Guest Post: “Trade Value,” Prospects, and an Adequate Return in a Matt Garza

[This aptly-timed guest post comes courtesy of David Mick, from Obstructed View. If you're a reader of that fine site, you know that David - together with the other writers there - takes an appropriately sabermetric approach to a number of Cubs-related topics. As he describes, this post emanated out of a discussion here in the comments about how to value established players in trade talks, particularly within the context of a long-rumored Matt Garza trade. This is very good stuff, and, even where I've disagreed, I've learned quite a bit through this process. Enjoy.]

First of all, I’d like to thank Brett for giving me the opportunity to publish this on Bleacher Nation. Brett runs a fantastic site and, as one of my co-bloggers said the other day, he gets most of his Cubs news information from this site. I do, too. [Ed. - I totally made him say that.] Some of you may remember a brief discussion that began in the comments a week or so ago regarding Matt Garza’s trade value. After Brett and I exchanged some emails, he wanted to publish something on BN, so I put this article together.

When you hear the words “trade value,” some of you are instantly thinking that we can’t assign a single number to someone’s value. Baseball seems far too complex to do that. We’re dealing with talented athletes, but the athletes are also human beings who may or may not respond differently depending on the environment. Before I get into this article, I would like to point one thing out. Baseball teams do assign “one number” to a player. Fans have in mind one number for a ballplayer. Recently re-signed Reed Johnson’s one number was $1.15 million. Albert Pujols’s one number was just north of $254 million over 10 years. 2011 Cubs first round pick Javier Baez’s one number was $2.65 million. Fans look at players and think so and so is worth about three years and $24 million. We already assign one number to each player, and this number is his value to the organization. It’s based on how many runs and wins he’s going to provide the team. That number is representative of how good a player he is.

As a result, I reject the premise that we cannot assign one number when discussing trades. If free agents, draft picks, and international free agents are assigned one number, then we can be pretty sure that one number is uniform across all transactions. That “one number,” the dollars paid, represents the value the player adds to the team above a hypothetical replacement level player. Replacement level is based on average, but we know that the typical replacement isn’t an average ballplayer. If he was, he’d have made a team out of spring training. Replacement level in the NL is 2 wins worse than average per full season.

We need to know the value of the win. Prior to the economic collapse, inflation in baseball was a steady 10%. If the win value one year was $3.5 million, it would be $3.85 million the following year. Around 2007 or 2008, that stopped. While the ticket sales weren’t hugely impacted by the recession, the value that players were worth remained stagnant at $4.5 million. The new CBA is designed to increase veteran salaries by limiting the amount teams can spend on amateur talent. Thus, a reasonable estimate for the value of the win in 2012 is about $5 million.

It’s important to recognize that not all players will sign for $5 million per projected Win Above Replacement (WAR). Some will sign for less and some will sign for more, but the average is about $5 million. There are a number of reasons why some players are underpaid and overpaid. Several years back, Placido Polanco signed an extremely team friendly contract. Tangotiger argued in 2006 that Polanco’s projected value was equal to that of Derek Jeter, who was making $20 million per year. Jeter, partly because he played in New York, and partly because the media has overrated him (still a first ballot Hall of Famer though), was making significantly more money than he was worth. Polanco, partly because he didn’t play in New York, and partly because much of his value was derived from defense, was underpaid considerably. It turns out when you look back since tangotiger’s article, the two have been worth the same amount of money. One was overpaid, and one was underpaid.

Popularity can have an impact on how much a player is paid. Teams tend to undervalue defense, so strong defensive players are sometimes underpaid relative to weaker defenders, who derive most of their value from the bat. Years ago OBP was undervalued, and teams focused heavily on SLG. The more teams bidding on a player the more his value may increase. I say “may” because it depends entirely on what kind of bids teams are turning in. Are these teams willing to acquire the player at all costs? Are they only bidding up to what they think he’s worth and not getting into any bidding wars? We don’t know. The fewer teams that are interested in a player the less he’ll earn, or the less his team will receive in a trade.

One example is left-handed relievers. Teams continue to overvalue the 70 innings they get from a solid left-handed reliever. This was evident in the great package the Cubs received in return for Sean Marshall.

Let’s take a look at one of the best players in baseball. Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $254 million contract this offseason. How much trade value would you think he has? Absolutely none. One of the very best players in all of baseball has no trade value whatsoever. Some of you may be thinking that this can’t be possible. The reason he has no trade value is that he signed a free agent contract this offseason. He’s being paid market value. To illustrate this I’m going to use someone I’ll call Player X, who signed a 1-year contract for $5 million. He’s projected to be worth 1 WAR, so he was paid precisely what he’s worth. Now imagine that teams can trade recently signed players. This player has no value. Just 1 WAR would be traded away, and the team acquiring the player would be paying $5 million (the full price of a win on the free agent market). If this other team wanted him they’d have signed him as a free agent. Perhaps they’d have offered something like $5.1 million if they determined that this player was a necessary acquisition. They didn’t, and the player has no trade value. The trading team could agree to pay part of the contract in an attempt to get a prospect back, but that’s the only way they’d get anything in return. In fact, almost all players who sign free agent contracts immediately have no trade value. On a long-term contract the player could improve or get worse, which would then change his trade value going forward.

