Ranking MLB's Top 25 Overall Future Trade Assets

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2016

Ranking MLB's Top 25 Overall Future Trade Assets

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Let's pretend for a second that every player in Major League Baseball was placed on the trade block.

    Ignoring things like team need and franchise direction, who would be the most valuable trade chips in the game in this hypothetical situation?

    That's what we've set out to determine in the following article.

    Ahead you'll find the top 25 future trade assets based on that hypothetical situation, but before we dive into that list, a few ground rules:

    • No Prospects: Any player who still has rookie eligibility remaining was not considered for this list, as the focus was meant to be on current MLB talent. That meant no Corey Seager or Byron Buxton either, since their rookie standing is still intact.
    • Three Years of Control or More: To further trim the field and because remaining team control is such a huge factor in determining trade value, a player needed to have at least three remaining years of control to be considered for this list.
    • Team Control Wasn't Everything: While years of team control was undoubtedly one of the biggest factors in putting together this list, it wasn't everything. Is five years of Mookie Betts really worth more than three years of Bryce Harper? These were the kinds of questions that had to be answered.
    • Position Players vs. Pitchers: The following list contains 17 position players and eight pitchers. Why the lopsided numbers? Because position players are more valuable given their day-in and day-out contributions and they're also a safer long-term investment.
    • Big Contracts Were a Detriment: Clayton Kershaw, Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera are three of the game's very best, but you won't find them in the top 25, because their exceedingly high price tags drag down their overall value.

    Hopefully that paints a clear picture of what went into the following rankings. Now let's kick things off with some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

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    A.J. Pollock
    A.J. PollockKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Michael Brantley, CLE
    • Matt Carpenter, STL
    • Travis d'Arnaud, NYM
    • Maikel Franco, PHI
    • Kevin Kiermaier, TB
    • Rougned Odor, TEX
    • A.J. Pollock, ARI
    • Buster Posey, SF
    • Addison Russell, CHC
    • Miguel Sano, MIN
    • Kyle Schwarber, CHC
    • Andrelton Simmons, LAA
    • Jorge Soler, CHC
    • George Springer, HOU
    • Giancarlo Stanton, MIA

     

    Pitchers

    • Carlos Carrasco, CLE
    • Jacob deGrom, NYM
    • Ken Giles, HOU
    • Matt Harvey, NYM
    • Clayton Kershaw, LAD
    • Dallas Keuchel, HOU
    • Corey Kluber, CLE
    • Carlos Martinez, STL
    • Lance McCullers, HOU
    • Shelby Miller, ARI
    • Jake Odorizzi, TB
    • Roberto Osuna, TOR
    • Jose Quintana, CWS
    • Garrett Richards, LAA
    • Carlos Rodon, CWS
    • Danny Salazar, CLE
    • Luis Severino, NYY
    • Yordano Ventura, KC
    • Michael Wacha, STL
    • Taijuan Walker, SEA

25. 1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

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    Jose Abreu
    Jose AbreuMike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $11.667 million
    • 2017: $12.167 million
    • 2018: $13.167 million
    • 2019: $13.667 million
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    There were some who questioned how smoothly Jose Abreu would make the jump from starring in Cuba to playing in the big leagues following his defection, but the Chicago White Sox rolled the dice on the slugger with a six-year, $68 million deal.

    It didn't take long for that to look like an absolute steal, as Abreu posted a .953 OPS with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in his first month in the majors.

    He wrapped up his rookie season leading the AL in slugging (.581) and OPS+ (173), adding a .317 average, 36 home runs and 107 RBI to run away with AL Rookie of the Year and finish fourth in AL MVP voting.

    While his numbers leveled out at bit in his sophomore season, he still finished with an .850 OPS, 30 home runs and 101 RBI despite the White Sox ranking as the lowest-scoring team in the AL.

    He could see a spike in production with the addition of Todd Frazier, and while he'll be 29 years old at the end of the month, his four remaining years at a fraction of his market value earn him a spot in these rankings.

24. 3B Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Josh Donaldson
    Josh DonaldsonTim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $12 million projected salary
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 4
    • 2019: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    It's officially been 410 days, one monster season and an AL MVP award since the Oakland Athletics decided to ship Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays, and it's still hard to figure out what in the world Billy Beane and Co. were thinking.

