Archive for Trade Value

Proposed Trade: Billy Butler to the Rays

With the Royals recently calling up Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler looks to have been permanently moved to the DH spot. With Mike Moustakas ready to be called up to take over third base, that leaves Wilson Betmit without a position. Also, 27-year-old Clint Robinson (all hit, no field or run — a Billy Butler clone) is knocking the leather off the ball in Triple-A. It is time for the Royals to look at trading Butler to another team. The one team that screams for some offensive production from either the 1B or DH spot is the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Zack Greinke Traded to the Brewers

Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt have been traded to the Brewers for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress. Royals fans have been bracing for a trade since Friday when Dayton Moore went on a local Kansas City radio station and stated that Zack was not happy and the Royals were looking to trade him. In the same interview, Dayton stated that he was looking for right handed center fielder. He looks like he got his man in Lorenzo Cain.

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Uggla Travels up I-75

Jerry Crasnick of broke the news late Tuesday afternoon that the Marlins had traded Dan Uggla to the Braves for lefty reliever Mike Dunn and Omar Infante. The reaction in the twittersphere was immediate and intense, mostly centering on the fact that the Marlins have seemingly cornered the market on relievers with their past few trades.

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Predicting a Team’s Wins Using Underlying Player Talent

I have been wanting to have this win prediction tool available for a while and finally have what I think is rather simple working model. This spreadsheet can be filled out with the players anyone thinks will be playing, along with their all their stats and then the team’s projected wins will be calculated.

Note: An error was found on the spreadsheet dealing with position adjustment and corrected around 4:30 EST on 11/4. If you downloaded it before then, you will need to re-download it. Sorry for the inconvenience. -Jeff

While it can be used to get an idea of how many wins a team might get in the up coming season, I plan on using it to evaluate changes in a team. Those changes could be a free agent signing, a trade, an injury or a rookie called up to the majors. The team’s expect wins before or after the roster change can be evaluated .

Today, I am not going to do look at any team. I just wanted to make it available and once the Royals sign Cliff Lee, I can see how their expected wins compare before and after the acquisition.

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The Prospect of Trading Halladay

No matter how you slice the Roy Halladay trade, it had to be done and Toronto fans were going to be let down. The trade could have brought three A-level prospects into the system and it still would have hurt… a lot. The rest of the fans around Major League Baseball are finally going to have the opportunity to appreciate Halladay after he’s spent the past 12 years in northern obscurity. The former Cy Young award winner has pitched 200+ innings for four straight seasons and is an undisputed No. 1 pitcher, and those are a lot rarer than most people realize.

Reportedly, there are six prospects changing hands once the trade is finalized. Toronto ends up receiving one A-level prospect and two B-level prospects, or a smidgen more than it would have if the organization had held onto Halladay for the entire 2010 season and then let him walk for two high draft picks. Overall, the talent changing hands in the three-team deal, which also sees Cliff Lee head to Seattle, ranks like this:

1. Kyle Drabek, RHP (from Philadelphia to Toronto)
2. Phillippe Aumont, RHP (from Seattle to Philadelphia)
3. Michael Taylor, OF (from Philadelphia to Toronto)
4. Travis D’Arnaud, C (from Philadelphia to Toronto)
5. Tyson Gillies, OF (from Seattle to Philadelphia)
6. J.C. Ramirez, RHP (from Seattle to Philadelphia)

To be honest, I’m not sure why this was a three-team deal. Toronto received nothing from Seattle. The Phillies organization could have done the deal and taken its the time to deal Lee for a better haul than what it got from Seattle. Perhaps the club wanted to soften the blow of trading off its post-season hero with the acquisition of Halladay? Or why not keep both Halladay and Lee and make a serious run at the World Series in 2010? That two-headed monster at the top of the rotation would have struck fear in any lineup.

But it’s not my job to analyze the overall deal. I’m the prospects guy, so let’s get on to the fun stuff.

