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.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

51 Responses to “Miguel Cabrera’s Trade Value”

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  1. Jimbo says:

    Wouldn’t you assume a premium for premium players? I understand the Value concept written about last week, but given the supply-side of 4.5 WAR players I wouldn’t assume the same per-win value applies to that player as it would to two 2.25 WAR players.

    Or perhaps what you’ve done is actually quantified an $8M “premium” on Cabrera’s contract. Not sure where the stats stop and economics start.

    I usually struggle to keep up around here with all the sharp minds, so if I missed something forgive me.

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    • No, you’re right. Originally, I was a bit worried when I came up with “nothing,” but after thinking and discussing with Dave C., realized that was my error, hence the last paragraph — it’s only particular teams that can really go all-out paying market value regularly, especially when a contract is as big as Cabrera’s.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      ~~~Wouldn’t you assume a premium for premium players? I understand the Value concept written about last week, but given the supply-side of 4.5 WAR players I wouldn’t assume the same per-win value applies to that player as it would to two 2.25 WAR players. ~~~

      I agree.

      What about the VALUE of a guy that can contribute 4.5WAR with ONE roster slot, versus a team having to occupy multiple roster slots to combine for the same WAR (assming, of course, that it’s actually possible to replace Cabrera with two other guys).

      Isn’t there another article here or at a related site that talks about roster construction and how winning teams HAVE to have a 5W (i.e., big contract) player somewhere on the field? That a roster full of 2WAR guys ain’t gonna be over .500?

      This also isn’t fantasy baseball where you can draft players by round, you have to try and replace what you’ve lost with what is available, and that’s usually limited.

      If MLB was a video game where you could cheat and make whatever trade you wanted, or fabntasy baseball where you could draft from a larger pool, this would make more sense. But, essentially with as big contract you are “locking up the position” for a block of years.

      As others have said, this idea would just over-reward young players. It’s funny because the FIRST chance they get at BIG money, they’re taking it … and not because “they’re selfish” or because “they’re not conerned with the team”, but because it’s what they’re valued at or what they’ve earned.

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  2. Logan says:


    Good article. You know I’ve been one of your bigger fans since you joined the site. That being said, time for my first criticism- TOO MANY LINKS. When you linked me to the catcher defense and AL MVP articles you wrote the other day, I found myself chasing down one story after the next (Ken Rosenthal being a dumbass, Zack Greinke being God, etc.). These are all interesting topics, and links are a powerful tool, but I wanna read your article without a temptation to chase down another story every 17th word.

    Quality stuff though.

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    • Not David says:

      Link chasing is a fantastic way to broaden your information base with articles that you likely wouldn’t have come across otherwise, the more the better as far as I’m concerned.

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    • Haha… I understand, Logan, but it’s unlikely that I’ll stop, since both link-chasing on the web and footnote-chasing elsewhere have been great aids to my learning stuff. And I also like to try and give credit where it’s due.

      But thanks for reading and the compliments.

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    • Steve C says:

      Link chasing is also a fantastic way to waste time at the office.

      Keep it up.

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  3. Will says:

    I’ve never been a huge fan of the WAR-based contract evaluation tool, because the things valued by WAR are NOT the things valued on the FA market. Or at least not valued in the same proportions. Likewise, the traits valued by WAR are not the same as those valued on the trade market.

    Lots of times, its sorta works out in an complimentary way (dumb GM signs a guy for the RBIs, gets the value from the walks) via happy coincidence, but other times it doesn’t.

    In Cabrera’s case, he’s got real world value as an “impact bat” in the “heart of an order” that provides protection and distracts the pitcher and makes panties wet and whatever else. These are qualities that are paid for at a premium price on the market and nobody (or many) thinks this is wrong.

    I think its hard for us outsiders to fully put ourselves into the mindset of people like Dayton Moore. As analysts, we may know they are wrong, but when speculating about trade value, we need to do so. (OK, that’s obvious as hell.) In Cabrera’s case, his long-term contract also gives a dumb GM an idea that he’s “a building block” who provides the organization with stability and solves his position for years to come. And, who cares about the 2013-15? If I lose in 2010-11, I’ll be gone anyway and it will be somebody else’s problem.

