Applying the Guttridge-Wang trade model to this year’s deadline trades (Part 1)

Before we start, allow me to recap and elaborate upon some of the finer points here.

The WAR figures here are compiled from publicly available calculations of WAR, to which I apply aging factors and calculate weighted averages. For Major Leaguers, I use WAR calculations from FanGraphs, which are wOBA and UZR based for hitters, and FIP-based for pitchers. If and when minor league data is used in a projection (which generally means a player who has spent more than just rehab time in the minors over the past 2.5 years), I use MLE FIPs from Minor League Splits for pitchers, and use Minor League Splits’ MLE on hitters to produce a wOBA calculation, which I then convert to WAR using Fangraphs’ methodology. The minor league data will rarely be a big part of the equation, however; for anyone with less than a year of service time, we are using Victor’s previously described prospect slotting method. And trades of players with, say, 1.5 years of service time are semi-rare.

Are these the figures I would use if I were sitting in a front office? Nope. But for the purposes of understanding a club’s rationale and the implications of a trade, this will do fine. This methodology also takes into account 2009 data when when projecting value for the remainder of 2009, something many other systems fail to do. As in, if a player had wOBAs of .320, .335, and .307 over the last three seasons (which would predict a .318, using 5-3-2 weighting), and was at a .343 wOBA halfway through 2009, his projection from here forth is not still .318. This should be obvious, but it’s a common error.

I’m using Victor Wang’s prospect values, which you can see here. Victor’s work on this is excellent; I simply made some adjustments to reflect our new economic climate and changed how he discounted future value for prospects ever so slightly. I’m using $4 million per WAR now; that is just a tick below what it was last offseason. And my primary source for slotting prospects was Baseball America’s top 100 list, cross-referenced with grades from Jon Sickels. Obviously, there’s a bit of room for subjectivity here, but it rarely makes more than $1 million difference if you decide to bump someone up or down a slot.

Also, for all the trades here, I’m examining them from the perspective of the contender. If you recall from the article, these are not zero-sum equations; just because one team “lost” $2.2 million of surplus value does not mean the other team gained the same amount, due to divergent near-term goals (ie. Cliff Lee is worth more to the Phillies than the Pirates) and varying ability to replace a player.

Now, onto the deals.

Cliff Lee from Cleveland to Philadelphia for Carlos Carrassco, Jason Knapp, Jason Donald and Lou Marson


While nobody heading to Cleveland is a blue chip prospect (with the possible exception of Jason Knapp), the Phillies gave up an awful lot of value here. Baseball America had Donald and Marson each in the 60s on their top 100 list; I find both slottings to be at least a bit generous, especially with Donald. I slotted him down to a 75-100 hitting prospect based on his subpar ’09. I could easily have done the same for Marson. If I did, the trade would be a virtual wash from Philly’s perspective. However, I easily could have bumped Knapp up a bit too; he’s obviously an incredible talent, but 18-year-old pitchers are, to say the least, risky, and there’s a lot more value in someone who can start contributing in three months than three years.

Philly would have done very well to turn up their nose to Ben Francisco and see if they could convince Cleveland to drop one of the lesser prospects from the deal. Francisco is nothing you can’t find on the waiver wire, and I find it hard to believe Cleveland wouldn’t have dealt Lee alone for Carrasco, Marson, and either Donald or Knapp. Here’s how that would have looked:


That said, I still like the move the Phillies made; they managed to get a year and a half of a frontline starting pitcher with a well below market deal without touching Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown or Michael Taylor. Besides, they’ve done really well to get themselves into some very favorable long-term contracts with the right players (Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels). Combine that with their recent success, and Philly can afford to trade away a future No. 3 starter and instead plan to buy one on the FA market when needed.

As far as Cleveland is concerned, in terms of raw value, they did very well or even great here. But which way is the ship going? I rationalized the DeRosa trade a few weeks ago by accepting that they were going to try to contend next year, and reasoning that a cheap seventh/eighth inning arm (like Chris Perez) could be an important chip in that process. That almost justified giving up DeRosa in return for such mediocre ceiling.

But while Carrasco and Marson are likely ready to contribute on some level right now, are they going to be impact players in some sort of playoff push in 2010? Very unlikely. In giving up Lee, a No. 1 starter signed for $10 million next year, Cleveland has made it clear that 2010 is not their time. I feel for Mark Shapiro, really; this team has had some awful luck the past couple seasons. But for the sake of his own job security, you might think he’d have wanted to be more aggressive with his 2010 vision.

Victor Martinez from Cleveland to Boston for Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price


I know that since I have spreadsheets full of baseball statistics on my computer, I’m supposed to have a man-crush on Theo Epstein. But I just do not see the logic here.