The Toronto Blue Jays’ Haul:
Kyle Drabek is the key to the deal and helps to ease the pain from not receiving the Phillies’ top prospect in outfielder Domonic Brown (who definitely is the best player in all three organizations). The Toronto organization has pretty good pitching depth (at least related to its lack of hitting prospects) but Drabek has a higher ceiling (No. 1 or 2 starter) than anyone in the Jays system. The right-hander had a nice year in ’09 while coming back from Tommy John surgery.

He began the year in high-A and allowed just 49 hits in 61.2 innings. The son of Doug Drabek showed solid control with a walk rate of just 2.77 BB/9 and overpowered hitters, as witnessed by his 10.80 strikeout rate. He also did not allow a home run despite a modest ground-ball rate of 45.2%. Moved up to double-A, the 22-year-old hurler allowed 92 hits in 96.1 innings and saw his strikeout rate drop to 7.10 K/9. His walk rate, though, held steady at 2.90 BB/9. Home runs became a bit of an issue, as Drabek allowed nine homers (0.84 HR/9). His FIP rose from 1.82 to 3.83. He’s going to need to work on his change-up to combat left-handed hitters, who performed well against him in ’09: .284 compared to right-handers at .185.

On the negative side of Drabek: He’s a little undersized at 6’0”, he’s already had a major surgery, and there have been makeup/maturity concerns.

Michael Taylor had a solid but unspectacular college career at Stanford and signed with the Phillies as a fifth-rounder in ’07. The outfielder is a good athlete for his size (6’6”, 250 lbs) and stole 21 bases in 26 tries in ’09. The right-handed hitter, who hits right-handed and left-handed pitchers equally well, began the year in double-A. There, he hit .333/.408/.569 with an ISO of .236 in 318 at-bats. He’s not a big average hitter, despite what the basic numbers suggest and he was aided by a BABIP of .361. In 110 at-bats in triple-A, Taylor hit .282/.359/.491 with an ISO of .209. He projects to be a .270-.290 hitter in the Majors with 25 homers could even produce a couple of 20-20 seasons. He consistently walks about 10% of the time and keeps the strikeouts in check for a power hitter (around 17-18%). Defensively, Taylor has a solid arm and has spent much of his time in the minors flipping between left and right field.

Travis D’Arnaud is a former highly-regarded prep draft pick. The ’07 supplemental first rounder has actually been surpassed as a prospect by his older brother Chase D’Arnaud, a shortstop who was a fourth-round pick of the Pirates out of Pepperdine University in ’08. Nonetheless, the 20-year-old catcher had a solid ’09 season in low-A ball and hit .255/.319/.419 in 482 at-bats. The right-handed hitter has some developing pop (.164 ISO) and modest strikeout rates (15.6% in ’09). His triple-slash line was hurt by a low .279 BABIP, which was down significantly from his ’08 mark of .345. D’Arnaud is a good athlete and he stole eight bases in 12 tries, but he’ll certainly slow down as the rigors of the position take its toll on his knees. Despite a strong arm, the young catcher has struggled to throw out base runners in pro ball and was successful 23% of the time in ’09.

Philadelphia Phillies’ Haul:
You certainly cannot question Phillippe Aumont’s fastball. He has a high-90s fastball and good sink but his secondary stuff is raw and he prefers to just reach back and toss heat, which is the main reason why he was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen at such a young age. An inexperienced Canadian prep pick, Aumont was pushed aggressively by Seattle after he dominated high-A ball in a very good hitter’s league. He allowed just 24 hits in 33.1 innings and posted a strikeout rate of 9.45 K/9. Moved up to double-A, Aumont’s control suffered as his walk rate jumped from 3.24 to 5.60 BB/9. Batters also managed 21 hits in 17.2 innings, and his BABIP jumped to .436 BABIP. His strikeout rate was an impressive 12.23 K/9. Like many Canadian hurlers, there have also been injury concerns with Aumont, and he missed significant time in ’08 with elbow soreness.

