Nationals Steal Denard Span From Twins

Another day, another NL East team solves their center field problem. Yesterday, the Braves spent $75 million to sign B.J. Upton to a contract that is perfectly fair and should provide them with a quality player going forward. Today, the Nationals spent $21 million — and, to be fair, a solid pitching prospect — and got a similarly valuable player in Denard Span. Advantage, Nationals.

Similarly valuable doesn’t mean similar, of course. The similarities between Span and Upton pretty much end after you note that they’re both athletic center fielders. Upton derives a lot of value from hitting for power, while Span has hit nine home runs in the last three years combined. Span derives most of his value from making contact and running, using his speed to help him get on base, score runs, and save them in the outfield. And yet, at the end of the day, they end up with results that are about equally effective at winning games.

For his career, Upton has a 107 wRC+ while Span checks in at 105. Interestingly, both players produced a wRC+ in 2012 that was an exact match for their own career average. Span struggled a bit the previous couple of years — and his issues were compounded with a mid-summer concussion that ended up costing him about half of the 2011 — but he rebounded nicely last year and showed some of the production that made him such a dynamic player earlier in his career.

It’s unlikely that Span posts the 120 wRC+ from his first couple of years in the big leagues, but he’s fast enough and hits enough ground balls that that an above average BABIP should probably be expected. His .320 career mark is probably not far off his true talent level, but one year spikes up to .340 or .350 shouldn’t be unexpected, and Span could be a legitimate offensive force in years where the ball finds the hole more often than others. Having a skillset that averages out to Shane Victorino and peaks as Carl Crawford makes Span a pretty nifty player, and one who is instantly a big upgrade for the Nationals.

For his career, Span has averaged +3.6 WAR per 600 plate appearances. Even if you regress his defense a bit because he’ll turn 29 during spring training, Span looks like a good bet to be +3 win player next year, making him a dramatic upgrade over Mike Morse. With Span being flanked by Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper in the outfield, the Nationals are going to boast of the rangiest outfields in the sport, and now the team has the option of shifting Morse to first base or trading him if they end up re-signing Adam LaRoche. Span is exactly the kind of player that the Nationals have been searching for, and is a perfect fit for their roster.

To be honest, I’m a bit surprised at the price at which Minnesota was willing to sell Span off. I get that they’re rebuilding and they feel like Ben Revere can handle center field in the short term, but Span is the kind of player they could have kept as they rebuilt. They had him under contract for his age 29-31 seasons at a grand total of $21 million, and only the first two years and $12 million was guaranteed. 3/21 for a +3 win player in his prime is a significant value, and the Twins sold him off for an A-ball pitching prospect who may end up in relief.

I don’t mean to downplay Meyer’s value as a prospect, as any 6’9 kid who throws in the upper 90s and throws a wipeout slider is a legitimately interesting return, but no one is yet certain that he’s going to stick in the rotation long term. He had a successful debut season between the South Atlantic and Carolina Leagues, but he was a 22-year-old college arm facing batters with significantly less experience. He’s yet to get to Double-A, and the questions about his mechanics haven’t yet been entirely answered. There’s some real upside here, but there’s also a chance that the command regresses and he ends up as a closer rather than a starter.

Meyer’s a bit of a lottery ticket. Legitimate upside, legitimate concerns about his future role, and at least another year of development before he’s ready to contribute in Minnesota. Meyer’s a Top 100 prospect, and if you think he’ll stick as a starter, probably a Top 50 guy. The Twins got a real talent back in return for Span, but it’s a talent with too many question marks to be the piece they’re getting back in return for a three win player under team control at a fraction of his market price.

For the Nationals, this is a huge win. Span represents a serious upgrade and doesn’t take away much of their 2013 budget, leaving them enough room to make another big move to further upgrade the roster. With their center field hole filled and only $5 million spent next year to do it, they have the flexibility to address other areas that could use improvement. If Meyer turns into an ace, they might regret this deal some day, but the odds of that are low enough that this was a risk worth taking. Especially given their proximity to a championship and Meyer’s timeline for helping the big league club.