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    • I should say that I don’t think Cabrera’s deal was dumb when it was signed, particularly given the market for wins at the time. Even now, it’s pretty close to market value for the rest. As I’ve said before, that doesn’t make a deal it smart, but not dumb, either.

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  4. Hmmm… the last paragraph of this post is cut off on the mobile version, and I added it in a later draft. Just for the record.

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  5. Scottwood says:

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on the 4.5 WAR number. Miggy struggled when he initially moved over to 1st in 2008, but was much improved this past season. He had 2.8 UZR in 09 and I would expect either improvement on that number or a similar positive total going forward. It is also worth noting that in 4 of the last 5 season, he has a wRAA of 40 or more runs. The projection for him is skewed a bit, imo, b/c it takes too much account of his initial struggles when shifting leagues in 08. His .376 wOBA in 08 is well below the roughly .400 or above wOBA he posted in 09, 07, 06 and 05. Add it all up, and I would expect him to be worth roughly 5 wins for the remainder of his prime. That would equate to $22 million a season for the next 4 years, or $88 million. Even if you subtract 0.5 WAR for his seasons at the age of 31 and 32, he’d still be worth $37.4 million over those 2 seasons. Put the two together, and he would be worth $125.4 million (assuming my math is correct). Give or take a couple million and that looks to be a heck of a fair deal for both sides. The Tigers may even get surplus value out of it if he stays closer to the 5.4 WAR he posted this season. And, considering he just reached his prime, I don’t think that is unrealistic.

    Regardless, I highly doubt the Tigers are going to trade him.

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    • I guess I trust Rally’s (the CHONE guy) offensive projection (the main element of this particular one). And keep in mind that I did jack his value up to 5 WAR for next season and found that he still didn’t quite make it.

      Moreover, while the salary curve is based on a linear decline, that’s based on an average expectation, most players are going to fluctuate to different extends around that.

      The adjustment issue is interesting, and I’m not sure how what Rally , but from a statistical standpoint, when one starts isolating seasons as “outliers” and “breakouts,” one starts to get into trouble.

      Of course, there may be reasons to think that Cabrera will decline differentlly, etc., but I personally like to play it safe and stick with the projections, and I’ll address why in the next week or two.

      I agree that the Tigers are unlikely to trade him, mainly since there aren’t really potential suitors who could pick up enough salary to make it worthwhile.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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      • Scottwood says:

        Has there ever been studies done on “outlier” seasons? I think that would be pretty interesting to look at. How much should we take into account a “down” season for an otherwise great player? Particularly interesting is that his BABIP that year, .316, is well below his career norms. How much should that be weighed going forward? Speaking strictly from my experience in academic research, we disregard outlier data (within reason. A more thorough explanation would probably be needed).

        Looking at Cabrera’s last 5 seasons, it appears somewhat clear that 08 was an outlier. If nothing else, 05, 07 and 09 are incredibly similar in terms of wOBA. .399 wOBA in 05, .402 wOBA in 07 and .402 wOBA in 09.

        I’m just rambling at this point. I guess I expect him to be 40 runs above average offensively and + 2 or 3 defensively next season.

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      • Tom Tango and other have done some studies on “Banner” years, which is pretty much the same concept.


        Again, I’m going to post a bit more about this last week, and I’m far from a “stat guy,” but briefly: the problem with identifying a season as an “outlier” when doing a projectoin is that it already assumes we “know” what his true talent is, and thus can identify what outlier is… except that his true talent is exactly what we’re trying to find out when doing the projection in the first place.

        There are many factors one could look at, and some are easier to deal with than others. With BABIP, for example — most of the “advanced” projection systems deal with this as well, regressing it more than other, more variable “skills,” often based on speed score, or whatever. I don’t exactly know how CHONE deals with it, but he does.

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      • Scottwood says:

        Great link. It would not be fair to automatically assume that 08 would be an outlier. In retrospect, that was a poor argument on my part.

