2008: Year Of The Buyer?

It’s too early to proclaim anything definitively, but a look at the transactions that have occurred so far this off-season reveals a pretty interesting trend.

Jeremy Affeldt signs with Giants for 2 years, $8 million

This is probably 50% of his true value. Worse relievers got four year deals a year ago.

Ryan Dempster signs with Cubs for 4 years, $52 million

This is a pretty significant discount for staying in Chicago. Dempster took the same contract Carlos Silva got a year ago despite being a far superior talent.

Athletics acquired Matt Holliday from the Rockies for a collection of question marks

Holliday was expected to be traded for a pretty hefty package of talent, but there are real concerns about both of the young players Colorado got in exchange for their best player.

Yankees acquired Nick Swisher for a collection of barely useful role players

A year after getting traded for the best pitching prospect in the White Sox system, they turn around and sell him for a fraction of what they paid to get him. Even if Swisher never returns to previous levels, the Yankees didn’t give up much to get him.

Nationals acquired Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham for barely useful role players

While I don’t think all that highly of either guy Washington acquired, they still traded two young players with some name value and got practically nothing back.

Along with the Marlins dumping Mike Jacobs because no one wanted him and an underwhelming market for Coco Crisp, so far nearly every transaction of the winter points to this being a pretty significant buyer’s market. In basically every move so far, the acquiring team has given up less than we would have expected to either sign a player or acquire one in trade. The cost of bringing in talent has been dampened significantly over prior years.

Perhaps this will all change, and the big contracts for the big stars will reverse the course, but right now, this winter looks a great time to be a buyer. Sellers are finding it hard to get anything close to what used to pass for market value. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Billy Beane is on a mission to collect big league talent right now. Have proven veterans become the new market inefficiency?




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


11 Responses to “2008: Year Of The Buyer?”

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  1. JH says:

    Next potential steal in the trade market: Jeremy Hermida?

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  2. Terry says:

    I think GMs are staring at a FA market that is going to be associated with sticker shock after talking to agents (Lowe wanting Zito money!?!). On the other end is a trend to place a premium on legit prospect talent.

    The As probably took advantage of the young/cheap thing.

    Maybe Swisher was a case of jettisoning a guy perceived as a square peg to make room for the sticker shock.

    Dempster might be the only case of a “home town discount” in recorded history. Just like Beane though, it was a FO managing risk.

    Affeldt is a debatable issue. You like him a whole lot more than others might.

    The Olsen/Willingham and Crisp deals were really more meh than bell weather transactions.

    I’m not sure it’s a buyer’s market rather than a market where FO’s are lining up at the river’s edge waiting for the first wildebeest to jump into the crocodile hoard…

    Then again with the economy imploding (season ticket sales can’t be expected to be all that rosey) and the emphasis being placed on youth, maybe we will see a jaw-jarring market correction.

    Will you be penning articles about the bargains represented by the Sheets and CC signings? That would be something!

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  3. David Foy says:

    There already has been an article describing the offer the Yankees have so far tabled as a bargain move. Personally i agree completely. Dave didn’t even metion how the closer market is very cold right now, with players asking for X and teams offer far below X. The Mets the biggest and richest player for a closer this winter aren’t even committing to a 4 year deal.

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  4. dan says:

    2009: Year of wOBA being available on Fangraphs player pages. Thanks Dave (other one)!

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  5. Tom T says:

    I thin Mark Ellis is anoth example of a discounted contract

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  6. Jim says:

    You know something is wrong when Ryan Dempster getting $52 mil over the next 4 years is a bargain. 12-15 mil a year has now become the norm for AVERAGE pitchers who have a good season during their free agent year! It’s rediculous!

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  7. Tom Au says:

    This was a buyers’ market for established players and a sellers’ market for prospects, because the latter are (perhaps too) highly valued compared to the former. The Holliday and Swisher trades were indicative of that. But perhaps the worst trade was the Pirates’ Jason Bay for four question marks Andy LaRoche, Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss and Bryan Morris.

    In the “old days,” Bay might have fetched two advanced “prospects” such as Reid Brignac and Jeff Neimann from the Rays; and Johan Santana might have commanded both Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester from the Red Sox. Not so this year.

    It’s probably telling that Oakland’s Billy Beane went from the sell to the buy side in the past year; first trading Haren (and one other player) for six prospects, then “re-trading” two of those prospects plus worn out Huston Street for Matt Holliday.

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  8. Terry says:

    Using Beane as an environmental indicator is a tricky proposition.

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  9. Tom Au says:

    Terry is right hat using Beane might be “tricky” but I stand by it. Only an indicator, not a hard and fast rule.

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