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Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Counterpoint: Also Not OK

Jose already covered the main topic well. I just want to step back and reconsider the following statement:

It’s not official but There is no baseball case for moving Mookie.  If the Sox wanted to cut payroll they should never have offered a contract to Jackie Bradley and traded JD Martinez.  Or they could have traded David Price with quite literally no return and gotten contract relief that way.

I believe there is a solid baseball case for making this trade. That doesn’t make it OK.

Let’s start with the options as presented. Yes, they could have non-tendered Bradley. We know that alone wouldn’t get them under the payroll threshold. We’ve worked the math on this before: the oft-repeated sentiment that to get under the threshold they’d need to move either Mookie or Martinez was effectively true, because the alternative would be to move so many players that keeping Mookie and JDM would have been a Pyrrhic victory at best. (While one might still prefer to have Betts with this team because he’s awesome, fan service is a business decision, not a baseball decision.)

I think we’ve also handled whether JDM has trade value right now. The short answer is that he doesn’t, There is too great a downside risk to a team trading for him, because of his opt-out clause. If he does well in 2020, then you probably only have him for one year, just like Betts; but if he does poorly or gets injured there’s a real good chance he doesn’t opt out. Trading partners will want something in return for that, be it salary relief or prospects or both. Trading JDM is effectively not an option, if the objective is salary relief and getting something in return.

Likewise, trading Price with literally no return is literally not possible. I mean, if that were possible, then we could break down this actual trade into three trades:

LA gets: David Price and the entirety of his contract
Boston gets: open roster spot and salary relief

LA gets: Mookie Betts and the $27 million he’s owed
Boston gets: open roster spot

LA gets: $21 million
Boston gets: Alex Verdugo and Brusdar Graterol, and their contracts.

Like, neither of those latter two deals make any sense from Boston’s perspective. But those two deals that on their own make no sense are the cost to make the Price trade happen. That is a pretty good gauge of Boston’s ability to get salary relief from trading Price. That’s such a bad deal for the team receiving Price that nobody would have accepted it without being offset by something equally ludicrous in their favor. I don’t think there was a viable path to trading Price that didn’t involve trading Betts with him. One could argue Sale instead of Betts, and I’m open to that argument.I’m just not going to make it here because my objective was to argue a baseball rationale for making this trade, and I’m pretty deep into this without even starting on that part. My only point with the above is that the easy answers (other than perhaps just paying the man) aren’t viable, and the viable answers aren’t easy.

From a baseball perspective, Boston exchanged wins concentrated in 2020 for wins spread throughout the next 5 years or so. That’s the most obvious way to describe it. Using Fangraps ZiPS projected WAR, here’s how the years shake out:

2020 -4.9 (Verdugo+Graterol-Price-Betts)
2021 +2.4 (Verdugo+Graterol-Price)
2022 +2.7 (Verdugo+Graterol-Price)
2023 +3.9 (Verdugo+Graterol)
2024 +3.9 (Verdugo+Graterol)
2025 +1.8 (Graterol)
——————————-
Total +9.8

For these additional wins they are paying around $48 million of Price’s remaining salary, let’s say $25 million for Verdugo through his cost-controlled years, and $22 million for Graterol, or $95 million in total, versus the $123 million for Betts and Price had they retained them. Ten more wins and a $28 million savings. Not even counting tax savings and draft pick benefits from staying under the threshold, that’s a great trade on paper.

Now of course that’s not necessarily how things will work out. Betts might have another Trout-like year; Price might have more than 23 starts in him, and might be back to his old self; prospects might flame out. Any one of these players might get injured, or in Price’s case more injured. I mean, Boston traded for a pitcher, and that usually means we’re only 4 months away from a season-ending injury. But just working with ZiPS-projected WAR as a rough but objective framework for understanding the value of the players exchanged, Boston comes out way ahead here. Not for 2020, of course; in 2020 they might have a winning record and still end up in 4th place in the division.

I think it’s reasonable to ask what 2020 will have looked like had they retained Betts and Price. In 2018 they won 108; with much the same team in 2019 they won 84. That’s a wide variance, with the truth for 2020 (with Betts and Price) probably being on the low end of the range in between. While they have done some work this offseason to address one of the weaker parts of the 2019 squad (the bullpen) again the team would have been much the same but one year older. I’m going to throw a guess of 90 wins as a reasonable view of their 2020 chances had they not made this deal.

Folks, that’s a third-place team in this division. The Yankees and Rays will be better than 90 wins. The Blue Jays are improved, and while they might not be improved enough to take over third place they will provide further headwinds for the third place team in the AL East to get enough wins to take the second wild card (assuming the second-place team gets the first wild card - which is not a lock, either). So, even retaining Price and Betts we could reasonably expect Boston to miss the playoffs in 2020. That’s something they could accomplish without Price and Betts, frankly.

On top of all that are the cap considerations, which we’ve been through aplenty in other threads. I won’t rehash it here, other than to acknowledge there are benefits to the team in the long term from getting under the threshold. Whether they need to do this is a separate discussion from whether it makes sense to do this.

...and that’s where I still feel like it’s not OK. I mean, I get why they did it. We can wail about John Henry’s greed, but any argument that this trade should not have happened, from Boston’s perspective, was also greedy. We wanted Mookie Betts never to leave Boston. And if Mookie were to choose to leave Boston, we wanted to have this one final season. We wanted it because we’re greedy. He’s awesome and we wanted that awesomeness for us. We all knew the team didn’t have a reasonable shot at the playoffs even with him, but his presence gave us a reason to watch them this season anyway. We wanted that for ourselves.

