As we surge toward the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline (Aug. 1 this year), we'll continue to hear all about which players might be traded. For fun, because that's what we're all about here, let's go in the opposite direction and check out some of the most untradeable players in baseball.
Caveats? We have caveats.
Bad players with low contracts won't make the cut
Those type of players aren't tradeable, but they are immensely releasable. Thus, there's no reason to discuss their tradeability (lots of invented words here, which is fun).
No player is truly 100 percent untradeable
Look at James Shields, for instance. He would have made this list, but he's already been traded. Being on the most untradeable list doesn't mean a player is untradeable. How does that make sense, one might ask? Just use common sense. We're all smart here. Being the fastest sloth doesn't make said sloth fast, right? Apply similar logic here.
Just being past prime with big deal not enough
Yeah, that's not going to cut it here, either. Justin Verlander is 33 years old and making $28 million per season through 2019, but I don't think it would be overly difficult for the Tigers to deal him if they decided to take that route.
Similar sentiment goes for Joey Votto, who is due $172 million from 2017-23 with a team option ($7 million buyout) for 2024, when he's 40. There's no doubt in mind something could be worked out if the Reds tried to deal him.
This isn't a highest-contract list, either
Giancarlo Stanton has that deal and it wouldn't even be remotely shocking to see the Marlins find a huge list of suitors should be be made available. I also shied about from including Elvis Andrus (six years, $88M left) and Troy Tulowitzki (three years, $60M) due to playing shortstop. Someone would jump.
The salaries discussed are what's left after this season, unless otherwise noted. Also built in are buyouts of club options that we're assuming will not be picked up.
Onto the list!
The 10 most untradeable players:
He'd be higher on this list, but his $23 million annual salary only runs through 2018. Still, with a pretty extensive history of injury issues and having a first baseman with so little power that his on-base percentage rivals his slugging percentage, there is virtually no trade value here at all. If the Twins were willing to eat almost all the remaining money on the deal, maybe it would work, but it's hard to see that happening.
There's always value in a center fielder on defense, but Ellsbury costs $89.56 million through 2020 to provide below-average offense and he's not even a great base-stealer anymore, as he's been caught seven times in 24 tries this season. He hasn't exactly been a poster child for durability in his career either.
Kemp's home run and RBI totals are gaudy, but he provides no value outside of power. He is a poor defender, hasn't even attempted a stolen base, has a terrible .280 on-base percentage and has struck out 93 times compared to 13 walks. That's a worthwhile six-hole hitter -- preferably a DH -- for a contending team that gets on base frequently in front of him, provided the salary isn't big. Instead Kemp is playing right field and will make $62.25 million total from 2017-19.
Homer Bailey's six-year, $106 million deal runs through the 2019 season. He made two starts in 2015 and hasn't yet worked his way back to the majors since having Tommy John surgery. He's only 30 years old, so there's a chance he'll return to form. Of course, he only had two good seasons before the surgery and they weren't great or anything. He was 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA (112 ERA+), 1.24 WHIP and 168 strikeouts in 208 innings in 2012. In 2013, he was 11-12 with a 3.49 ERA (108 ERA+), 1.12 WHIP and 199 strikeouts in 209 innings. He's set to make $23 million in 2019 as a 33 year old.
It is entirely possible that if we do this exercise next season Bailey will be heavily involved in trade rumors after having re-established value. It's also possible he'll be untradeable because he never did re-establish value. Time will tell. As things stand, no one is taking him on.
The king of baggage is almost 41, wholly unproductive and making $21 million in each 2016 and 2017. That the Yankees even discussed releasing him and eating the remaining money on the deal pretty well illustrates his trade value. He's only number six because his deal expires after next season. Otherwise he'd be higher.
Wright hasn't had an injury-free and productive season since 2012. He's now 33 and can't stay on the field. In 37 games this year before the injury, he was hitting .226/.350/.438 with very limited defensive range. I don't think the Mets would ever trade him -- they can afford the $67 million through 2020 left on the deal -- but even if they wanted to, they likely couldn't.
In terms of raw power, Pujols still has more than enough in the tank. He had 40 homers last season and has 19 this year. He's also hitting .247 with a .315 on-base percentage in the past two years combined. He's had a litany of injury issues in his legs and is 36 years old. Still, many teams would be happy to have him DH until they saw ... $140 million due to him 2017-2021.
Panda is out for the season after going 0 for 6. So far in his Red Sox career, he's hitting .242/.290/.361. His weight continues to hamper his play -- he probably should only be a DH or at least a first baseman moving forward -- and there are three years and $59.8 million left on his deal. I can't think of a single team that would even remotely consider trading for him. And he's third on the list.
After a huge bounce-back in 2015, Fielder faces the possibility of neck surgery for the second time in three seasons. He was also hitting .212/.292/.334 with only eight homers when he fell injured. That's amazingly lackluster for a DH who moonlights at first base every once in a while. Given that his body type doesn't age well (think Mo Vaughn), Fielder being 32 feels more like 35 or 36. After this season, he's still owed $96 million through 2020.
In 30 career big-league games, Olivera is hitting .245 with an 86 OPS+. He was moved to a corner outfield position by the Braves, so he needs to be a power hitter to come close to justifying his salary (he's owed $47.18M from 2017-2020), but hasn't really shown much since getting state-side. He's 31, so it's not like there's a ton of untapped potential to dream on, either.
Still, he'd likely be of interest due to his track record in Cuba, but instead he's suspended for allegedly assaulting a woman. It's the longest suspension MLB has handed down under the domestic violence policy at 82 games. The Braves were trying to trade him after the incident earlier this season and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that an opposing executive said "I can't believe they even asked" if others were interested in acquiring.
When an opposing executive is surprised (in a bad way) a name is even mentioned and said name is earning eight figures a year, that's a problem. And that gives us baseball's most untradeable player.
Dishonorable mention (in alphabetical order)
- Matt Cain, Giants, $28.5M through 2017
- Rusney Castillo, Red Sox, roughly $49.086M through 2020
- Allen Craig, Red Sox, $12M through 2017
- Ryan Howard, Phillies, what's left of his $25M this season plus $10M buyout on 2017 option
- Phil Hughes, Twins, $39.6M through 2019
- Ian Kennedy, Royals, $62.5M through 2020
- Ricky Nolasco, Twins, $12 million next season
- Anibal Sanchez, Tigers, $21.8M through 2017
- Yasmany Tomas, Diamondbacks, $55.5M through 2020
- Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, $48M through 2019