[This is the introduction to the Trade Value Rankings post, feel free to skip it and move directly to the rankings if you want. I’ve turned off comments for this post to keep everything in one place, so save comments for the rankings post.]

Rebuilding?

That really was a great sweep, huh? I started working on a post ranking the Reds players’ trade values last week, when all hope for this season seemed lost, but now it doesn’t quite feel like that. Five more wins in a row and we’re right back in this thing.

But maybe it was my pessimism about the season that turned things around? I’m not usually that superstitious, but why take the chance? So, in order to keep the Reds dreams alive, here’s a post about how their season is over.

What is Trade Value?

In the most general sense, I’m ranking how excited I think other teams would be to acquire a player when considering that player’s salary and how long he would play for the new team. A player’s trade value is measured in talent he will bring back and salary relief if traded. This post is loosely based on this series at fangraphs, which was loosely based on work at grantland.

Teams generally want to trade for players for two reasons: 1) access to good players that can help their team during the season, and 2) getting players for less money than it would take to sign comparable players in the free agent market. The second reason is why trade value isn’t the same as value on the field, because the more a player makes the less valuable he is to another team in terms of players they will give up.

Rebuilding

The trade value ranking are based on the idea that the Reds will be sellers at this year’s deadline, and will start their rebuilding process. This is important because it means that a player that can be traded for minor league prospects and salary relief is going to be ranked higher highly, because that’s what the Reds will need for a quick rebuild. If the Reds were going to be buyers at the deadline they would want to keep their high-value veterans, and would be looking to trade prospects for talent that could help them down the stretch this season.

A Note on Fun and Subjectivity

There’s no single, objective way to measure a player’s trade value, and all of the rankings below are just my best guesses. Your best guesses are probably just as good as mine, and I’m presenting you with mine so that you can have fun disagreeing with me. Isn’t that what talking sports on the internet is all about?

One thing that makes this tough is trying to compare a trade where the Reds would get a decent prospect in return, and one where they don’t get anyone interesting in return, but are able to shed a bunch of salary. We really have no how the Reds will use that money in the future, so it’s hard to compare to a prospect, but it’s obviously good for the Reds to save cash because it allows them to sign players to extensions or acquire new free agents. In the rankings you’ll see that I’ve considered these on a case-by-case basis, and haven’t favored prospects over money in every case.

Key Concepts for Understanding the Rankings

Prospect Grades: I’m using the frequently cited letter-grade system to describe the prospects I expect the Reds could get in return for their players. Generally, a C+ level prospect will likely turn into minor league depth or a bench player, and an A level prospect is a likely future star. The value of guys in the middle depends on how close they are to the majors, their ceiling vs. floor for development, and age. Lots of these guys will be in the majors at some point, some will be stars, and some will never make it.

Salary Relief Ratio: Because some players are already signed to big contracts, teams won’t trade for them unless money is included to offset some of the contract. However, that doesn’t mean that these guys don’t have trade value. If the Reds can save some money during years that they aren’t expecting to be competitive, that can help the rebuilding process along. I’m ranking these players’ trade values by the ratio of future money saved to the money included to make the deal happen. The higher the ratio, the more money the team is saving per dollar spent.

Too Early to Rank: Some young players are essentially still prospects. They don’t make a lot of money, they are under team control for a long time, and they don’t have a long track record in the majors. It’s rare that these guys are traded, but if they are, they would probably be traded for prospects that are generally worth what they are, so there wouldn’t be much of a change to the Reds rebuilding efforts.

Effectively No Trade Value: I also haven’t ranked most of the Reds bench and bullpen guys because they are generally replacement level. This means that teams can call up guys from their own systems or sign free agents who are just as good, so there’s no reason to give up players or money for them. This isn’t to say that some of these guys might not be dealt, but if they are it would probably be in a “bag of balls” variety deal.

On to the Rankings!