Applying the Guttridge-Wang trade model to this year’s deadline trades (Part 1)

Before we start, allow me to recap and elaborate upon some of the finer points here.

The WAR figures here are compiled from publicly available calculations of WAR, to which I apply aging factors and calculate weighted averages. For Major Leaguers, I use WAR calculations from FanGraphs, which are wOBA and UZR based for hitters, and FIP-based for pitchers. If and when minor league data is used in a projection (which generally means a player who has spent more than just rehab time in the minors over the past 2.5 years), I use MLE FIPs from Minor League Splits for pitchers, and use Minor League Splits’ MLE on hitters to produce a wOBA calculation, which I then convert to WAR using Fangraphs’ methodology. The minor league data will rarely be a big part of the equation, however; for anyone with less than a year of service time, we are using Victor’s previously described prospect slotting method. And trades of players with, say, 1.5 years of service time are semi-rare.

Are these the figures I would use if I were sitting in a front office? Nope. But for the purposes of understanding a club’s rationale and the implications of a trade, this will do fine. This methodology also takes into account 2009 data when when projecting value for the remainder of 2009, something many other systems fail to do. As in, if a player had wOBAs of .320, .335, and .307 over the last three seasons (which would predict a .318, using 5-3-2 weighting), and was at a .343 wOBA halfway through 2009, his projection from here forth is not still .318. This should be obvious, but it’s a common error.

I’m using Victor Wang’s prospect values, which you can see here. Victor’s work on this is excellent; I simply made some adjustments to reflect our new economic climate and changed how he discounted future value for prospects ever so slightly. I’m using $4 million per WAR now; that is just a tick below what it was last offseason. And my primary source for slotting prospects was Baseball America’s top 100 list, cross-referenced with grades from Jon Sickels. Obviously, there’s a bit of room for subjectivity here, but it rarely makes more than $1 million difference if you decide to bump someone up or down a slot.

Also, for all the trades here, I’m examining them from the perspective of the contender. If you recall from the article, these are not zero-sum equations; just because one team “lost” $2.2 million of surplus value does not mean the other team gained the same amount, due to divergent near-term goals (ie. Cliff Lee is worth more to the Phillies than the Pirates) and varying ability to replace a player.

Now, onto the deals.

Cliff Lee from Cleveland to Philadelphia for Carlos Carrassco, Jason Knapp, Jason Donald and Lou Marson

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While nobody heading to Cleveland is a blue chip prospect (with the possible exception of Jason Knapp), the Phillies gave up an awful lot of value here. Baseball America had Donald and Marson each in the 60s on their top 100 list; I find both slottings to be at least a bit generous, especially with Donald. I slotted him down to a 75-100 hitting prospect based on his subpar ’09. I could easily have done the same for Marson. If I did, the trade would be a virtual wash from Philly’s perspective. However, I easily could have bumped Knapp up a bit too; he’s obviously an incredible talent, but 18-year-old pitchers are, to say the least, risky, and there’s a lot more value in someone who can start contributing in three months than three years.

Philly would have done very well to turn up their nose to Ben Francisco and see if they could convince Cleveland to drop one of the lesser prospects from the deal. Francisco is nothing you can’t find on the waiver wire, and I find it hard to believe Cleveland wouldn’t have dealt Lee alone for Carrasco, Marson, and either Donald or Knapp. Here’s how that would have looked:

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That said, I still like the move the Phillies made; they managed to get a year and a half of a frontline starting pitcher with a well below market deal without touching Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown or Michael Taylor. Besides, they’ve done really well to get themselves into some very favorable long-term contracts with the right players (Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels). Combine that with their recent success, and Philly can afford to trade away a future No. 3 starter and instead plan to buy one on the FA market when needed.