Here’s some information I put together about the Matt Latos trade when Brett and I were discussing this valuation issue. I’ll post the relevant information, and then explain how I got there.

Matt Latos: 13.5 WAR over next 4 years
Average win value: $5.39 million
Value provided: $72.53 million
Projected Salary based on arbitration 1, 2 and 3 being worth 40%, 60% and 80% of market value: $33.3 million
Projected Salary based on similar players: $26.0 million
Difference between value and projected salary (similar players): $46.55 million

Boxberger: $2 million (early in his career, but he has some minimal value)
Grandal: $10 million (probably not a top 50, but a good prospect nonetheless)
Alonso: $15 million (based on his prospect ranking at the beginning of 2011 by Baseball America)
Volquez: $15 million (projected for 3.5ish WAR over next 2 years, $5.13 per win average, $18 million value, estimated $8 million salary, $10 million surplus)

Total: $52 million

Latos is under team control for four more years. The Oliver projections and the Fans Projections on FanGraphs have Latos being worth 4.1 WAR in 2012. CAIRO’s projections are considerably lower for Latos, but we’ll weight that less than the others. Say 3.7 WAR to begin with. Oliver has a six-year forecast, but its weakness is that it doesn’t adjust playing time. As players age, they play less. Latos is 25 years old, so we can expect him to still be worth another 3.7 WAR in 2013. By that time, an expected decline begins at about -.5 WAR per season, so that would be 3.2 WAR in 2014 and 2.7 WAR in 2015. That’s a total of 13.3 WAR, so I’ve increased it to 13.5 because I’m a nice guy.

The average win value there is the average of the four remaining years. If it’s $5 million in 2012 and we increase it by 5% for inflation year, the average of the four is $5.39 million per win. Therefore the total projected value is $72.53 million.

The projected salary based on what arbitration players are typically paid is about $33.3 million, but that’s a little high. It’s unlikely he’ll earn that much money, so I’ve adjusted it to $26 million. (Matt Garza will end up with four years of arbitration and his total earnings during that period are likely to be about $28 million.) The difference between the projected value and projected salary is his surplus trade value ($46.55 million). The Padres essentially traded $46.55 million to the Reds.

The Padres received four players in return. I calculated the value of Boxberger, Grandal and Alonso using the values found in this article. It’s based on information from an article at The Hardball Times. The value for Edinson Volquez was calculated in the same way that I did for Latos. As you can see, the Padres received approximately $52 million in value for the $46.55 they traded away. Relatively comparable.

I went through the same process for Gio Gonzalez, who, like Latos, was recently traded for prospects. I’ll just paste the information I sent Brett before we move on to Matt Garza. This is a Cubs blog, and that’s what we mostly care about.

The Gio Gonzalez trade is a bit more difficult to evaluate. FanGraphs has him worth 6.7 WAR over the last 2 years, and B-Ref has him worth 9.2. Oliver projects 2.9 WAR. The Fans project 3.1 WAR and CAIRO projects 3.2 WAR. From that standpoint it’s relatively easy, but there’s a big difference between his defense independent stats and his runs allowed. He doesn’t have a large sample, so it’s best to assume those will even out and be much more similar to his defense independent metrics (fWAR uses them). That’s why we get the 3.0 WAR projection average because they’re based on defense independent pitching stats.

2012: 3
2013: 3
2014: 3
2015: 2.5 (29 years old and already on the downside of his career)
Total: 11.5 WAR

Using 5% inflation, we get an average win value of $5.39 million (the same as Latos of course). That makes Gonzalez worth $70 million. A reasonable pay scale will be something like $0.48, $3.5, $7, $12 for a total of $30 million. Gonzalez has a surplus trade value of $40 million.

The prospects the A’s received for Gonzalez: Cole and Peacock are both B prospects (Cole a B+). Peacock is worth $7.3 million, Cole worth about $9 million. Norris was ranked 72 entering last year, so that’s an additional $10 million. Milone is interesting – 5.5 K/BB ratio in the minors. In a small sample at the big leagues, his K rate dropped considerably, but his BB rate remained about the same. He’s not ranked in the top 100 and Sickels has him at a grade B-, so he’s worth about $5 million. I’d venture a guess he’s worth more than that, but the numbers are the numbers.

$31.3 million was sent to the A’s, even though the surplus trade value was $40 million.

Between these two huge trades, there was a surplus trade value of $86.55 million, while the teams traded away a value of $82.3 million.

This all leads to Matt Garza.

Matt Garza has two years remaining of club control, in which he’ll make an estimated $8.7 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2013. Oliver projects 3.9 WAR for Garza in 2012. Some of you may say this is much worse than last year, but keep in mind, players who do well one season usually regress the next. Plus, Garza’s WAR on FanGraphs (fWAR) was 5.0, but on Baseball Reference (rWAR), it was just 2.9. If you’re curious about the differences, I encourage you to check this thread out on The Book Blog.

Knowing that players, once they pass their prime of 26 to 28 years old, get worse by about .5 WAR each year, we can estimate Garza would be worth 3.4 WAR in the 2013. Over the next two years we have a projected value of 7.3 WAR for Garza. The estimated win value over that time is an average of $5.13 million making Garza worth $37.5 million.