For the Twins, they get a boom-or-bust prospect and lose one of their best players. They don’t really free up much salary to improve the roster already in place, so this is a clear win-later kind of move. Josh Willingham is clearly next on the chopping block, as the Twins are likely to make more moves to improve their future. Hopefully they get more back for him than they did for Span, though, because collecting lottery ticket pitching prospects isn’t a great way to rebuild.




Print This Post



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


108 Responses to “Nationals Steal Denard Span From Twins”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Steve 1 says:

    I thought the asking price for Span was supposed to be high? Pretty sure the Braves would have made a similar type deal and saved money on Upton.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Wil says:

      From what I read on the AJC and a few Braves sites, that the Braves asked about Span but the talks went no where. If this is the price paid for Span, you have to ask why?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Morneau isn’t clearly next?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Person says:

    I’m still not sure center field was a “hole” because I think Harper showed he can handle the position, but obviously the Nationals have spent a couple years now unsure about CF and have found a solid solution.

    Of course, the real positive is that they got to keep Drew Storen to do it, right?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • philosofool says:

      They had a hole in the OF insofar as Morse isn’t not realistically an OF. I think the whole idea that there are center fielders and corners is silly–there are outfielders and you want them to be as good as possible, and you want them to hit as well as possible. You can have three “center fielders” or “three left fielders”–WAR are WAR in the end.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matt says:

        Uh, there are a lot of corner outfielders that can’t play CF well. Therefore their WAR in left > WAR in center

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • philosofool says:

        I think you missed my point, which was that you should put your three highest WAR OFs on the field every day, and the one that is best in CF should play CF.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Keith says:

    Michael Bourn just hopped on a flight to Philadelphia.

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Matt K says:

    Twins are in such a bad spot for pitching that they’re willing to sell really low. Their MLB rotation is mind-numbingly bad and there really isn’t much to be hopeful about in the current farm system. I won’t be surprised if Morneau is shipped off next for a ML ready starter.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Spike says:

      how is a top 25 SP prospect selling really low?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TheHoustonian says:

        When the Top 25 SP prospect is a reliever?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        He’s not a reliever (yet)

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Will says:

        Who is calling Alex Meyer a top 25 pitching prospect?

        I think most people would consider him a top 50-75 prospect.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • simo says:

        I think that one looks at a player with good stuff and pretty good stats in Meyer, but one has to remember that he has never even pitched in AA. He may look good now, but he has many levels to go, and he might be a reliever once he reaches the majors. Span is a good center-fielder with a good contract and he’s already a very proven major leaguer. The difference in levels makes this trade a complete win for the Nats.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Stinky says:

        Will – if he’s a top 50-75 prospect then he’s likely a top 25 *pitching* prospect.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Spike says:

        Simo – the Nats and Twins are in completely different stages right now. The Nats are clearly a “now” team while the Twins are probably 2 or 3 yrs from being relevant again. Any analysis of the deal has to be viewed in that context.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. RJ says:

    Does this mean that the Nats are in play for Grienke now that they saved the money they potentially would have spent on Bourne?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Brian says:

    Now the Nats can trade Morse for J Upton

    -10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Keith says:

      I don’t think the Nationals will play with 4 OF’s.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • rarumberger says:

      Not unless they can send Werth too. Grabbing Upton means sitting Werth. I have no problem sitting Werth to ply someone better, if we happen to have that guy, but it would be insane to pick up someone who pretty much forces Werth to the bench already.

      No, if Laroche resigns, Morse will be traded for pitching. Not sure who the partner is though.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Keith says:

        Who in their right mind would pick up Werth’s contract?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jaack says:

        If the DBacks were willing to take Morse for Upton, than its not hard to believe they’d take on Werth as well.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Purple says:

        If the DBacks were willing to take Morse for Upton, then I’d check with Kevin Towers to see if he’d share some of the mushrooms he’s on.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • rarumberger says:

        Keith – That’s my point.