As far as Cleveland is concerned, in terms of raw value, they did very well or even great here. But which way is the ship going? I rationalized the DeRosa trade a few weeks ago by accepting that they were going to try to contend next year, and reasoning that a cheap seventh/eighth inning arm (like Chris Perez) could be an important chip in that process. That almost justified giving up DeRosa in return for such mediocre ceiling.

But while Carrasco and Marson are likely ready to contribute on some level right now, are they going to be impact players in some sort of playoff push in 2010? Very unlikely. In giving up Lee, a No. 1 starter signed for $10 million next year, Cleveland has made it clear that 2010 is not their time. I feel for Mark Shapiro, really; this team has had some awful luck the past couple seasons. But for the sake of his own job security, you might think he’d have wanted to be more aggressive with his 2010 vision.

Victor Martinez from Cleveland to Boston for Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price

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I know that since I have spreadsheets full of baseball statistics on my computer, I’m supposed to have a man-crush on Theo Epstein. But I just do not see the logic here.

So Victor Martinez gives you the ability to play the matchup game especially well between Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek. But you give up Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price for that?

Martinez is locked in at a nice bargain price for 2010 (even with the salary escalator he receives for being traded). And sure, Boston is awash in young pitching for the time being.

But to me, this is like Bill Gates paying a million bucks for a haircut. Does it provide him some value? Yup. Can he afford it? Totally. But that doesn’t mean it was a good deal for him. Cleveland probably should have accepted Masterson straight-up, at most with a Jason Place to be named later sprinkled in for effect.

Back to Cleveland; combined with the Lee deal, they’ve rounded up four of perhaps the top 60 pitching prospects in the game, plus a very good looking young starter in Masterson, before you even get to Marson and Donald. This is the Oakland/Texas model of the past couple years: building the farm system via trades. You can agree or disagree with the goal, but you have to admit that once they made up their minds, they knocked it out of the park.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

Jake Peavy from San Diego to the White Sox for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter

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Ladies and gentlemen, behold possibly the worst deadline deal in recent memory.

Jake Peavy may or may not pitch again this year. Over the last year and a half, he’s been on the shelf for roughly one-third of the time. And, he’s locked into a deal that pays him more than he would receive on the open market today.

Now, the current projection I have for Peavy may well be a bit harsh; when healthy, he’s one of the top five to eight starters in the game, and that projection would imply he’s somewhere around the 25th. But I don’t feel comfortable just completely ignoring the injury history, especially since they included elbow issues last year.

Just for the sake of argument, here’s how Peavy looks if he essentially returns to ’06-’07 form and stays there:

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It’s still a terrible deal.

Now, you know what? This is going to be a silent killer; like the Carlos Lee contract. What I mean is, nobody really pays attention to how bad of a contract Carlos Lee has because he’s meeting expectations with the bat, and Minute Maid Park makes it look even better, so no perception exists that Houston didn’t get the player they signed. If you were a .300 hitter, then signed a $15 million contract, and continued to hit .300, nobody calls you overpaid, even if you were only worth $12 million a year to begin with.

The worst aspects of that contract (the $4 million or so a year he’s overpaid along with the length of the contract the late years) are invisible; when you’re watching Lee put up a .900 OPS, it doesn’t immediately strike you that his overpriced contract comes at the expense of other areas of the roster, or that he’s going to be a huge drag on the organization pretty soon.

I imagine it will be the same with Peavy. Regardless of what happens for the rest of 2009, 12 months from now, all people will really think about is that Jake Peavy is one of the top pitchers in the game, and Kenny Williams went and got him. The fact that controlling fourth starters and middle relief pitchers like Richard and Russell through arbitration (instead of buying them on the open market) is a tremendous asset for an organization is just not what’s on the mind of a ChiSox fan while he’s watching Jake Peavy shut out the Tigers next July.

The fact that what you’re paying Peavy could have bought you much more value on the open market will be forgotten by then. Odds are Poreda is not going to be leading a rotation into a World Series in the next couple years. Carter may not have a year of service time before Peavy’s contract is up. So, despite their value (both present in terms of trading capital, and future in terms of on-field), nobody is going to say “Oh ####, Kenny Williams blew it” anytime soon, or likely ever.