You’d think it was the Phillies club that played in Canada, not the Jays. Outfielder Tyson Gillies joins Aumont as the two Canadians on the move in the Halladay deal. The 21-year-old outfielder had a breakout season in ’09 but some caution needs to be used with him. The left-handed hitter was playing in a very good hitter’s park and his overall line was .341/.430/.486. He hit .313 in ’08 but that was aided by a BABIP of .403 (His BABIP was high in ’09, as well, at .395). Gillies has a lot of speed and he stole 44 bases but was caught 19 times this past season, so he has some work to do on the base paths. On the positive side, he has solid plate rates for a speedster and he posted a walk rate of 10.8%, as well as a strikeout rate of 16.3%. Defensively, he’s considered a gifted fielder with an above-average arm.

J.C. Ramirez has posted solid pro numbers but has yet to truly breakout. The right-hander spent ’09 in high-A, while pitching in a good hitter’s park, and allowed 153 hits in 142.1 innings. His walk rate was respectable at 3.35 BB/9 and his strikeout rate was OK at 7.02, although it was down more than one strikeout per nine over his career mark. He was touched up for 18 homers (1.14 HR/9) but he held batters to a line-drive rate of just 12%. Ramirez has consistently struggled against left-handed batters in his career (.290 average, 4.32 BB/9 in ’09), so he’s going to have to develop a weapon to combat them. His repertoire includes a fastball that sits in the low-90s but can hit the mid-to-upper 90s at times. Ramirez also has a solid slider and a developing change-up.

Miguel Cabrera’s Trade Value

Miguel Cabrera getting a first place MVP vote is pretty silly. That said, as a player, dude is awesome. He’s not Keith Hernandez with the glove or Willie Wilson on the basepaths, but in case you haven’t noticed, he’s pretty good at the whole “hitting” thing. From 2007 to 2009, Caberara generated 110.5 batting runs above average. During that period, he’s accumulated more Wins Above Replacement than fellow first basemen Lance Berkman, Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Pena, and Ryan Howard. Cabrera will only be 27 next season. Rumor has it that he may be available in trade with the Tigers trying to clear salary. If so, what is his value?

To reiterate: Cabrera is an excellent (and still young) player. However, as fans, we’ve lately become more aware that a player’s value includes not only his (total) baseball skill, but, as Dave pointed out earlier in a different context, the player’s contract. Think about it this way: if someone gives you a house worth two million dollars, then you’ve gained two million dollars in assets. However, if someone “gives” you the same house conditional on you paying off the same two million dollars, you haven’t really added an asset, have you?

The valuation of baseball players is similar. Without getting into methods for calculating dollars per marginal win (see Colin Wyers’ excellent series at THT), this is perhaps the most important function of WAR. Teams spend money to add wins. WAR tells you how many wins a player adds above “freely available” talent. On its own, WAR tells us how much a player helps his team even if he’s below average. When WAR is connected with relative dollar value of marginal wins, we get a sense of how much a player exceeded or fell short of the value of his salary. Let’s apply this to Cabrera.

CHONE projects Cabrera as 37 runs above average per 150 games a hitter next season. Jeff Zimmerman projects him as a -1 defender at 1B. Looking at Cabrera’s baserunning numbers from the last few seasons, let’s call him -2. Prorated for 150 games, that’s: +37 hitting, -1 fielding, -11.5 position, -2 baserunning, +23 AL replacement level = about a 4.5 WAR player in 2010.

Following Tango, I’ll assume the current market value of a marginal win is $4.4 million. Again following Tango’s generic model, assume post-peak players decline by half-a-win per year. We need to build in annual salary inflation, (which I’ve set at 7%). With those assumptions in place, over the next six seasons (2010-2015) we’d expect a 4.5 WAR player like Cabrera to be worth about $102 million. Cabrera’s only 27, so the decline curve may be a bit harsh. If we add on a half-win a season to the original calculation, his estimated value from 2010 to 2015 is $118 million.

From 2010 to 2015 (six seasons), Cabrera is guaranteed $126 million. Think back to the house example — no matter how nice the house is, if you have to pay full price (or more) for it, you aren’t adding an asset. Cabrera is an excellent player, but he’s going to be being paid as much (or more) than he’s (likely) going to be worth.