        As for the “Morse for Upton” suggestion, obviously it’s not close to a reasonable deal. But Morse (to cover the immediate loss) plus top prospects (to make up for the actual loss) is not a bad deal. Except that the Nats have no need for Upton, especially if it means emptying the farm.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Spike says:

      more likely the Nats just let LaRoche walk and move Morse to 1B.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JKB says:

      Trade Morse for a Rays starter!

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Brian says:

      This was a reference to Dave’s favorite trade suggestion from the past month of chats…

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. SC says:

    I can’t imagine Morneau has a whole lot of Trade Value. 0.6 WAR in the last 2 Seasons for 1 Year at 13 Million. If a Team would be willing to assume a lot of Morneau’s Salary- I’d imagine the Twins would try to give run to Chris Parmalee (Rightly or Wrongly)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. SC says:

    The Deal seems fine. The Twins are probably better off taking on Meyer’s Upside then trying to get a short-term fix as a Number 3 Starter. The Twins Pitching is so bad- no short term fix should really be seen as any sort of solution.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. JT says:

    In a chat last week I asked if Randall Delgado for Span would make sense for both teams. You said that the Twins would want a lot more. Is Meyer a lot more than Delgado? He has a higher ceiling but also a much lower floor.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TR says:

      Twins have been stocking up on high floor / lower ceiling guys for years, hasn’t exactly worked out

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • SC says:

        You get Meyer/Gibson/Hendricks/Diamond and possibly a College Pitcher from Next June’s Draft. You have the possibility of an decent staff by 2015. Considering the current state of the Twins Pitching- this should be the Goal.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • d_i says:

        they have? like who? their last few top pitching picks have been college guys who were supposed to be close to ready like Gibson and Wimmers. It has been all about stike throwing BP pitchers like Pavano until this years’ draft.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • d_i says:

        sorry I read your comment wrong/backwards..my bad.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • gnomez says:

      I’d take Delgado over Meyer.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • JT says:

        I would too. Delgado was a top 50 pitching prospect who definitely has the goods to be an MLB starter. His ceiling is probably as a #3 starter with a floor of a #5 starter. Of course we don’t know if Wren ever offered Delgado. He may have only been offering Spruill.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Micah says:

        Agreed. I don’t pretend to know a lot about Meyer, but he sounds pretty legit based on size, fast ball speed, and “killer slider,” even though his numbers for A, A+ were not dominant (but really good).

        However, its hard to place a 22 year old in A ball ahead of 22 year old who already has met his floor of #5 starter while pitching in MLB and shown the potential for being more while pitching in MLB.

        Again, for emphasis, same age but one is getting little kids out who mostly aren’t even prospects while the other is getting hitters out in the Majors.

        Still, we don’t know Delgado was offered, but wherever they are ranked as “prospects,” Delgado is so significantly the better bet based on age/level/performance that it makes the one I would take a no brainer.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Tim says:

        I’m not sure in what sense Delgado would be a “better bet” for the Twins than Meyer. It’s likely he has more present value, but the Twins would be wasting at least a year and probably two of team control on non-competitive rosters, which they won’t for Meyer.

        The Twins also have a very good record of developing #3-#5 guys internally, and basically no chance of ever acquiring an MLB-level ace externally, so it makes more sense to me to take a chance on getting an ace than a sure thing in the middle of the rotation.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      How is “closer” a much lower floor than “crappy starter”? They seem about the same to me — ~1-2 fWAR. I guess you could argue that Meyer won’t make the majors, but the stuff seems to be a lot better than Delgado’s. They seem to have gotten more for Span than the Astros got for Bourn from the Braves, or the Marlins got for Maybin from the Padres. Which similar player to Span was traded for more than Meyer?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • JT says:

        The Twins did get a great deal more for Span than the Astros got for Bourn…but Wade was a terrible GM, which is why he is no longer employed in that role.

        What started this discussion was my question to Dave as to whether he considered Meyer a better prospect than Delgado because he kind of snorted when I asked him in a chat if the Braves could get Span for Delgado.

