Some Thoughts Inspired By a Late Night Trade Rumor

At around 11 pm eastern time last night, Philadelphia television and radio host Howard Eskin reported the following on Twitter:

As I write this several hours later, no other media entity has followed up on the report, either confirming or debunking, so as I get write this before I go to bed, I am unaware of whether this is a rumor to be taken seriously or something that is more conjecture than reality. So, consider this post less of an analysis of a potential Jose Bautista/Domonic Brown trade and more a collection of thoughts that I’ve had since reading the reactions to the rumor. I will note that these thoughts are mostly directed towards Phillies fans who find abhorrent the idea of acquiring one of the game’s best players.

Be careful not to overstate the predictive power of apparent trends.

A common criticism of Jose Bautista’s future value is that he’s 33 and is trending the wrong way. Both of these statements are true. Over the last three years, Bautista’s wOBA has gone from .443 to .378 to .372, driven primarily by a significant reduction in power; his ISO actually declined for a fourth consecutive year, and has now gone from .357 to .309 to .286 to .239 since the start of the 2010 season. If you just extrapolate the line on its current path, Bautista begins to look much more like like an ordinary player over the next few years rather than the star he has been.

However, extrapolating trends into the future is often completely incorrect, because the reality is that performance often regresses back towards the average of a larger sample performance rather than continuing to move further and further away from a peak. Or, put another way, players who are labeled as “trending downwards” often have a very good performance in their recent history which should continue to inform our opinion of what they will do in the future.

We should not think that Bautista is likely to age poorly because he appears to be quickly decelerating from lofty heights; if he had been less good in 2010 and 2011, his decline would appear less aggressive, but our projection for him would actually be less optimistic, not more. Bautista’s remarkable 2010 and 2011 seasons still hold some predictive value, and the fact that they were amazing instead of just okay is a point in Bautista’s favor, not a point to be held against him because he has not sustained that level of performance since.

For instance, the excellent Steamer projection system forecasts Bautista for a .385 wOBA/144 wRC+ in 2014, marks that are better than his numbers in both 2012 and 2013, even though he’s getting older and his skills are eroding. Relative to his 2013 performance, Bautista’s expected future production is actually an upwards trend, not a continuation of a linear decline. It is one thing to expect a natural and continued decline in a player’s skills as he ages, but make sure you’re decaying from the right starting spot. The most recent single season isn’t it, especially if the seasons that came before it were significantly better.

One can protect the future with finances as well as with talent.

A key part of the value of acquiring Jose Bautista is acquiring his contract. He is under team control for another three seasons at $14 million per year, but only the next two of those three seasons are guaranteed, as the third year is a club option. In essence, Bautista is a star player guaranteed just $28 million over the next two seasons, which is essentially what the market chose to give to Torii Hunter and Ryan Dempster last year. If you solely describe Bautista’s contract in terms of annual average value, $14 million per year doesn’t sound like such a great deal, especially considering that Brown is slated to make something close to the league minimum again in 2014.

However, as we discussed last week, the contract trend for elite players now is length over annual cost, and teams that want to acquire players of Bautista’s stature have had to choose to take on expected dead money in order to obtain a few valuable years at the front end of a long term contract. There is simply no way to acquire a player of Bautista’s caliber on a two or three year commitment in free agency. Hunter Pence, an inferior player to Bautista, recently landed a five year deal without even testing the market. Shin-Soo Choo, also not as good as Bautista, may very well get six or even seven years.

The short term of the commitment to Bautista essentially insulates any team who owns him from the risks that are almost required now to have a star hitter on the roster. If you want a +4 to +5 win player, you basically have to accept that a contract that will carry them well beyond their productive years. Unless you trade for Jose Bautista. If you do that, then you get the short-term rewards of an elite player without any of the long term pain. Losing Domonic Brown might deflate the Phillies future talent base, but acquiring Bautista without sacrificing additional financial flexibility would leave the team with the chance to sign a Domonic Brown replacement when Bautista’s contract runs out, rather than suffering through more years of paying a player for what he used to be.

Future team performance is not bound by recent team performance.

