Every MLB team's most indispensable player

April 1st, 2022

We have just gone through a wild transaction season, a full winter’s worth of moves in, like, two weeks. It was exhausting and exhilarating, watching all that player movement. It’s going to take us a month into the season until we realize what uniform everyone is supposed to be in.

Some players, though, aren’t going anywhere. They are absolutely indispensable, the player no team can do without. Other guys might be traded, or teams move on from them. But not these guys.

Who’s the most indispensable player on each team? Let’s take a look.


Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 1B

Remember when we were all a little underwhelmed with Vlad’s initial emergence on the scene? Fair to say that’s not the case anymore. In any season that didn’t feature Shohei Ohtani doing that exclusively-Shohei-Ohtani thing, Vlad Jr. would have run away with the American League Most Valuable Player Award last year. This might be the year he has it to himself.

Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C

He’s likely making his debut at some point this season, and it seems certain he’ll be in that Orioles uniform for a long, long time afterward. Fair to say he’s indispensable: Can you imagine if the Orioles traded him? Fans have been through enough as is. He might be the most untradeable player in the sport right now.

Rays: Wander Franco, SS

For all the talk of Franco getting the biggest contract for anyone with less than one year of service time in MLB history, there is every indication that he’s going to look like an absolute steal in five years -- and, all told, it will probably be even sooner than that.

Red Sox: Chris Sale, LHP

You could have gone with either of the young infielders here, Rafael Devers or Xander Bogaerts, even with Bogaerts now sharing the middle infield with Trevor Story. But the best sign here of just how vital Sale is to the Red Sox is how differently we’ve all been talking about him since it became clear he won’t be with the team on Opening Day. The Red Sox, instantly, became less of a threat. No one else on the team would have that much impact.

Yankees: Gerrit Cole, RHP

He has been everything the Yankees have wanted him to be; it’s the other guys who haven’t lived up to their contract or the Yankees’ hopes. In a one-game win-or-go-home showdown, he's still the guy you’d want on the mound the most.


Guardians: José Ramírez, 3B

It is interesting that the most indispensable player on the Guardians -- by a wide margin -- is the one most often mentioned in trade rumors.

Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B

It’s tempting to go with Salvador Perez here, considering how much the team clearly values and adores him, but the whole future of this franchise revolves around Witt being the top-shelf superstar he’s expected to be. This franchise will go where he takes it.

Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 1B

It sure looks like he’s going to make the Opening Day roster, so we’ll get an immediate look at what he’s capable of. The next generation of Tigers fans may well be minted by what he does.

Twins: Byron Buxton, CF

No team has been more defined by its best player’s absence than the Twins, whose record is dramatically better with Buxton in the lineup than it is without him. He may be Robin to Carlos Correa’s Batman now, but Buxton is who makes this team move.

White Sox: Lance Lynn, RHP

There are flashier players on this roster, and you can even argue that Lucas Giolito is a better pitcher. But no pitcher in baseball is more reliable and more consistent than Lynn, who does more heavy lifting for any rotation he’s in than is often appreciated. If you have Lynn on your team, there are one or two games a week you don’t have to worry about going south in a hurry. That’s a lot, particularly for a team constructed like the White Sox. He may never be truly appreciated.


Angels: Mike Trout, OF

It’s still gotta be Trout, right? Even with Ohtani’s emergence, Trout is the best player in baseball when healthy, and that he has been healthy so little the past couple years has put a ceiling on this franchise. Trout needs to be Trout, and he needs to stay Trout. May we all be so lucky as to have him around in 2022.

Astros: Jose Altuve, 2B

Yep, sure looks like 2020 was a fluke after all. Altuve, however polarizing as people might find him, remains the engine that drives the Astros the same way he has been for the last decade.

Athletics: Frankie Montas, RHP

Montas (along with Sean Manaea) is currently still here even though everyone wants both of them, which has to say something.