    Franklin Barreto, the centerpiece of the package heading to Oakland, hit .302 with 22 doubles and 13 home runs as a 19-year-old at the High-A level last year, so there's still hope he can salvage the deal, but we're talking about a player in Donaldson who had posted a combined 15.0 WAR in 2013 and 2014.

    The late-bloomer will be 30 years old this coming season, and he's expected to see a significant salary spike over the $4.3 million he made last season in his first year of arbitration eligibility, but he's still an absolute steal at the projected $12 million.

    On top of his terrific power and run production skills, Donaldson is also a standout defender at third base, as he's piled up 42 DRS over the past three seasons.

    Kris Bryant, Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado represent the future at third base, but as things currently stand, Donaldson is the best in the business, and he should still have plenty of big seasons left in the tank.

23. 3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

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    Nolan Arenado
    Nolan ArenadoCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $6.6 million projected salary
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2019: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Already an elite defensive third baseman who has won a Gold Glove award in each of his first three seasons in the majors, Nolan Arenado kicked his offensive game up several levels this past season to emerge as a legitimate star.

    Now that Troy Tulowitzki has been traded and Carlos Gonzalez seems to be headed for the same fate at some point, Arenado is the obvious replacement as the face of the franchise for the Colorado Rockies going forward.

    An .898 OPS with 43 doubles, 42 home runs and 130 RBI is tough to ignore, and while he did hit better at home (as is the case with most Rockies hitters), his .866 OPS with 22 home runs and 56 RBI on the road is still elite-level production.

    Going back to his glove, though, he's amassed 64 DRS and a 10.6 UZR/150 in his three seasons in the majors, as only Andrelton Simmons (94) and Jason Heyward (69) have more runs saved during that span.

    If he can improve on his 5.1 percent walk rate and .323 on-base percentage, Arenado has a chance to be one of the very best hitters in all of baseball, but he's already a bona fide superstar in Colorado.

22. 3B Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

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    Manny Machado
    Manny MachadoBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $5.9 million projected salary
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2019: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    After seeing his season cut short by knee injuries in back-to-back years, Manny Machado was finally healthy for a full slate of games in 2015 and a breakout season at the plate was the result.

    Machado hit just 33 home runs in 1,266 plate appearances over his first three seasons, but he launched 35 last season and put any lingering health questions behind him by pacing the American League with 713 plate appearances.

    It's easy to forget just how young Machado is after he broke into the league at the age of 19, and he won't turn 24 until July 6.

    He's younger than Kris Bryant by over six months.

    However, because his arbitration clock started so much sooner and he's just three years away from free agency, he comes in significantly lower in these rankings than the Chicago Cubs rookie standout.

    A shortstop by trade, Machado has won two Gold Glove awards in the past three years as he made a seamless transition to third base.

    A return to shortstop at some point is not out of the question, but with J.J. Hardy signed through the 2017 season and with a reasonable $14 million option for 2018, it may not happen any time soon.

21. SP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

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    Jose Fernandez
    Jose FernandezSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $2.2 million projected salary
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2019: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Trade rumors surrounding Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez have made for one of the more compelling stories of the offseason to this point.

    While it's unclear if the Marlins were ever actually serious about moving the 23-year-old, their reported asking price illustrates just how valuable young, controllable pitching is these days.

    According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins wanted Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Joc Pederson and two others players from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    It's hard to imagine the Dodgers, or anyone else for that matter, ever surrendering that much controllable talent for one player, even one as good as Fernandez. But at the same time, such a return isn't completely unfathomable after seeing what the Arizona Diamondbacks gave up to land Shelby Miller.

    Fernandez returned strong from Tommy John surgery last season to once again establish himself as an elite starter, going 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.160 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 64.2 innings over 11 starts.

    In 47 total starts over his three years in the league, he's 22-9 with a 2.40 ERA, 1.014 WHIP and 336 strikeouts in 289 innings.

    Oh, and he's yet to lose a home start, going 17-0 with a 1.40 ERA in 26 games in front of the home fans at Marlins Park.

20. C Salvador Perez

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    Salvador Perez
    Salvador PerezEvan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $3.8 million
    • 2017: $5.1 million option
    • 2018: $6.2 million option
    • 2019: $6.8 million option
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Salvador Perez made his debut late in the 2011 season, hitting .331/.361/.473 with 13 extra-base hits in 148 at-bats at the age of 21.