Forgive me if this sounds too similar to the first thought, but nearly every time a team coming off a losing record adds quality Major League veterans, there are always the comments suggesting that moving from 75 wins to 80 wins is meaningless, and I saw similar responses to the idea of the Phillies acquiring Bautista. This is a team that went 73-89 in 2013, and their starting catcher is probably on his way out the door, leaving yet another hole for a team that lacks young talent to fill the gaps. According to some, this means they should simply pack it in and accept 90 losses. I heartily disagree.

At the risk of being obnoxious, I am going to quote an article I wrote last year, entitled Why I’m Not a Fan of Losing on Purpose.

Just one standard deviation on pythag last year was +/- four wins, and that variance is based on knowing runs scored and runs allowed. When you factor in the sequencing gap on those events, your standard deviation grows to something closer to eight wins. And that assumes that you have perfect forecasts, both in terms of performance and playing time.

Which, of course, no one has. We can make pretty decent guesses about player performance and slightly less decent guesses about player health, but these forecasts aren’t anywhere close to being perfect, and one team isn’t a large enough sample for all the missed forecasts to come out in the wash. Some teams just over-perform their true talent levels for six months. Other teams are destroyed by injuries or sell off their best players at the trade deadline, and these are things we basically can’t predict in advance.

Realistically, when you add up the uncertainty around the projections themselves, the wide variability in team health, and then the effects of mostly random sequencing on events that lead to runs and wins, we’re left with a team forecast that can’t really be any more precise than some projected mean, plus or minus at least 10 wins, and quite possibly more. If we think the Marlins were an 80 win team before the big trade last week, then what we were really saying is that they were likely to finish with somewhere between 70 and 90 wins, and maybe more like 65 and 95.

We don’t know what the 2014 Phillies roster is going to look like yet. We’re pretty sure about some players, and we have a general idea of how much improvement is possible in off-season, but we can’t really put together a reasonable forecast of how any team is going to do next year, given that there are still so many pieces to be moved this winter. And then, even when all the rosters are set, we still have something like +/- 10 to 15 wins as our error bars on preseason forecasts. To pretend that we know that the 2014 Phillies cannot and will not be a competitive team is simply overstating our ability to predict the future.

The Phillies have work to do to become a contender, sure. They weren’t very good last year, and they would need to import significant upgrades in order to get back in the race next year. But acquiring Jose Bautista is a significant upgrade. You would have a tough time coming up with more than a half dozen teams that could run out a better Top 4 than Bautista, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Chase Utley. Steamer projects those four players to produce about +15 WAR between them next year, so to be a contender, they’d need to get +20 to +25 WAR from the other 21 spots on their roster. Are we really prepared to call that an impossibility without even knowing who those 21 players are going to be?

It’s a good thing the Red Sox, Indians, and Pirates didn’t pack it in after losing seasons in 2012; each pursued quality veteran free agents last winter, and each got to the postseason thanks in large parts to free agent veterans acquired a year ago. Not every losing team is a free agent spending spree away from turning into a winner, but deciding in early November that a team perhaps adding its fourth All-Star caliber player is still a non-factor in 2014 would require an ability to see the future that none of us actually possess. Teams should not fail to improve their rosters simply because they were not playoff contenders the year before.

It is entirely possible to sell high on a young player.

Consider this the flipside of the aging curve argument from point #1. Breakout seasons most often occur when a player has been, to that point, mostly terrible, or at least unremarkable. To have a breakout season requires there to be some past history of mediocrity. A recent surge of excellence following a steady diet of underperformance does not mean that we can simply dismiss entirely what came before the breakout.

For instance, here are some of the players who “broke out” at age-25 in 2012, as Brown did at the same age in 2013.

Player Pre-breakout wRC+ 2012 wRC+ 2013 wRC+
Austin Jackson 94 134 107
Pedro Alvarez 91 112 111
Josh Reddick 84 108 92
Michael Saunders 59 108 98
Alcides Escobar 69 96 49
Average 79 112 91

These five young players had all hit pretty poorly up until the 2012 season, then produced at an average or better clip to provide hope that they were finally living up to their prospect hype. Alvarez is the only one whose offense didn’t take a step the wrong way last year, but even he just maintained his prior improvements and didn’t continue to build on them. The average (non-weighted, to not bias the data in favor of those who played well and thus earned more playing time) performance of the group in 2013 was actually closer to their pre-breakout numbers than their age-25 season, even though it was the most recent data point.