        I think an argument could be made for either of these kids. Delgado struggled a bit when he pitched in the majors last year but he was slated to pitch all season in AAA….an injury to Huddy caused him to be called up before he was ready. Delgado throws mid-90’s so he’s not exactly a soft tosser either. Meyer does have dynamic “stuff” but a lot of A ball pitchers with that classification never even make the majors. Like I said earlier, do you want a sure thing or a guy with more talent but a LOT more risk.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Mike E says:

    Josh Willingham would appear to be a prime target for the Mariners – and their minor league pitching depsh – at this point. Maybe someone like Carraway or Maurer?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Spike says:

      Carraway Seed? I thought the M’s left him unprotected.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ThirteenOfTwo says:

      The Twins are rumored to want a lot more than that for Willingham, but even if he could be had for just Maurer I don’t like him at all for Seattle. Even with the fences coming in his pull-only spray chart would be terrifying for Safeco.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Mike E says:

    Or “depth” for our English speaking contingent.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Matt Capps -> Wilson Ramos
    Alex Meyer -> Denard Span

    Two different Minnesota GMs. Mike Rizzo has something figured out.

    +20 Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Greg says:

    Rizzo’s not done. Seems obvious he’s going to let ALR walk, move Morse to 1st, and sign another starting pitcher. Unless he found a trade partner for Morse since Morse and Span are pretty much salary swaps.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Matt says:

      Yeah and it leaves open the possibility of Rendon coming up to play 3b with Zimm moving over to first. Probably won’t happen right away, but Morse isn’t exactly the king of durability either.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Atari says:

        Plus, they still have Tyler Moore as a legit backup option at 1B, Bernadina who can back up all 3 OF spots in 2013, and Lombardozzi as a super utility OF/IF. Provides great flexibility for their 25 man roster. They could carry 3 catchers or 12 pitchers or a specialist PH bat with that roster. Brian Goodwin can be penciled into CF in a couple years. Man, those Nationals really have something going right now.

        +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Colin says:

        FWIW, they have Chad Tracey signed for next year in the PH slot. Had a good 2012, except for a hamstring injury.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Greg says:

        I think Rendon is probably still a year away from the majors, and as long as Zimm’s shoulder heals, he plays gold-glove caliber 3B.

        Once Rendon comes up, barring injury, I would guess he’ll play a Utility role off the bench for a year (similar to what Lombo and Moore have done).

        So, that kicks the can down the road 2 years. Will Zimm move to 1st? Will Espi fail to develop? Will we be able to lock up Desi?

        Personally, I think Tyler Moore may be the future at 1B and Rizzo may want to see 250-300 ABs off the bench out of him. Might be wishful thinking on my part but I think he’s a 30 homer 100 RBI guy that will be cheap for the foreseeable future.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • James says:

        Rendon is certainly at least a half-season away and if he does get a call up in 2013, it likely won’t be to immediately step into a starting role. But the book on him defensively is that he too is capable of playing Gold Glove caliber defense at 3rd. If that holds true it would make some sense to let ALR walk this year and shift Morse to 1st. When Morse’s contract expires after this yeaer, you move RZ to first and pencil Rendon in at 3rd.

        Zim’s got a great glove at the hot corner but he’s been plagued with throwing issues for years now. A somewhat scatter-shot arm and recurring injuries that some think are being caused (or at least exacerbated) by long throws across the diamond means that a move to first will help his longevity, keep him on the field for more games, and possibly provide an uptick at the plate with less stress on his body. He’s instantly be one of the best fielding 1st basemen in the game and his bat’s strong enough to play there.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Craig says:

    This is exactly what the Twins needed to do. Their farm system is loaded with good outfielders and totally devoid of starting pitching. They are planning for a playoff run starting in 3-4 years at the earliest, nothing more.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Wil says:

      I just think they could have gotten back an arm who is closer to the MLB level. You want a guy you can throw into the rotation a year or two before you intend to compete and at least get him seasoned enough to help the team out.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Will H. says:

    Well, glad I wasted my time today trying to figure out what bullpen lefty the should go after… looks like no need to dissect Pagan, Swisher and the rest. But they are going to have to get that lefty arm, either by resigning Burnett (who can cover both sides of the platoon) or pick from a really thin crop left out there now. Nice to have small problems like that and a 5th starter, though. I love this. Especially if this means Morse at first and no overpay for LaRoche they have people they need to be at.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Will H. says:

    Oh, forgot he was a lefty like LaRoche… another reason to cut ties.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Brady says:

    I know Willingham isn’t a SABR friendly player, but being able to get him at a similar deal, or even less since you can make that case he’s a less valuable player (especially if an NL team calls), you have to bite and get him if you need a corner OF bat with power.

