Major League Baseball differs from the National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League in several ways. Only a handful of teams make the postseason in the MLB, but over a dozen clubs qualify for the playoffs in the NBA and NHL. While just about every team is in the playoff hunt at the halfway point of a NFL regular season, there are MLB clubs able to phone things in at the All-Star break of a baseball campaign. Because of that, we are able to say that certain MLB players are too good for their teams even in July when there are a couple of months left on a baseball calendar. Some of the players mentioned below may be traded to a contender before August 2016.
The list of MLB players who are too good for their teams at the moment features a plethora of talent spread across the American League and the National League. It includes men who may be contenders to win Most Valuable Player honors, at least one Cy Young candidate and a veteran who has seen it all and done it all minus winning a World Series. Each of the players mentioned here could make just about any team in the big leagues better. Some of them may deservedly play postseason baseball this fall if the right opportunities arise. Some of the young stars, however, will likely be used as parts of rebuilding processes. Regardless of where they are playing next spring, each of the men on the list deserve better in 2016.
15 Evan Longoria
There was once a time when it looked as if Evan Longoria was going to be the next big star in Major League Baseball. While Longoria did not reach those heights, he is undeniably one of the better players on a Tampa Bay Rays team that is nothing short of awful as of the summer of 2016.
Longoria is now 30-years-old and Tampa Bay is not anywhere close to contending for anything of not anytime soon. It is, thus, being rumored that Longoria could manage to escape Tampa Bay and make a move to a contender such as the Los Angeles Dodgers. Longoria can hit for power and for average. The biggest knock one may have on Longoria is that he strikes out more than a manager would like to see. That one fault does not erase that Longoria is too good of a player to participate in meaningless games this coming September.
14 Eduardo Nunez
It has been bad times for the Minnesota Twins throughout the 2016 campaign minus when Minnesota has played against the Cleveland Indians. Eduardo Nunez is a bright spot in an awful Minnesota lineup. Nunez is batting over .320, he has 12 home runs, and he has driven home 40 runs.
The 29-year-old is theoretically still in his prime, which could be reason enough for the Twins to decide to hold onto Nunez for at least one more season. Then again, the Twins are well behind the Indians, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals in the division standings and in talent. Nunez would bring in a decent haul for the Twins in a deal if Minnesota elected to pull the trigger on a trade this summer. As good as Nunez is, the Twins need more than just one player if the club is going to build a cornerstone of young players capable of winning a division crown.
13 Rich Hill
Rich Hill missed at least one start in July because of a blister. These things happen, and that one physical setback does not erase all that Hill has thus far achieved during the campaign. Hill is sitting at 9-3 during the All-Star break and he could theoretically be a contender to win the Cy Young Award because of the fact that the Oakland Athletics are terrible.
Oakland has, as of July 14, won only 29 games that did not involve Hill being on the mount of the start of a contest. Because Oakland is downright terrible, there are numerous rumors where Hill could be headed once he is healthy and able to return to the stump. Don’t be surprised if a National League contender, maybe even one that shares California with the A’s, call Oakland about Hill’s services. Hill may no longer be in his physical prime, but he has shown in 2016 that he has plenty left in the tank.
12 Nolan Arenado
The next two young players on this list may be too good for their teams, but nobody should expect either man to go anywhere anytime soon. Nolan Arenado is one of the best hitters in the lineup of the Colorado Rockies. The 25-year-old was a revelation during the 2015 MLB regular season and he is proving in 2016 that his production last year was not a one-off or a fluke.
The Rockies would receive a fortune if the club decided to trade Arenado. Receiving multiple promising prospects would likely not be enough for the Rockies to pull the trigger on that move. Fans of the New York Mets called into sports talk radio stations earlier this year hoping that the Mets could somehow make Arenado the club’s third baseman of the future. Keep on dreaming New York supporters, because the Rockies have no reason to sell even if Colorado won’t be winning a championship this year.
11 Trevor Story
Trevor Story is, pun totally intended, one of the best stories in Major League Baseball for the 2016 season. Story began the campaign as the hottest hitter in the game, a rookie who blasted home runs over walls and into crowds. While a market correction occurred and Story returned back down to earth during the summer, it appears as if the first-year big league ballplayer is going to be a special talent.
The 23-year-old is way too good to be on as bad a team as the Colorado Rockies, but Story and his previously-mentioned teammate will hopefully be part of a rebuilding process for Colorado. Yes, Story is lucky enough to play in a home ballpark where baseballs fly out unlike anywhere else in North America. Do not, however, assume that Story would not be a great hitter if he played elsewhere. After all, the Rockies play 81 games away from Colorado every season.
10 Chris Sale
Perhaps this is a little unfair to the Chicago White Sox. The Sox entered the All-Star break with a winning record, after all. It does, however, seem as if the team is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle and in the standings. One person who won’t be lost in Cy Young voting later this year is Chris Sale.
The Chicago ace appeared unbeatable at stages of the 2016 campaign, and he is on pace to have the best regular season of his career. At just 27-years-old, Sale may not yet be at his physical best. Unlike some of the players mentioned in this piece, Sale will not be going anywhere anytime soon, especially if the White Sox have a chance to win the American League Central or contend for a berth in a Wild Card game. Watch for Sale to take home some hardware in 2016 and perhaps in the future.
9 Robinson Cano
Was Robinson Cano worth all of the money the Seattle Mariners paid him all those years ago? That is a matter of opinion. What is not up for debate, however, is that Cano is one of the best hitters on a Seattle side that has been average throughout 2016. Cano would be a positive addition to any lineup playing postseason baseball. Whether or not he will do so as a member of the Mariners in the future is unknown as of this time, as Seattle trails the Texas Rangers in the standings, in overall talent and also in depth.