He’ll be paid roughly $21 million over those two years, so his surplus trade value is $16.5 million (let’s call it $17 million). If we look back at our farm system values, we find that the following ranked prospects are worth roughly what Garza’s surplus trade value is:

Top 51-75 hitters ($14.2 million)
Top 10-50 pitching prospects ($15.5 million)

A reasonable return for Garza, therefore, would be one top 10-50 pitching prospect or one top 51-75 hitting prospect. That gets us pretty close, but there’s still a little extra that the Cubs should want in return. A Grade C pitcher, 20 or younger, is worth $2.1 million, so that would round out our expected return for Matt Garza.

Jacob Turner has been discussed, and, while I don’t think he’s actually available, he was the 21st ranked prospect in all of baseball last year. If you’re interested in putting a name to a C prospect, have a look at Sickels’ top 20 Cubs prospects. It’s someone of equal talent to a Rafael Dolis or a Dave Sappelt, whom the Cubs recently acquired.

I don’t think Turner is available in a trade for Matt Garza because he’s not only a top 25 prospect, but he reached the big leagues at the age of 20. The value he could potentially provide the Tigers for 6 more full seasons is far higher than what Garza will provide them over the next two years. I believe Turner would be available for the right player, but I don’t believe Garza is that guy.

Garza’s trade value and their asking price is why I’m resigned to the Cubs not trading him. The next decision, in my opinion, is about how much to offer him for an extension.

Using the same 7.4 WAR and $5.13 million win value, we get a free agent contract of 2 years and $38 million. But Garza is not a free agent. Arbitration-eligible players make less than they are worth. In fact, the percentage of what they make compared to their actual value is something like this: 40%, 60% and 80%. Over two years, Garza is worth 70% of his free agent value, which is $26 million.

The Cubs wouldn’t just sign him to two years though. We project a 3.4 WAR in 2013, so it would be 2.9 the following year, and then 2.4, and then 1.9. That’s an additional 7.2 WAR. The average win value of those year is $5.8 million. Add that $45 million to the $26 million over the next two years and you get a 5-year deal for $71 million. John Danks signed a 5-year, $65 million extension, but he had only 1 year of club control remaining. I expect Garza would at least match the $65 million that Danks received.

Question: should the Cubs trade Garza for the expected return, sign him a 5-year extension or let the next two years play out? Strong arguments can be made for any of them. What say you?

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

58 responses to “Guest Post: “Trade Value,” Prospects, and an Adequate Return in a Matt Garza”

  1. Ashley

    I think they should look to trade him, because he could net a pretty good return. The Cubs are looking to rebuild and they need good young guys for that and I don’t think Garza fits into that mold! I love Garza and he pitched so much better then his record but if we can get a good few players for him I say pull the tigger and make the deal!

  2. Michael Vazquez

    Sign him to a 5-year extension, period. 28 years old, young enough to build around. We already have a bad starting rotation, might as well keep one good pitcher (Garza) in this rebuilding process. Dempster will be a free agent this year so and if we don’t resign him this year, we have TONS of starters already. Garza is exactly type of player you build around.

  3. njriv

    I say it’s either Jacob Turner or no dice.

  4. loyal100more

    smyly? does anyone know at least the mans first name…

    1. jandersonjr81 father of Caden

      Google

  5. Brian Peters

    Cut him loose.

  6. Rian

    This is a wonderful post, and a type of analysis that I’m unused to seeing applied in the world of Cubs baseball. A pleasure to read. That said, I’d like to take respectful issue with one of your sentences:

    “I don’t think Turner is available in a trade for Matt Garza because he’s not only a top 25 prospect, but he reached the big leagues at the age of 20. The value he could potentially provide the Tigers for 6 more full seasons is far higher than what Garza will provide them over the next two years.”

    My quibble stems from this logic:

    Let us assume that, in order to attain a playoff berth, the Tigers need to supplement their current roster with X wins. Let us further assume that at their current levels, Matt Garza can provide X wins next season and Jacob Turner can provide (X – 4) wins. Projecting into the six years that Turner will be under team control, let’s assume his trajectory looks like this:

    2012: X – 4
    2013: X – 2
    2014: X
    2015: X + 2
    2016: X + 4
    2017: X + 6
    TOTAL: 6X + 6

    Let us also say that Garza’s value over the next two years is as follows:

    2012: X
    2013: X + 2
    TOTAL: 2X + 2

    Using this metric, Turner is clearly more valuable to the Tigers over the length of his period of team control than Garza. This, indeed, is the logic you seem to use in this post. What you’re not taking into account, however, is the fact that, come hell or high water, the Tigers NEED those X wins in 2012. Otherwise, they’re not going to get to the playoffs, and their current core will deteriorate to the point that this “window” for winning a title will disappear. Looked at from this perspective, trading Turner, an (X – 4) in 2012, for Garza, an X, starts to make a lot more sense.

    Moreover, trading him to a team like the Cubs makes a lot of sense as well. The Cubs don’t particularly care if they’re “trading down” in 2012. They’re not going to win anything anyway. On the other hand, they’d very much like to have a hot young starter who will provide (X + 2) or (X + 4) value in 2015/16 — right when the they become very good as a team.