Just like old players can have “fluke” seasons, so can young players, only when a young player has a fluke season, it’s usually called a breakout instead. Maybe Domonic Brown really did take huge sustainable steps forward last year, but history suggests that it’s probably more prudent to expect him to maintain or regress than it is to improve yet again. Just like Bautista shouldn’t be expected to linearly trend downwards, taking Brown’s 2013 performance and forecasting upwards from there is also a mistake.

Whether or not this rumor ever amounts to anything, I think it’s worth noting these points even as a general reminder not specific to Phillies fans or Blue Jays fans. If the Phillies acquire Bautista, we’ll do a breakdown of the deal and what it means to both teams. For now, though, let’s at least be willing to accept that trends aren’t linear and there are way too many things that aren’t knowable to be telling the Phillies that they should stop trying to win.




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

80 Responses to “Some Thoughts Inspired By a Late Night Trade Rumor”

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  1. Chicago Mark says:

    Nice read Dave. Aging poorly sure is an easy catch phrase. FG has data that shows aging/production curves. But at some point the Phillies need to decide if the Bautista numbers are a trend or an outlier. He WILL age to a point where he becomes useless. That is a fact. Brown’s production for the next few years is less certain because of a lack of past history. Is that redundant? If the Phillies are all in now they should take the risk. But if they believe they are in a position to continually contend because of their payroll abilities along with Brown and other younger players there is little need to take the risk. Is there? A bad Bautista will mess them up for a couple more years. A bad Brown allows them $$ flexibility to manage that failure better. Dang that was hard to write. Does it make any sense?

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  2. Stringer Bell says:

    The Phillies are just trying to be the oldest team ever.

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    • tz says:

      Older guys playing at a discount just might be the new Moneyball.

      Don’t forget Bautista is twice as good as Howard, at half the cost. And younger too.

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      • harpago17 says:

        Thing A being better than Thing B, when Thing B is one of the worst Things around, does not necessarily mean that Thing A is a good thing.

        That said I think Bautista is good player, I just think that this argument in his favor is completely illogical.

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        • tz says:

          What?? If my name was Scott Boras, and I said the exact same thing to you, you’d at least say “hmmmmm”.

          SMH

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        • wally says:

          I’d say, “And ….”

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        • Brad Johnson says:

          It’s a bit of a hyperbole to describe Ryan Howard as one of the “worst Things around.” Most over-rated by his own GM? Maybe. Worst? Not even close.

          What Howard needs more than anything is to never face a left-handed pitcher with a breaking ball (aka all left-handed pitchers). Ryne Sandberg and Amaro have made comments that hint this may finally happen in 2014.

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    • The Phillies says:

      Well, last season we tried to get Young-er by acquiring Delmon and Michael and that did not work, so why wouldn’t we try getting older?

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  3. Stuck in a slump says:

    This is a great article Dave. I often have trouble reading some of your articles because of the tone that you tend to take, but in this you shutdown the naysayers in a way that doesn’t come off as arrogant. I hope that this marks a change in your writing style as the information that you usually give us is amazing, but the tone can often be distracting.

    I wonder if you (or some one else at the site) could do a more comprehensive piece on breakout seasons and their predictive value using a larger sample size going back like 10 years or so.

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    • Dave Cameron's Puppy says:

      The tone that Dave usually takes? So I guess you just hate logic.

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      • Dave's puppy inherited his snark says:

        This type of comment is just what he’s referring to–typing the types of uppity things that you would never say to a person’s face, lest that person sock you in the nards.

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      • Oh, Beepy says:

        As someone who frequently gets some of the writers’ styles here stuck in his craw, I must say that taking issue with Dave’s writing is a new concept with me. Meaning this as complimentarily as possible to the other writers here, I feel that Dave is by far the best.

        So yeah, no idea man.

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        • Stuck in a slump says:

          In a few articles that I’ve read of Dave’s where he picks apart decisions or a prominent opinion, he has had the tendency to come off as arrogant because of how he treats said decisions/opinions. In this article it felt much different. It wasn’t “no, you’re wrong, let me make snide remarks and/or talk down to you while I tell you all the ways that you are wrong”, Dave, in this article, listed the flaws in the argument that the Phills shouldn’t try to get better by trading for Battista while maintaining a respectful tone that doesn’t talk down to, but instead tries to be on level with the people he disagrees with.