    Red Sox
    Pirates
    Tigers (he’s similar to Delmon Young minus the total lack of discipline and more power)
    Padres (who knows what the hell they’re gonna do)
    Rays (need offense)
    Orioles (need to replace McLouth)
    Braves (if they want to sacrifice the range in LF and move Prado to 3rd)
    Seattle (need offense)
    White Sox (would be an upgrade from Viciedo)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. David says:

    Span has been on nats radar for some time, I’m excited we got him in DC. Love the OF of spam Harper werth, hope they re-sign laroche to keep a left handed bat in middle of order. But now I’m hearing werth likes to bat second so Harper is a left handed middle of the order bat for them maybe. Would like to retain laroche for his glove and veteran presence on top of his bat though.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. vivalajeter says:

    Is it possible that GMs across the league just don’t value position scarcity and defense as much as fWAR does? It seems like Span-like players are almost always traded for lesser players (based on fWAR), and they almost always sign for less $$/WAR than players who gain most of their value with the bat (even if they don’t play a scarce position). Maybe most GMs are still dumb, or maybe WAR overrates these types of players.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Greg says:

      I think it may have to do some with the glut of free agent centerfielders, but I’d be curious to see the data.

      Could have to do with his reliance on speed and his age at the end of his contract. You might not want to pay him past the age of 32. You can survive as a great hitter longer than a speed guy/great fielder, and Span is only an average hitter with no power.

      With that said, Alex Meyer isn’t chump change. Rizzo said he would have taken him 6th overall, but Rendon slipped and he pounced. Scouts don’t agree on him, but he could absolutely end up as front-end starter. The Twins wanted to move on from Span, and getting one of the top 50 prospects in the game ain’t bad.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. David says:

    At no point in the article do you mention Alex Meyers full name

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. Slats says:

    Nationals should be in prison for theft.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Justin says:

    Nats now have a solid OF defensively and with Span leading off they’re going to have a crazy lineup 2-6, with some solid backups both offensively and defensively in Bernadina, Lombo, and Moore. And Span’s contract gives them just enough to let the young OF prospects develop – doubt the Nats will need to make an OF move of any sort for the next 4-5 years at this point.

    Now the only question is pitching given that they’ve traded away all of their best prospects between the Gio and Span trades. They still need a 5th guy and some bullpen lefties this season, and long term pitching rotation scenarios get more questionable. Injury remains a hovering possibility to wreck the rotation with young TJ guys sitting there so depth will be key.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Greg says:

      I guarantee Rizzo has his sights set on a starter (since this all but frees up LaRoche’s salary). If he doesn’t get one, we’ll give Christian Garcia and Ryan Perry a shot. If they don’t pan out, he may try to make a deal at the deadline next year.

      Curious to see what we do in the bullpen. We have some guys in the minors who are probably ML-ready but it sure would be nice to find a Lefty to replace Burnett. If Burnett is expecting a 3 or 4 year deal for $5 million a year, then I don’t want him and I doubt Rizzo does.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Dick Whitman says:

    “Yesterday, the Braves spent $75 million to sign B.J. Upton to a contract that is perfectly fair and should provide them with a quality player going forward. Today, the Nationals spent $21 million — and, to be fair, a solid pitching prospect — and got a similarly valuable player in Denard Span. Advantage, Nationals.”

    Not sure how the B.J. Upton deal is “perfectly fair” without being blinded by $/WAR and comparing to Andre Ethier’s ridiculous contract. This Span deal is further evidence that in the market for acquiring baseball players, not just the free agent market, B.J.Upton was an overpay.