    That impressive debut was enough for the Kansas City Royals to give him a five-year, $7 million deal just 39 games into his MLB career, and that has quickly proved to be one of the best bargains in the game.

    With a trio of option years tacked onto the back end, the full value of the deal will come to $21.75 million over eight years, which is even more ridiculous given how much he's meant to the team's recent run of success.

    To say that Perez has been a horse doesn't quite do his level of durability justice.

    Over the past two seasons, Perez has caught 2,441 of a possible 2,902.2 innings for the Royals, or roughly 84 percent of time. You simply don't see a catcher take on that kind of workload these days.

    His offensive game is still a work in progress, as he's had an on-base percentage below .300 the past two seasons, but he slugged a career-high 21 home runs last year and still has an absolute cannon for an arm behind the plate.

    With Yadier Molina showing signs of decline, Perez has probably taken over as the best all-around catcher in baseball, and with a $2 million salary, there might not be a better bargain in 2016 among post-arbitration players.

19. SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

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    Xander Bogaerts
    Xander BogaertsBob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    When you hit .307/.373/.523 with 37 doubles and 20 home runs while reaching Double-A at the age of 19, suffice to say you're going to open some eyes.

    That's what Xander Bogaerts did while making his way through the minor leagues, and when he took over as the starting shortstop job for the Boston Red Sox in 2014, most expected him to run away with AL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Instead, he hit just .240/.297/.362 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI, and he struggled defensively as well with minus-nine DRS and a minus-3.7 UZR/150 for a 0.3 WAR.

    It's fair to say he turned a corner in 2015.

    He raised his average 80 points to .320, which was good for second in the American League, thanks in large part to trimming his strikeout rate from 23.2 percent to 15.4 percent.

    He also made strides with the glove, finishing as roughly a league-average shortstop with zero DRS and a 0.9 UZR/150, and he has a chance to become a legitimate asset defensively in the years to come.

    The only thing missing from his game now is power, as he hit just seven home runs in 654 plate appearances, but if his minor league track record is any indication, that should come in time.

18. 2B Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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    Jose Altuve
    Jose AltuveBruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $3.5 million
    • 2017: $4.5 million
    • 2018: $6 million option
    • 2019: $6.5 million option
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Remember when Jose Altuve was one of the few bright spots for an awful Houston Astros team just a few years ago?

    The franchise has come a long way since losing 100-plus games in three straight seasons from 2011 to 2013, and its return to the postseason last year figures to be the start of a lengthy run of contention in the years to come.

    While his supporting cast has improved dramatically, Altuve remains the heart and soul of the team and one of the most dangerous hitters in the AL despite his undersized stature.

    He led the AL in hits (200) and stolen bases (38) for the second consecutive season in 2015, and while his average dropped from .341 to .315, he was still one of the best table-setters in baseball.

    The 25-year-old also added some sneaky power to his game, as he tallied 40 doubles and a career-high 15 home runs.

    He signed a four-year, $12.5 million extension midway through the 2013 season, and a pair of option years will bring the deal to $25 million over six years.

    To put that value into perspective, Omar Infante landed a four-year, $30.25 million deal two years ago.

17. CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Andrew McCutchen
    Andrew McCutchenRon Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $13 million
    • 2017: $14 million
    • 2018: $14.75 million option ($1 million buyout)
    • 2019: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Andrew McCutchen has just two years and a $14.75 million option remaining on the incredibly team-friendly six-year, $51.5 million extension he signed prior to the 2012 season.

    As a result, he doesn't rank quite as high on this list as some might expect, but three years of Andrew McCutchen is still worth five or six years of most players in the league.

    The 2013 NL MVP has finished in the top five in voting in each of the past four seasons, and he's been the driving force behind the Pittsburgh Pirates' rise from laughing stock to perennial contender.

    He's no longer a 30-steal threat, and his defense has not graded out particularly well in recent seasons, but there is little doubt McCutchen is one of the game's true stars.

    The 29-year-old got off to a brutal start last season, hitting .194 with two home runs and 13 RBI over the first month, but by the end of May, he had already raised his average to .275.

    When the dust settled on 2015, his numbers were right in line with previous seasons, as he hit .292/.401/.488 with 36 doubles, 23 home runs and 96 RBI.