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  6. The Hit Dog says:

    It’s inaccurate to say his trade value is “zero” before taking into account the acquiring team. WAR is a fantastic tool, but its applicability is always limited by context, particularly: by the old player that the new player will be supplanting (if Cabrera were to go to the Red Sox, allowing Youkilis to shift to 3rd and forcing Lowell to DH, they’ve added much more value than if Cabrera were to go to the Cardinals and force Pujols to play shortstop); by the availability of other similar talent on the market; by the acquiring team’s budget and competitive landscape. Theoretically, 2 teams could give up the exact same value in prospects and Team A could have a much, much greater return on its investment due to these factors. Shouldn’t all this go into a player’s trade value as well?

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    • Are you by any chance commenting from your mobile? I ask because I was goofing around with mine, and saw that the last paragraph was cut off…

      Anyway, in that last paragraph, I address these concerns and point out why his value is not, in fact, zero.

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  7. Tim says:

    When you said 37 runs above average, you really mean 37 runs above replacement, correct?

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  8. Bill says:

    Kind of funny how positional value works (not that it’s wrong).

    By shifting to 1B and actually playing better defense in 2009 than in 2007 and 2006, he still got way less valuable since he plays 1B instead of 3B. It’s one of those things WAR values that GM’s do not particularly seem to… I doubt his contract would be that different if he was a poor-fielding 3B vs. a decent-fielding 1B. But his value would, at least apparently.

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  9. Kirk says:

    something to remember is that Manny wasn’t even close to worth his contract from 2004-2006 when he was a top 5 hitter in the league (with bad defense). WAR is an imperfect stat imo. It gives you a good starting point but needs to be just one resource to use.

    I can virtually guarantee you that any of the top 10 payroll teams with financial flexibility would take MCab in a second at this contract. Why? Because they can afford to pay more dollars/win for elite players instead of getting better value for a bunch of average-ish players. whether they would deal several valuable prospects and trade for him is a different matter.

    And I also don’t see the Tigers dealing him since they have tons of money coming off the books after 2010 (40M) and 2011 (30M assuming Ordonez’ option vests). What they need is more money now to fill the holes of their competitive team. Which becomes a rebuilding team if MCab is traded.

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  10. CircleChange11 says:

    A few things …

    [1] When a player signs a contract, a team is considering a bunch of things …. his production, his effect on wins, his affect on drawing fans (and possibly even other good players to the team). A player with “star power” can have a dramatic effect on attendance & revenue.

    [2] When a team signs a player, they are often competing against other teams, so the tendency is likely to over-pay a bit due to “bidding”. Rarely do teams get a player at his “performance value”.

    In this regard I’m thinking of a recent example in Teixeira. The Yankees signed him and his value applies to their team, but also prevents him from having the same (or greater) value for Boston. So they added value to their team, but also some “added value” from keeping him out of Boston’s lineup. If Teixeira signed with BOS and Youk moved to 3rd, I think it’s a safe assumptin that BOS would be noticeably better, and the NYY might be noticeably worse.

    So, perhaps the NYY should be credited with Teix’s WAR value + the difference in WAR that BOS would have gained by having Teix on their team. That combined value could be a swing of 4-5 wins or so … which between those two teams could mean A LOT.

    I’m not quite sure if that applies to Cabrera because I don’t view him as a major star with a lot of “drawing power”, but even in a game where there’s no guarantees Cabrera’s performance has been very consistent … and not reliant on the production of others in the lineup. He’s what I refer to as a “staple” in the lineup … like Ramirez for the Cubs. Year in and year out you *know* you’re going to get .300-30-100 and the team seems to go as that player goes.

    We’re also assuming that without Cabrera’s contract that they could add the same value with other guys for less money, and those players [1] may not always be available for what you’re wanting to trade/pay, and [2] there’s no guarantee that they’re going to want to go to your team. So, it’s not always a direct situation.

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    • Matt B. says:

      I have to disagree with star players having a drastic effect on attendance and revenue. I don’t think one player by himself can make all that much difference to either attendance or revenue, now as part of a winning 2-3 year stretch the fans will definitely take notice but I think studies have shown one player is not a difference maker in those areas.

