As the #1 prospect in baseball and a historically rated hitter in the minor leagues, Vladimir Guerrero Jr should be as valuable as they come. How does he compare to some other MLB stars right now, before he’s even played his first game?
Twitter is usually a fun place to find a good baseball argument, and I found just that the other night when I was flipping around.
I came across a fan account for the Yankees that jokingly suggested that the Blue Jays should trade Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to New York. I couldn’t help myself, so I had to check out the comments and see what people actually thought of such an idea.
One of the most interesting comments came from the same user who later posted, “we’ll literally give you anyone but Aaron Judge“. That comment got me wondering out loud (and purely in fantasy land, because it’s not happening): Would the Blue Jays actually trade for Judge if that deal were offered? Is there any player that the Blue Jays would trade their star prospect in exchange for?
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I could make a list of the game’s best players, but I might as well start with Judge, as he’s arguably as valuable as any player in baseball right now. Maybe that goes to Ronald Acuna, but I’d put him in a battle with Guerrero for many years already, and he’s not going anywhere. Judge just 26 years old, and he’s played roughly two full seasons between the last two years, and a cup of coffee in 2016. All he’s done is win the Rookie of the Year, become a 2x All-Star, and earn MVP votes in each of his first two seasons, finishing 2nd in his rookie campaign, when he stayed healthy for the whole year.
Judge is still a massive bargain for the Yankees, as he won’t be arbitration eligible for the first time until the 2020 season. This also means the Bronx Bombers retain his services for at least the next four seasons. He’ll be due to get a few raises in the coming seasons to be sure, but he might one of the best “deals” in baseball right now, given his minimal pay cheque, his contract control, his established star power, and his relative youth.
In 294 games the man-beast has already hit 83 home runs and picked up 191 RBI. He’s also been an asset on defence, playing a plus right field and having the ability to slide to centre when injuries have required him to do so. He’s already been worth 13.2 WAR in his short career, and the Yankees should have him for the prime of his time in the league, which is scary considering that he could still get better.
And yet, I’m not sure I would trade Vladimir Guerrero Jr, even for Aaron Judge.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that prospects are still prospects until they prove otherwise, and even a star-studded example like Guerrero is no exception. I think it’s pretty universally accepted that he’ll be able to hit at the highest level, but the degree to which he becomes a star will determine his value. It’ll also matter a lot whether he can stick at a position like third base, or if he’s eventually relegated to DH duties. That won’t happen right way of course, but if you were evaluating long term value vs. someone like Judge, it matters.
For those of you thinking that Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and therefore the most untouchable, I’d submit that he’s only got two years left on his contract, and that he’s scheduled to be paid 66.5 million in those two seasons. I’m not suggesting that Vlad Jr. is better than Trout, but right now, his trade value is arguably higher.
The Blue Jays will likely have seven years of contract control with young Vlad, which works far better for their organizational timeline over almost anyone else well. In the beginning stages of a rebuild, there’s a good chance that it’s going to take 2-3 years before this team is truly back in contention, especially in the vaunted AL East. If Ross Atkins were to swap Vlad for Judge for example, he’d have just a year or two left of contract control with his star player. The asset they already control would have four or five years left to help the team contend in the next competitive phase of the franchise.
I’m not so bias that I’m going to suggest that Vladimir Guerrero Jr is already the most valuable player in the game, but for the Blue Jays, he may well be the best player they could possibly have under contract, even before he plays his first game. For that reason, I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in baseball, not even Aaron Judge.