    The real market inefficiency isn’t speed, defense, etc. It’s smart GMs making high quality trades while competing GMs are being fleeced on the free agent market.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Haishan says:

      As a Braves fan, it would have been nice to steal Span for 3/21 rather than spend $75M on BJ, but Upton’s got a lot of upside which I think is worth some premium. There’s a decent chance Upton will post a 6+ WAR season in the next few years; unless Span finds a way to hit for power, it’s not very likely for him.

      I agree that $75M is an overpay, though, especially considering the Bravos aren’t going to get serious TV money for another 20 years. Then again, maybe they’re trying to get another ring while they can still compete in the FA market.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivalajeter says:

      And it’s really only fair if you fully agree with fWAR. Baseball Reference finds Upton to be significantly less valuable. Split the difference and it’s a vast overpay, although it’s certainly possible that Baseball Reference just dislikes BJ as much as a married woman does.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • RMD says:

      The new market inefficiency is having good ideas! You should write a book!

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. teddy says:

    80 to 90% chance this stiff the Twins got never see’s the light of day in the major leagues. Wow what another fleece by the Nats over the Twins.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Carry On My Heyward Son says:

    Full disclosure: I’m a Braves fan. But I think there’s something to be said for the Braves’ way of filling their center field position: More money for more years, but at a fair rate, for a younger player, and while keeping their pitching prospects. It was the Braves’ pitching depth that kept them afloat last year after Jurrjens and Hanson struggled and Beachy went down with an injury. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Nationals deal has a clear advantage over the Braves’ deal.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • shs says:

      I would

      the Nats deal for their CF >>>> than the Braves and their’s w/ Upton

      Span by himself as a leadoff man is > than Upton

      Span as a #5 hole hitter isn’t even too far off of Upton.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Carry On My Heyward Son says:

        Span is solid, no doubt about it – he could well end up a wash with Upton in value over the next few years. But Span’s demonstrated upside is high OBP and good fielding, while Upton’s is high OBP, good fielding, and good power. I’d pay a little extra for that upside. And I’d pay a little extra to keep a talented, league-minimum earning, proven young pitcher on my team, too (if the rumors that the Twins wanted Delgado for Span have any basis in reality).

        I don’t know much about Meyer, but if he turns into a valuable piece for the Twins and the Nats later develop a need that he could have filled and end up having to spend money to fill that need, then that money must also be added to the cost of the Span trade.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jason B says:

        “I don’t know much about Meyer, but if he turns into a valuable piece for the Twins and the Nats later develop a need that he could have filled and end up having to spend money to fill that need,”

        That’s a lot of ‘might happens’ – IF a, AND b, AND c…each one tacked on weakens the point you’re trying to make.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Carry On My Heyward Son says:

        My wording may have been clumsy, but my point is simple: Free young pitchers are worth something. I’m glad the Braves still have theirs.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. Antonio bananas says:

    I think the saber community undervalues absolute value. Lets say you have 2 identical teams from a WAR perspective. Team A has their C, 2B, SS, and CF deriving most of their WAR from defense and their 1B, 3B, RF, and LF being offense first. Team B is the inverse. WAR is adjusted for positional scarcity. I bet team A is a lot better because they scored more total runs and saved more total runs. I get that the theory is they don’t, but that is hard to believe.

    This is why I like Upton going to Atlanta. They need absolute runs, Upton has 30 home run upside with solid defense.

    I like this trade by the Nationals. Sign LaRoche, sign Greinke, trade Morse and 2 prospects for Shields.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Balthazar says:

      So Antonio, I agree with you on your observations re: absolute value. The attempt to reduce every ‘run’ to an absolutely equivalent value looks wonderful from a statistical perspective, but has long struck me as more than open to question from an empirical perspective. There clearly seem to me to be exponential tales to the values of runs scored or prevented, for example. This is known, but the weightings don’t seem to reflect this well.