    Hopefully all of this makes sense. It might just be wishful thinking, but I think that Turner may be more available than we think.

    1. mb21 (David Mick)

      What you’re saying makes perfect sense. To put it the context of a team with actual projected wins, let’s say Team X is projected to win 85 and Turner can only be reasonably expected to provide 1 win in 2012. The AL Central is a weak division so the Tigers want to get to 87 or 88 wins and they’ll have a very good chance of winning that division. Adding Garza puts the at 89 and then subtracting Turner leaves them at 88. Goal accomplished.

      If the Tigers are thinking only in the short-term then trading Turner for Garza makes a lot of sense, but GMs are paid to think in the long-term. Dombrowski should be trying his best to acquire talent to help them win 2012, but have an eye on the future. So much can go wrong in one season, but if you can continue to be good you have a better chance to get to where you want. We’ve heard Theo talk about this several times this offseason. He doesn’t want to sell the future for the quick fix because you likely won’t find yourself in contention year in and year out.

      Furthermore, with 88 wins as the number that Garza (minus Turner) improves the Tigers, it’s 3 wins over the imaginary total we’ve assigned them. Are there other ways in which they can add those 3 wins? Could they add 2 wins without Giving Turner up? Leave a lesser prospect available to acquire 1 win at the deadline? There’s a lot to consider. There are more ways than one to add a few wins.

      Let’s look at this from the Cubs perspective using Starlin Castro as an example. He had become a top prospect entering the 2010 season, but let’s say he stayed in the minors, tearing it up for most of 2011 and came up at the age of 20 at the end of the season. 20 year old shortstops are hard to find. Ask yourself, what would you have traded Castro for after 1 month of his service time at the big league level? Would you have traded him straight up for Matt Garza? I wouldn’t have. I hope the Tigers do.

      Also FWIW, Oliver has the Tigers at 91 wins right now (6 ahead of the Twins) and CAIRO has them 2 wins ahead of the Twins.

      1. Kyle

        I’m a *huge* fan of this approach to valuing players.

        As you guys noted, it’s just important to realize that while the generic value of a win is consistent, the value to individual teams is actually shifting constantly as teams move up and down the success cycle.

        Also, dollars aren’t the only limited resource. Roster spots and playing time are finite as well. Getting a lot of 5 wins out of one spot is much more valuable than getting the same 5 win total out of multiple spots.

        1. mb21 (David Mick)

          Yes, you’re absolutely right that a 5-WAR player is more valuable than 2 2.5-WAR players because of the finite size of the roster. Great point.

        2. Rian

          Precisely. There was also a great point made somewhere below about the value of a proven pitcher in a short playoff series. As Billy Beane has found out, playing averages works out great over 162 games but can be dicey when it comes to winning 3/5. If the Tigers want to get past an LDS, they’ll want a pitcher like Garza.

          1. Kyle

            Not to get into *that* discussion again, but the weird thing about the A’s was that they *had* the proven pitchers. They were built around proven pitchers, and those pitchers kept failing them in the postseason. The offense generally did pretty well in the playoffs.

            And they actually had a pretty decent record against “ace” pitchers in the playoffs. It was the back-end guys that seemed to get them.

          2. JasonB

            The problem with “playing averages” in the playoffs is that the average performance of players gets distorted due to small sample size.  That’s why the WS winner in any given year may not be the best team.  Cases in point – 2011 Cardinals, 2010 Giants, 2006 Cardinals.  None of these teams were the best teams in baseball yet they have won half of the last 6 WS.

      2. Kevin

        decent points, but games aren’t won and lost on paper and GM’s use stats other than WAR to assemble teams. Garza IS the type of pitcher that would be a great benefit short term And long term for the Tigers. He is a known value in the MLB. A rotation with Verlander, Garza, Scherzer, Fister, Porcello is pretty good(on paper i know)

      3. Rian

        This is all very well taken — particularly given Theo’s comments about building consistent winners. I’m just not sure every GM in the game is sold on this concept, particularly when the value of their own next contract may be tied to performance in the most recent year, and not the present value of future seasons.

        If I’m Dombrowski, I’m looking at the fact that Ozzie Guillen managed to survive five years longer than he should have — in the same division — with mediocre teams, simply on the strength of one outstanding, championship season. Consistent winning is nice when it works. When it doesn’t, it’s harder to fall back upon 88-win seasons as raison d’etre for a renewal of contract.

    2. Tony S

      Exactly what I was thinking Rian. Very interesting article but it looks at player value in isolation from any team dynamic or situation that may be present. If I was the Tigers and I had to pick one of Garza, Latos or Gonzalez to start game 2 or 3 of the World Series I would be picking Garza. Assuming the Tigers are in win right now mode then they would also have to place a relatively high value on variables such as:
      1/ Garza’s postseason experience in the toughest AL division (especially when comparing the return for Latos/Gonzalez who have no postseason experience), and
      2/ his clubhouse influence would be another variable that I think would add value for the team trading for Garza. He’s been nothing but a positive team-mate on the Cubs with no clubhouse distractions (as far as I’m aware).

      A team like the Tigers looking to add the final piece would have to be placing a high importance on both of these variables as well as the performance stats and hopefully that’s why we get Turner, Castellanos and Smyly.