So Victor Martinez gives you the ability to play the matchup game especially well between Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek. But you give up Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price for that?

Martinez is locked in at a nice bargain price for 2010 (even with the salary escalator he receives for being traded). And sure, Boston is awash in young pitching for the time being.

But to me, this is like Bill Gates paying a million bucks for a haircut. Does it provide him some value? Yup. Can he afford it? Totally. But that doesn’t mean it was a good deal for him. Cleveland probably should have accepted Masterson straight-up, at most with a Jason Place to be named later sprinkled in for effect.

Back to Cleveland; combined with the Lee deal, they’ve rounded up four of perhaps the top 60 pitching prospects in the game, plus a very good looking young starter in Masterson, before you even get to Marson and Donald. This is the Oakland/Texas model of the past couple years: building the farm system via trades. You can agree or disagree with the goal, but you have to admit that once they made up their minds, they knocked it out of the park.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Jake Peavy from San Diego to the White Sox for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter


Ladies and gentlemen, behold possibly the worst deadline deal in recent memory.

Jake Peavy may or may not pitch again this year. Over the last year and a half, he’s been on the shelf for roughly one-third of the time. And, he’s locked into a deal that pays him more than he would receive on the open market today.

Now, the current projection I have for Peavy may well be a bit harsh; when healthy, he’s one of the top five to eight starters in the game, and that projection would imply he’s somewhere around the 25th. But I don’t feel comfortable just completely ignoring the injury history, especially since they included elbow issues last year.

Just for the sake of argument, here’s how Peavy looks if he essentially returns to ’06-’07 form and stays there:


It’s still a terrible deal.

Now, you know what? This is going to be a silent killer; like the Carlos Lee contract. What I mean is, nobody really pays attention to how bad of a contract Carlos Lee has because he’s meeting expectations with the bat, and Minute Maid Park makes it look even better, so no perception exists that Houston didn’t get the player they signed. If you were a .300 hitter, then signed a $15 million contract, and continued to hit .300, nobody calls you overpaid, even if you were only worth $12 million a year to begin with.

The worst aspects of that contract (the $4 million or so a year he’s overpaid along with the length of the contract the late years) are invisible; when you’re watching Lee put up a .900 OPS, it doesn’t immediately strike you that his overpriced contract comes at the expense of other areas of the roster, or that he’s going to be a huge drag on the organization pretty soon.

I imagine it will be the same with Peavy. Regardless of what happens for the rest of 2009, 12 months from now, all people will really think about is that Jake Peavy is one of the top pitchers in the game, and Kenny Williams went and got him. The fact that controlling fourth starters and middle relief pitchers like Richard and Russell through arbitration (instead of buying them on the open market) is a tremendous asset for an organization is just not what’s on the mind of a ChiSox fan while he’s watching Jake Peavy shut out the Tigers next July.

The fact that what you’re paying Peavy could have bought you much more value on the open market will be forgotten by then. Odds are Poreda is not going to be leading a rotation into a World Series in the next couple years. Carter may not have a year of service time before Peavy’s contract is up. So, despite their value (both present in terms of trading capital, and future in terms of on-field), nobody is going to say “Oh ####, Kenny Williams blew it” anytime soon, or likely ever.

So, unless Peavy continues to blow himself up with injuries, Kenny Williams is going to get praised for this move, whether in October, next July, 2011, or all of the above. But the people doing the praising will not be taking an adequate measure of the pros and cons of the choice he made at the time, which was abominable.

If you saw a guy leaving a poker table with $50,000, you’d think he played like a master. But you weren’t there to see that he sat down with $500,000. Kenny Williams is that guy.

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James Tetreault
12 years ago

If the value assumed for each player is only regular season value, then these calculations don’t tell the whole tale.  If Victor Martinez, for example, give the Red Sox a better chance at getting to the playoffs and advancing in each round then that has some value as there’s certainly value in a team hosting those games and the value to a franchise in revenue of being a champion.

I understand that this value is difficult to quantify and the degree to which Victor Martinez, for example, makes it more achievable.  But there is definitely some value there that isn’t quantified in these calculations. 

And, regarding Martinez, anything that limits Mike Lowell’s time in the field or Jason Varitek’s at bats against righthanded pitchers is very valuable to the Red Sox.  Oy vey!

Justin Smith
12 years ago

While a somewhat interesting read, this model will always value quantity over quality. 

Has your model ever tilted towards the team acquiring the “star” while giving up 3 or more players in return?  I highly doubt it.