So, unless Peavy continues to blow himself up with injuries, Kenny Williams is going to get praised for this move, whether in October, next July, 2011, or all of the above. But the people doing the praising will not be taking an adequate measure of the pros and cons of the choice he made at the time, which was abominable.

If you saw a guy leaving a poker table with $50,000, you’d think he played like a master. But you weren’t there to see that he sat down with $500,000. Kenny Williams is that guy.


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James Tetreault
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James Tetreault
If the value assumed for each player is only regular season value, then these calculations don’t tell the whole tale.  If Victor Martinez, for example, give the Red Sox a better chance at getting to the playoffs and advancing in each round then that has some value as there’s certainly value in a team hosting those games and the value to a franchise in revenue of being a champion. I understand that this value is difficult to quantify and the degree to which Victor Martinez, for example, makes it more achievable.  But there is definitely some value there that isn’t… Read more »
Justin Smith
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Justin Smith

While a somewhat interesting read, this model will always value quantity over quality. 

Has your model ever tilted towards the team acquiring the “star” while giving up 3 or more players in return?  I highly doubt it.

Keith Clark
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Keith Clark
As far as the Red Sox and Victor Martinez goes . . I think you might be mistaken in assuming Masterson is actually a starter.  Sure, he held down the fort earlier in the season with some spot starts but he has some troubling splits in K/BB K/BB vs righties: 40/15 K/BB vs lefties:  28/25 Now these numbers may change with time if he’s able to develop a usable changeup but until that happens I feel like he might be a late game specialist. Price has control problems sometimes and reports are that he can be easily rattled (which I’m… Read more »
David_R
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David_R

Shouldn’t future wins and salary be discounted to get a NPV-type view? Seems like the teams acquiring the “star” are trading wins later for wins now.

Greg
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Greg
Interesting piece. I agree with the comments made by the two commenters above. I also think that a problem with this method is it does not take into effect relative value to the team. If you’re replacing a player like Bartolo Colon in the White Sox rotation with Peavy (someone who is likely to post a negative value), Peavy becomes more valuable (though admittedly this would be true with most pitchers). You also seem to make a couple dangerous assumptions. One is to know what the market for players is, especially elite players. In the “current market” AJ Burnett, who… Read more »
David Paye
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David Paye

I don’t disagree that the Sox gave up quite a bit considering the control they had over their players versus the 1.5 years they have with Martinez.

But in Boston’s defense…they simply have enough that they can do stuff like this. Why risk haggling too long and missing the deadline. They’re like the millionaire who overpays for the limited model sports car. It’s not efficient, but it doesn’t have to be if they get what they want.

It would be more bothersome if Boston didn’t have a deep farm system. But they do. They have much better prospects that Hagadone and Price.

Ben
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Ben
I totally disagree with your assesment of Justin Masterson. We have plenty of pithcers in our system and Masterson was never going to join our rotation. Granted he is very young has has room to develop but he cannot get lefties out and until he figures that out, he will have a tough time starting games. Hagadone could be the best out of the three. He projects as a middle of the line starter or a closer. That being said he is coming off manjor surgery and once again, we can replace relievers in our system. We did’t have to… Read more »
Ron Burgundy
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Ron Burgundy

I know it’s one of the more minor moves, but I’d like to know how the Sanchez – Alderson deal measures up in this model. Any chance we could get a quick and dirty net from the Giants side?