          Dave has been better in his article writings lately, but a few years ago he felt more adversarial. Maybe it has something to do with the increased popularity, usage, and understanding of sabermetrics, maybe its something that he’s been working on, who knows? All I can say was that I didn’t even realize I was reading a DC article until I was done, and I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing several of the writing styles here.

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        • wally says:

          I’ve been reading this site basically since it became a site to read, and its really only Dave’s writing that can occasionally get under my skin. Even if I tend to agree with what he’s saying, I often feel the need to argue with him. He just invites conflict that much sometimes.

          Of course I don’t have time to comment much any more so that feeling of needing to argue really turns into me just not reading the whole of his post.

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    • Communist China says:

      Yeah, I guess you could say his chats can get a bit… condescending? That’s not the best word, but it can be standoffish. Either way, I’ve never seen his articles to be the same tone, so I don’t get what you’re saying there.

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      • nada says:

        One of my all-time favorite moments of DC condescension was in a thread a few weeks ago in which he replied to a comment he disliked by saying:

        “No, I’m sorry, that’s not how it works.”

        That was the whole comment. That’s not logic, that’s an appeal to authority: “I am Dave Cameron, and I know more than you, and thus you are wrong.”

        (Granted, that was in a comment thread and not an article.)

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        • jruby says:

          Comment thread is here, about 15 comments down: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/accepting-dead-money-in-free-agent-contracts/#comments

          To summarize:

          Commentor – GMs, especially on bad teams, don’t necessarily have an incentive to think long-term, because if their moves work, good for them, and if not, they won’t be around in 5 years anyway.

          Dave – GMs’ incentives in such large deals (of the kind at issue in the article) are often actually secondary to the owners’ desires.

          Commentor – GMs are the brains behind the operation, no owner’s actually going to be presented different options on huge deals by the owner.

          Dave – “No, sorry, that’s not how it works.”

          For what it’s worth, I think Dave’s right, and was more or less reasserting his earlier comment. But I definitely see what you’re saying too. The presentation is a little… brusque.

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        • NS says:

          It isn’t an appeal to authority. It isn’t an appeal to anything. It’s not an argument; it’s a dismissal.

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    • Hup says:

      Dave we’re so proud of you not being arrogant.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      The problem is that too many people take arguments about baseball personally, for some reason. You can passionately deride my view on player evaluation without having an opinion on me as a person.

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      • wally says:

        Tone matters though. You can avoid insulting someone’s intelligence and still be a dickhole.

        And frankly, if enough people are coming to the same conclusion about Dave’s personality, or at least how his personality is portrayed through these pages, there is probably something to it. Maybe we should crowdsource this?

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  4. Pirates Hurdles says:

    Just curious why this type of deal is OK for Philly, but the Shields trade was terrible for KC last year? Seems a lot like an average team at best selling the future for a run at mediocrity when they should be deconstructing and rebuilding.

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    • David says:

      The Royals gave up 7 years of control for 2 where the Phillies would only be giving up 4 years of control for 3; Wil Myers was the top 4 prospect when traded, while Brown is a former top prospect who’s sucked for years and had his first good season at age 25.

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    • Bill says:

      Because Wil Myers >>> Dom Brown. And Jose Bautista >> James Shields.

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    • jruby says:

      Yeah, swapping out Dom Brown isn’t “selling the future.” True, the rumor is “Dom Brown +,” but the Phils don’t have much plus anyway. Hell, maybe they can snag Bautista now and swap him out for a much bigger prospect package than they gave up to a desparate team in July ’15. Not that that’s what they would be *planning* on…

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    • Joe says:

      In what was considered a “breakout” season for Brown (at age 25, presumably a couple years short of his peak), he accumulated only 1.6 WAR in 540 PA. Compare to Myers, who is considered by most to have much higher upside and who posted 2.4 WAR in 373 PA. Myers also is not considered to be a massive defensive liability like Brown is, and he’s 3 years younger. In a nutshell, he’s already a much more valuable player than Brown and he has greater upside.

      Depending on how you view Shields, a fair assumption is that he’s a true-talent 4 WAR player. The issue here is that the Royals don’t have Shields on a long-term deal. All they have is one last option year and potentially a compensatory draft pick. In all, the Royals will have traded 6 years of team control of potentially a superstar player (who at the very least has shown he’s likely a 4+ WAR player over the course of a year) for 2 years of a 4-win player for which they will have paid $22.5 million.