Keith Clark
12 years ago

As far as the Red Sox and Victor Martinez goes . .
I think you might be mistaken in assuming Masterson is actually a starter.  Sure, he held down the fort earlier in the season with some spot starts but he has some troubling splits in K/BB

K/BB vs righties: 40/15
K/BB vs lefties:  28/25

Now these numbers may change with time if he’s able to develop a usable changeup but until that happens I feel like he might be a late game specialist.

Price has control problems sometimes and reports are that he can be easily rattled (which I’m sure you know won’t fly in Boston).  The only thing you might regret there is that he was taken with a relatively high draft position.

All of this added to the fact that Varitek is looooong in the tooth, Lowell has no mobility at all, Youkilis needs a blow more often than he’s getting, Papi should sit against lefties at this point and Martinez handles staffs pretty well makes this a decent move in my book.

12 years ago

Shouldn’t future wins and salary be discounted to get a NPV-type view? Seems like the teams acquiring the “star” are trading wins later for wins now.

12 years ago

Interesting piece. I agree with the comments made by the two commenters above. I also think that a problem with this method is it does not take into effect relative value to the team. If you’re replacing a player like Bartolo Colon in the White Sox rotation with Peavy (someone who is likely to post a negative value), Peavy becomes more valuable (though admittedly this would be true with most pitchers). You also seem to make a couple dangerous assumptions. One is to know what the market for players is, especially elite players. In the “current market” AJ Burnett, who most would agree is a lesser player than Peavy, is making $83 million over five years, and can you really say for sure an elite starting pitcher would sign for less than that on the open market, when the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs are always going to be there to drive up their price? In addition, the market IS down right now, but contracts in general are still going UP, so what if Peavy’s contract looks like a bargain in three years when (hopefully) he is still a very good pitcher (i.e. Burnett’s Blue Jays deal or Meche’s Royals deal).

Admittedly, I’m biased as a White Sox fan. But as a White Sox fan, I’ve generally learned to trust Kenny Williams, because he has a habit of making you look like an idiot if you don’t. So it’s quite possible this deal will blow up on the Sox and Peavy will keep getting hurt and not be as good in the AL. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

David Paye
12 years ago

I don’t disagree that the Sox gave up quite a bit considering the control they had over their players versus the 1.5 years they have with Martinez.

But in Boston’s defense…they simply have enough that they can do stuff like this. Why risk haggling too long and missing the deadline. They’re like the millionaire who overpays for the limited model sports car. It’s not efficient, but it doesn’t have to be if they get what they want.

It would be more bothersome if Boston didn’t have a deep farm system. But they do. They have much better prospects that Hagadone and Price.

12 years ago

I totally disagree with your assesment of Justin Masterson. We have plenty of pithcers in our system and Masterson was never going to join our rotation. Granted he is very young has has room to develop but he cannot get lefties out and until he figures that out, he will have a tough time starting games. Hagadone could be the best out of the three. He projects as a middle of the line starter or a closer. That being said he is coming off manjor surgery and once again, we can replace relievers in our system. We did’t have to dip to far into the major league roster to add Martinez. He keeps the line moving as Tito would say when it comes to our lineup and thats all you ask. Everyone moves down in the order. I don’t get how you can say this wasn’t a smart deal.

Ron Burgundy
12 years ago

I know it’s one of the more minor moves, but I’d like to know how the Sanchez – Alderson deal measures up in this model. Any chance we could get a quick and dirty net from the Giants side?

Chris Fiorentino
12 years ago

Anytime one tries to use numbers to substantiate a trade objectively, it is a futile effort.  I bet if you look back at every single trade made in the last 30 years, they will all favor the team trading the one guy.  Potential is what it is…POTENTIAL.  The fact is that, in the Red Sox and Phillies cases, the trades made the teams BETTER THIS YEAR.  PERIOD.  EXCLAMATION POINT. 

If the younger players that were traded end up becoming Cy Young, Hank Aaron, and Mariano Rivera, but the 2009 World Series consists of the Phillies vs the Red Sox, would either of their fan bases really give a rat’s ass???

Tom Jackson
12 years ago


Could you make sure J.P. Ricciardi or one of his assistants: Tony LaCava or Alex Anthopoulos see this. Like, before the offseason? Help them figure out what Doc along with any other tradeable assets are worth before I have to suffer through another “stare them down and nothing gets done because my asking price is unreasonably high” BS session. I’m not sure what economy he’s operating in, but it ain’t this one. This is the new math baby, adapt or die.

By the way, would it be possible to see what he “should” be asking for from the various teams in contention for Doc’s services, as opposed to the sun, the moon and the stars that he will be asking for? Thanks a lot and great article.