      Even the teams top pitcher during the season has not shown to increase attendance by himself when compared to other lesser pitchers in the rotation.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      So, here’s the thing. You’re obviously a bright, articulate, thoughtful person. However, you believe a lot of things that are demonstrably not true, and that there are significant amounts of evidence against.

      Why? Why don’t you research things like a player’s effect on attendance before making declarative statements?

      You seem like the kind of person who would care about having a factual basis for your beliefs. Almost everything you’ve said since arriving is provably wrong, and the evidence against your stances is strong and in many cases insurmountable. Are you just not aware of any of it, or do you choose to ignore all of it?

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      • Steve says:

        Well, I dont have any studies to prove anything, but the Tigers DID double the amount of season tickets sold from the previous year after they traded for Cabrera… Just Sayin!

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      • Steve says:

        Oh Also… That increase did not start untill AFTER the trade… I see below where you said most increases in attendence can actually be attributed to a successful season the year before and not getting a certain player… The day after the Cabrera trade the Tigers ticket office’s telephone system went down because of the demand. The team actually had to limit the amount of season tickets they could sell after Cabrera joined the team. I dont know if the local papers have archives online but there were many articles in the Detroit News and Free Press chronicling this phenomenon…

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  11. Circlechange11 says:


    In regards to the specific situation of star players and attendance I implicitly said “can” NOT do.

    It was not a ‘declarative’ statement at all.

    If/When I attempt to make a declarative statement, I often try to post some sort stats to support.

    There are cases where a star player is signed and the number of season tickets purchased increases. I would say that these cases are rarish in Mlb … Especially when compared to more star-driven leagues like NFL, NBA, and NHL.

    “Dramatic” was likely the wrong word to use as readers likely envisioned an increase of 10K or so fans per game.

    I have no fear of being wrong, provided that I can be shown to be wrong by something more than just another opinion. I’ve been forced to adjust my opinion on some things that we solid beliefs of mine … like the importance of SB’s for example. All I ask is that folks show me some evidence that directly applies and I am open to change my opinion.

    I’m not a Bill O’Reilley type whose opinion is right just because I’m me; I’m pretty much like everyone else in that I hold my opinion based on my knowledge and experiences.

    Again about the ‘star power’ aspect, I said can, not do. Ex: what effect would losing hometown hero Joe Mauer have on MIN ticket sales? I’m simply saying that MIN may be likely to over-pay him some, in-part because of his popularity there.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Before I respond, if you note at the bottom of the comment, ther’s a tiny little gray “reply” below the thumbs up and down buttons. If you click that word, it will put your response in a thread, making it easier to follow.

      Now, for the rest of your comment, it appears to me that the fundamental flaw with most of your analysis is the conflating of correlation and causation. For example, your “player signs, attendance goes up” sentence is a classic case of correlation that is not evidence of causation. In all likelihood, what you are attributing to the player is actually the residue of a successful season the year before. The attendance increase would have happened with or without the star player, but you see a correlation and assume causation.

      This is a running theme in your analysis, and it’s going to undermine almost all of your conclusions.

      I’d suggest reading this link and making sure you have a firm grasp on what it is saying. Then, look back at some of your ideas and see if you can identify areas where you’re seeing correlation and assuming that causation exists as well.

      Most of the issues where you’re finding that you disagree with the consensus here are issues that have already been studied. We’re not disagreeing with you because we’re ornery, but because the evidence has already been looked at and the position opposite to the one you are holding has been found to be true.

      If you’re interested in finding some of these studies, I’d suggest starting here. Specifically, click on the mailbags section – there is a ton of good information in there.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        ~~~In all likelihood, what you are attributing to the player is actually the residue of a successful season the year before. The attendance increase would have happened with or without the star player, but you see a correlation and assume causation.~~~

        That is certainly possible. The example I had in my mind was the Soriano signing and all of the #12 jerseys and t-shirts in the stands … well, at least in 07.