  7. Cheryl

    These figures are fine and I’m sure they make a lot of sense but I’m from a different generation and it is still difficult to follow this type of thinking. I do think Garza should be traded and because he is an established pitcher, to me he has more value. As for the return – I would say three prospects. There should definitely be a major league ready pitcher, a very good second tier prospect with potential and a lower level prospect with a high ceiling. Can I justify this mathematically? No. But this to me is an extremey fair return, perhaps even on the low side in comparison to Garza’s value.

    1. mb21 (David Mick)

      Actually, Cheryl, I think you can justify this with numbers. Perhaps you’re not interested in that, but the package you mention is actually the package I had in mind a couple months ago when I first wondered what Garza’s trade value is. If by Major League pitcher we’re talking about the typical MLB ready pitching prospect. Someone who is 23 years old and has succeeded in the high minors, I definitely agree. A 20 year old starting pitcher who skyrocketed the minors though? If I’m the GM and I have that commodity I’m only trading him for one of the top 5 players in the game. The second-tier prospect you mention is what is often referred to as a mid-level prospect (a high C, low B grade). The prospect in the lower minors with potential is what I’d consider a grade C, but has tremendous upside, but a major flaw too. I don’t need to run the numbers on that, but I’m pretty sure it’s a fair trade. So numbers or no numbers I think you are on the right track and thinking about this more critically than you give yourself credit for.

      1. Cheryl

        Thanks David. Its not that I’m not interested in the numbers, its just that I have never been good in math so I shy away from this type of analysis. You’ve explained it in such a way with your response that I can see what you’re saying.

  8. Deez

    IMO, you’ll never get “fair trade value” immediately. You never know w/ Prospects. Look at our #1 overall organizational prospects over the last decade. Anything can happen & the same can be said about Garza. He can tear a rotator cuff. So, you get as many good value prospects as you can to hopefully fill needs. Hopefully, one of these guys can possibly be traded again & get us more. You never know.

    1. JasonB

      That’s why the value of prospects is what it is.  The prospects that pan out provide their organization with a ton of value well in excess of the values in Wang’s trade value chart that David liked above.  The ones that flame out provide their organization with zilch so the prospect trade values that David refers to is effectively an average of the values of the ones who make it and the ones who don’t.  That’s where the upside and downside of trading for only a few prospects comes in – if they pan out and become legit stars, you win the lottery because their value will be much higher than the average value.  If you miss, then they’ll be worth less.

      David – as a guy who follows sabermetrics, I obviously loved the article so thank you for writing it.  I do hope that those who advocate us trading Garza only if we get half of an organization’s top 10 prospects read this and realize that a scenario like that isn’t feasible.

      I’ll add one thought to the discussion and would be interested in hearing your take on it – Garza is valued at about 3.9 WAR next year because people are expecting regression to the mean.  However, there is a popular school of thought that Garza, through his different pitch mix, became a different pitcher last year than at any other point in his career.  If this is in fact the case, then Garza is worth much more than you’ve postulated above as he could deliver 5 WAR next year and 4.5 WAR in 2013.  This could make his value closer to $28 million, which would make Turner a viable trade.  Of course, if the Tigers think Turner’s chances of panning out are greater than average, then they’ll value him higher than the values suggested in Wang’s research.  I’m guessing that Theo and Jed are using this approach in their negotiations.

  9. Phelps 34

    Trade him if Turner is in the deal asap!! if not resign him and build around him.

  10. JB88

    This was an extremely interesting post, but I think there are a few things that seemingly work against this model: (1) supply & demand economics; (2) overvaluing of prospects; and (3) overvaluing of players who are deemed clutch.

    The Cubs will be able to turn Garza into greater value than his projected WAR for the simple reasons that the market for a player of Garza’s perceived value is far greater than his actual value and he is deemed — rightly or wrongly — as a clutch player, who organizations will overvalue.

    In other words, no matter Garza’s true value, if a team believes that Garza is the difference between a WS win and making or just missing the playoffs, that perceived value is worth far more to most organizations than simply a straight WAR exchange.

  11. Gcheezpuff

    For the most part I thought this was a pretty good explanation. I did however feel there was a lot of estimations to make the numbers fit the examples. Also completely leaves out that not every team values players using the same criteria and that other factors effect a players value, such as him being the best or worse available player and how many teams desire his service just to name a few. Call me a bias cubs fan, but I think Garza will net a little more then implied. Maybe it will be an over pay based on this article, but the now lack of alternatives mixed with interest from multiple teams tips the scales. Good over all read though.

  12. Spoda17

    Nice article, thanks David.

    Love the numbers, but I still think that is only part of it.  I still think there is the “eye” test that needs to be considered.  I like Garza, but if they can get an adequate return (I know you all are going ..DUH!!!), they need to deal him.  I think Theo and company did similar comparisons as you did, and I think they will make the right call, whether it be to keep him or trade him.

    One other note, there needs to be a “desperate” value added.  If a team is desperate for him now, they obviously will pay more.  It’s just like any other commodity, it/he is only worth what someone is willing to pay.  If we make decisions based only on the numbers, we will lose every time.  Have to find a happy medium of all of the information.