      Further, your point that weighting for positional scarcity _distorts_ the putative purity of “runs are runs, saved or scored” is germane as well. Yes, the formulas are ‘supposed’ to balance this out. Yes, if one takes a huge body of data, it may ‘all average out.’ No, in actual performance in a given season on a _TEAM aggregate_ basis, I’m doubtfult that things reliably averge out as if every run from every position in each skillset is exactly equivalent. It’s the combination of outcomes that lead to runs scored. The current party line is that “the differences are too small to matter.” That could well be true, but there doesn’t seem to be definitive evidence behind that. This was what we used to hear about cather’s defense, for instance, before pitch-framing studies demonstrated that some catchers _do_ accomplish more behind the plate than just stopping the ball’s progress. The refinements in pitchers’ measurements on stranding runs and the like introduced on Fangraphs this year also speak to the impact of subtle, nonlinear tails in performance also. I’m thinking, as you antonio, that positional valuations are due for some finetuning in the same kind of regard.

      To me, this is the next frontier in statistically based analysis, combinatorial results of adjacent skillsets by position. Given the variability of performance, and the large number of instances one needs for any confidence in predictive finding, getting numbers one can believe will take some time and methodology to come by. (Don’t anyone think _I’m_ gonig to to this.) But there likely is an optimal blend of position and performance for certain skillsets. GMs of course try to produce this, but it’s hard to see anyone consistently ahead of the game there, given the financial realities that have to be worked into talent acquisition as well. Still, interesting . . . .

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • antonio bananas says:

        Not only is the positional scarcity thing somewhat misleading at times I think. It’s also a reality based “what’s available” sort of question. The Braves NEED absolute runs right now. I think also that the much easier quantified offensive runs makes these guys easier to chose. Did player X really save 2 wins worth with his glove? Maybe, maybe not. If he plays CF, and you have a league average CF available and above average RF and LF out there, is it really worth it?

        Just seems like a lot of variables that aren’t accounted for as far as the FA market goes. I understand from a valuation standpoint of say, the MVP voting, but when acquiring talent, I think absolute runs and the more quantifiable offense numbers should be given a little more weight.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • David says:

        My only issue with the hypothetical; How, exactly, does a 1b derive most of his value from his defense? I mean if his WAR is somehow equal to an offense only SS (who I assume is at least league average defensively so it doesn’t negatively affect his WAR), goodness, he has to be unbelievable. Last year there doesn’t appear to be a single qualified 1B who had over 200 plays, while there doesn’t appear to be a single SS who had under 200 (and many had many many many more). So if his defensive value is equal to the shortstop from a WAR perspective, he has to be unbelievable.

        On the reverse, brendan ryan is about the absolute epitomy of glove only SS, and was only a 1.7 WAR, making him roughly the equivalent (in value)of Ike Davis or Garrett Jones.

        I mean, you can play with the numbers, but Im not sure the hypothtical is all that revealing. If the teams are truly equal in WAR, almost none of the guys are that valuable. Glove only guys are quivalent to not particularly great players. And just because a SS is mostly offensive, Im not sure Desmond Jennings (Defensive LF) and Jose Reyes (offensive SS) are at that much of a disadvantage to, say, Elvis Andrus (defensive SS) and Josh Willingham (offensive LF). And those are pretty much WAR equivalents.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • David says:

        Though I do agree with antonio Bananas, in the sense that it is important to pay attention to the marginal rates. There are times it is easier to improve your run differential because buying run producers at a spot may be cheaper than buying a run saver, on a per run basis. Or your team could be constructed in a way that with rangy corners you may only lose 3 runs but gain 10 offensively, for a net +7, more cost efficiently than finding an equivalent defensive upgrade of +7 (or vice versa). But I don’t think that is obfuscated by WAR, nor is it a fault in the approach, but rather a fault in how one may use it.