      On the flipside, you have Jose Bautista who has shown the ceiling of 7-8 WAR player, would still be under contract for 2 years $28mm (plus a team option for a 3rd year) and, as we’ve established, would be traded for a player far inferior to Wil Myers. True, there may be no compensatory draft pick. Also true, we don’t know who else the Jays would receive, but ask yourself which of these two packages seems better:

      1) Trade a 22 year-old current 4 WAR player for 2 years of team control of a 4 WAR pitcher at a slightly below market rate
      2) Trade a 26 year-old current 1.5 WAR player for 3 years of team control of a 4 WAR slugger with potentially significant upside at a below market rate (considering the power premium)

      Seems pretty obvious what the choice is here…

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      • Pirates Hurdles says:

        Yeah I get Myers > Brown, but conceptually this is much more similar. It won’t just be Brown going to Toronto either.

        There is also some revisionist history here. You can’t count Myers as a 4 WAR player at the time of the trade. Also considering Bautista a 7-8 WAR player is pretty far fetched. He’s much more likely to be 4-5 WAR as Steamer agrees.

        Look, I hated the Myers trade for KC, but I also don’t think Philly is in a position to make that type of trade either. Philly should be moving Rollins, Utley, Lee not adding more old players for a run at 3rd place. IMO

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        • Preston says:

          There are a lot of factors here, Myers was considered better and it’s 4 years of Brown instead of 6 years of Myers (and the two years of Brown missing are the cheapest). Plus the Rays got 6 years of Jake Odirizzi who was considered an MLB ready pitcher. Yes you also have to count Wade Davis in it, but how valuable is 2 years of Wade Davis? Plus the differences in team make-up. The Royals are a young team, they should have been looking to extend their window for longer with Myers improving them in RF and Odirizzi stepping into the rotation (and using the money they spent on Shields to upgrade pitching more) . Two of the Phillies best players are Chase Utley and Cliff Lee, there window to build around those players is considerably smaller.

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        • Preston, you’re assuming there even is a window. I’d do the trade just to flip Bautista. You have a shit farm, dom brown isn’t the player everyone thought he would be, you’re old, the show is over. You need a farm but you don’t have to be awful in the meantime.

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    • Joebrady says:

      It only goes to show how bad the KC trade was.

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    • Zeke says:

      I think the biggest difference from KC is actually the ages of the rosters. Philly’s beyond doomed in a year or two regardless of what they do, so sacrificing the future for on last shot makes some sense, even if their window is probably already closed. KC is theoretically in a position to try to build a long-term winner, so sacrificing the future is a much bigger cost.

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      • TKDC says:

        They also have more to count on in terms of resurgences. As is mentioned in the article, Bautista, Utley, Lee, and Hamels is a damn good best 4 players. KC couldn’t touch that going into last year.

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  5. ALEastbound says:

    I wouldn’t be opposed to AA exploring trades for Jose Bautista and perhaps I overrate Joey Bats but Dominic Brown would be a very underwhelming return. That woukdnt fill any of the current holes on a roster seemingly built to win now nor a top prospect to he excited about.

    Profar always made sense to me but I could be dreaming.

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  6. Napes says:

    I find it very hard to consider Michael Saunders as someone who broke out in 2012.

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  7. Rick Leask says:

    A better deal to me would be Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes, plus $5 million per year for 4 years in return for Miller, Rosenthal, Taveras and Wong. St. Louis would have the bats and the short stop it needs for next 3 years to be a favourite for the WS without seriously impacting its roster. Toronto would have to find a short stop like Drew or could look at trading E5 for Profar.

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    • Joebrady says:

      Sure, and as a RS fan, a better deal for me would be Lester & Dempster + $12M for Miller, Rosenthal, and Taveras. Just ain’t happening.

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    • Oh, Beepy says:

      This is one of the most hilariously unrealistic trade proposals I’ve seen in a long line of hilariously unrealistic trade proposals. Thanks for the laugh.

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      • TKDC says:

        No, E5 for Profar seems like a fair trade for both sides. Have you seen his RBI numbers?

