Overpaying for the win!

Posted by Steve

The Cardinals made a big move today, trading three players for Matt Holliday.  They gave up last year’s first round pick and Baseball America’s 21st ranked prospect according to their mid-season rankings, third baseman Brett Wallace.  They also got AAA pitcher Clayton Mortenson and AA outfielder Shane Peterson.

I’m not going to act like I’m happy that the Cardinals made this move, because as of today this makes them the favorites in the NL Central.  But I definitely wouldn’t be pleased if I was a Cardinals fan.  They gave up at least as much as the Brewers gave up for CC Sabathia, except they’re getting back a player who won’t have nearly the same impact.  Holliday is a free agent at the end of the season, so he’s a rental just like Sabathia.  If Wallace can stick at third, he’s more valuable than Matt LaPorta, the centerpiece of the Sabathia deal.

Here’s some pretty revealing analysis by fangraphs.  You’ll notice they have this trade as very lopsided in Oakland’s favor, and that’s when they assumed it would be just Wallace going for Holliday instead of two additional players.  Fangraphs had the Brewers trade for CC as a wash last year.  Again, that’s because an ace pitcher is that much more valuable than a good but not great corner outfielder.

This is exactly what Billy Beane had in mind when he traded for Holliday in the off-season.  He took a shot at having a winning team, but you know he figured he’d end up flipping Holliday at the deadline.  He definitely came out ahead because he got back more value than he gave up to get Holliday in the first place.

Again, this is bad news for this season.  If the Brewers don’t make a pretty big move for a pitcher, they probably won’t win the division.  If you listen to ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, we should really be worried.  He says this is a great trade for the Cards because Matt Holliday “is a real baseball player.  He’s going to a real baseball town.  He is a perfect match.  He’s playing for Tony LaRussa.  He’s the son of a coach.”

This is of course in direct contrast to Brett Wallace, who is the son of a traveling salesman, from a town more inclined to embrace football and is, in fact, a virtual baseball player.

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7 responses to “Overpaying for the win!

  1. So in other words he’s Biff Loman?

  2. So, Brett Wallace has a trade value of 25 million? Are you kidding me?

    So, Fangraphs says that because they dealt a young guy who was blocked at his best position (1B) for a guy who was actually worth 25 million a year after his stint with Colorado and has predictably come back to earth in a tough park and tougher league is a huge win for the A’s? Maybe I am not as statistically inclined as I like to think, but that seems kind of ridiculous.

    I am sure Scott Boras was the man behind Victor Wang’s research assigning those types of monetary values to draft picks.

    A small rant, this is why I hate independent sabermetric evals. Is it a bad idea to trade your top prospect for a rental? Of course. But, the opportunity to have a team capable of winning it all doesn’t happen all that often in places not called New York or Boston and so you have to go for it if you get a shot. One of Milwaukee’s biggest weaknesses last year was SP and C.C. hugely upgraded that. If Sheets doesn’t get hurt last year, I think the Brewers would have won it all with that post-season rotation. Holliday fills the Cardinals biggest need (a true # 4 hitter to make pitchers pay for pitching around Pujols) and allows Ludwick to move down to # 5. Why wouldn’t you make that trade?

    To say that deal is lopsided is tough for me. That means essentially every deal involving a top prospect will be lopsided in the favor of the team giving up the prospect (can only imagine the #’s for pitchers ranked 11-25).

    Plus, when you break it down from the A’s side, this is the deal:

    A’s give up: Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, Greg Smith

    A’s get: Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, Shane Peterson

    I would rather have what the A’s gave up, but that is just me. Break it down sabermetrically from there and you can tell me if that deal is truly lopsided.

  3. Ha… Yeah, I guess he’d be the son of Biff Loman.

    We went over some of this at work, but I’ll rehash it anyway. It’s over the course of the six years of Major League control a team has of Wallace, so yeah 25 mil could easily be true. I know this is a sizable if, but if Wallace sticks at third he will probably be worth more than $25 mil over his first six years in the big leagues.

    That $25 mil number comes from an average value of players who have been ranked in spots 11-25 by Baseball America, so it’s a historical scale.

    I’m not saying teams shouldn’t ever trade their top prospects (I’m endorsing a Halladay trade for the Brewers), but they should get maximum value for him. If it’s for a rental, it had better be a player who’s easily the best available player (like Sabathia was). Holliday wasn’t clearly the best available. Guys at work brought up Luke Scott. He’s under contract for two more years, is left-handed (Cards are righty-heavy) and is having a better year than Holliday. Why not make that same offer to Baltimore? The O’s would have taken it.

    And you can’t just look at it as Gonzalez, Street, Smith vs. Wallace, Mortenson, Peterson. The A’s would have kept Holliday if they were in contention; and by all accounts they thought they had a chance to contend. In my opinion, Gonzalez, Street, Smith < Chance to contend, Wallace, Mortenson, Peterson. What a weird math equation.

    "If Sheets doesn’t get hurt last year, I think the Brewers would have won it all with that post-season rotation."