        But I don’t think any issues of lurking, unidentified effects on the run scoring environment are really related to absolute value, personally. Nor does it seem, at least to me, to take away from reducing runs scored/saved to equivalents; More like we arent as good at measuring things as we need to be to get the kind of certainty we may desire, as opposd to a flaw in the approach. I think understanding the effects adjacent skill sets makes sense, but I would question if this is not already internalized by negatively effecting individual players Runs Saved values (I really don’t think this will effect offensive comparisons that much, to be honest). Maybe it would be useful if we could identify the unrealized defensive value due to synergy, such as overlapping ranges in the outfield, using field FX; maybe that would help better identify marginal rates of subsitution, or better evaluate the impact of a transisiton.

        But once again, I don’t think that really is a criticsm of posisitonal value or of run equivalents. Nor do I think it undersells Absolute value, since this approach seems to internalize opportunity cost (the prevalence of a skill set at a posisition), which leads you right back to understanding marginal rates and identifying value on a dollar basis by the kinds of skill sets you purchase at certain posistions.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      Greinke AND Shields? That yields a six-man rotation. Strasburg, Gonzalez, Greinke, Zimmermann, Detwiler, Shields. Woe betide the playoff opponent who must face both Ross Detwiler and James Shields coming out of the bullpen.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. Natman says:

    This move signals the probable end of the LaRoche era in Washington. On a positive side I think Rizzo is playing chess and thinking 10 moves ahead with this pickup. Goodwin needs seasoning, Harper and Werth are better in the corners. Also Moore and Morse are not great outfielders but average to below average first basemen.

    And therein lies the risk. LaRoche had a good bat but his glove is a bit undervalued in a different way then what you guys might be thinking. The defensive values of Desmond and Zimmerman have gone up because he gets to the balls that are not always on target. He’s a Hoover. Mickey Morse and Moore will probably not be able to save some of those throws. And that would devalue both Desmond and Zimmerman. But then Rendon comes up and presumably Zimmerman becomes an above average first baseman in a few years. Or maybe Werth slides down to that position. Regardless its just in time for Brian Goodwin and a dominating Harper.

    Like I said, Rizzo is playing chess right now looking 2-3 years ahead. My guess is he sees a 10 year window for championships.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. harmony says:

    Do three years of Denard Span at $21 million have more trade value than one year of Jacoby Ellsbury at $8 or 9 million? FanGraphs gives Ellsbury a slight edge in career WAR, in a nearly identical number of games, but Baseball Reference gives Span the slight edge in career WAR.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. kiss my GO NATS says:

    Span lets us reach the World Series from the playoffs!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. James says:

    If Meyer makes a successful jump to AA, in today’s world he’s “possibly” shot at Sept. callup and debut in 2014/2015. Span missed significant time with injuries at the end of 2012. Which is the time frame when players need to press-in during a pennant race.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  32. Steve says:

    Why so bitter @ Morse? Am I the only guy that loves his lead-off hitter approach the 2nd half of last season?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. Tanner John 22 says:

    Not acting like TR just pulled the wool over Nats eyes. He’s made some good swaps in the past and I think he possibly got an even trade. Twins fan but Span had concussions, average defense in my estimation, above avg on-base skills but a potential #2 isn’t a bad return.

    Would’ve liked to see another at least scratch of lotto ticket involved that TR seems good at picking up in these deals. But if Twins were asking Delgado from Braves, I’m happier with Meyer who at least has a shot at sticking in rotation, heard reports of bullpen arm on Delgado for year + at this point.

    Definitely not a sure thing but top pitching prospect for Twins off the bat and if they aren’t going to compete til 2014-15, you have to roll the dice and get what you can for a player that’s traditionally underrated I’m all for it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  34. larry says:

    did any of you guys ever watch span play? decent hitter, below average center feilder, could be a decent corner feilder , but watched him get turned around like a little leager on balls over his head , misplay balls and misjudge balls anywhere around the fence way too many times . I am a twins fan, but wont miss span in center field . revere is a highlight reel center fielder…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  35. Tomcat says:

    Well the Grienke deal just got more expensive, with LAD knowing that the Nats are direct competition for the next 4-5 years. A Stras, Grienke Gio, Detwiler rotation wins 110 games next year assuming the offense stays healthy.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  36. Doncosmic says:

    You left out Jzimm

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>