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Deadline Note

July 31, 2017

              Just a note here to try to build understanding.   Watching the trade deadline shows, there is a major factor in this that none of these guys has any understanding of.  

              Since many prospects do not "pan out", there are always more prospects than players.   If you have 37 players that you want to keep on your 40-man roster and, looking at your minor league system, there are another eight players that you will need to add to your 40-man roster this off-season or you will lose them, then you have no choice but to trade prospects at the deadline, because you’re going to lose them anyway.   If you only have 32 players that you really like and there are only a couple of guys in your minor league system that you are going to need to protect, then it makes sense for you to make a trade to try to take advantage of the teams which have a surplus.   

              The value of a 40-man roster spot is determined by the market.   The best 1200 players in the game. . .those are guys who are good enough to deserve a spot.   You’re not going to have exactly 40 of those guys on every team.   Just by the nature of the universe, you’re going to have 33 on one team and 48 on another.   The team with 48 more or less HAS to make a trade with the team that has 33, because of the roster rules.  

              You are trying to move wins in time, of course, trying to move wins from a year when you don’t have a shot to a year when you do, and you are trying to move positions, of course, trying to trade an outfielder for a pitcher when you need a pitcher.   The guys on the TV talk about those things all the time and speculate about the post-season as if it started tomorrow, but there’s another factor there that they don’t get at all.   


COMMENTS (8 Comments, most recent shown first)

Stopped watching the TV guys many a moon ago. Their blather, so-called expert analysis became obsolete once the true nature of sabermetrics became apparent. They really are reduced to reading the facts of a trade after the trade is made. Then we get a new cycle of them congratulating themselves as they "project" the results. Gotta fill airtime. " The poets down here do nothing at all, they just standback and just let all be..."
10:25 AM Aug 1st
One additional thing about athletes is that there is a brief window in which they are effective. Many athletes peak rather early. If a guy is buried in the organizational depth chart, you can't wait around forever until there's a need for him, because by that time he may have passed his prime. It's like having a sell-by date.
2:34 AM Aug 1st
P.S. Miggy might not have been a great example of "big bopper" :-) if we figure he's only as good as his stats of this year.

I wondered if maybe there would be reason for more optimism for another team to have gotten him if (say) he's been bad at 'home' and better 'away,' but forget about that. His away stats are like below replacement, no matter how anyone might define replacement.

But I was talking mainly about the general idea of differing values of big boppers and other types of hitters, not just those specific players.
8:33 PM Jul 31st
Off the subject a little, but.....

A thing I harp on (sue me, I like harp music) is how a single baseball thing can have very different values, according to context. I don't mean "value" in the sabermetrically calculatable sense, but value to the team; I do think it also translates into actual runs but not in a way that can be calculated, not directly. And, while I don't necessarily expect Bill to comment, since the springboard for what I'm saying is the Red Sox, I hope he will, because it's more about theory than a particular team. And also because it's about the Red Sox. :-)
It's a thing that was talked about a fair bit on New York talk-radio; maybe it was discussed even more in Boston, maybe to the point that anyone connected with the team will fall asleep at the mention of it.

Would a "big bopper" have been worth more than his usual value right now to a team like the Red Sox? A guy like Miguel Cabrera, or Giancarlo Stanton?
I'm inclined to think so. Not just because of Papi being gone, and not just because of the team's low HR total, although obviously it's related to those things. As Bill wrote when he was criticizing Linear Weights, baseball offense isn't linear, but geometric. I don't think he was talking about the values of kinds of players but about the values of individual offensive events. But, I think it applies to values of kinds of players too; each particular kind of player has more value if:
-- he's in a well-balanced lineup, and
-- he's used well in that lineup (which gets to how much 'batting order' means, but let's not get much into that).

A couple of years ago there was an example in New York that was felt to exemplify this: the Mets and Cespedes. Granted, adding Cespedes wasn't the only thing that happened at that time but it was seen as the key thing.

So: How true is it that the value of any particular type of player can vary according to context, including because of how he affects the rest of the lineup?
I think traditional sabermetrics (by which I mean 'early' sabermetrics, which I think still dominates the thinking of most in the field) ....traditional sabermetrics would say it's very little true, if at all.

And, as a bonus question :-) true would it have been for the Red Sox?
7:34 PM Jul 31st
Great note, Bill.

Would make a great article, particularly if historic examples were available.​
6:55 PM Jul 31st
Good point. I know as a fan that most of us just want to look at trades in terms of baseball talent exchanged (first of all) and in the long term potential of that talent (secondly). But as you say the roster rules strongly influence the teams to, in effect, make trades within their own organizations (e.g., trade current MLB players away so that their minor league guys can advance, or vice versa.

Gotta say, that isn't necessarily what the teams like, but it's certainly good for the young players who otherwise might be stuck, as they often were in the old days. On the other hand, it's not so great for the journeyman guys who, you would think, are moving team to team even more than ever. Or, maybe not.
5:38 PM Jul 31st
(oh -- I didn't mean it was because you weren't wanting to reveal anything, just that you were busy)​
2:48 PM Jul 31st
Great point. The WFAN guys actually referred to it earlier; I'd never thought of it before. They said it sort of just in-passing. I thought it deserved more emphasis.

BTW, I noticed that you weren't writing too much on this site in the last few days, including on Hey Bill. I figured for sure that meant the Red Sox were cooking some stuff, and they were. :-)
Of course maybe these things are unrelated, not unlike how it's not necessarily cause-and-effect either if a guy hits a HR on his birthday or something....
2:47 PM Jul 31st
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