About 10 days ago Zach Buchanan published an article at the Athletic Ranking the Diamondbacks Trade Chips. As usual, it’s a good read, and provides a lot of really good information. His article got me thinking not only about who might be the most valuable trade chips, but also what type of return should the DBacks be looking for.
Echoing something Zach said in his article, this is not to say what they should or shouldn’t do. But as the team is checking on trade values of their players to determine their future path, it is worthwhile to try to understand what type of feedback they may be getting.
While searching for information on prospect values, I found some excellent work already done on this from the site The Point of Pittsburgh, and his article titled MLB Prospect Surplus Values. I strongly suggest, even request, that you stop reading right here, click on that link, and go take a look at that article, his process and results. Although I will include their table below, I think it’s important to understand how they got there.
So from there, what I decided to do was :
A.) Work on a rudimentary WAR projection for the players most likely to be considered trade Chips in any kind of a rebuild or retool
B.) Plug those projections into a Trade or Surplus value calculator encompassing remaining years of control of that player
C.) Compare that Trade value number with the Surplus Value number from POP’s table.
By doing this, we can then get a rough idea of a reasonable expectation of return. This does not mean this is where the Diamondbacks should start out asking for any players that are on the block or other teams inquire of. But for me it would be more or less a bottom line expectation of return value. There is plenty of room for debate in these results. I view this article as a starting point, not an end point, in trying to better understand the value of the trade chips the Diamondbacks have.
The process here was relatively simple. I took the combined average from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference and used a weighted 3 year average, (5-4-3) for both Total WAR and Playing time. After figuring the rate of WAR production, I then plugged in my own playing time estimate, which is the subjective portion of the projection. This is about as basic as it gets. I didn’t try to account for any other factors or regress these any further. However, I can tell you from studying the public projections available online that 50% of the players here are going to end up with WAR projections within 0.5 WAR of what you see here, and 80% of them will end up within 1 WAR. The level of precision that is added once you get past the 3 year weighted averages just isn’t all that great.
The first table then is simply a Team View summary of the players projected and their projection for 2019. Notable here is not only the projections, but the amount of playing time you need to allocate to “Replacement Players”., which is players you might acquire or call up from the minors. If the team wants to contend in 2019 , they basically need to pick up about 10 WAR on paper, and they need to do so while filling about 390 IP and 1300 PA, and presumably without running the payroll up much higher than where they ended in 2019, (141M). This table should actually help put into perspective the daunting task the team faces.
Also note Once you get to the individual player tables , starting in 2020, if the player is 29 or older I drop the projection by 0.5 each year.
TEAM TOTAL SUMMARY
OK, so now that you have the 2019 projections, and the team level summary, lets take a look again at the Prospect Valuation chart from POP in the article linked above:
Here then are select DBacks players in reverse ranking order, (least valuable trade chip to most valuable) One other note: For arb eligible players, the salary estimates are the average of my own estimates and MLB Trade Rumors.
So a few things here. Yes, Zack Greinke had the largest negative trade value by this method. And it’s been assumed that the Dbacks will have to eat salary to move him all along. But it’s not quite as bad as some people think. First of all, you will note that the salary owed above does not include the signing bonus money that is prorated over the life of the contract, as the DBacks will have to pay the remaining 9M signing bonus money no matter what. There is also a 2M assignment bonus if Zack is traded, again, the Dbacks would have to pay that. So the amount of money actually moving with him is 95.5 Million. AND keep in mind that 10M per year of that is deferred out to 2025-27. (10M per year on the first 3 years was also deferred, and the DBacks will be paying that 30M in addition to the 11M mentioned above as well. )
Bottom line, DBacks don’t need to eat too much additional money to move Zack if they expect little to nothing in return in terms of prospect value. Maybe just 10-12 M. But if they want a prospect ranked in the 76-100 range, then they will need to kick in another 15-20M for a total of 25-30M. Of course they then still get about 65-70 M in salary relief over the next 3 years.
There is a reason some have suggested that Brad Boxberger is a non tender candidate. It is what it is. It’s somewhat worth noting who the DBacks gave up to get Boxberger. Curtis Taylor has been pretty good no matter where or in what role he has pitched. But he’s not on anyone’s top 20 or 30 for the Rays.
Well, at least Andrew Chafin is in the positive. I can see a team giving up a prospect ranked 175-200 for him perhaps. Mostly due to 2 years of control.
Yoshi Hirano’s number is similar to Chafin’s, because he only has one year of control. The WAR projection may seem a little low, but his peripherals didn’t really support his run prevention, so averaging with FG WAR brings him down a bit too.
The combination of poor performance and injury last year tanked Jake Lamb’s trade value. But due to previous year’s HR totals, his arb salary still not cheap. His value is less than a top 100 prospect at this time, but he could still garner a prospect in the 100-150 range perhaps.
Jake could potentially be a mid season trade chip if he is having a good recovery in the first half and hitting with power. If he’s not hitting homeruns, nobody will want him and he will be a non tender candidate in 2020.