12 years ago

Where would the Astros have gotten the production of Lee if they hadn’t overpaid for him?  The market is not like a buffet where there are unlimited options to choose from. 

The additional revenue that acquiring players like Peavy and Lee provide, make their contracts more reasonable.  Not just the millions of dollars a playoff appearance adds to the club, but from secondary income as in merchandise sales, ticket sales, etc.  While their production may say they are a $12 million player, their name says they’re worth more.

12 years ago

this is the dumbest theoried spread sheet ever…  The value of the prospects could be 0 and if it does become something then you have to include a cost because of arbitration years… I’m confused at how this website even allowed you to write an article for them with this backwards logic… Clearly you’ve never seen masterson pitch to value him like that and how a middle reliever will ever net that much money earned is beyond me

12 years ago

I would love to see this formula break down the Beckett/Lowell-Ramirez trade package….

12 years ago

I would love to see this formula break down the Beckett/Lowell-Ramirez trade package….

12 years ago

This is really a silly formula.  Prospects, are at best, suspects.  It appears in almost every trade quantity takes a back seat to quality.  Alot of prospects in these trades probably, wiil end up being borderline ML players, or huge disappointments.

12 years ago

Wow, A Finanacial value calculator.  Kenny Willams has proven over time he only trades pitchers that are hurt; garcia, los santos, sirotka.  And batters that can not hit, anderson, sweeney, borchard, reed, and ect.  Got burnt once with chris young, but i dont know if he is even good anymore.  So like you said this will probably not come back to haunt us on the players we gave up side.  So, I think you should see the bigger picture and maybe add jose contras to the finacial value calculator becasue that is whom peavy will be replacing next year, not richard.

12 years ago

Oh, come on. I think your gambling analogy would be more apt if the $500k was in 1863 Confederate scrip.

Clayton Richard has had a couple of nice starts, and could very possibly be on a similar career curve of John Danks. Poreda has shown a little aptitude for the pro game over 11 innings. Dexter Carter was a little old for his levels, but the substantial odds are that the only way Russel ever wears major league uniform is at a costume party.

2 rookies with good prospect who project out as 4-5 starters or bullpen arms, and a long-shot prospect is a nice haul for an ex-Cy Young who was on the DL, I agree. But the worst deadline deal in the recent past? Hyperbole much?

I’m in a statistics industry, also, so I appreciate the formulas to help evaluate players. But that’s all they are is evaluation tools. The games are not played on the computer, and the addition of a Cy Young winner to a team creates a cynergy among the players, fans and opponents. By all means, let us know when there’s a formula that accurately predicts whether a single player will maintain the focus and make adjustments on a major league level in order to apply the talents that amassed their stats in a dissimilar minor league environment.

P.S. If you are going to assume that Peavy is going to spent oodles of time on the DL, then insurance picks up most of his contract, I believe. That addition would to your algorhythm might put a little daylight between projections and pure fantasy.

Tom Jackson
12 years ago

@Chris Fiorentino:

So, by your logic:

1) The Red Sox won when they picked up Larry Andersen from Houston for a minor leaguer named Jeff Bagwell.

2) The Tigers won when they picked up Doyle Alexander from the Braves for a minor leaguer named John Smoltz.

3) The Yankees won when they picked up Ken Phelps from the Mariners for a young Jay Buhner.

4) The Mariners won when they picked up Heathcliff Slocumb from the Red Sox for youngsters Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek.

5) The Astros won when they picked up Randy Johnson from the Mariners for youngsters Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and John Halama.

6) The Expos won when they picked up Bartolo Colon from the Indians for three minor leaguers I’m sure the Nats wouldn’t mind having around: Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips.

7) The Orioles won when they picked up Glenn Davis from the Astros for youngsters Steve Finley, Curt Schilling, and Pete Harnisch.

8) The Red Sox won when they picked up Mike Boddicker from the Orioles for youngsters Curt Schilling (there he is again) and Brady Anderson.

9) A doozy: The Mets won when they picked up Jim Fregosi from the Angels for Nolan Ryan, Frank Estrada, Don Rose, and Leroy Stanton.

No, not all trades are won by the team picking up the piece that they think will put them over the top.

@Steve re: production without Carlos Lee?
I seem to recall they had this young corner outfielder who they refused to give the job to despite the fact that he was hitting the living crap out of the ball in 2006. Then they signed Lee during that offseason and buried this guy even more. I hear he’s doing really well for Baltimore. What’s his name? Oh yeah, Luke Scott. Sometimes what you need is right in your own backyard, but a lot of teams fall in love with proven veterans and miss out on their own gems.