Cano would be a valuable asset in a trade for the Mariners if the club decided to trade him, but doing so would also indicate that the club is pushing a figurative reset button as it pertains to pursuing a World Series. While Cano will be 34-years-old this coming October, he is not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.
8 Jake Lamb
There is no nice way to put it. The Arizona Diamondbacks are awful at the moment. There is no chance, minus a miracle or a historic run, that the Diamondbacks are going anywhere anytime soon. One bright spot for the now and also for the future of the club is Jake Lamb.
Lamb, the 25-year-old who is in the third year of his MLB career, is having his best season to date. We already know that Lamb will finish the campaign with career highs in home runs, RBI, doubles and triples, and Lamb should be part of Arizona attempting to make a return to the top of the standings. The Diamondbacks have been responsible for several questionable decisions and roster moves over the years. Arizona is not selling Lamb as of the posting of this piece and that is the smartest thing the club could do as it plays out the rest of 2016.
7 Mark Melancon
The Pittsburgh Pirates are somewhat of a letdown in 2016. It does not help Pittsburgh's cause that the Pirates share a division with the juggernaut that is the Chicago Cubs. Nobody can blame Mark Melancon for the state of the Pirates as of July. Melancon is one of the best closers in all of Major League Baseball and he is, as of the posting of this piece, in the middle of a streak that has seen him not give up a single run since May 15.
Melancon is 31-years-old and a top-tier closer, so he'd be worth quite a bit on the open market. Gone are the days of Pittsburgh fans watching a team that does not compete for playoff spots, however, and thus the Pirates would be wise to hold onto Melancon for the foreseeable future. Even if Melancon does not pitch in a meaningful October game this year, he is still one of the best players on the Pirates.
6 Zack Greinke
You cannot blame Zach Greinke for following the cash and signing for the Arizona Diamondbacks this past offseason. It is not every day that a club offers a guy over $200 million in total cash. There has been speculation that Greinke could be put on the market during the summer months because of the fact that Arizona is lousy and also because of what Greinke would be worth in a trade.
While Greinke is too good for his current team, he also comes with quite the high price tag for any team that would want his services. Only a handful of teams could afford to pay what the Diamondbacks promised Greinke and those teams may not have enough in prospects to trade for him. Zach can be an ace when he is healthy and at his best, but he can only blame himself if he misses playing on a winning team and missed pitching in October.
5 Freddie Freeman
Freddie Freeman is far too good to be in the lineup of a losing Atlanta Braves team. We are sure of that. The 26-year-old put up tremendous numbers during the first half of 2016 while playing for a club that flirted with losing half of its games. There were rumblings around the leagues in June that the Braves had no interest in shopping Freeman because of his age and because of his talent.
Things could change, however, if those running the organization believe that the Braves are more than a couple of years away from hanging with the likes of the Washington Nationals, New York Mets and Miami Marlins. There are few reasons for local fans to attend home games and cheer the Braves on these days. Trading Freeman would likely anger what is already a disappointed fan base, even if Freeman is too good for his current team.
4 Jay Bruce
Whether or not Jay Bruce is too good for his team likely depends on when you find this piece on the Internet. The slugger who currently features for the Cincinnati Reds is reportedly on the trade market and Bruce has been linked with just about every team that is in the running for a playoff spot as of the middle of July.
We could see the Reds make a deal with their interstate rivals, the Cleveland Indians, when all is said and done. The Indians could use a hitter like Bruce in the lineup and Cleveland could consider retaining Bruce if the Tribe makes a run that extends beyond the 2016 campaign. Bruce is too good to play on a team that wins only 36 percent of its games, and the Reds likely realize that. Perhaps Bruce would mean more to the Reds if he could come out of the bullpen and get a few hitters out during a game. The Reds could certainly use the help.
3 Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran is somewhat of an ageless wonder. The veteran produced MVP-esque numbers at the plate during the opening half of the 2016 campaign and there were times when you would have sworn that the 39-years-old was actually ten years younger. Beltran may not be the athlete that he was while featuring for the New York Mets a decade ago, but he can still go in the outfield.
Beltran is too good for the New York Yankees these days and the Yankees may have to realize that harsh reality sooner rather than later. The Yankees are in the middle of a rebuild, but the team will only get to where it wants to be when it is able to unload players past their primes such as Beltran. Besides, we want to see Beltran have at least one more crack at winning a World Series before he hangs his batting gloves up for good. Beltran deserves it for all he has done during his career.
2 Francisco Lindor
This is not a knock on Superstar young shortstop Francisco Lindor, nor is it any criticism of the Cleveland Indians. The harsh reality of the matter is that, unless things change or somebody with deep pockets buys the Indians and decides to invest large sums of money into the club, there will likely eventually come a day when the Indians deal Lindor to a franchise willing to pay him what he deserves. Don’t worry quite yet, Cleveland fans, as the Indians have Lindor’s rights for several seasons.
Still, Lindor is literally too good for his team in that the Indians will not be able to afford to keep the shortstop long-term if he continues to progress as he has during the early days of his career. Those of you who have not watched Lindor do not know what you have been missing, but you should have plenty of opportunities to follow his career over the next decade.
1 Mike Trout
Odds are that you took a wrong turn on the ol’ Internet highway if you stumbled upon this piece and don’t understand why Mike Trout is atop the list. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are horrible in 2016, but Trout remains one of the top young players in the game.
Trout, 24-years-old as of the summer of 2016, is signed with the Angels through the end of the 2020 season, and yet there are already discussions around baseball about how much money he will fetch either from the Angels or from a different team in the future. How much money is too much to spend on a single player? $300 million? $400 million? Trout may help provide an answer to that question unless MLB adopts a salary cap or owners decide that tying up that kind of cash on one asset is silly. Trout is too good for the Angels and for any team not playing postseason baseball.