When we talk about running a baseball team, trading Betts with Price was a sensible baseball decision. But we don’t run a baseball team. We root for a baseball team. The definition of “baseball decision” is different for us. At the end of the day, for us it’s about decisions that impact our desire to root for the team. This trade hurt, a lot. It’s not OK.

villageidiom Posted: February 05, 2020 at 08:15 AM | 117 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2
   101. Fancy Pants Handle on Altuve's Buzzer Posted: February 09, 2020 at 06:11 PM (#5923040)
Well, see you all in 2021. Maybe.
   102. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 09, 2020 at 06:16 PM (#5923043)
Catcher Connor Wong is also in the deal apparently along with Verdugo and Downs.
   103. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 09, 2020 at 06:34 PM (#5923047)
So, Wong & Downs > Graterol? I know nothing about any of them.
   104. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 09, 2020 at 06:46 PM (#5923050)
$48M also going from Boston to LA.
   105. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 09, 2020 at 06:50 PM (#5923052)
According to the Sox Prospects guys Downs becomes the Sox’ #1 or #2 prospect which makes him a top 100 guy. He looks like he can play and apparently is likely to be a second baseman so that’s a nice fit.

Wong seems like a guy who maybe can be something, strikes out a lot though.


Better than Graterol? Well if Graterol is a reliever probably. If he’s a starter probably not.
   106. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 09, 2020 at 06:59 PM (#5923054)
MLB Pipeline has Jeter Downs* as the Dodgers #5 prospect, and Connor Wong #28. That’s not a bad haul with Verdugo, but none are as a ‘sure thing’ as Betts.

* Named for the ever-popular NYY HOF shortstop.
   107. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 09, 2020 at 07:04 PM (#5923055)
Downs is #44 on the MLB top 100 list. This is their scouting report;

Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55

As if the Dodgers don't already have an abundance of shortstop riches with Corey Seager and Gavin Lux, Downs batted .276/.362/.526 with 24 homers and 24 steals and reached Double-A shortly after turning 21 in his first season in the organization. A Reds supplemental first-round pick who signed for $1,822,500 in 2017, he came to Los Angeles in December 2018 as part of a package for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer. Named after Derek Jeter, he's the younger brother of Jerry Downs, a first baseman in the Red Sox system.

Downs actually struggled at the outset of 2019 when he got too impatient at the plate, then took off once he settled down and started working counts and using the entire field. Just one of his 19 homers in his first two pro seasons went to the right side of the field, but he showed the ability to drive the ball the other way with six opposite-field blasts last year. With his simple right-handed swing, quick hands and deceptive strength, he should hit for power and average.

Downs is a smart and aggressive runner who makes the most of his average speed. After spending more time at second base in 2018, he saw most of his action at shortstop last season. He has the hands and enough arm to play shortstop, though his range fits better at second base.
   108. JJ1986 Posted: February 09, 2020 at 07:37 PM (#5923060)
but none are as a ‘sure thing’ as Betts
This is from an Out of the Park trade summary, right? It can't be real.
   109. Mike Webber Posted: February 09, 2020 at 09:03 PM (#5923075)
FWIW
Downs prospect rank
Baseball America 86
Sickels 95
MLB Pipeline 44
Baseball Prospectus - not in top 100
BB HQ - 84
Fantrax 47



   110. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 09, 2020 at 09:08 PM (#5923077)
Mike - How many of those are current rankings? I know MLB has come out with their new list, are the other ones 2020 rankings or 2019?
   111. puck Posted: February 09, 2020 at 09:24 PM (#5923082)
How does the money changing hands affect the luxury tax levels?
   112. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 09, 2020 at 09:45 PM (#5923085)
As I understand it the money each team pays is what counts. So for example on Price the Sox are responsible for $48 million over the next three years and the Dodgers are responsible for the rest.
   113. Darren Posted: February 09, 2020 at 10:11 PM (#5923092)
but none are as a ‘sure thing’ as Betts



Well then this is unacceptable.

   114. Mike Webber Posted: February 09, 2020 at 11:53 PM (#5923104)
@ Jose - all of them are for the 2020 season - though I think Fantrax was December, there's not a lot of additional info since then. I keep a list for fantasy baseball prep, so it was easy to look up.

Here's what Sickels said Feb 3 about Downs

95) Jeter Downs, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers, Grade B: Not previously ranked; hit .276/.362/.526 with 24 homers, 24 steals, 60 walks in High-A/Double-A; another multi-category player, this may be too low. — ETA late 2021


   115. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 09, 2020 at 11:56 PM (#5923105)
Thanks Mike.
   116. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 09, 2020 at 11:58 PM (#5923106)
I looked it up years ago and I remember finding that the going rate for a star player was about one top 50 guy, one top 100 guy and one or two lottery tickets so this sounds about right. This is not dissimilar to what the Sox gave for a year of Gonzalez.
   117. villageidiom Posted: February 10, 2020 at 10:24 AM (#5923146)
How does the money changing hands affect the luxury tax levels?

Cot's salary tracker spreadsheet, which is fantastic, has the whole thing on the far right side. The $48 million Boston is still paying for Price works out to an AAV of $16 million per year counting toward the luxury tax levels. As of now, Boston's 2020 payroll for the sake of the tax works out to $188,367,917, which is well below the $208 million threshold.

Their actual 2020 payroll is only about half a million below that, in a remarkable coincidence. The tax numbers include around $15 million in player benefits, while actual payroll does not. However, actual payroll includes $14.3 million for Rusney Castillo, while the tax numbers do not.
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