12 years ago

I like the work you did here. Financially, the Red Sox may have lost out, but they can afford it, and Martinez THIS Year and NEXT year makes a difference in our lineup, and make us more Versatile. For Baseball reasons, this was a good move. We have quite the farm system, with a boatload of cash, and we can afford to do things like this. That is why it is great to have a very good farm system, it gives you this flexibility.

The only problem I have with the calculation is that if you are looking into the future, you have to include the two 1st round draft picks that the Red Sox, White Sox, and Philles will get when they hit the open market, if they dont resign them. Those two 1st rounders are worth a few million dollars a piece, and could become worth much more.

12 years ago

Peavy would absolutely match his current salary on the open market. The difference is he’d get 4+ years, which Kenny Williams despises for SPs – he BARELY broke his 3-year rule for franchise hero and fan favorite Mark Buehrle.

From ‘10-‘12 he averages $16MM (I’m going to disregard ‘13 because there’s no way Williams picks up that option). He’s 1.5 years removed from a 19-win, 240K, Cy Young season and just turned 28 in May. He owns a 1.19 career WHIP and a 119 career ERA+ (equal to Josh Beckett).

When AJ Burnett hit the market following an 18-win, 231K season, he was 32. As someone else pointed out, he’ll make $16.5MM from ‘09-‘13. His career WHIP sits at 1.29 and his career ERA+ is 111 (actually better than I thought it’d be). I think it’s safe to say AJ’s injury history/concern is worse than Peavy’s – AJ’s averaged 137 IP over 11 seasons (topping 175 only 3 times) and Peavy’s averaged 168 IP over 8 seasons. Burnett’s had Tommy John surgery and the worst Peavy’s had is a sore elbow. He’s currently on the DL with a sprained tendon in his ankle suffered while running the bases in a game he won (6 shutout innings, 10K).

So, tell me… Do you REALLY think that if Peavy was a free-agent this offseason, he would sign a contract more agreeable than 3 years, $48MM?? I sure don’t. The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, or Yankees would all give him 5 years, $80MM+. Easily.

Chris Fiorentino
12 years ago

@Tom Jackson

I think you misread what I wrote…or I did a poor job of wording what I meant.  When I said “I bet if you look back at every single trade made in the last 30 years, they will all favor the team trading the one guy.” I meant that in this writer’s looped world, they will all favor the team trading the one guy…in the case of this article, specifically the Padres and the Indians. 

All trades are what they are…gambles.  The Red Sox gambled that Martinez would get them to a World Series this year.  If he does, then who cares about what they gave up.  Same with the Phillies…they gave up guys who were not even their top 4 prospects at this point…Drabek, Happ, Brown, and Taylor.  And they got last year’s AL Cy Young winner at 31 years old in the prime of his career. 

How in the hell, in ANY fantasy land or twilight zone world, is this a bad deal in ANY way for the Phillies????? 

It is a LUDICROUS article, any way you slice it.  I’m willing to say this…even if Carrasco becomes John Smoltz, Jason Donald becomes Derek Jeter, Lou Marson becomes Gary Carter, and Jason Knapp becomes Roy Halladay the Phillies STILL made out well on this deal for THIS YEAR and THIS TIME for THE 2009 AND 2010 PLAYOFF RUNS.

12 years ago

Totally disagree on the Peavy analysis.  The White Sox now have Peavy, Buehrle, Floyd, and Danks tied up for the next 3 years with only Danks salary to be possibly determined in arbitration.

Peavy’s injury is an “ankle” from running the bases. It’s not related to his arm.  His WHIP has been very consistent since his 2004 season as has his K/9 which was at an all time high this season.  Another factor which doesn’t show up in spreadsheets is the ability of the White Sox to keep their pitchers healthy and get rid of them prior to them breaking down. Starting pitching is the most important position in baseball and you only have 5 spots.  In the post season you have 4 spots. The White Sox won a World Series in 2005 based on 4 very good starters.  That is what they will have beginning in September (assuming Peavy makes his return then) and then for the next 3 years. Combined with low cost players like Beckham, Getz, Qunetin and Ramirez who have proven they can play at the major league level, big salaries coming off the books in 2010 (Thome, Contreras and Dye), they will have a lot of flexibilty to fix the holes.

I wonder how your system would have valued the Johan Santana trade?  It probably looked great on paper for the Twins.

Chris Fiorentino
12 years ago

@JimH “I wonder how your system would have valued the Johan Santana trade?  It probably looked great on paper for the Twins”

This is so true…I bet the writers analysis would have raved about how great the Santana trade was for the Twins and how much value the Mutts gave up in the deal.  That’s what makes this so ludicrous.  It is too arbitrary and assigns too much worth to guys who are nothing more than projects and possibilities.