    Ugh. On this we definitely agree. :(

  4. See, everyone brings up Luke Scott and mention how they are righty heavy. They are as righty heavy as any other team. Schumaker and Rasmus are their normal lefties, but it’s not like any of their righties are brutal against righties. It isn’t a bad thing to be righty heavy (or lefty heavy) if they don’t have a problem hitting against same side pitchers. Plus, La Russa will never be out managed in the match-up game.

    So, Luke Scott at 32 and a little worse defensively has more value then a 29 year old?
    Here are their #’s:
    Scott: .290-.374-.560, 18-53
    Holliday: .286-.378-.454, 11-54

    Very similar except in the power category, which I believe can be explained by 2 things:
    1) Holliday plays in a terrible home park, while I believe Camden favors lefty hitters.
    2) New league for Holliday means new pitchers and everything along those lines.

    Yes, I understand you would prefer to trade for a guy you have under contract for longer, but Holliday is the best available bat that could be had in this go round (let me see, would I rather face Matt Holliday or Luke Scott) and is similar to Sabathia in that regard. I personally think he can have the same type of impact, as that lineup is no longer an Albert Pujols and Company lineup, but a lineup with 3 legitimate middle of the order bats.

    Now see, the belief of having a chance to contend makes a trade okay? The Royals thought they had a chance to contend by adding the power bat of Mike Jacobs at 1B. The Nats must have thought they could contend and signed Adam Dunn.

    Just because you think you can contend (and trust me, every team at the start of the year thinks they can contend outside of maybe the Pirates) doesn’t mean a move is good. All that matters is the end result. The Jacobs move result was terrible. Why does the Holliday move then get a free pass? The A’s thought they were getting Coors Field Holliday and got Road Holliday. They operated under the assumption that Coors Field Holliday makes them a contender (and he may have). Road Holliday didn’t. So the trade boils down to the players they received and got back.

    So the Teixeira deal with the Rangers would be a good one under that philosophy? They thought they could win a pennant with him. The end result of that deal was:

    Braves get Marek, Kotchman
    Rangers get Andrus, Saltalamacchia, Harrison, Feliz and Beau Jones.

    The Braves took the same risk the A’s took, which is if they weren’t contending to flip him. So you then think that the Braves deal for Teixeira was a good deal? I know the packages are dissimilar, but it is the same concept.

  5. Park factors have not been the reason for Holliday’s power drop.

    Holliday’s road line this year: .287/.373/.416
    His home line: .286/.383/.494

    How about that? He’s actually been a better hitter at home, which is surprising.

    You have a good point with Scott though. His home/road splits are extreme. I hadn’t realized that.

    You can’t honestly believe every team thinks they have a chance to contend? I suppose “contend” can mean different things to different people, but I believe the A’s thought they could win the AL West. You think the Royals, Nats, etc thought they had a chance to win their divisions? Actually, you may be on to something in Dayton Moore’s case, because his recent moves have been inexplicable.

    In a vacuum, I’d give Holliday the edge, but the contract situation gives Scott quite an edge in my opinion.

    The concept is the same with Atlanta, but as you said, they gave up a much greater package than Oakland did to get Holliday, and therefore assumed a MUCH greater risk than the A’s.

  6. You have to remember, that if you work for a team, you have known these guys since they were drafted. You know their upside and after 1 strong year by a young guy, you expect them to keep it up because you have scouting reports saying that is exactly his upside, even as back as his high school days. As a fan, would you have said Tampa Bay would contend last year? Seattle, Texas, Houston, Colorado, San Francisco this year? We view these as surprises and sometimes the front offices are surprised, but I know Houston is trying to contend in their short window and most teams anticipate having a better year the next year irregardless of their current season record.

    I am just trying to tell you how most teams think. I don’t think the Nats had a real chance to contend, but if they didn’t think they could contend, why sign Dunn and not look to deal him at the deadline? I think Kansas City had a shot to contend (and I mentioned this in one of those back and forth emails with Anthony that I can forward you for my reasoning) b/c of the weak division.

    Well, Atlanta gave up a much greater package due to the fact they would have Teixeira for a year and a half according to his contract. What was the much greater risk? Yes, they gave up quite a few solid young talents, but they returned the by far best player on the market and had him for potentially 2 title runs.

    They were operating under the same parameters and ended up getting a lesser package then they sent off. I believe the A’s did the same thing.

    I understand acquiring guys to give you a shot to contend. But, if it does’t work out, the deal should still be recognized as a minor failure due to mis-evaluation. I still think the deal (and all deals) needs to be looked at by the perspective of what did you give up to get the player and what did you get back for that same player. I find the thoughts that you could contend meaningless once the deals have been consummated.

  7. You have to do something to create interest in your team, even if you won’t contend. Casual fans have more sway in a GM’s job than we’d like.

    The fact that the A’s got Tex with 1 1/2 years is a valid point, but I honestly don’t see a big difference in value between getting someone with a year or getting him with half a year left. To a team like St. Louis, it was more important to get Holliday now since they know they have a good chance at the division–a better chance than they did at the start of the season, when they were being projected to finish second or third.

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