Of course, the Tigers could pick up a chunk of Cabrera’s future salary and/or throw in cheap talent to add value from their side. However, straight up, given his estimated talent and large contract, Miguel Cabrera’s intrinsic trade value appears to be… nothing?

This is a bit of an extreme conclusion. Cabrera’s trade value is not “nothing.” He is one of the best hitters in the league and is young enough that he will probably remain so for at least the next few years. Having an efficient payroll is just a means to winning, not an end in itself, and players like Cabrera are rare indeed. Still, since Cabrera is being paid (at least) his likely market value over the life of the contract, he would only really help teams that can afford to pay market value on a regular basis — the Yankees, and perhaps the Red Sox (though probably not the Dodgers at the moment given their ownership situation). And the Yankees already have an expensive first baseman signed long-term in Mark Teixeira. Cabrera isn’t worth “nothing,” but his contract gives the Tigers much less leverage than one would expect given his age and skill.

2009 MLB Trade Value: Recap

The countdown is finally over – this afternoon, we unveiled the top five pieces in our annual Trade Value series. Since this is a recap post, here’s the whole list in one convenient spot.

1. Evan Longoria
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Justin Upton
4. Albert Pujols
5. Matt Wieters
6. Brian McCann
7. David Wright
8. Ryan Braun
9. Tim Lincecum
10. Chase Utley
11. Zack Greinke
12. Grady Sizemore
13. Dan Haren
14. Matt Kemp
15. Troy Tulowitzki
16. Joe Mauer
17. Felix Hernandez
18. Colby Rasmus
19. Adam Jones
20. Jose Reyes
21. B.J. Upton
22. Curtis Granderson
23. Justin Verlander
24. Stephen Strasburg
25. David Price
26. Jay Bruce
27. James Shields
28. Chad Billingsley
29. Clayton Kershaw
30. Josh Johnson
31. Dustin Pedroia
32. Ian Kinsler
33. Ubaldo Jimenez
34. Jon Lester
35. Nick Markakis
36. Josh Hamilton
37. Roy Halladay
38. Clay Buchholz
39. Jason Heyward
40. Tommy Hanson
41. Josh Beckett
42. Joba Chamberlain
43. Ryan Zimmerman
44. Max Scherzer
45. Adrian Gonzalez
46. Elvis Andrus
47. Robinson Cano
48. Cole Hamels
49. Jered Weaver
50. Prince Fielder

Honorable Mentions: Ben Zobrist, Kevin Youkilis, Javier Vazquez, Gordon Beckham, Pablo Sandoval.

The biggest riser from last year? Matt Kemp, who went from unranked (whoops) to #14. I just missed the boat on him last year. The biggest faller was Brandon Webb, who dropped off the list after ranking #14 last year. Shoulder problems that cost you a full season without a firm diagnosis will do that to you, especially as you head towards free agency.

Overall, I’m happy with the list. After receiving some feedback, there are a few things I’d change, however. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the clause in Troy Tulowitzki’s contract allowing him to void his deal if he’s traded. That’s a pretty nasty contract kicker, and one I really should have been aware of. That’s my fault, and had I known about that, he would have ranked lower, certainly.

However, I did find that the uproar about his true talent level exposed the fact that Tulowitzki is a pretty underrated player by a lot of the readers here. He’s a 24-year-old shortstop with above average defense and power who has significantly upped his walk rate this season. Players with his skillset are remarkably valuable. We love WAR around here, obviously, but this is not a list of what players have accomplished to date, so quoting Tulowitzki’s inferior WAR to other players simply doesn’t work as an argument about his present trade value. He’s a really, really good up the middle player headed for his prime. There aren’t many guys out there with his projected future value.