    He's not quite the bargain he was when he earned $3.5 million during his MVP-winning season in 2013, but McCutchen still has one of the more team-friendly deals in all of baseball.

16. SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Marcus Stroman
    Marcus StromanDan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 4
    • 2021: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Marcus Stroman was a popular pick to break out heading into the 2015 season, but a torn ACL suffered during spring training appeared to put an end to his season before it even started.

    Instead, he made an amazingly fast recovery and return to make four brilliant starts down the stretch and then another three starts in October.

    Now that David Price is gone, Stroman will be asked to take over as ace of the staff for the Toronto Blue Jays, and there's little question he has the stuff and the mentality to thrive in that role.

    There were legitimate questions whether the 5'8" right-hander could stick as a starter when the Blue Jays took him No. 22 overall in the 2012 draft, but his electric arm was too good to pass up regardless of his long-term outlook.

    After shooting through the minor league ranks, he quickly put those doubts to rest as a rookie in 2014 when he went 10-6 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.147 WHIP in 120.1 innings over 20 starts.

    Stroman can let his emotions get the best of him at times, but the 24-year-old has all the tools to become one of the best starters in the game.

15. SP Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

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    Noah Syndergaard
    Noah SyndergaardAnthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2021: Arbitration Year 4
    • 2022: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey headlined the New York Mets' rotation in 2015, and they'll do so once again in 2016, but it may not be long before it's Noah Syndergaard who is the headliner of that terrific young staff.

    The 23-year-old was acquired from the Blue Jays along with catcher Travis d'Arnaud in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto shortly after he won NL Cy Young honors.

    One of the top pitching prospects in the game entering last season, Syndergaard made his debut on May 12, and he quickly gave the Mets another lethal arm in their push for the postseason.

    He finished the season at 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.047 ERA, and his 1.9 BB/9 mark was just as impressive as his 10.0 K/9 over 150 innings of work.

    At five years younger than deGrom and four years younger than Harvey, there's little doubt it's Syndergaard who is the most valuable trade commodity among the Mets' young hurlers.

    The question now is: How much better can he get, and how quickly?

14. SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

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    Francisco Lindor
    Francisco LindorCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2018: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2021: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2022: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    The No. 8 pick in the 2011 draft, Francisco Lindor was always viewed as an elite defensive shortstop, and it was the development of his offensive game that would inevitably determine whether he was destined for stardom.

    His .279/.354/.384 line over parts of five minor league seasons wasn't bad by any means, certainly good enough for him to be an everyday shortstop thanks to his glove.

    However, he surprised everyone by taking his offensive game to another level entirely upon reaching the majors last June.

    The 22-year-old hit .313/.353/.482 with 22 doubles, 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 99 games, good for a 4.6 WAR and a second-place finish to Carlos Correa in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    As expected, he was also brilliant defensively, posting 10 DRS and an 18.9 UZR/150, and he should have plenty of Gold Glove awards in the trophy room before all is said and done.

    He's not quite on the same level as Andrelton Simmons defensively, but if he keeps hitting like he did as a rookie, there's no question he's more valuable.

13. RF Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

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    Mookie Betts
    Mookie BettsMark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2021: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Throughout the process of looking for a front-line starter that began last offseason and finally culminated in the signing of David Price, the Boston Red Sox refused to even consider the idea of trading Mookie Betts.

    Smart move.

    After showing flashes during a 52-game audition in 2014, Betts quickly established himself as one of the most dynamic all-around players in the game in 2015.

    The 23-year-old finished the season batting .291/.341/.479 with 42 doubles, eight triples, 18 home runs and 21 stolen bases.

    That, coupled with terrific defense in the outfield (10 DRS), added up to a 6.0 WAR for Betts, good for seventh among AL position players.

    He'll shift from center field to right field this coming season now that Jackie Bradley Jr. is moving into the everyday lineup, and while he's not the prototypical power-hitting corner outfielder, he should have no problem being one of the most productive players at the position.

    With two more years at the league minimum before he reaches arbitration, Betts is an absolute steal.

12. LF Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Starling Marte
    Starling MarteRon Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $3.333 million
    • 2017: $5.333 million
    • 2018: $7.833 million
    • 2019: $10.333 million
    • 2020: $11.5 million ($2 million buyout)
    • 2021: $12.5 million ($1 million buyout)
    • 2022: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Following the same blueprint they used with Andrew McCutchen, the Pittsburgh Pirates inked another star outfielder in the making to a team-friendly deal when they signed Starling Marte to a six-year, $31 million extension prior to the 2014 season.

