or suggestions you may have. Don’t like the position of a certain player? Let us know. Do you think Travis Lee is more valuable to the team? We will certainly listen to your argument.
- That being said, couple of players were troublesome. The biggest example is Josh Hamilton. We have no way to know how valuable the organization considers Hamilton at this point. Would the team part with him for a mid-level prospect, or do they still consider his potential too much to give up on him? We have Josh at #21, but we could see him in the list anywhere from #15 to #45.
- We almost put Jeff Neimann at #4, ahead of B. J. Upton and Rocco Baldelli. In fact, as soon as Neimann regains his arm strength and endurance, we think he could ultimately reach #1, ahead of Scott Kazmir. He is that good.
- Salaries with * next to them are the player’s ’06 salary. These players are not arbitration eligible yet and their ’07 salary should be comparable to their ’06 salary unless the team works out a long-term contract with that player. The only player we can see that happening with is Scott Kazmir. In fact we actually expect it. Kazmir’s agent has a track record of negotiating long-term contracts for young stars that go into the players arbitration years and first year(s) of free agency. This was the route taken with Travis Hafner and the same route taken by the Devil Rays with Crawford and Baldelli.
- The rankings are flexible and in constant flux. For example, Andrew Sonnanstine is ranked higher than he would have been a month ago after pitching 4 complete game shutouts in seven starts and going 7-0 over that span. Our goal is to update this list periodically.
After we ranked the top 67 players in the organization, we then decided to project the 2007 40-man roster and potential payroll. We are basing this solely on the players in the organization now. Obviously the team will sign a few free agents and trades are likely to be made and when these changes are made, we will incorporate them into the rankings and the projected roster.
A couple of notes on the projected 40-man roster…
- We take a stab at guessing the 2007 salary every member of the 2007 40-man roster. Interestingly, the projected payroll for 2007 is only $25 million. This is down considerably from the 2006 payroll of $43 million. And this includes $4 million for Scott Kazmir if he does sign a long-term contract. That number could potentially be less, but probably not more. This could be an interesting development for the team as the young players continue to develop. If we are reading this right and we like to think we are, the Rays may be setting themselves up to make a big free agent splash in 2008, when the team may only need one or two pieces to contend for a playoff spot.
- We are working under the assumption that all players that are eligible for arbitration will be offered arbitration. This is unlikely to happen, but it is difficult to project exactly who will not be offered arbitration. We could guess, but we choose not to at this point.
- There are several players that are to be free agents at the end of the season, and if they are not traded, we don’t see any of them being re-signed by the team, but that could change. This includes Sean Burroughs. The team has a $2.25 million option on him for 2007. There is no chance the team will exercise that option and Sean will become a free agent. However, in Burroughs case, the team may attempt to re-sign him at a reduced rate.
- We also project the players most likely to be added to the 40-man roster. These are the top players that would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if they are not protected on the 40-man roster. Last season Jason Pridie was left unprotected and drafted by the Minnesota Twins. They did not feel he was ready for a spot on their major league roster, so he was returned to the Devil Rays after spring training.
Once we finished the projected 40-man roster, we then projected the 25-man major league roster.
A couple of notes on the 25-man active roster…
- We are again only using players currently in the organization. In other words this is the projected lineup if no other players are added to the organization, either through free agency or trades. Again, this list is constantly being reevaluated…if and when new players are added we will incorporate those into these rankings.
- We are assuming an 11-man pitching staff. Obviously a 12-man staff would be one less fielder on the bench.
- We can see the team re-signing Sean Burroughs at a reduced rate and using him as left-handed bat off the bench. If not, Darnell McDonald, who has major league experience, (or a veteran free agent) is the best choice at this time for the final roster spot.
- In the bullpen, Shinji Mori, Dan Micelli and Edwin Jackson have to be on the active roster (Mori and Micelli are signed for ’07, and Jackson will be out of options in ’07). Tyler Walker will start the season on the DL. If Seth McClung can make the move to closer, that leaves two spots for Rudy Lugo, Chad Orvella and Juan Salas.
- The most likely position player to be different than listed (in our eyes) is Ben Zobrist. We doubt that the team believes Zobrist is the team’s future shortstop, but he does offer a solid, if unspectacular glove and a strong walk to strikeout ratio not seen in the everyday lineup right now. He has the potential to be a solid #2 hitter. Unfortunately, this is the position that is most likely to be filled by somebody else, such as Luis Ordaz or Tomas Perez. (Stabbing ourselves in the eyes with chopsticks!)
- Unfortunately Casey Fossum is signed for next season and is unlikely to be headed anywhere. On the flip side, he does offer a veteran presence in the rotation. On a good staff, he could be a solid contributer as a fifth starter, and will likely be traded to a contender before the deadline next season. In Tampa, he is over-matched as a front-of-the-rotation guy. Also, we think that J. P. Howell actually has a better shot at the ’07 rotation than Jae Seo. Therefore, if another pitcher steps up in Spring Training (Jason Hammel, Chris Seddon, etc.) Seo would be the odd-man out. The wildcard in the rotation is Jeff Niemann. He is likely to start season in Durham. However, if he can show that his arm strength and endurance have returned, he will make the jump to the Devil Rays very quickly. He is a guy that was deemed major-league ready out of college. “Stuff” is not an issue with him. His arm injury was not a major injury and right now he has been over-powering in his first few starts, but tires later in the game.