Chris Fiorentino
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Chris Fiorentino
Anytime one tries to use numbers to substantiate a trade objectively, it is a futile effort.  I bet if you look back at every single trade made in the last 30 years, they will all favor the team trading the one guy.  Potential is what it is…POTENTIAL.  The fact is that, in the Red Sox and Phillies cases, the trades made the teams BETTER THIS YEAR.  PERIOD.  EXCLAMATION POINT.  If the younger players that were traded end up becoming Cy Young, Hank Aaron, and Mariano Rivera, but the 2009 World Series consists of the Phillies vs the Red Sox, would… Read more »
Tom Jackson
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Tom Jackson
Err, Could you make sure J.P. Ricciardi or one of his assistants: Tony LaCava or Alex Anthopoulos see this. Like, before the offseason? Help them figure out what Doc along with any other tradeable assets are worth before I have to suffer through another “stare them down and nothing gets done because my asking price is unreasonably high” BS session. I’m not sure what economy he’s operating in, but it ain’t this one. This is the new math baby, adapt or die. By the way, would it be possible to see what he “should” be asking for from the various… Read more »
Steve
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Steve

Where would the Astros have gotten the production of Lee if they hadn’t overpaid for him?  The market is not like a buffet where there are unlimited options to choose from. 

The additional revenue that acquiring players like Peavy and Lee provide, make their contracts more reasonable.  Not just the millions of dollars a playoff appearance adds to the club, but from secondary income as in merchandise sales, ticket sales, etc.  While their production may say they are a $12 million player, their name says they’re worth more.

josh
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josh

this is the dumbest theoried spread sheet ever…  The value of the prospects could be 0 and if it does become something then you have to include a cost because of arbitration years… I’m confused at how this website even allowed you to write an article for them with this backwards logic… Clearly you’ve never seen masterson pitch to value him like that and how a middle reliever will ever net that much money earned is beyond me

RCinVA
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RCinVA

I would love to see this formula break down the Beckett/Lowell-Ramirez trade package….

RCinVA
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RCinVA

I would love to see this formula break down the Beckett/Lowell-Ramirez trade package….

Rich
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Rich

This is really a silly formula.  Prospects, are at best, suspects.  It appears in almost every trade quantity takes a back seat to quality.  Alot of prospects in these trades probably, wiil end up being borderline ML players, or huge disappointments.