Tom Jackson
12 years ago

@C. Fiorentino:

Sorry I did misread it; at least I didn’t misremember anything.  wink  Interesting perspective. Hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think what you’re saying is something we already knew: the team picking up the one player wins in the short term at the possible/probable expense of the long term, except of course if one team is Generally Managed by Gord Ash.

Ash as a seller:
David Cone from the Jays to the Yanks for Jason Jarvis, Mike Gordon, and Marty Janzen, which points to your point about prospects being just that.

Ash as a buyer:
Esteban Loaiza (or whatever expletives are used to describe him around here) from the Rangers to the Jays for Michael Young and Darwin Cubillan. Ugh. Just ugh!

I think the article has some merit though and I think it demonstrates how a lot of front offices are starting to think in this economy. Otherwise, aside from the fact that J.P. can be an annoying prat, why was he not able to extract a king’s ransom for arguably the best proven starting pitcher in all of baseball? Obviously, we’ll never know the entire truth of what took place in all the negotiations, but he should’ve been able to get what he wanted if your philosophy which I somewhat agree with (when the brass ring is there…grab it) were being employed by current front offices. Prospects are valued almost as highly as proven players right now and that probably won’t change anytime soon. Perhaps the smarter front offices in the game are using a system somewhat similar to this, so that they can hang onto the long term assets that they want to keep, while simultaneously going for it.

Chris Fiorentino
12 years ago

@Tom Jackson

Could not agree more about Halladay.  I still think the Phillies made a mistake not getting him instead of Cliff Lee, even though Lee looked like a STUD in his first game…complete game, no hitter into the 7th. 

Your points illustrate exactly how I feel about prospects…they are possibilities.  I didn’t care that the Jays asked for Drabek, Happ and Brown.  I think they should have made the deal…I mean, they may not even keep Happ in the rotation for God’s sake.  I am all about the present when I have a stud lineup like the Phillies have.  In 2 years, who knows where Howard and Hamels will end up.  For the next 2 years, the Phillies could have been the favorites in the NL with Halladay…and the funny part was that even though they got Lee, they STILL could have made the Halladay deal and then they are World F’in Series favorites in 2009 and 2010…a team that for three years could have rivaled any team for the last 30 years…even the late 90’s Yankers.

Halladay, Lee, Hamels at the top of the rotation and that lineup???  Geeze, it would have been ugly for the rest of baseball the next two years.  As it stands now, it looks like the Phillies are underdogs to the Yankers, Red Sox, Dodgers and maybe even the Giants with those pitchers.  They did take 3 of 4 this weekend…..

12 years ago

Does this system just spell out the obvious, that all the teams that gave major league talent for prospects were trying to cut payroll and hence add finanacial value.  So this system is telling them how much money they saved on there balance sheet, not how much the teams will benefit from on field performance. so the sox, the sox, and philly all spent money to win now. And cleveland and san diego are saving capital to try winning after 2012.

12 years ago

this would be a great article and a great system if baseball had a salary cap and money mattered. but it doesnt so see if you can work this into the NBA.

12 years ago

Besides arguing about accuracy of projections, this model disregards two key points.

First is the law of supply and demand.  If my farm system is short on pitchers, but long on outfielders, trading some outfield prospects for a starter who can help me win now is a good idea.  Maybe I overpay, but I have the depth that I don’t care because the prospects that replace the traded ones make up some of the difference.

Second (and more importantly) there is no salary cap.  1 WAR is worth 4 million dollars on average.  But the Yankees are willing to pay far more than the Pirates for that 1 WAR.  Yes, all teams have budgets and taking on expensive players can affect flexibility going forwards, but it does so differently for each team.  So to reference two of the biggest trades, Boston is willing to pay more/WAR than Cleveland.  While Peavy’s contract may limit what the White Sox can do in the future some, it was absolutely paralyzing the Padres since they want a lower payroll.

Adam Guttridge
12 years ago

Holy comments! Guess that’s what a link on MLBTR will do to ya…

I appreciate all the input, even those of you who apparently think I’m deranged. A few points from the comments:

—The model does take into account the salary prospects will receive via arbitration, and does consider that a prospect may be worth nada in the end. The values are based off Victor Wang’s work, which I linked to, and the concept is very simple; if pitcher X is ranked 50th in the game, how much surplus value did the average pitching prospect ranked around 50 end up having in his pre-FA years? Then we run a basic present value calculation to account for the fact that that value will likely not be realized for a while.

—One thing I’ve been thinking about, that many of you touched on; since this model makes no distinction that an MLB roster is finite, it theoretically makes sense to trade a $6m surplus value for 6 $1m surplus values.