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        • Dayton Moore says:

          Profar didn’t even hit his weight last year. No way the Jays would take such a crazy deal. Not when both Michael Young AND Nelson Cruz are available as free agents.

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        • Jose Altuve says:

          Is this comment satire? E5 projects to be one of the league’s top 10 hitters next year, and Profar may never do anything.

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    • Eric says:

      I’m sure St Louis would LOVE to do that deal.

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    • Rule of Law says:

      Ha… Haarrrgh… Hrrrakh… Well, you all know what laughing sounds like.

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    • Why the hell would st. louis shorten their window? Bautista, Reyes, Waino, Holliday, and Yadi all only have a few top years left. That’d be expensive too. Taveras, rosenthal, and miller all have huge upside and won’t has a low floor. Plus they’re cheap.

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  8. nada says:

    “Steamer projects those four players to produce about +15 WAR between them next year, so to be a contender, they’d need to get +20 to +25 WAR from the other 21 spots on their roster.”

    I have to take issue with this statement. Although it sounds good to say that you only need to get +20-25 WAR from 21 spots on the roster, it’s actually much harder than it sounds.

    For instance, the entire team WAR last year was under 10. The whole team! Many of their best players will bounce back, granted. But even if the stars all meet their projections, they are on track (by Steamer projections) to get under 10 WAR from the other guys, the ones that fill out the roster.

    That means that they have to add +15 WAR to those players, which is not an easy task. The Red Sox managed it last year, barely, but they seem like the very best case scenario for this strategy, not the median outcome.

    Finally, my bet is that the way that Steamer projections fail changes as players get older. By that I specifically mean players get injured more often when they are older, and so the Steamer projections more often completely miss out on their WAR because they produce ~0.

    The Phillies will be going into the year with an extremely injury prone roster, and very little depth. The best case scenario for them is the 2013 BoSox, but the vastly more likely scenario, especially with RAJ at the helm, is a partial implosion in which one or more of their veterans get hurt and they have no one to replace them.

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  9. Baginasouris says:

    Beer >>> Bautista >>> Brown >>> balsagna

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  10. Plucky says:

    From the Phillies standpoint, there’s a certain logic to trading Brown in any circumstance. If they view themselves in a 2012-Sox kind of way and think they can really compete now (which all accounts suggest they do), and they think Bautista can hold down 3B, then Bautista at 3B probably produces more wins than does Brown in corner OF in the next 2 years, even if Brown is more dollar-efficient. If they were to embark on a rebuild (which many people think they ought to do), then Brown would be in this awkward spot (comparable to Pence on the Astros in 2011) where his maximum trade value occurs during a rebuild on a club with a weak farm system. In the latter case, now (or perhaps a year from now) is when the Phils would want to make the trade-him-or-extend him choice.

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  11. Joebrady says:

    The numbers make no sense from a WAR perspective.

    Steamer, for Brown, for 2014, is 2.0. Assuming a moderate growth rate, I would expect to see a 2.0, 2.4, 2.8, and a 3.2 over the control years. I assume salaries of .5, 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5. Assuming $5M/WAR, I come up with 10.4 * $5M, less a salary of $8M, for an excess value of $46M.

    Steamer for Bautista for 2014, is 4.6. Even assuming no regression for 3 years, it becomes 4.6 * $5M, less salary of $14 * 3, or an excess value of $27M.

    That’s an excess value for Brown of $17M. You could argue against Brown’s growth, but he is a former #3 prospect, and his control years are 26-29. And I am assuming no regression for Bautista.

    And the $17M might be understated, since inflation for the 4th year of control for Brown could conceivably increase his value by $1M * 3.5 WAR, and it doesn’t account for the greater likelihood of Brown receiving a QO.

    I will concede that teams make trades with considerations other than pure $$$, but from just a value perspective, it looks to me like Brown has a material advantage.

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    • jruby says:

      Definitely possible, but I think Steamer’s 2.0 for Brown is a little optimistic. I’d guess more like 7.5 WAR rather than 10.4 for the next 4 years. That still leaves more excess value for Brown, especially if Bautista is more like 12 wins instead of 13.8, but in a small amount that the other considerations (like those in Plucky’s comment above) could outweigh the pure win value in this particular case.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      Domonic Brown is pretty risky as he has never really done anything with his other 500~ bats. Almost all his value this year came from a .222 ISO, which we have to see if it is sustainable (Though I doubt he is repeating a 19.3% HR/FB): Aside from that, his plate numbers took a downward turn, swinging more and making less contact, walking less and striking out more, while having always been dreadfuly defensively, with a -15.9 FanGraphs Defense rating. It’s probably optimistic to project him to keep actually going up in WAR per year because this year he only improved one skill in power. Being a former #3 prospect means nothing.

