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Diamondbacks Trade Values

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The trade deadline is closer than you think

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Due to the competitive nature of Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and his management team, they will never admit publicly they’re gearing up to make sell moves. But if they are conducting their due diligence, which I am certain they are, they are looking at options to add to their minor league system or add players with some MLB experience who are cost controlled that can help them next year and the years beyond.

Any discussion of trade values has to begin with the simple acknowledgment that a player doesn’t have trade value until some other team wants the player. The trade value increases most when more than one team or multiple teams want the same player. Beyond that, every team has some method to assign value to players. Many factors are involved. How many years of team control remain? Is the player signed to a long term contract, or what are the projected earnings for the remaining years of arbitration control? What is the expected performance of the player? Is he an organizational and clubhouse “fit”. And many more.

Each team has a different set of economic parameters. Teams with fewer financial resources will clearly value pre arb and pre free agency control years more heavily. Projecting future performance is something each team does differently with their own proprietary systems and weights and balances between scouting and performance metrics.

The performance evaluation process has become extremely difficult in this era of Covid-19 due to the cancellation of last year’s minor league season. Baseball operations department cutbacks and restricted travel for scouts and personnel have made it even harder still. On top of all this is the uncertainty of the CBA negotiations. Will there be a lock out or a 2022 season at all? When MLB and the MLBPA finally do reach agreement what will be the new financial structure? There likely will be major changes that will affect all of these calculations. While I’m sure that Mike Hazen and other GM’s have insights and information we haven’t seen in the public sphere, they’re working only slightly less blind than we are. Regardless, the trade deadline is closer than you think and the process must go on.

What I’ve done here is present very basic and rudimentary value calculations for selected Diamondbacks players. I haven’t included any pre arbitration eligible players. (Notably Zac Gallen is not included) It’s not impossible that Hazen could trade a pre arb player of course. But if he does, they are more likely to be a “throw in” as part of a larger trade. Anyone cheap that looks like they can help at all in 2022 or beyond is likely to be held on to.

The components are simple, Age, Contract Status, Projected Performance, in the form of WAR, the projected value of that WAR and value earned. The “Value” is simply the difference between the projected WAR and the projected earnings.

We don’t really need to launch into a referendum on the efficacy of the WAR stat. It’s just a proxy for performance value. Each team figures this differently. But we have to start somewhere and this is what’s readily available. I made some minor subjective tweaks here and there to projected performance based on various factors. I also adjusted the remaining 2021 projected WAR and salary to what that would be come the halfway point in the season in July, as teams are not likely to make many moves before then.

This is a ROUGH guess. Think of it more in terms of TIERS, which is how I have broken it out for you. It’s easy to make a case up or down within a tier for any player. It’s probably harder to make a case for player to jump a tier. But if you feel strongly enough about it, make your case in the comments. ;)

Summary Table

The best position player on the team is on a team friendly extension through 2024 (with team options). His projected WAR value is suppressed a little by durability concerns. He suffered a stress reaction in his lower back at the end of 2019 and a Hamstring injury this year that has kept him out 6 weeks. It’s unlikely the team would trade Ketel, but if they wanted to conduct a down to the studs rebuild where they target high level prospects, Ketel is their most valuable trade asset.

WAR tends to undervalue catchers a bit. At the same time it was hard to resist the recency bias of Carson Kelly’s terrific performance so far in 2021 and not tweak his projections up a bit more. Regardless, he is clearly the second most valuable trade asset on the team, but not in Ketel’s tier.

I had to resist recency bias here again and not tweak Nick Ahmed’s performance projection downward. Yes. he’s been ice cold at the plate. And to the eye test the defense is a half a step worse than his Gold Glove years. But he’s still one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball and any team seeking a championship could enhance their chances, especially if they have injury or depth issues at the position.

It’s a big drop off into the 3rd tier. The team holds the option on Merrill Kelly for 2022 and despite going through Thoracic Outlet Surgery last year, he’s continued to be a relatively stable league average innings eater. He’s not sexy, but he’s plenty valuable.

Luke Weaver originally ranked ahead of Merrill in this tier, coming in near 14M. But I dropped his projections due to his latest injury to his shoulder and being placed on the IL. This could drop much further if he requires surgery. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Christian Walker’s placement here was a little surprising. But the fact is he’s a major league caliber player, and generally above replacement level, despite his slump to start the season, and most importantly, he’s not likely to make big numbers in arbitration and is not a free agent until 2025. A team needing a right handed bench bat or compliment to platoon with a left handed first baseman would find value in him.

David Peralta’s ranking here feels low. I can see a case to subjectively move him up a couple of slots on this list above Walker and Weaver, and maybe even above Merrill. But there is no reasonable way to inflate his value out of this tier.

Caleb Smith has some value, but he’s going to be getting a little expensive the next couple of seasons, and the team rather unceremoniously removed him from the rotation after just one start and despite all the rotation injuries they don’t seem to be considering putting him back in. He’s doing well as a middle reliever, but it’s hard to see a path to inflate his value at this point.

The bottom has dropped out of Eduardo Escobar’s OBP since the 2019 all star break. In 703 PA since then he’s hit .223/.273/.421, 77 wRC+. I love Eddie, but his trade value has cratered along with that OBP. Moving him would be a straight salary dump, with little coming back in return. The same goes for everyone else on the list from here down. Salary Dumps.

It’s a little complicated with Kole Calhoun. He’s on the 60 day IL and is not eligible to return before the end of June at the earliest. He won’t have a lot of time to show he’s healthy and can perform before the trade deadline. The $6M salary showing includes the $2M buyout of his 2022 option. It’s unlikely any team would absorb the full amount here. At the same time, Kole is a popular player both with the fans and in the clubhouse, and he’s been playing well for Arizona when healthy enough. But it may be asking too much to expect the knee and hamstring injuries not to affect him going forward.

A free agent after the season, if Joakim Soria can show he can get outs without giving up as many runs as he has been lately then it’s pretty likely some team will offer to take his remaining 2021 contract off the D-backs hands.

Stephen Vogt is a free agent after 2021 and if there are any takers the team will surely unload his remaining contract and just let Daulton Varsho back up Carson Kelly.

Even if I make fanboy subjective tweaks to Madison Bumgarner’s WAR projections up to 6.5 WAR for the remainder of his contract it still comes out -$15m value. Basically in order to trade Bumgarner the team would need to eat a bare minimum of 25% of his contract, and potentially as much as 50%.

So that’s the rundown as I see it right now.