Specifically when you’re dealing with prospects, however, it’s difficult to discount the value of the package based on the raw number of players moving in one direction, because they still have that immediate value in terms of trading capital. Look at Texas’s haul for Texeria. They clearly increase their assets by tens of millions of dollars; to say “well, we have to discount that by x%, because it came in the form of 5 players instead of two”…. it’s tough to know how to do that. Ideas??

Well, folks, I’m on a mini vacay on South Beach right now. Yes, I’m up in the hotel replying to comments instead of enjoying myself right now…. that’s a special kind of nerd. So i’m gonna get back at it…. but please keep the feedback/ideas coming, it all helps, and I’ll try to reply ASAP.


12 years ago

Bill Veeck, a man who really understood value in the baseball world since he constantly hustled to compete like Billy Beane does now, used to talk about “the high price of mediocrity.”  As for this piece’s uber-geek analysis, I would substitute the “high value of mediocrity.”  In a world where even crappy major league players get millions of dollars, there is a very high value in getting the guys who are difference-makers for teams that are in a position to contend. Conversely, there is a high cost in filling your rosters with players who are just pretty good/OK, but “have value” in the manner indicated here.

The author’s analysis tends to minimize the importance of difference makers to the team buying them.  Let’s call it opportunity cost. The White Sox had to win a “play-in game” to make the post-season last year. If Peavy does indeed make a 5 game WAR difference for years ‘10 – ‘12, and a speculative .5 this year (it’s more if he is for-real healthy by 9/1), the trade is a no-brainer given where the Sox are now situated.  They have guys like Konerko, Thome, Dye and Buerhle who are very productive now, but with decidedly limited career-life expectancies. Clayton Richard may be a helluva pitcher in 2011, but if you have key late season or playoff games this year, the Sox would be outmatched having him pitch those crucial games. The lost opportunity to get this year’s team into (and farther along) in the playoffs is not in the author’s equation. 

The selling team’s interest is also a no-brainer.  A 5 game differential is meaningless to San Diego or Cleveland this year, but the gain in future years when they may be more competitive is compelling. Viewed dispassionately, this is a very mundane risk/reward tradeoff. Poreda may be a lights-out reliever in 2011, but right now you wouldn’t bring him into a key game to pitch to Curtis Granderson or Joe Mauer. And we don’t really know for sure whether that will change in 2 years. I think Poreda has a chance to be special in 2 years, but that sort of special might not make a difference to the team then. Peavy should be a serious difference maker through 2012, per the author’s WAR chart. Presumably, if the Sox fortunes decline in a couple years, they’ll be sellers then.  But the chances to bring in Cy Young-caliber talent for 3-4 years are few and far between unless you can drop $161M into someone’s lap like the Yanks did with Sabathia.

The analysis proffered by Tom Jackson does a great job of cherry-picking trades where the young stud turned out to be great. He left out Brock-for-Broglio, the gold standard for such deals.  However, one could find even more deals in which the phenom was a bust. If the author had run numbers on potential deals involving hugely rated Cubs phenoms Corey Patterson, Rich Hill & Felix Pie, the numbers would have been similarly skewed. Unfortunately for the Cubs, they held those cards too long and none amounted to squat. There’s your “risk” side of risk/reward. This may be too obvious to mention but, since no one has, I’ll say it: most big prospects don’t turn out to be special players, and some never reach the bigs.
One of the key players in the White Sox’s infamous “white flag” trades a few years back was can’t-miss (but did-miss) Mike Caruso. Feh!

Bottom line: successful teams produce more talent than their roster can hold, and trade some of the excess for deals like these when they have the opportunities for those difference makers to get them over the hump.

12 years ago

I think the disconnect here is the use of the ‘average’ value for the prospect involved in a trade. I don’t have Victor Wang’s article from the Hardball Times book but looking at the linked article, it appears that approximately 80% of the prospects in any individual group have WAB values less than the average for that group. That’s not unexpected as 1 or 2 prospects that make it big skew the average for that group. The same thing happens when you look at the average per capita income in the US. Bill Gates raises the average but doesn’t change the median value.

Given this, it is highly unlikely that any trade of a veteran player for prospects will result in equal values for both teams calculated using this methodology. However, in most cases (3-4 times out of 5), the team acquiring the veteran will come out ahead as the prospects will end up being below the average. For those cases where the values are close to being equivalent for both teams, I think it’s pretty clear that the team that got the veteran got the better end of the deal.