      The Phillies won’t be competing at the tail end of the various expensive veteran deals they have, so wins later are worth less to them than wins now from a perspective of winning the World Series, which could make up for the monetary.

      The question would be: Is the loss of excess value worth the increase in actual value (WAR) and how you project Domonic Brown, who is very risky (I could see him as a 2-3+ WAR player and I could see him putting up negative WAR).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Joebrady says:

        1-I left risk out because it looks to me like there is risk on both sides.

        The risk on the Brown side is that he has stopped developing at age 25 and 1,000 PAs. But that is not usually the case.

        The risk on Bautista is that he has, like so many others, peaked at the age of 33. And the added risk is that he is injury prone.

        The 4.6 WAR that I used was based on Steam, which was based on a .262/.375/.519/.894. His stats over the past two years, which is not an insignificant period of time, is .251/.358/.510/.868. The idea that he should revert to stats more than two years old, at an age where decline is expected, is highly uncertain.

        Seems to me that the risk/reward is fairly similar on both sides. And my money probably sides with the 26 year old improving over the 33 year old improving.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Bautista’s whole career has been a fluke. Up to his age 28 season he was very below average, then two great seasons followed by two good seasons.
    Everyone that put this guy in the automatic HOF catagory after 2011 ought to be ashamed. Domonic Brown is only 26 y/o, trading him for Bautista seems crazy.

    -16 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • cass says:

      I am certain they are very ashamed.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jason B says:

        They are not – not any more than the tooth fairy or Santa Claus has the capacity to feel shame – because they are only constructs, not actual people.

        +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jason B says:

      “Everyone that put this guy in the automatic HOF catagory after 2011 ought to be ashamed.”

      No one did this. Not one single person ever in the history of the planet earth. Not even Mama Bats.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Mr Punch says:

    The Phillies are in a position to contend in 2014 – 90 wins for the WC is not out of the question, and the division is not very strong. They’re a big-market team that should try to remain competitive even while rebuilding. Old can work, as the Red Sox showed. It all comes down to their assessment of Brown: is he a building block for the future, who will continue to develop, or a fungible current asset? Once that decision is made, the course is clear (assuming the deal as described is on the table).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Utah Dave says:

      Braves + Nationals = Not very strong?

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      • nada says:

        yeah, I don’t get that. If anything, it’s the opposite, and the strength of the Braves and Nationals means they should forgo competing until they have a really solid roster, as opposed to a collection of antique veterans and scraps they can salvage from free agency or trades.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Joebrady says:

          My view on that is (same with my RS), that a team with max payroll should be able to have enough talent on the roster that they can afford logical moves.

          For example, the NYY should’ve traded CC while the could’ve last year.

          The RS, if they can’t extend Lester, should trade him for value (depending on what they get).

          If you spend $170M or so, you shouldn’t have to make short term at the expense of long term gains. You should have enough of a squad to forego trading the future.

          Or, put another way, if I owned the team, and the GM came to me wanting to trade away a very good prospect, I’d have to ask him why the $170M I just gave him, wasn’t enough.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          Because not every free market has the players you need or want to spend that $170M on and selling prospects is one of the better ways to make value.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Even with 170M, you need good, cheap players to add value. Philly has none of these.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          Yes, but that’s because Philly has a lot of money in unproductive players and a poor Gm who doesn’t hire cheap role players to provide value.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Pops says:

    One of the better articles that I’ve read on Fangraphs. This is exactly the point that I’ve been trying to make with a friend of mine in regards to the Phillies and their immediate future.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Spencer D says:

    This is pie in the sky, but: Lee + Rollins for Rendon. Phillies eat a bunch of salary. I don’t want this to happen, though. The Phillies can keep Amaro for the next decade as far as I’m concerned.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. 2p1s says:

    Great article

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Rule of Law says:

    Phillies fans, everyone.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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