Evaluating the Hairston and DeRosa Trades
July 15, 2009 7 Comments
Two significant swaps have been made recently; the move of Mark DeRosa to St. Louis, and Scott Hairston going to Oakland.
Let’s view both deals through the Guttridge-Wang Trade Model, and see if it doesn’t provide some illumination.
Before we start; 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 must be part of a projection (which generally means a player who has spent more than just rehab time in the Minors over the past 2.5-3 years), I use MLE FIP’s 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 pretty 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. One thing this methodology does accomplish, that you don’t often see elsewhere; many/most projection systems fail to include 2009 data when projecting value for the remainder of 2009. 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 mistake.
Got to love this for the Cards.
Middle infield has been a black hole for several years, and going from the likes of Brendan Ryan and Tyler Green to Mark DeRosa is a very large difference. I still think holding off the Cubs is going to be difficult, and they’ve got no shortage of WC competition. But it’s time for them to go for it… this move is consistent with that goal, and they don’t give up anything terribly precious.
Their bullpen is thin, and frankly, has been pitching a bit over their collective head. Nonetheless, the loss of Perez is not significant at current.
As I’ve mentioned before, these trades are not zero-sum equations (due to divergent near-term goals and varying ability to replace a given player). So the above assesment does not mean I believe the Indians ‘lost’ just because the Cardinals improved their lot drastically.
I just think they lost because this deal makes little sense to me. Sure, Perez is an arm with some significant upside (which I can attest to personally; I’ve stood in against him several times between the ages of about 13 and 18… not fun), and that projection is likely selling him well short (he’s dragged down pretty hard by ’07). But even if he takes a gargantuan leap forward in the next 12 months, he’s what… a 1-1.2 WAR player? 1.5, tops? Further damning is the fact that relief pitchers tend to be overvalued in the market (including the arbitration courts). If they’re pinning very large hopes on contending next year, and feel cheap bullpen talent must be a top priority towards achieving that goal, well… then okay. But did you really have to give up Mark DeRosa and his draft pick for the hopes that a 6th/7th inning guy will develop into a cheap 8th-inning guy? Let’s plug that into the model, and see what happens if Chris Perez shows up next year pitching like the Rafael Perez of 2007-2008. Heck, I’ll even slot them as ’10 contenders (a dubious thing to do on many levels) and effectively double-count Perez’s hypothetically inflated value.
So, for the Indians to come out anything better than basically a wash here, Chris Perez has to start pitching like a borderline closer next year and stay on that path as long as he’s under control. I like Chris Perez, but it’s a stretch to like this trade for the Indians.
Onto the Hairston deal…
(Ed note: Since originally penning this article, two significant things have happened. 1) I happened to meet Scott Hairston, and we spent 5-10 minutes talking about the trade and this article. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy. 2) Sean Gallagher has been identified as the PTBNL. I will let my original comments and graphs stand, but Kevin Towers hasn’t lost his mojo after all; this now looks like a pretty good trade from both ends.)
Makes sense to me from the A’s perspective, even though they’re not ‘buyers’ right now. But Billy Beane is always a buyer, or seller, when the price is right–as GM’s should be. The reason I like this trade is the entire basis for this trade model; Billy Beane found surplus value. Scott Hairston is more valuable than his salary, and was able to be acquired at a cost that was less than that difference. Whether it’s in 3 weeks or 6 months, Beane now has the option of parlaying that surplus value into a more specific piece he may need. Or he may decide Hairston is the best allocation of that resource, and keep him. But this was a simple asset collection; nothing less, nothing more.
As far as the Padres are concerned, this is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Especially since I tend to find my thinking more in line with Kevin Towers’ moves more often than probably any GM in the game. Now, it’s said the third player is somebody at least moderately significant, and not just your garden-variey PTBNL. So I’ll reserve final judgment until more is known. But neither of the two known players are special; one is a live arm with a track record of largely dreadful results, and the other is a low ceiling-guy with lukewarm results. Italiano, being the higher upside guy… I can live with that incredibly-long-odds gamble, so long as he’s a bit of a tertiary player to the deal. But Kevin Towers is the master of finding 4th starters and solid middle/late relievers and platoon outfielders on the free (or virtually free) talent markets (in fact, it’s how he got Hairston in the first place), so he doesn’t need to shed meaningful assets in return for such talents. The PTBNL needs to be more than a good bet to be the next Justin Germano, or someone much more likely to realize his upside than Italiano.