Tom Jackson
12 years ago

@Michael (not Q): Of course my “analysis” was cherry picking. I saw the word “never” and so I set out to (I thought) prove that wrong. Of course by misreading what Chris said, I wound up finding things which exclusively backed up what he was saying and that’s on me. I was only reacting to the use of the word “never”. Of course these trades can go either way. Of course what the analysis of a trade says on the day it was done is in almost all cases going to differ from what the analysis 5 years later of the same trade will say.

I’m very interested in what appears to be a dramatic shift that has come about for various reasons in the game. The economy going down the crapper, every team watching their costs (even to a certain extent the Yankees). Perhaps some of these teams have an “uber-geek” spreadsheet using, number crunching, pocket-protector wearing intern helping to advise them on which prospects they should keep and which ones they can afford to let go and what the player they are trading for is “worth” in terms of the players they should be sending to the selling team. You know the kind of guy that Dayton Moore has in his employ and every time this guy tries to help Moore, Moore puts his hands over his ears and says “La, la, la, la, la…not listening” or insults his geekiness and his lack of baseball manliness.

It’s a long way from the ole winter meeting drunk fests where the GMs, scouts and writers hung out in the hotel bar getting hammered and put together huge player trades. Every winter meetings now you’re guaranteed to get stories from writers getting all misty reminiscing about the good ole days before they start in on their daily “Moneyball”/OBP-bash fest.

@Michael Q: “Never trade a bunch of prospects because one of them might turn into Schilling or Bagwell!” Um, no I would never say that. In fact I mentioned in another post about how surprised I was that nobody wanted to step up and grab the brass ring and do whatever it took to get Halladay. It re-affirms my belief that a huge shift has taken place since 1 year ago and that the Matt LaPortas of the world are now more likely to be deemed “untouchable” by their teams. Either that or J.P. is an annoying little turd, who doesn’t get that negotiation is a two way street. You make your demands known, the team you’re negotiating with makes a counter offer and you work towards the middle ground and get it done. You don’t make your demands known and refuse to budge one iota. I suspect it’s probably a bit of both re: the market shift and J.P.‘s stubbornness.

I would say use all the tools at your disposal to make sure you’ve made a fair trade, not one that’s going to trash your farm system. There are way more tools at a front office’s disposal now and it’s in their best interest to use them optimally lest they risk being like a Sabean and throwing young pitchers and pitching prospects around like confetti at a wedding in return for marginal big league upgrades. It’s a new game out there and by refusing to compromise, J.P. kind of got owned at the deadline. I’m not sure the Christmas bounty he’s looking for will arrive in the offseason either. It would be a shame to pretend to contend in 2010 and lose Halladay for a measly two draft picks out of sheer stubbornness.

12 years ago

I was thinking about this article some yesterday and decided on the one flaw: it evaluates total WAR.  It should evaluate WAR/season/player.  Sure, cost controlled middle relievers are nice, but when they take up 3 roster spots to equal what one player produces then you are at a net loss (in my eyes at least) because you’re down 2 roster spots that could be equivalent to or better than the ones replaced. 
It’s a fun article, but really needs to be objectively looked at before “going to print”.  Jason Donald has zero chance of realizing any value with the Phillies, so to them he’s only valuable as a trade chip. 
All in all though; it’s a useful tool that needs some tweaking.

12 years ago

Don’t think you can linearly equate stuff in this manner.  This equation assumes sum of parts equates to a ‘stud player’.  I’d disagree with this point.  Can’t have a lineup full of ‘slightly’ above average players and expect to win.

Michael Q
12 years ago

“So, by your logic:

1) The Red Sox won when they picked up Larry Andersen from Houston for a minor leaguer named Jeff Bagwell.”


It’s really easy but poor logic to basically say “Never trade a bunch of prospects because one of them might turn into Schilling or Bagwell!” Sure, they MIGHT do that but how many prospects actually even become productive major league players let alone Hall of Famers?

A major league player is a known commodity (at least more so than a prospect is). Star major leagues are very rare. I remember reading Bill James describe baseball talent as a pyramid with relatively abundant supplies of 4th or 5th starters or average big league first basemen but only a few guys in the world who could fill the role of a Halladay or a (healthy) Peavy.

The idea that 3 average major leaguers are equal to or even superior to a true star player like these models suggest is ridiculous to me.

And for any team except the Yankees the chance to actually contend for a playoff spot and maybe win a world series is rare as well so there’s nothing wrong with sacrificing some future potential to “go for it”.

12 years ago

Nice article, and as a Red Sox fan, I understand what you are saying, but I think you forgot that Jason Varitek is going to retire soon. Victor Martinez is a catcher, among other positions.

12 years ago

Uhh, what a great article. Uhh, I agree with everything you have to say here.