  13. Kevin

    call me crazy, it wouldnt be the first time, but i am not high on Jacob Turner.
    that said, if everyone else is, including the intelligent decision makers running the Chicago Cubs, i am happy with him as the centerpiece. the health of a pitcher is always a concern. he has shown to be rather dependable and resilient but injuries are always right around the corner. If his numbers are better this season and the Cubs want to move him in July i know they could probably get a little more than the present. But, i am concerned with an injury that my occur. Also worth noting is if it is a more of an old school GM looking to trade for a top of the rotation starter in July, Garza will not have many wins with this team backing him.

    1. mb21 (David Mick)

      I know some have spoke about Turner’s rather modest K/9 figures, but I’m not the least bit concerned. The guy is 20 years old. I recently compared him to Madison Bumgarner and I think the comparison is fairly accurate. If you check out Bumgarner’s minor league numbers they’re comparable to Turner’s. They weren’t eye popping figures because he was so young at every level he played at, but now he’s one of the best pitchers in the game. I think Turner very well could be one of the best in two to three years. If Turner is a realistic option the Cubs have to pull that trigger in my opinion.

  14. die hard

    rather trade him for one of the Detroit starting infielders or outfielders if going to Detroit…dont know who that is but should be of equal age and potential….then sweeten by throwing in Soriano and agree to pick up 90% of salary….then further sweeten by throwing in Dempster if Detroit picks up his entire salary and gives Cubs a top 50-100 prospect….clean sweep and all the old stuff is gone….sign Wood to 2 yrs at 3.5 mil with savings on Dempster….and Cubs are ready to turn corner….WS in 2015 or bust

    1. Pat

      There is no chance at all that anyone takes Dempster’s full contract and also give a top 50-100 overall prospect. Dempster is not even likely to be worth his contract this year.

  15. Andrew

    Interesting post and I believe I’ve seen similar analysis to this regarding Garza’s value. I find that it ignores a few things though. I think the goal of a GM is primarily to win the World Series above all else. Getting wins is obviously crucial to that but i think the value of a win is not equal to all teams.

    1. The value of a win to a team like the tigers now is more than the value of a win in the future because their window to win is closing in many peoples eyes due to their large amount of veterans. Therefore you would reduce the value of youger guys like Turner and increase value for guys like Garza.

    2. I think some of the importance of the postseason is lost in this.analysis. If I’m the Tigers, I wanna be there and win it in the next two years. The 1-2 punch of Verlander-Garza gives them a legitimate shot to beat any team in the league.

    The fact is the goal of a baseball team is to win a world series, if you think youve only got one chance for the next many years, I think the value of a win today spikes up to maybe 6 or 7 mill and the prospects dont become nearly as important.

  16. T C

    Loved it just as much as all your posts on OV, mb. Thanks

     

  17. TonyP

    If his value is a Top 51-75 hitter or a Top 10-50 pitching prospect plus a C level prospect I would rather extend him.   You already know that Garza is a top level pitcher.  A C level prospect can be had many different ways so it is basically Garza for 1 top prospect deal.  Why take the risk of getting a bust in return when you already have a known commodity?

    1. Kyle

      Because there’s no such thing as a known commodity in baseball.

      Baseball players are highly volatile. Especially pitchers. Yes, prospects are known to burn out. But so are major leaguers.

      1. TonyP

        I see your point Kyle but I know Garza can pitch and have success in the majors.  You can’t say that about all prospects.   I would be curious to see what % of a Top 51-75 hitters or a Top 10-50 pitching prospects from 3, 4, or 5 years ago developed into a MLB player as good as Garza.

  18. Cubsin

    Nice article, David, even if it was a bit depressing for Cubs fans who were expecting a much larger return for Garza.

    But I’d like to raise three points. First, Pujols current market value is nowhere near zero. As far as I know, his second-best offer was the Cardinals $210 to $220 million, so they’d put a -$34 to -$44 million value on that contract. Probably the majority of MLB franchises would love to have Pujols for $154 million over ten years, so they would value his contract at something resembling -$100 million.

    Second, if Edwin Jackson is worth anything resembling four or five years at $15 to $17 million as Boras claims, Garza is worth considerably more than this projection for Jackson, and is a much better pitcher besides.

    Finally, Garza’s past record of success in the AL East really adds to his value to AL East teams, and to AL teams in general (considering the Tigers, Angels or Rangers will probably meet one or two AL East teams in the playoffs).

  19. Mike F

    No disrespect, didn’t buy it the first time around and don’t this. This analysis is flawed in that it overvalues prospects and undervalues a guy like Garza based on age. I think that’s incorrect and if that’s the case, someone needs to forward this on to LAA especially in regards to Wilson. Wilson doesn’t begin to match up with Garza.

    You don’t even consider a conversation with Detroit that doesn’t include Turner and at least 2 other high valued prospects.

  20. Michael D

    I have a few quibbles.

    1. The aging curves seems too aggressive for these pitchers who are mostly less than 30 in these examples.

    2. I think some sort of discount factor should be included. Teams would prefer a win today over one tomorrow, all else equal. In valuing NFL draft picks, typically a second round pick this year is worth a first round pick next year.

    3. Shouldn’t there be a risk premium for the prospects? Maybe this is implicitly included in the prospect WAR valuations.

