The BTV Bottom 50: Who are the least valuable trade candidates right now?

If you’re a GM, this is the list you don’t want to have your players on.

According to our calculations, the following 50 players have the least amount of trade value right now – or, put another way, the most amount of negative value. These are not necessarily bad players; they’re players whose contracts are bigger than their projected field value.

Not surprisingly, the common thread here is that most of them are older and past their prime. Only eight of these 50 players are under 30, which squares with the dominant trend of productive, valuable players skewing younger.

Note that we’ve ordered these from least valuable (or most underwater) to most valuable (or least underwater). Values are in $Ms.

The BTV Bottom 50:

  1. Miguel Cabrera, 36, Tigers: -126.9
  2. Chris Davis, 33, Orioles: -87.7
  3. Robinson Cano, 36, Mets: -83.3
  4. Albert Pujols, 39, Angels: -72.3
  5. Joey Votto, 35, Reds: -58.3
  6. Eric Hosmer, 29, Padres: -55.0
  7. Yu Darvish, 32, Cubs: -47.5
  8. Johnny Cueto, 33, Giants: -46.9
  9. Evan Longoria, 33, Giants: -45.9
  10. David Price, 33, Red Sox: -44.8
  11. Jason Heyward, 29, Cubs: -44.6
  12. Yoenis Cespedes, 33, Mets: -43.5
  13. Jacoby Ellsbury, 35, Yankees: -36.2
  14. Dexter Fowler, 33, Cardinals: -32.9
  15. Jordan Zimmermann, 33, Tigers: -31.5
  16. Dustin Pedroia, 35, Red Sox: -30.5
  17. Jon Lester, 35, Cubs: -29.1
  18. Alex Cobb, 31, Orioles: -27.8
  19. Nathan Eovaldi, 29, Red Sox: -26.6
  20. Wei-Yin Chen, 33, Marlins: -25.6
  21. Tyler Chatwood, 29, Cubs: -24.3
  22. Wil Myers, 28, Padres: -23.8
  23. Kyle Seager, 31, Mariners: -23.2
  24. Jeurys Familia, 29, Mets: -22.1
  25. Brett Cecil, 32, Cardinals: -22.0
  26. Ryan Braun, 35, Brewers: -22.0
  27. Ian Desmond, 33, Rockies: -20.5
  28. Shin-Soo Choo, 36, Rangers: -20.2
  29. Jeff Samardzija, 34, Giants: -19.7
  30. Ian Kennedy, 34, Royals: -18.4
  31. Andrew McCutchen, 32, Phillies: -18.3
  32. Yusei Kikuchi, 28, Mariners: -18.3
  33. Bryan Shaw, 34, Rockies: -18.1
  34. Yadier Molina, 36, Cardinals: -17.4
  35. Joe Kelly, 31, Dodgers: -16.9
  36. Jake McGee, 32, Rockies: -16.7
  37. Jake Arrieta, 33, Phillies: -16.4
  38. Kenley Jansen, 31, Dodgers: -15.4
  39. Zack Cozart, 33, Angels: -15.3
  40. Wade Davis, 33, Rockies: -14.9
  41. Danny Duffy, 30, Royals: -14.7
  42. Kelvin Herrera, 29, White Sox: -13.
  43. Dee Gordon, 31, Mariners: -12.9
  44. Felix Hernandez, 33, Mariners: -12.8
  45. A.J. Pollock, 31, Dodgers: -12.6
  46. David Robertson, 34, Phillies: -12.1
  47. Brandon Belt, 31, Giants: -10.2
  48. Jed Lowrie, 35, Mets: -9.7

Teams with the most underwater contract value in the Bottom 50:

  1. Mets: -158.6
  2. Tigers: -158.4
  3. Cubs: -145.5
  4. Giants: -122.7
  5. Orioles: -119.2
  6. Red Sox: -101.9
  7. Angels: -84.0
  8. Padres: -76.0
  9. Cardinals: -72.3
  10. Rockies: -70.2
  11. Mariners: -67.2
  12. Reds: -58.3
  13. Phillies: -46.8
  14. Dodgers: -44.9
  15. Royals: -40.3
  16. Yankees: -36.2
  17. Marlins: -25.6
  18. Brewers: -22.0
  19. Rangers: -20.2
  20. White Sox: -13.7

