One of the more popular articles around these parts as of late, albeit for dubious reasons, was the recent piece about Albert Pujols' horrible contract. In it, we took a look at Dan Szymbroski's list of 25 worst deals in baseball, and opined on a life without the Albert-tross hanging around the Halos' necks. Things got a little sad, but luckily Szymbroski has provided us with the antidote to that El Hombre poison, in the form of an article that lists MLB's best assets.
If I had given you the premise of the ESPN piece, you'd probably have a decent guess chambered as to who was numero uno, but if you were going to go full homer and say "Mike Trout!", then you'd be wrong. You'd be CLOSE, but you'd be wrong. The methodology he used here was very comparable to what he did in the other article, but just to refresh:
So who are the most valuable assets in baseball, the players that if traded today, could go a long way to refilling a franchise's farm system by themselves? To answer this question, I started out with the ZiPS projections and calculated the difference between the projected long-term performance of every player in baseball, and how much a team is projected to pay for that performance, whether from a signed contract or from predicting arbitration-year salaries. That difference, which I call surplus value, is expressed in wins rather than dollars; raw dollars can be misleading given that a dollar committed for 2030 (see: Chris Davis contract breakdown) and a dollar committed for 2016 are two very different things.
Now, who was the top dog when it came to team friendly contracts in the MLB? Houston's Carlos Correa, and honestly, it's hard to argue with that one, just because of the fact that Correa is still pre-arbitration and the Astros are still a bit away from when they'll have to start backing up the Brinks trucks.
1. Carlos Correa, SS
Free agent after 2021 season
Surplus value: +26.2 wins
This 2015 American League Rookie of the Year posted a .279/.345/.512 line after his midseason call-up while playing solid defense at a key defensive position, and he wasn't even the legal drinking age until September. Impressive, but what makes him No. 1? Because the Houston Astros control Correa for the next six seasons.
That's hard to beat, but coming in at #2 on the list is the player that would have been your first guess, and who is first in your hearts: Mike Trout.
2. Mike Trout, CF
6 years, $144.5 million (2015-20)
Guaranteed left: $134.25M
Surplus value: +24.2 wins
It's almost shocking that in a list of good players, Trout for once doesn't show up in the No. 1 spot, isn't it? It's not that he's not the best player in baseball -- he is -- but simply the reality that the years in which he is the best bargain are already in the rear window. He's still an excellent value, though, even with a contract that will eventually pay him more than $30 million a year, considering he's a player that if he were hit by a bus tomorrow, his first four full seasons have been of the quality that the Hall of Fame ought to waive the 10-year requirement, what is known as the Addie Joss exception.
Again, it's tough to say Trout is a more team-friendly deal that Correa, because Correa is basically where Trout was before March of 2014. That was when the Angels realized they had to lock up their young superstar, and gave him a much deserved $144 mil extension. Before that, Mike Trout was an INSANE bargain but the fun had to end sooner or later. Still, even with that hefty extension, it's a testament to how high his value is to the Angels that he can beat out pre-arbitration youngsters like Kris Bryant, Francisco Lindor and Mookie Betts.
Even after Trout has been given his due, and been made an extremely wealthy 24 year old, he is still tough to beat when it comes to overall market price and return. The Angels have him until 2020, and then they're going to think this current $144 mil deal is chump change.
If they're lucky enough to re-sign him, that is...i'm sure we'll go over that topic a few(or a thousand) times between now and then.