  21. PKJ

    Wow, this post just blew my mind.

  22. WGNstatic

    Thanks for the analysis.

    I have one question/disagreement however. It is certainly useful to assign a value to a prospect, no doubt. That said, the value that a prospect brings is far less certain than the value provided by a player such as Matt Garza.

    This got me to thinking about the big trade that brought CC Sabathia to Milwaukee a few years ago. I found this article at Hardball Times LINK that went through a similar analysis to the one you provided for that trade. It is quite interesting to look back at that deal with the benefit of 3.5 years. Matt LaPorta was a big deal. The big gulping sound coming from Wisconsin on that day was not the sound of a cheese curd being washed down by a frothy beverage. Folks, while thrilled to bring in CC were nervous about giving up such a big name prospect.

    Well, none of those guys have done much for the Indians, that doesn’t make it a bad trade, but, it highlights how difficult it is to assess the value of a prospect.

    In short, I guess I would say that I expect the predicted value of a prospect package to top, perhaps significantly, the expected value of an established big leaguer going the other way in a trade such as this.

  23. drew

    I agree with Andrew’s post (must be the name!). I think the one thing missing from the post is some sort of weighting system for wins now, which, as stated by a couple of others, is what Garza would provide the tigers.

    If Garza holds true to the drop of. 5 WAR per year after age 28 or 29, to me its a great deal if you can get Turner and a couple others. This especially holding true for the Cubs, who dont look ready to compete until that decline begins.

  24. curt

    now ill buy some of this but what it does not and can not take into consideration is the human element, i mean by this its not what the computer thinks a player or deal is worth its what 2 gm’s sitting accross from each other think its worth, if the tigers are interested or think that garza is the last piece to put them over the top they might pay morethan hes worth what a player is actually worth and and what a team or teams is willing to give up for said player are not the same thing well see.

  25. Jeff L

    “Waves of talent every few years are how teams can build long-term success, complementing high-priced All-Stars with lower-cost, emerging youngsters, then repeating the cycle. But then, talented prospects are also how other teams acquire proven stars and load up on talent to compete over a shorter stretch (By Jason Beck / MLB.com)” My question is where are the Cubs headed… Unless there is a huge free agent splash in the next year or by the latest 2013 all we will have is un proven prospects and one young emerging star with a glaring sexual assault case over his head. ” Though potential is always an iffy term in baseball, especially with pitchers, Turner’s work ethic, makeup and repertoire suggest as close to a sure thing as the organization has right now (Jason Beck/MLB.com).” I do like what I have read about Turner. That comment does also does scream volumes that most people should think about that there is no sure thing when it comes to prospects.

  26. Jumpstart

    “I don’t think Turner is available in a trade for Matt Garza”

    In my opinion there are a lot of holes in your argument. The use of simple math and WAR info found on the internet as a basis for an argument on why Turner will not be available in a trade for Garza, or for any other trades is laughable.

    1/ You are assuming that baseball GM’s use your war/or similar valuations in assessing the value of a prospect or player’s worth in trade. Although, I’m sure each team uses scouting and their own proprietary use of statistics in valuing prospects and players value, it’s improbable that those will be the primary factors that will be involved in making a trade.

    2/ You are assuming that a baseball team has infinite resources and that the best way to value a team is solely through “war.” There are only so many roster spots on a team and by your assumption, we should trade Garza for 15 guys that have1 WAR in value and we should be big winners in a trade. I have to disagree, “high impact WAR” players have much more value by taking one roster spot and providing impact throughout the rotation or lineup.

    3/ When you have a lot of under performing players in relation to their salaries, I agree you need to find value. The Cubs are a good example of this. When you are a contending team with limited roster space, WAR for WAR trades do NOT make sense and what becomes more important is the quality of the player and the impact it will have on your ultimate goal, winning a World Series.

    4/ You are assuming that you can make War for War trades like the Stock Market at anytime you please. Players like Garza are unique in value. If players such as Cain, Hamels, Lee, etc. were available every year for the price of WAR or slightly above, then you are right, Garza would have little value/or value exactly according to WAR.

    5/ Finally, a “high impact” player has more value than WAR for certain ballclubs. Each team spends hundreds of millions on management, marketing, scouting, etc. to win a Championship. If they are in “their window of opportunity,” it actually makes sense to lose WAR in the long term to gain an impact player in the short. If they take into account, their presumably “affordable” players are getting more expensive each year and closer to expensive free agency. Each year they have invested hundreds of millions for one goal and should be easy to see why some teams would sacrifice WAR over impact.

    That being said, not all teams are in a position to contend or have the pieces to trade. Additionally, many may not feel Garza is the “impact” player they need. Did Sabathia get the “correct” WAR for his last year to Milwaukee in trade value? Without looking it up, I’d probably say not even close. My point being is that, WAR/or similar statistics play some role in deciding whether a trade happens or not but definitely is not the leading factor in making an assumption.

  27. OCCubFan

    Thanks for the excellent analysis. It gives one plenty to think about and shows the falacies in many of the emotional valuation of players. I would be interested to learn about your take on the exchanged values in the trade in which the Cubs got Garza last year.