A few observations:

  1. Since Brodie van Wagenen took over as the GM of the Mets, he has brought on $115.1M of that underwater value through his own decision-making (he inherited the remaining -$43.5M).
  2. Most of the Tigers’ underwater value is borne by Miguel Cabrera.
  3. The Giants have quite a lot of work to do in their rebuild, given their likely motivation to both restock the farm and clear some of that underwater value.
  4. Clearly the Rockies’ strategy to invest heavily on reliever contracts has backfired. (In our view, because bullpen arms are so volatile and the churn so great, it’s best to take a shorter-term, lower-cost approach to that part of the team.)

If you’re a GM and your team is not on the list, chances are you’re doing just fine.

About the Author


Fellow Pirates fan here,...and I tend to agree with the organization's approach to not investing in robust contracts. On one hand - yes, the Cubs and Red Sox have taken on some big contracts that have worked out well...but they are also afforded the luxury of being able to do this with some level of volume. For example, Pedroia and Darvish contracts were poor investments, whereas others have worked (JD Martinez and even arguably David Price come to mind for the Red Sox). Teams like Pittsburgh would have to hit on a much higher percentage of these investments to not face long-term failure (Chris Davis binding the Orioles is a prime example). The Padres seem like a good example of a team who has tried to take a spending approach in a small market - and while I tend to believe the team will be competitive in the near future - I don't think it will because of the money they invested in Machado and Hosmer, as much as the talent pipeline they have in place. Timing will likely be critical to how well their approach ultimately works on both fronts. All this to say, I think there is a middle ground where the small market teams can distinguish themselves with a combination of player development and value contracts. The Rays are a team that have done a phenomenal job of developing talent in this model - which seems to an outsider to be attributable to their effective management of player assets. For example, Charlie Morton's age drove down his market value, but yet his performance has him as a Cy Young frontrunner. The team also drafts and develops talent exceptionally well and tends to trade away players at near peak value. The Pirates, however, have set free many underachieving players who have gone on to improve vastly with new organizations (Cole, Morton, Glasnow, Meadows). So I believe the team needs to evaluate its approach to talent development (particularly with pitching) and focus on improving its strategy. The Pirates had past success with fastballs and location, but the game is now evolving at a much faster rate, so I just think in general teams need to analyze what worked the previous season, anticipate how teams will adapt to combat that strategy, and then change their approach to anticipate those adaptations.

ulmax 40.... a 10...can you explane that.................. both...are arb..3..

General Manager Badge

Sorry, what? This article is almost three years old, so these values have all changed.


"If you’re a GM and your team is not on the list, chances are you’re doing just fine." John, thank you for writing this. As a Pirates fan, I saw this article on Twitter and immediately scoured it for some Pirates. I didn't expect to find any, and I was correct. The final comment you leave us w/ makes me the most nervous. I think that Pittsburgh has proven time and again that they will not take risks w/ contracts. They traded Nova last season (at ~$8.5m) because that was just too high of a salary for a #5 starter. But league-wide, that's simply not a bad contract. Cervelli at $11.5M or Dickerson at $8.5M... These aren't expensive contracts. But the Pirates insist on keeping costs extremely low. So you won't see any bad contracts on your list of top 50, but you also won't find organizational depth or high upside players. The team has taken the strategy that they will build a house of cards team that is built to win 82 games. And with all the bounces and all the luck, they could trip into a 90 win season and fight for a wild card. This leaves them in the middle of the pack for draft picks and no man's land every trade deadline. The middle ground simply does not suffice for a small market club. Since he didn't find any of his players on this list, Neal Huntington may be doing just fine... but as a fan, I'm getting pretty frustrated.

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Understandably so! I'm a fan of a smaller-market team as well, so on the one hand, I take pride in the front office's efficiency. On the other hand, it's true that sometimes you have to spend a bit more to win. You'll notice teams like the Cubs and Red Sox on here -- clearly when the time was right, they ponied up cash to get that ring, and they probably don't regret it.