        How does stats research go about determining how many fans are in a stadium to see Bonds or Pujols versus how many are there to see the Giants or the Cardinals? I ask because one major swing in ‘fandom’ seems to be “fans of players” versus “fans of teams” (likely due to the proliferation of free agency, fantasy sports, etc). Certainly having Bonds or Pujols on your team affects winning, so I would imagine that it is hard to seperate the two situations (see a winning team v. see a mega-star).

        ~~~I’d suggest reading this link and making sure you have a firm grasp on what it is saying. Then, look back at some of your ideas and see if you can identify areas where you’re seeing correlation and assuming that causation exists as well. ~~~

        Interesting as I haven’t really thought of this situation in my ‘baseball views’ while it dominates my ‘science views’ (pre-med degree, science background, education profession by choice). I only bring that up because perhaps the causation v correlation affects my baseball opinions more than my science/education opinions because [1] I am not aware of some of the studies involved in baseball, [2] place too much value on my baseball preferences and/or [3] experiences as fan/player/coach.

        Any response with a link is valued and appreciated by myself. I’m a guy that will read the link and attempt to absorb and apply it. Other than BP’s BTN, Tango’s ‘The Book’, and BJ’s Historical Baseball Abstract, I’m a neophyte to ‘the new metrics’. But, the interest is high (obviously).

        I’ll likely not make a new post each time to announce that I’ve changed my opinion, but if I’m saying the “same wrong stuff” over and over after a month, then you’ll know I just don’t get it. My primary interest is the understanding and direct coaching of pitching mechanics, but ‘the new metrics’ and the process of ‘projections’ are new areas of interest.

        Off to the mailbag …

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      • circlechange11 says:

        Dave, I went back and looked at what I have been insurrmountable wrong about, because after thinking about it I was curious. It comes down to this (the things people have disagreed with the most).

        [1] Awarding extra points to Wainwright and Carpenter for pitching very well in August and September.
        [2] Stating that one could consider Cabrera for an MVP if they viewed the award as “Most Valuable to their team” (and then did reasonably well.
        [3] The Lincecum and Grienke votes don’t necessarily mean that voters value ‘new metrics’ more.
        [4] A mega-star can affect attendance/revenue, and teams may consider that when figuring out how much money to offer team (in a thread that stated the idea of considering value of contract for MVP).
        [5] Wins and ERA are not “pitcher independent stats”, but we should not ignore them completely since a pitcher pitches as part of team defense (defense and pitcher work together — fielder positioning and pitch location — trying to influlence a certain outcome or pitch to hitter weakness.
        [6] You shouldn’t overly penalize Carpenter for missing a month, when Mauer did the same thing (this was also an arguement against Pujols for MVP in 06).
        [7] I disagreed with overly valuing FIP, since it’s going to heavily favor a certain type of pitcher, and does not include GB% even though SOME pitchers have been shown to influlence that factor. It also does NOT including pitcher’s fielding ability, which is individual pitcher controlled.
        [8] I said Keith Law made a mistake voting Vasquez in front of Carpenter.
        [9] I said “protection in the lineup” matters.


        So, I looked at it some more …

        [1] This is done with some voteres as well. Why? Because games at the end of the season mean more in terms of the individual importance. As I pointed out, thee 2 SF writers voted for StL pitchers as #1 for these same reason (among others, as no one looks at just one aspect).

        [2] It all depends at how you view the award. I voted Mauer but understand how one could consider Cabrera.

        [3] The Grienke and Lincecum votes could mean that voters primarily VALUE “ERA + K”. No need to jump the gun and attribute the voting to something it may not.

        [4] This is going to depend on STAR and situation. I would imagine that studies done have (A) probably used a lesser value of “star” than I do, so that the quantity of data can be large (larger sample size) and (B) it ain;t easy to seperate increased attendenace from increased wins or increased talent/star.

        [5] It’s preference and don’t feel the need to completely isolate a pitcher’s performance from the team defense. The complete isolation thing was done to calculate some new metrics, not to vote on season awards.

        [6] In the end, I agreed CC29’s lower inning total was enough to consider Vasquez over Carp. Still, I am unsure about how definitive I am about that when considering CC29, pitched for a division winner and was lights out over the last 2 months.