ryan
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ryan
Wow, A Finanacial value calculator.  Kenny Willams has proven over time he only trades pitchers that are hurt; garcia, los santos, sirotka.  And batters that can not hit, anderson, sweeney, borchard, reed, and ect.  Got burnt once with chris young, but i dont know if he is even good anymore.  So like you said this will probably not come back to haunt us on the players we gave up side.  So, I think you should see the bigger picture and maybe add jose contras to the finacial value calculator becasue that is whom peavy will be replacing next year, not… Read more »
Johng
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Johng
Oh, come on. I think your gambling analogy would be more apt if the $500k was in 1863 Confederate scrip. Clayton Richard has had a couple of nice starts, and could very possibly be on a similar career curve of John Danks. Poreda has shown a little aptitude for the pro game over 11 innings. Dexter Carter was a little old for his levels, but the substantial odds are that the only way Russel ever wears major league uniform is at a costume party. 2 rookies with good prospect who project out as 4-5 starters or bullpen arms, and a… Read more »
Tom Jackson
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Tom Jackson
@Chris Fiorentino: So, by your logic: 1) The Red Sox won when they picked up Larry Andersen from Houston for a minor leaguer named Jeff Bagwell. 2) The Tigers won when they picked up Doyle Alexander from the Braves for a minor leaguer named John Smoltz. 3) The Yankees won when they picked up Ken Phelps from the Mariners for a young Jay Buhner. 4) The Mariners won when they picked up Heathcliff Slocumb from the Red Sox for youngsters Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. 5) The Astros won when they picked up Randy Johnson from the Mariners for youngsters… Read more »
Justin
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Justin
I like the work you did here. Financially, the Red Sox may have lost out, but they can afford it, and Martinez THIS Year and NEXT year makes a difference in our lineup, and make us more Versatile. For Baseball reasons, this was a good move. We have quite the farm system, with a boatload of cash, and we can afford to do things like this. That is why it is great to have a very good farm system, it gives you this flexibility. The only problem I have with the calculation is that if you are looking into the… Read more »
Jon
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Jon
Peavy would absolutely match his current salary on the open market. The difference is he’d get 4+ years, which Kenny Williams despises for SPs – he BARELY broke his 3-year rule for franchise hero and fan favorite Mark Buehrle. From ‘10-‘12 he averages $16MM (I’m going to disregard ‘13 because there’s no way Williams picks up that option). He’s 1.5 years removed from a 19-win, 240K, Cy Young season and just turned 28 in May. He owns a 1.19 career WHIP and a 119 career ERA+ (equal to Josh Beckett). When AJ Burnett hit the market following an 18-win, 231K… Read more »
Chris Fiorentino
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Chris Fiorentino
@Tom Jackson I think you misread what I wrote…or I did a poor job of wording what I meant.  When I said “I bet if you look back at every single trade made in the last 30 years, they will all favor the team trading the one guy.” I meant that in this writer’s looped world, they will all favor the team trading the one guy…in the case of this article, specifically the Padres and the Indians.  All trades are what they are…gambles.  The Red Sox gambled that Martinez would get them to a World Series this year.  If he… Read more »
JimH
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JimH
Totally disagree on the Peavy analysis.  The White Sox now have Peavy, Buehrle, Floyd, and Danks tied up for the next 3 years with only Danks salary to be possibly determined in arbitration. Peavy’s injury is an “ankle” from running the bases. It’s not related to his arm.  His WHIP has been very consistent since his 2004 season as has his K/9 which was at an all time high this season.  Another factor which doesn’t show up in spreadsheets is the ability of the White Sox to keep their pitchers healthy and get rid of them prior to them breaking… Read more »
Chris Fiorentino
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Chris Fiorentino

@JimH “I wonder how your system would have valued the Johan Santana trade?  It probably looked great on paper for the Twins”

This is so true…I bet the writers analysis would have raved about how great the Santana trade was for the Twins and how much value the Mutts gave up in the deal.  That’s what makes this so ludicrous.  It is too arbitrary and assigns too much worth to guys who are nothing more than projects and possibilities.

Tom Jackson
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Tom Jackson
@C. Fiorentino: Sorry I did misread it; at least I didn’t misremember anything.    Interesting perspective. Hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think what you’re saying is something we already knew: the team picking up the one player wins in the short term at the possible/probable expense of the long term, except of course if one team is Generally Managed by Gord Ash. Ash as a seller: David Cone from the Jays to the Yanks for Jason Jarvis, Mike Gordon, and Marty Janzen, which points to your point about prospects being just that. Ash as a buyer: Esteban… Read more »
Chris Fiorentino
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Chris Fiorentino
@Tom Jackson Could not agree more about Halladay.  I still think the Phillies made a mistake not getting him instead of Cliff Lee, even though Lee looked like a STUD in his first game…complete game, no hitter into the 7th.  Your points illustrate exactly how I feel about prospects…they are possibilities.  I didn’t care that the Jays asked for Drabek, Happ and Brown.  I think they should have made the deal…I mean, they may not even keep Happ in the rotation for God’s sake.  I am all about the present when I have a stud lineup like the Phillies have. … Read more »
ryan
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ryan

Does this system just spell out the obvious, that all the teams that gave major league talent for prospects were trying to cut payroll and hence add finanacial value.  So this system is telling them how much money they saved on there balance sheet, not how much the teams will benefit from on field performance. so the sox, the sox, and philly all spent money to win now. And cleveland and san diego are saving capital to try winning after 2012.

ryan
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ryan

this would be a great article and a great system if baseball had a salary cap and money mattered. but it doesnt so see if you can work this into the NBA.