Similar story to Lamb in terms of value for Steven Souza Jr. 2 years older, but projected to get slightly less in arbitration. DBacks gave up a lot for him, Banda, Drury, Poche, and Schaffer. Souza needs a huge bounce back and needs to beat the projection by a lot or this trade will end up on the list of worst Dbacks trades ever.
So a little explanation needed here. Fangraphs UZR is much more heavily regressed starting in 2018 than previous years, so Nick Ahmed isn’t getting as big a bump in UZR/Fangraphs WAR as he got at BB-REF for his big defensive year. Of course if Nick gets the Gold Glove, that might bump his trade value a bit. As it is, he is worth a borderline 76-100 prospect. If the DBacks can’t sell high and get a top 100 prospect for Nick, probably better to just keep him.
Zack Godley is hurt a little bit by his age here. I think a lot of people forget he is 29 yrs old. But he doesn’t have a lot of professional innings on his arm, (445 in MLB 292 in Milb). Godley is also worth a prospect in the 76-100 range most likely. DBacks would seem unlikely to trade him with 4 years of control. Regardless of whether rebuilding or retooling, they need somebody to fill in the innings. But he’s here just to show his value.
Archie Bradley ‘s big 2017 WAR total inflates his value here. His issues in 2018 might depress his trade value below the number here. However he still has 3 years of control, still throws a 95 MPH Fastball, and has no hint of injury outside the nail issue that curtailed his curve ball use last year. His arb costs are low because he has not been closing and doesn’t have the save totals. If the Dbacks go the retool route and install Archie as closer to get some saves, and he doesn’t stink at it, but Dbacks are out of it anyway, then he could have some nice trade value at the deadline. As it is, he should easily be worth a prospect in the 76-100 range right now, and a case could be made for 51-75.
This is where this methodology may start breaking down for some. Based on the numbers Paul Goldschmidt would seemingly be worth a hitting prospect in the 51-75 range or a pitching prospect in the 26-50 range. While that feels low, this should serve as a cautionary piece of info and reset some expectations. How much more than 5 WAR can you project Goldy ? He only has 1 year of control left . The value of 5 WAR is reasonably established. I think where Goldy’s value would be higher than this is due to reliability of that 5 WAR. Not all 5 WAR projections are created equal. (Although you wouldn’t have heard me say that last May). Also any team trading for him is likely to be one of the top 2-3 contending teams, and they will value his 5 WAR more than most. This RJ Anderson article at CBS is pretty good and worth a look. I think 1 prospect in the 51-75 range and perhaps another in the 76-100 range , OR 1 prospect in the 26-50 range and a second prospect well outside 100 range is about as high as I go right now in setting expectations for return for Goldy.
David Peralta is pretty valuable. 2 years of control for not much money, coming off a 30 homer season. Due to name cache and intangible factors, he might not command the same trade value as Goldy, but I have no trouble stating that Peralta is worth a 51-75 prospect and DBacks should hold out at least for that or a little more if looking to trade him.
This is an innings issue. If I could project Robbie Ray to 200 innings, his projection goes up to 3.5 WAR, and of course a whole ton of upside above that if he’s efficient enough to get that many innings in. But he’s only got a weighted avg of 142 IP for the last 3 years, so I am already bumping him by giving him 160. And he’s only got 2 years of control left. So while the method here gives him more trade value than Goldy, it’s not by all that much. Still, if the DBacks look to move him, their bottom line has to be a prospect in the 26-50 range, and another decent arm just outside top 100.
So I know that a lot of people are going to say I rigged this. Well , I DID. I went back and reworked it to LOWER Ketel Marte ’s value. When I started out, I was just using BB-REF WAR. But Marte’s FG WAR is considerably lower. So averaging those two was a legit way to lower his projection. Of course than I needed to apply that to everyone . The other thing I had to do was not give him ANY future growth or development. In other words, the above valuation is based on him never being any better than what a 3 year weighted average currently gives you. (Normally for a 25 year old we would be increasing his projection somewhat through age 28. )
I had to do this because if I didn’t, then the number would make it look like he’s worth the top rated prospect , i.e. Vlad Guerrero Jr. or somebody like that. Obviously that kind of trade value does not exist. However even after all the discounting and rigging I did for Marte, it STILL puts him solidly in the range of a top 11-25 prospect. 6 years of control at very cheap cost make him a very very valuable player to have. I don’t think Dbacks will or should trade him. But if some other team saw his value similar to what the table above shows, they could possibly consider.
So thats what I have so far.
There are so many permutations that could take place that it’s impossible to account for them all. For example the team could take back a bad contract in a Greinke deal instead of paying out cash, and work a sort of reverse Touki type trade. They could opt for volume of prospects over getting a player ranked higher to diversify risk. (Not my choice, but they could do that). And of course all of these numbers are approximations and rough estimates. They are better trade value estimates than we would get without doing the work at all, but they are far from precise or perfect.
In the comments section please let me know any questions you have. I will try to explain as best I can. If you want to see any “what if” calculations, such as bumping or decreasing a projection, or see a player not listed here, just let me know and I will post in the comments.