    The deal will stretch to eight years and $55 million, assuming both of his options are exercised, and with three straight seasons as a 5-WAR player, he's one of the best bargains in baseball.

    Now that Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez are both gone and Jung-ho Kang is expected to begin the season on the disabled list, there's a good chance Marte will find himself in the cleanup spot in the order and tasked with protecting the aforementioned McCutchen.

    He set new career highs last season with 30 doubles, 19 home runs and 81 RBI while also stealing 30 bases and excelling defensively with 24 DRS and a 10.8 UZR/150 to earn his first Gold Glove award.

    As good as he already is, there is also still plenty of room for Marte to improve.

    His 4.3 percent walk rate led to a somewhat pedestrian .337 on-base percentage, so with a bit more patience, he could emerge as an elite offensive option.

11. SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

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    Sonny Gray
    Sonny GrayBob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Following a stellar career at Vanderbilt University, right-hander Sonny Gray was taken with the No. 18 pick in the 2011 draft by the Oakland Athletics.

    By the second half of the 2013 season, he was part of their starting rotation, and his rapid rise continued this past season when he finished third in AL Cy Young voting.

    The 26-year-old wrapped up the season at 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.082 WHIP while topping the 200-inning mark for the second time in his young career.

    He's not your prototypical workhorse starter at 5'11" and 195 pounds, but Gray has a terrific four-pitch repertoire and a bulldog mentality that serves him well.

    While most of the players on this list are franchise cornerstones and essentially untouchable in actual trade talks, Gray is one player who could very well find himself on the move in the near future.

    Such is life in the Oakland organization.

10. SP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gerrit Cole
    Gerrit ColeCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    The No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole often flashed his ace potential during his first two years in the league, and he officially made that leap to elite starter in 2015.

    The burly right-hander finished the season at 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.091 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 208 innings of work to earn a fourth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting.

    He was particularly good against the other NL Central contenders, going 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in four starts against the Chicago Cubs and 3-1 with a 2.39 ERA in four matchups with the St. Louis Cardinals.

    The Pirates have done a great job locking up the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Josh Harrison with team-friendly contracts in recent years, but they may not have the same luck getting Cole to commit long term.

    As a Scott Boras client, he figures to ride out the arbitration process and test the free-agent market unless the Pirates are willing to extend him with a market-value deal.

    Either way, with four more years of team control, including one more at the league minimum, he's among the most valuable pitchers in the game.

9. SP Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

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    Chris Sale
    Chris SaleJesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $9.15 million
    • 2017: $12 million
    • 2018: $12.5 million option ($1 million buyout)
    • 2019: $13.5 million option ($1 million buyout)
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Calling the extension Chris Sale signed with the Chicago White Sox the best move in franchise history wouldn't be hyperbole in the slightest.

    When all is said and done and his two option years are exercised, it will wind up being a seven-year, $58.5 million deal for the age-24 to age-30 seasons of one of the best pitchers in baseball.

    At the same time, Sale should still be able to cash in with a huge free-agent deal once he does finally hit the open market, assuming he stays healthy.

    With his funky mechanics, that's no sure bet, but to this point, there is been no reason for concern regarding his prized left arm.

    Sale saw his ERA climb to 3.41 this past season after posting a 2.17 mark in 2014, but that was largely the result of an awful defense behind him, as his 2.73 FIP was the best in the American League.

    He also led the league in strikeouts with 274, tallying double-digit punchouts 13 different times, including eight in a row at one point in the first half.

    Since moving to the rotation, he's finished sixth, fifth, third and fourth in Cy Young voting, so Sale eventually taking home the hardware seems inevitable.

8. SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

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    Madison Bumgarner
    Madison BumgarnerKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $9.75 million
    • 2017: $11.5 million
    • 2018: $12 million option ($1.5 million buyout)
    • 2019: $12 million option
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    As good of a bargain as the Chris Sale deal is from start to finish, Madison Bumgarner actually comes slightly cheaper over the next four years with $45.25 million left on his deal compared to $47.15 million still owed to Sale.

    That $1.9 million difference served as the tiebreaker between the two elite left-handers in these rankings, as both are spectacular values.