Mariners: Julio Rodríguez, OF

Jarred Kelenic might have gotten here first, but Rodríguez is an even higher-level prospect, the sort of incredible and big personality that could electrify this long-suffering fanbase. You may be seeing a lot of J-Rod jerseys in the Pacific Northwest over the next decade.

Rangers: Corey Seager, SS

Seager, famously, is already among the all-time home run leaders at Texas’ new ballpark, and he’ll surely be adding to that total plenty over the course of his contract. The Rangers have a journey to get back to contention, but they’re not getting anywhere without Seager.


Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr., OF

This is a weird pick considering, well … we all saw what happened without Acuña last year. That said, Acuña is the best player on the team by far, particularly with Freddie Freeman gone, and it’s not like losing him helped the Braves in any way. Put it this way: The Braves are counting down the days until he returns.

Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, RHP

Alcantara has been the Marlins’ most reliable pitcher for several years now, the guy who has given them a ton of innings from a relatively young age. But last year, he ascended to near-ace-level status, but still kept all those innings. This young staff needs a leader. It’s him.

Mets: Jacob deGrom, RHP

Even with Max Scherzer around, deGrom is still the straw that stirs the drink, as they love to say in New York. The Mets may find a way to lose with deGrom on the mound more than you might expect, but every team is terrified when they realize that’s who they have to face that day.

Nationals: Juan Soto, OF

The Nationals are more than aware of how invaluable Soto is: He’s essentially the one key piece from their title team that’s front and center on this team. But how long can they keep him? What’s the price on “indispensable?” The Nats are about to find out.

Phillies: Bryce Harper, RF

Remember when everyone was worried about how the “flashy” Harper would fit in with the Phillies fanbase? He’s the most consistent player in the game now, putting up numbers and putting his team in a good position every year. One of these years, possibly this year, he's going to lead them to October.


Brewers: Corbin Burnes, RHP

The Brewers have had an MVP and a Cy Young in the last four years. The MVP (Christian Yelich) has fallen off from his production, but the team has stayed afloat, winning division titles. The defending National League Cy Young Award winner is the reason why.

Cardinals: Nolan Arenado, 3B

Adam Wainwright is a tempting pick here, just because of how much he has saved this rotation, particularly last year. But Arenado arrived in St. Louis and looked to all the world like he’d been there his entire career. He’s a perfect fit -- established law in St. Louis.

Cubs: Seiya Suzuki, OF

The Cubs announced that this rebuild isn’t going to take as long as the last one did by the signing of Suzuki. They might not be ready to win just yet, but when they do, Suzuki will be right there.

Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B

Last year didn’t work out the way he wanted, but Hayes is still dead center for everything the Pirates want to do this year, next year, for many years to come. It wouldn’t be surprising for him to put together something special in 2022.

Reds: Joey Votto, 1B

Sure, the Reds have made a lot of moves, but it’s not going to feel like a true rebuild until Votto leaves. And Votto isn’t leaving … is he?


D-backs: Ketel Marte, CF/2B

The D-backs just put their money where their future is by extending Marte, making him a Diamondback for many years to come. Whatever they are next, he’ll be a part of it.

Dodgers: Mookie Betts, RF

So many to choose from here, but let’s not complicate it: Mookie Betts is the base of everything the Dodgers will be doing for the rest of this decade. There aren’t many more solid foundations than him.

Giants: Logan Webb, RHP

This … might have been the most difficult pick on this entire list. Such is the nature of the Giants that everyone feels a little bit temporary, even the players who have spent their entire careers here. But Webb is madly underrated by the rest of baseball, and he's the key to a pitching staff that may still need a little more help.

Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS

With the Padres' franchise player out for months, we are about to find out just how indispensable Tatis truly is.

Rockies: Kris Bryant, LF

You know up above, when I said Adley Rutschman was the most untradeable player in baseball right now? I take it back. There is literally no player in baseball, and maybe in any sport, that would be more damaging for a team to trade right now than the Rockies trading Kris Bryant.