  28. TeddyBallGame

    First off, thanks for taking the time David to help explain how this all works. Before this article, an explanation for sabermetrics might as well have been written in Chinese because it made no sense. Before Theo and Jed came in I would dread trading a player of Garza’s caliber for minor league “prospects”. Why you ask?? The simple answer is because I’ve been a lifelong Cubs fan and when I hear the term “prospect”, flashes of Corey Patterson, Rich Hill, Hee-Flop Choi (only player to EVER be ambulanced off the field during a game), and Felix Pie come back to haunt me. I understand why sabermetrics are used, but it obviously shouldn’t be the only reason a move is made. “In Threeo We Trust” and if this overall plan doesn’t work out in the next few years, I really won’t know what to believe in and how much to believe in it. I hope it’s not “blind-confidence”, but I can already feel the entire mentality of the organization changing.

    1. Kyle

      There are a lot of different reasons for those flops, and those are all pretty different players.

      Sometimes, they were legit flops. Sometimes they had decent major-league careers, they just didn’t turn into stars. Some were never that highly thought of to begin with. Some were mediocre prospects who got thrust into the limelight because they were the most promising in some very bad Cubs minor league systems.

      Patterson had had a couple very good years for the Cubs and scratched together some useful ones in Baltimore too. He wasn’t a true “bust,” just a guy who leveled off a little below his ceiling.

      I don’t recall Rich Hill being much of a prospect, though I could be misremembering. He was a fourth-round pick who just kept doing barely enough to move up a level and hang around in the system. Then he put together a shockingly useful 2006 and 2007 (posterchild for BABIP luck, btw) before going back to obscurity.

      Choi is probably a legit bust, though I’m still not sure why he didn’t get more chances. He had a career 106 OPS+ in the majors and was generally a Carlos Pena type (low average, huge walk totals and good power). He just didn’t stick, for some reason.

      Pie was a full-on bust.

      It’s also important to note that not all prospects are created equal. There tend to be two types of prospects people get hyped about. One is the young players with high ceilings and projectable talent. Scouts aren’t saying they could play in the majors right now, they are saying “If this guy grows up like we think he can, he’ll be great.” These are the Torreyes of the world. They are long-shots and could just as easily be Felix Pies as they big-league stars. Sometimes they just stop getting better.

      Then there are older prospects who are ready to go. A guy like Anthony Rizzo is in his early 20s and has proven he can hit in the highest levels of the minors. He still has room to develop into a star, but even if he stops getting better today, he should be a major-league useful player.

      It’s a matter of preference to a degree, but I highly prefer the latter type of prospect. Give me a guy like Travis Wood, who can step into an MLB rotation right now and be a credible pitcher, or a Dave Sappelt, who I think is ready to be an average starter or a very strong backup right now. These guys may not have the sexy ceilings and the All-Star comps in their scouting reports, but I feel just as comfortable giving them a starting job as I would an MLB veteran.

    2. mb21 (David Mick)

      Thanks for the compliments. Thanks to all of you for contributing to this thread be it a compliment or criticism. Thanks again to Brett for allowing me to post this here.

  29. jandersonjr81 father of Caden

    I dig this approach. However, what you fell to mention is that they can replace the production they lose from turner in years 3-6, either by signing Garza to an extension, letting him walk in free agency(receiving compensation), or by letting him walk and sign a younger free agent at the time. All should be taken into account. If turner provide them (hypothetical)12 wins over the next 6 years, and Garza provides them 5 for the next 2, well they have 4 years left after Garza to replace the other 7. But the instant impact of Garza is worth 2 wins in trade value, if it makes you a contender, then that leaves you to replace on 5 wins over 4 years. Not a hard feat. Instant wins is worth wins in trade value, though it means nothing on the field.

  30. Dougy D

    Thanks for the article David. I will not pretend to understand the intricacies of sabermetrics, although this does help a little bit. While this may of legit value when evaluating a trade, I take issue with it. One thing that bothers me about it is what is the difference between the number 49 hitter and the number 51 hitter. They likely face different players in the minors and each talent evaluator or scout may rank them differently. I am also on board with the comments about the immediate impact of a pitcher like Garza in comparison to a guy that got called up in September. I think that for a team that may have a short window to win big, it is more important to have a solid #2 or #3 in the rotation than a high upside #5 in comparison.
    I am guessing that you won’t like this comment (as most people aren’t a big fan of it), but I would consider this valuation system similar to the BCS. Obviously different factors are used to give the value of a player or team, but nothing gives a true value. For example, with the BCS, they have 2 teams from the same conference playing each other tonight. Obviously college football is different, but the better of these 2 teams was already decided when these teams played each other earlier in the year. With the BCS statistics though, it is decided that these 2 teams play each other rather than match them up with another team.
    Now I am sure that the BCS is much more off track than your system, but true value isn’t derived from statistics. You can argue that with the Yankees last year, Garza would have won 18-22 games because of run support provided by a much better offense. That still doesn’t change the fact that he wasn’t anywhere close to that number.
    To keep myself from going on a much longer rant, I will sum my thoughts up here briefly. Statistics can be relevant when evaluating the worth of a player, it really comes down to what the suits decide is best for the team. I look forward to learning more about all of the new (new to me) stats and I appreciate you explaining some of it.