A lot of the “why isn’t this guy on the list?” questions came from fans of National League teams with good-but-not-great young pitchers. Yovanni Gallardo, Adam Wainwright, Matt Cain, and Jordan Zimmermann are all valuable assets, but trying to make an argument for them based on their non-league adjusted numbers simply doesn’t work. Put simply, the National League is vastly inferior to the AL right now, and the lack of a DH allows for pitchers who pitch in the senior circuit to post superficially better numbers than their AL peers. Simply put, you stick a guy like Chamberlain in the NL, and he’d look like Cy Young. Sorry, NL fans, but your pitchers aren’t as good as you think.

And, finally, I guess I should address the whole Sandoval thing. As I said in the Honorable Mentions post, I like Sandoval – the kid can hit. But based on the comments early on in the series, Giant fans need to pull back on the hyperbole train. 503 major league career plate appearances is simply not anything close to enough to establish his current batting line as his true talent level. There’s a reason ZIPS projects him for a .357 wOBA going forward despite his tremendous start to the 2009 season – he simply cannot maintain a .360 batting average on balls in play over the long term, which is the driving force behind his .400 wOBA this year.

The foundation of his offensive performance to date is, unfortunately, not a repeatable skill. For a player with that kind of developed body, you simply can’t project future growth like you can with most 22-year-olds (where strength is tied to added muscle as the body develops, which simply won’t happen with Kung Fu Panda), so there’s less upside here than with most players his age. He’s a good player, not a great one.

That’s it for this year’s Trade Value series. Hope you enjoyed it. We’ll do it again next year.

2009 MLB Trade Value: #5-#1

Finishing off our trade value rankings with the five most valuable assets in baseball. We’ll recap the top 50 and answer a few questions in the wrap-up post this afternoon.

#5: Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore: 0.3 WAR

Don’t freak out about his first 120 trips to the plate. He’s still a switch-hitting catcher with every offensive tool you could wish upon a player his size. He’s going to be the Orioles best hitter sooner rather than later, and his upside is off the charts. Baltimore has some great pieces to build around, but he’s the best of the bunch. Joe Mauer with power might be too lofty of an expectation, but a switch-hitting Brian McCann with a few more walks is still an amazing talent.

#4: Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis: 5.4 WAR

The best player in baseball, hands down. He’s an eight win player every year and he just keeps getting better. What else is there to say? He’s one of the best hitters of all time, and we’ll tell our grandchildren that we got to see him play. The fact that he’s only under contract through 2011, with $32 million due to him over those two years, means that this is as high as he can go, but he’s about as untouchable as any player on earth. He is the definition of a franchise player.

#3: Justin Upton, RF, Arizona: 3.2 WAR

Already one of the best players in the league at age 21. We’ve already talked about the pedigree of players who are this good at such a young age, and the career arc for this kind of player usually leads to multiple All-Star games and a good shot at Cooperstown. The bat is that special, and he’s a pretty decent right fielder to boot. As a pre-arb player, he won’t make any serious cash until the 2011 season, and he’s under club control through 2013. Enjoy him, Arizona.

#2: Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida: 4.2 WAR

The offense has been incredible since he arrived, but questions lingered about his position. He’s answered those with significant improvements in his glovework at shortstop to the point where he’s a decent defender at the hardest spot on the field to cover. Combine that with consistent top shelf hitting in a 25-year-old, and Ramirez has become a true superstar. The contract extension he signed keeps him under lock and key through 2014, and while the salaries aren’t a bargain, they’re not even close to his true value.

#1: Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay: 3.9 WAR

I might just have to retire his jersey if I keep doing this list going forward, because unless he gets hurt or takes a big step back, it’s hard to see anyone passing him for the next five years. His on field value puts him in the discussion with the best players in the game, but his contract is just so unbelievably team friendly that no one else comes close to his overall value to their club. Ramirez, for instance, will make $64 million from 2010 to 2014 – Longoria will make $21 million, and then the Rays will have two more options that would keep him in TB at $11 million per year for 2015 and 2016. Crazy. He’s going to be paid like a league average back-end starting pitcher through a potential Hall-Of-Fame prime. Agents, this is the template of what not to do with your best client going forward.