    Since becoming a full-time member of the San Francisco Giants' rotation in 2011, Bumgarner has gone 78-52 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.090 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 while averaging 210 innings per season.

    While the likes of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have fallen off around him, Bumgarner has been a rock atop the Giants rotation, and now he'll have some help shouldering the load after the team added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija in free agency.

    As the Giants try to make their way back to the playoffs, Bumgarner is also one of the best postseason pitchers the game has ever seen.

    He's 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA and 0.883 WHIP in 88.1 career postseason innings, and that includes 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA in four starts and one epic relief appearance in the World Series.

7. SP Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Chris Archer
    Chris ArcherAdam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $2.917 million
    • 2017: $4.917 million
    • 2018: $6.417 million
    • 2019: $7.667 million
    • 2020: $9 million option ($1.75 million buyout)
    • 2021: $11 million option ($250,000 buyout)
    • 2022: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    With the top six spots in these rankings all going to position players, it may come as a surprise to some to see Chris Archer rank as the most valuable trade asset in the league among pitchers.

    The six-year, $25.5 million extension he signed prior to the 2014 season that includes two years and $20 million worth of options should make it a little easier to understand.

    At the time, Archer was coming off a solid rookie season that saw him go 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.127 WHIP in 23 starts, and even then it looked like an absolute steal for the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Now he's established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, and it looks downright unfair.

    The 27-year-old was 12-13 with a 3.23 ERA, 1.137 WHIP and 252 strikeouts in 212 innings of work during a breakout 2015 season, and if not for a rough start on Sept. 26 (3.2 IP, 10 H, 9 ER), his numbers would have looked significantly better.

    The Rays have been forced time and again to watch their star players depart for greener pastures, but Archer won't be going anywhere.

6. RF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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    Bryce Harper
    Bryce HarperBrad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $5 million
    • 2017: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2019: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    Where does three years of Bryce Harper rank against four, five and sometimes six years of some of the game's other young stars?

    That was the toughest question to answer in putting together these rankings, and there will no doubt be some differences of opinion on this subject, but he checks in at the No. 6 spot.

    Entering his age-23 season, Harper is coming off of one of the most dominant offensive seasons in recent memory.

    He finished the year batting .330/.460/.649 while leading the NL in home runs (42) and runs scored (118), but it's his 195 OPS+ that puts him in historic territory, as he was simply head and shoulders above everyone else.

    That 195 OPS+ is tied for 71st on the single-season list and is the best since Barry Bonds in 2004.

    A more patient approach at the plate was the big difference for Harper, as his walk rate climbed from 9.6 percent to 19.0 percent, but staying healthy was equally important.

    Could he be the first $500 million player when he does reach free agency?

    It's very possible, but for now, $5 million is peanuts.

5. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Paul Goldschmidt
    Paul GoldschmidtMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $5.875 million
    • 2017: $8.875 million
    • 2018: $11.1 million
    • 2019: $14.5 million option ($2 million buyout)
    • 2020: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    In another brilliant early extension move, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed Paul Goldschmidt to a five-year, $32.05 million deal with a $14.5 million option tacked onto the end just ahead of his breakout 2013 performance.

    Making the deal even better for the D'Backs, the extension didn't kick in until the 2014 season, so 2013 was basically a freebie, as he finished second in NL MVP voting while earning $500,000.

    A broken hand limited him to 109 games in 2014, but he showed no ill effects this past season and again came in second in MVP voting. Now that the team has bolstered its pitching staff and looks to be a potential contender, that World Series trophy may finally be in reach.

    The power numbers are what everyone talks about with the Arizona slugger, and understandably so, but it's his all-around game that makes him so great.

    He quietly stole 21 bases last season to become the first 20/20 first basemen since Derrek Lee in 2003, and he also won his second Gold Glove award on the strength of his sterling defensive metrics (18 DRS, 4.7 UZR/150).

    All things considered, he might be the best player in the National League right now.

4. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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    Anthony Rizzo
    Anthony RizzoJerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $5 million
    • 2017: $7 million
    • 2018: $7 million
    • 2019: $11 million
    • 2020: $14.5 million option ($2.5 million buyout)
    • 2021: $14.5 million option ($2.5 million buyout)
    • 2022: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    It's really a flip of the coin who you'd rather have long term between Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo, but with Rizzo under contract for an extra year with his $14.5 million option in 2021, he gets the higher spot in these rankings.