        [7] I’m not going to win a “FIP may not be the greatest thng in the world” statement at this site. I’m not arguing that. I was stating that I don’t ALWAYS view pitcher’s performance indpenedent from the team defense aspect b/c they work together (To me, it’s actually one of the most interesting aspects to watch at the stadium v. TV, because you get to see how everyone moves around and how pitchers tailor their location/sequence).

        [8] I could go either way on this one. It all depends on how much credit you give IP, pitching great down the stretch, being on a winner, etc.

        [9] Studies show that in lineup construction all that really matters is that your best hitters are grouped together … and at the top of the lineup. The “protection studies” exmained all “protectors” with a SLG of .450 or better, and when I am talking of protection, I am talking of a “protector” far better than .450 (Mike Cameron), I’m talking about Aramis Ramirez, Matt Holliday, types .. and I speculated that it would primarily serve certain types of hitters in certain team situations.

        I’ve spent most of the time defending things that have read INTO what I have said, rather than what was actually said … as well as … defending “could” statements as if they were “do” statements.

        I will acknowledge that some know quite a bit more than I do, which is the primary reason I’m here. But I also notice [1] a very narrow view on things that do not necessarily have a universal standard for comparison, [2] the application of studies in all situations, whether they are directly applicable or not.

        Just sayin’.

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  12. Ben Miller says:


    After reading both your and Dave’s article it got me thinking about the one weakness in your argument, which I think was already slightly touched upon a little in the comments. That is, marginal wins aren’t exactly interchangable from a market perspective, or, in the parlance of the Fangraph’s times: fungible.

    To go back to your house analogy: say one person was given a house valued at two million dollars and the another person pays two million for an equivalently valued home. Now say, the first person can’t live in the house (it’s not close to there job) and can’t sell it (bad market). But they still have to pay property taxes. Person 2 is a skilled contractor with a lot of connections in the real estate world and after putting in modest improvements sells the house for double the original price he paid? Who house had the better value to the individual? What did the market say they were valued at originally?

    Houses and players are not barrels of oil or bags of grain. Sure we (the market) assign dollar values to them, but economics recognizes that this means different things to different consumers.

    I think if we are to discuss value more (like Dave suggests we do) I think that more thought needs to go into how dollar value is assigned to players. Moreover, more thought needs to go into how dollar value *should* be assigned. Because, I think, in general, a 2 WAR player is not equal to two 1 WAR players. or is even worth exactly twice as much as a 1 WAR player.

    Overall I welcome this type of dicussion that you and Dave C. (and others) are doing, I just think you need a more robust metric than “[one] marginal win is [worth] $4.4 million” to have truly meaning discussions.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      One thing that I agree we have not done a great job of discussing the difference between value and price. What you are talking about here is the differing value of a win to a specific franchise, which is certainly a legitimately valid point.

      However, the $4.4 million number is not meant to represent the value of a win. It is calculated based on the going rate of a win in the free agent market. It is a price, not a value.

      Just like any other good on earth, prices are set at levels that appeal to some and not to others. When the price of milk goes up, the lactose intolerant are not affected at all. Likewise, neither are the highest income earners, because they rarely eat at home anyway. People are affected differently by changes in price due to their individual values.

      There are times you still want to know price, however. If someone asks you how much milk costs, the correct answer is whatever the supermarket is currently charging, not ‘it depends on who you are.” The latter statement is a value issue, but the dollar per win metric is mostly a price.

      I agree that we have to do better at explaining this difference and how it applies. I’m planning on writing about this a lot over the winter, so we’ll be addressing this issue and others like it going forward.

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  13. Omar says:

    Realistically speaking, Cabrera was the second most productive hitter in the AL with proper park adjustments. He’s 27, so really he’s just entering his prime, and he’s under contract through age 32 (the great ones tend to age well) where he’ll be just exiting his prime…I see no reason to think that he’s worth the contract. There aren’t many players of Cabrera’s caliber in baseball, let alone available through free agency. He’s worth the contract, and worth giving up talent to acquire. H

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    • Michael says:

      Matt didn’t say he wasn’t worth his contract. In fact, that was mostly the premise of the article, that he was worth essentially the value he was being paid. But, theoretically teams can purchase that value on the open market, so there would be no reason to trade extra players for him.