2009 MLB Trade Value: #10-#6

#10: Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia: 4.8 WAR

He’s not cheap anymore, and at 30, he’s headed towards the down side of his career, but he’s also on pace for his third consecutive 8+ win season. He is the guy who makes Philly a contender. Just a tremendous all around player that excels at every part of the game, his 2005-2009 peak is going to go down as one of the best in baseball history for a second baseman. $60 million over the next four years isn’t bargain basement money, but he’s worth twice that.

#9: Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco: 5.3 WAR

501 career innings, 2.76 career FIP. He’s on his way to a second straight Cy Young award and should destroy the previous record for first year arbitration eligible pitcher salary if the Giants can’t lock him up long term this winter, even as a super-two. He’s improved his previously poor command to the point that it’s hardly an issue anymore, and his strikeout rate has actually risen from his rookie season despite a two mph drop in fastball velocity. The inherent risk with all pitchers keeps him below the eight premium bats ahead of him, but he’d command more in trade than any pitcher on earth.

#8: Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee: 3.0 WAR

You don’t find many 25-year-olds with 1,500 career plate appearances and a .400 career wOBA. Braun is a classic middle of the order monster at the plate with easy power to spare. He’s making strides in improving his pitch recognition and should match last year’s walk total in the next couple of weeks. After showing he didn’t belong at third base, he’s become a decent enough defender in left. Oh, and he won’t make an eight figure salary until 2014.

#7: David Wright, 3B, New York: 2.5 WAR

The simultaneous drop in power and rise in strikeout rate are a bit disconcerting, but Wright is still a guy who averaged +7.9 WAR per year the last two years at age 24 and 25 and is signed for half of his market value through 2013. Without the weird performance this year, he might have cracked the top five. While I wouldn’t get too worked about about three months of baseball, he’s going to have to start hitting like the Wright of old again sometime soon.

#6: Brian McCann, C, Atlanta: 2.4 WAR

Guys who can make contact and hit for power are usually incredible offensive machines McCann has a career .201 ISO and 13.5% K%. Plus, he’s a 25-year-old catcher. Did I mention that he’s signed through 2013 for a grand total of $32 million? Atlanta, please put some talent around on this guy so we can all watch him play in October.

2009 MLB Trade Value: #15-#11

Continuing on with the trade value series.

#15: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado: 1.8 WAR

It’s been an up and down couple of years for the Rockies shortstop, but the future is bright indeed. He’s added walks and more power this year, rounding out his offensive game and giving him the tools to be a significant offensive threat. And he’s still an above average defensive shortstop, just 24 years of age, and signed to a contract that is so team friendly he should probably fire his agent.

#14: Matt Kemp, CF, Los Angeles: 4.1 WAR

The prototypical five tool player, Kemp has increased his walk rate each of the last two years without harming his core skills, making him a well rounded offensive threat. He’s also among the league leaders in UZR in center field this year, showing above average range and a cannon arm. He won’t turn 25 until September, and he’s just entering his arbitrtation years. Yeah, this is one valuable player.

#13: Dan Haren, RHP, Arizona: 4.3 WAR

Defying normal trends, his strikeout has risen every year since he reached the majors. He’s gone from a strike-throwing mid-rotation guy to a legitimate ace, and the contract extension he signed with Arizona will keep him drastically underpaid for at least the next three years.

#12: Grady Sizemore, CF, Cleveland: 0.8 WAR

He’s kind of the posterboy for the new school kind of player. He walks, hits for power, plays quality defense at a premium position, and uses his speed to steal bases at a high rate of success. The low batting average, mostly due to high strikeout totals, doesn’t limit his perceived value as much as it would have 30 years ago. He’s also locked up through 2012 at rates low enough to be considered thievery.

#11: Zack Greinke, RHP, Kansas City: 5.8 WAR

Dayton Moore has made a lot of mistakes, but signing Greinke to an extension before the season started probably saved his franchise $50+ million. He’s having a silly season at age 25, and is the runaway leader for the Cy Young award. He won’t be cashing in on his success until after the 2012 season, however, when his newly minted contract finally expires. Whoops.