    Rizzo earned his extension after hitting .285 with 15 home runs in 87 games in his Cubs debut in 2012, but it didn't immediately look like a fantastic move, as his average plummeted to .233 in his first full season in the league.

    However, all the pieces fell into place in 2014, as vastly improved numbers against left-handed pitching and a patient approach quickly made him an MVP candidate.

    After a 10th-place finish in voting in 2014, he finished fourth in the balloting this past year, and as the leader of a dynamic, young Chicago Cubs team, he should be in the running for the award on an annual basis.

    Along with topping the 30-homer mark for a second consecutive season, Rizzo also added a speed element to his game with 17 stolen bases last year, and he's also one of the better defensive first basemen in the league.

3. 3B Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

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    Kris Bryant
    Kris BryantJerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2018: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2021: Arbitration Year 4
    • 2022: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    The Chicago Cubs' decision to delay the arrival of Kris Bryant to buy themselves another year of team control was met with plenty of criticism, but from a business standpoint, it made perfect sense.

    Regardless, the budding superstar is now under team control through the 2021 season, and he has two more seasons before he even reaches arbitration.

    Detractors will point to his league-leading 199 strikeouts as a reason Bryant is overhyped, but his 11.8 percent walk rate is a good indication he has a plan at the plate and isn't just up there hacking.

    That said, when he does take a hack, there might not be anyone in baseball with more raw power.

    His 26 home runs as a rookie were a franchise record, but that total is likely just the tip of the iceberg, as he has legitimate 50-homer potential.

    Bryant earned unanimous NL Rookie of the Year honors, and by all accounts, his debut was a wildly successful one, but his numbers would have been even better if not for a rough month of July where he hit .168/.270/.368.

    He'll probably never win a Gold Glove, but his defense was also better than expected at the hot corner, and an eventual move to the outfield no longer seems like a necessity.

2. SS Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

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    Carlos Correa
    Carlos CorreaKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2017: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2018: Pre-Arbitration
    • 2019: Arbitration Year 1
    • 2020: Arbitration Year 2
    • 2021: Arbitration Year 3
    • 2022: Free Agent

     

    Overview

    When the Houston Astros selected Carlos Correa with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, some viewed it as a money-saving effort of sorts.

    Correa was a consensus top-10 prospect in the draft, so it wasn't a crazy reach by any means, but most viewed Byron Buxton as the most talented player in the class. Also, the money-saving angle did hold weight, as the Astros were able to go above-slot to sign Lance McCullers at No. 41 overall.

    Three years later, it's clear that Correa was the player the Astros wanted all along, regardless of his price tag, and it's easy to see why.

    After annihilating minor league pitching to the tune of a .335/.407/.600 line in 53 games to begin the 2015 season, he made his big league debut on June 8 at the age of 20.

    Before long, he moved into the No. 3 spot in the lineup for a contending Astros team, and he went on to hit .279/.345/.512 while leading all shortstops with 22 home runs and adding 14 stolen bases.

    That earned him AL Rookie of the Year honors and made it clear the Astros had a dynamic, young star on their hands.

    He has 30-homer upside as he develops more strength, and despite his size, he's also a terrific defensive shortstop.

1. CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Status

    • 2016: $16.083 million
    • 2017: $20.083 million
    • 2018: $34.083 million
    • 2019: $34.083 million
    • 2020: $34.085 million
    • 2021: Free Agent

      

    Overview

    Mike Trout is no longer the tremendous bargain he once was after signing a six-year, $144.5 million extension, but it's all relative.

    According to the FanGraphs "value" statistic that weighs player production versus market value, Trout has already been worth $282.6 million so far in his career, including $72.1 million this past season.

    He'll make $16.083 million and $20.083 million the next two years, respectively, in what would have been his final arbitration years, before his salary jumps to $34.083 million for the following three years.

    That's a ton of money, but it's still roughly half of what he's actually worth, so it's hard to argue that even at that price Trout isn't a great value.

    To put it simply, five years of Mike Trout at any price is the most valuable trade asset in baseball.

    There are probably more than a few teams that would trade their entire Double-A organization—stadium, hot dog vendors, mascot and all—to acquire the 24-year-old superstar.

     

    All standard statistics and WAR totals courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, while defensive metrics come via FanGraphs.