      Of course, there is a paucity of 5 WAR players in the open market on a year-to-year basis, and teams must also consider how valuable it would be for them to consolidate WAR and take with it the potential of injury risk/random performance fluctuation. That gets into other stuff, but those factors I think would be very important to determine how much a team was willing to deal for Cabrera.

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  14. T says:

    I know it’s not the kind of thing that readers of this site are very interested in, but a discussion of Cabrera’s trade value without discussion of his personal issues is a slightly lacking one I think. The drinking is one thing, but the more important(potentially connected?) issue is his weight I think. It’s part of the reason a guy just entering his prime is sort of seen as having already peaked, and while acquiring a stud hitter for his age 27-32 seasons is fantastic, acquiring a stud hitter who looks like he’s gained 75+ lbs in the last few years makes me a bit nervous.

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    • T:

      I agree that that stuff is relevant, but given (a) the space I had for the post and, more importantly, (b) my relative lack of knowledge of his personal situation and how to incorporate into a projection going forward, I decided to leave it to others in the comments. I will say that the weight and (alleged) drinking issues might keep one from giving him too rosy of an aging curve, even given his young age.

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  15. walkoffblast says:

    It is interesting to consider that we basically never see guys traded with these long-term big money deals. I assume the Arod deal was the biggest contract to change teams, but is anyone else even close?

    The Yankees essentially took on a 7 yr 112 mil deal for Arod. So if Detroit did not eat any money a Cabrera deal could be the largest ever to change hands. Now Manny was on waivers in a similar time frame for around 5 yr 100 mil and no one took him. Cabrera seems a little more Manny to me in the scope of the current player landscape. There is just such a limited market for paying a guy 20 mil that long to earn about 20 mil.

    I think you are closer to right about Cabrera’s trade value being zero then you will get credit for. My main thought here is even if Cabrera is paid about what he is worth, and you have to pay a premium for top players, you have to factor in the value of what you are giving up. Even one above average prospect is going to push the theoretical value to a lopsided level. It seems like when trading a player like that about the best you can hope for is a good player about to get a big bump in pay. You should not be able to get a top prospect for such a player which is one of many reasons they tend to stay where they are.

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  16. Rich in NJ says:

    The Mets might be able to afford Cabrera.

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  17. Judy says:

    Yes, the Mets would probably be the team I’d pick as most likely to be willing to give up enough in a trade for the Tigers to actually go through with trading him.

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  18. carl says:

    Cabrera is clearly not worthless. Value doesn’t reduce. The market isn’t limitless. The Sox, for instance, ran into that last year. They had $25M for MarkTeixeira… when they lost out on that, there wasn’t $25M worth of 1B out there for them.

    Miguel being a scarce resource means that if he is worht his contract, he’s worth a lot in trade.

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    • walkoffblast says:

      Mike Lowell is worth about 6 mil as a 3b. There is not an unlimited supply of 6 mil dollar 3b but teams are not going to line up for him. Why? Limited resources in the form of payroll for one. Is Cabrera that different? Especially that different that it is a good idea to give up multiple players worth significantly more than their salary? I guess my question is everyone keeps talking about the premium intangible you refer to as “a lot,” quantify “a lot.” It would be tricky to find this value but I doubt this amount would be enough to justify a top notch pre abitration player.

      Just to say it, the sox did already have a 1b worth 25 mil in terms of production on their roster.

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  19. Colin says:

    Why is Cabrera’s defense negative? He had the 2nd highest UZR among AL first basemen this past season. Are we still using his terrible fielding at 3b to justify that? If so, I don’t think that makes much sense.

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  20. Ben says:

    Where is Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Victor Martinez, Daniel Bard, etc. on this list. The list is nice but you’re missing a lot of obvious names on this list.

    Also Miguel Cabrera clearly does have trade value because his name has been swirling in and out of trade rumors all offseason.

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