Mike
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Mike
Besides arguing about accuracy of projections, this model disregards two key points. First is the law of supply and demand.  If my farm system is short on pitchers, but long on outfielders, trading some outfield prospects for a starter who can help me win now is a good idea.  Maybe I overpay, but I have the depth that I don’t care because the prospects that replace the traded ones make up some of the difference. Second (and more importantly) there is no salary cap.  1 WAR is worth 4 million dollars on average.  But the Yankees are willing to pay… Read more »
Adam Guttridge
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Adam Guttridge
Holy comments! Guess that’s what a link on MLBTR will do to ya… I appreciate all the input, even those of you who apparently think I’m deranged. A few points from the comments: —The model does take into account the salary prospects will receive via arbitration, and does consider that a prospect may be worth nada in the end. The values are based off Victor Wang’s work, which I linked to, and the concept is very simple; if pitcher X is ranked 50th in the game, how much surplus value did the average pitching prospect ranked around 50 end up… Read more »
Michael
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Michael
Bill Veeck, a man who really understood value in the baseball world since he constantly hustled to compete like Billy Beane does now, used to talk about “the high price of mediocrity.”  As for this piece’s uber-geek analysis, I would substitute the “high value of mediocrity.”  In a world where even crappy major league players get millions of dollars, there is a very high value in getting the guys who are difference-makers for teams that are in a position to contend. Conversely, there is a high cost in filling your rosters with players who are just pretty good/OK, but “have… Read more »
Kevin
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Kevin
I think the disconnect here is the use of the ‘average’ value for the prospect involved in a trade. I don’t have Victor Wang’s article from the Hardball Times book but looking at the linked article, it appears that approximately 80% of the prospects in any individual group have WAB values less than the average for that group. That’s not unexpected as 1 or 2 prospects that make it big skew the average for that group. The same thing happens when you look at the average per capita income in the US. Bill Gates raises the average but doesn’t change… Read more »
Tom Jackson
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Tom Jackson
@Michael (not Q): Of course my “analysis” was cherry picking. I saw the word “never” and so I set out to (I thought) prove that wrong. Of course by misreading what Chris said, I wound up finding things which exclusively backed up what he was saying and that’s on me. I was only reacting to the use of the word “never”. Of course these trades can go either way. Of course what the analysis of a trade says on the day it was done is in almost all cases going to differ from what the analysis 5 years later of… Read more »
Jason
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Jason
I was thinking about this article some yesterday and decided on the one flaw: it evaluates total WAR.  It should evaluate WAR/season/player.  Sure, cost controlled middle relievers are nice, but when they take up 3 roster spots to equal what one player produces then you are at a net loss (in my eyes at least) because you’re down 2 roster spots that could be equivalent to or better than the ones replaced.  It’s a fun article, but really needs to be objectively looked at before “going to print”.  Jason Donald has zero chance of realizing any value with the Phillies,… Read more »
Mike
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Mike

Don’t think you can linearly equate stuff in this manner.  This equation assumes sum of parts equates to a ‘stud player’.  I’d disagree with this point.  Can’t have a lineup full of ‘slightly’ above average players and expect to win.

Michael Q
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Michael Q
“So, by your logic: 1) The Red Sox won when they picked up Larry Andersen from Houston for a minor leaguer named Jeff Bagwell.” etc. It’s really easy but poor logic to basically say “Never trade a bunch of prospects because one of them might turn into Schilling or Bagwell!” Sure, they MIGHT do that but how many prospects actually even become productive major league players let alone Hall of Famers? A major league player is a known commodity (at least more so than a prospect is). Star major leagues are very rare. I remember reading Bill James describe baseball… Read more »
Mike
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Mike

Nice article, and as a Red Sox fan, I understand what you are saying, but I think you forgot that Jason Varitek is going to retire soon. Victor Martinez is a catcher, among other positions.

Lexington
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Lexington

Uhh, what a great article. Uhh, I agree with everything you have to say here.

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