Talent Acquisition in the Free Agent Era

November 20, 2016
A Source is a Source, Of Course, Of Course
 
In the business world, successful organizations are always looking for qualified, skilled workers to fill positions.  "Talent acquisition", as they call it.  There are many different sources available, with some of the more common avenues including:
 
  • Hiring from within the company
  • Using employee referrals
  • Performing online searches
  • Utilizing recruiters
  • Posting an open position and see who applies
 
Plus many, many others.
 
Similarly, Major League baseball franchises have various options at their disposal.  What are the sources that Major League teams use for acquiring talent?  How have teams leveraged those options over time?  Have they been fairly stable, or are there trends?  Have successful teams tended to favor one option over another?  And what are some of the extreme examples of how franchises have leveraged these various sources?
 
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use 4 major classifications of how Major League teams acquire talent.  I used Seamheads.com as my primary source in collecting the data, and this is how they classify the different types:
 
  1. Selecting a player via the annual amateur draft
  2. Signing an amateur free agent
  3. Trading with another team
  4. Signing a free agent that played out his contract with another team
 
There are other methods (for example, rule 5 selections), but they’re relatively small.  We’ll group everything else into "Other". 
 
So that we understand the distinctions, let’s look at examples of each type, using the 2016 World Champion (still feels odd saying that!) Chicago Cubs’ roster:
 
2016 Chicago Cubs Roster
Categorized by Type of Acquisition
 
 
Amateur Draft
Amateur Free Agent
Trade
Professional Free Agent
Other
 
Kris Bryant
Willson Contreras
Anthony Rizzo
Jon Lester
Hector Rondon
 
Javier Baez
Jorge Soler
Kyle Hendricks
Ben Zobrist
 
 
Albert Almora
Felix Pena
Addison Russell
John Lackey
 
 
Rob Zastryzny
Gerardo Concepcion
Dexter Fowler
David Ross
 
 
Matt Szczur
Jeimer Candelario
Jake Arrieta
Jason Hammel
 
 
Kyle Schwarber
 
Aroldis Chapman
Jason Heyward
 
 
 
 
Chris Coghlan
Trevor Cahill
 
 
 
 
Pedro Strop
Munenori Kawasaki
 
 
 
 
Tommy La Stella
Jake Buchanan
 
 
 
 
Travis Wood
Ryan Kalish
 
 
 
 
Mike Montgomery
Joe Nathan
 
 
 
 
Joe Smith
Brian Matusz
 
 
 
 
Carl Edwards
Joel Peralta
 
 
 
 
Justin Grimm
Tim Federowicz
 
 
 
 
Neil Ramirez
Clayton Richard
 
 
 
 
Miguel Montero
 
 
 
 
 
Spencer Patton
 
 
 
 
 
Adam Warren
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
rWAR Total
12.6
1.8
26.8
15.9
0.4
% of Total
21.9%
3.1%
46.6%
27.7%
0.7%
 
The figures at the bottom reflect the 2016 rWAR (baseball-reference.com’s version of WAR), both in total by method of acquisition and as a % of the team’s overall total (Note - I saved a little space by not listing the individual players’ figures, but I was more interested in the category totals anyway)
 
What this indicates is that the 2016 Cubs, despite the presence of 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant and some of the other key young players on the roster that received a lot of attention (Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Wilson Contreras) that were acquired via internal methods such as the amateur draft and amateur free agent signings, were mostly built with talent acquired from outside sources (trades and free agents that have played our their contracts with other teams).  Roughly 75% of the team’s 2016 value came from outside the organization, with about 47% coming via trades, and about 28% through professional free agent signings.
 
Now, that may change dramatically even beginning as soon as next year, because Kyle Schwarber (amateur draft) will be back and presumably healthy, Albert Almora (amateur draft) may take over in center field if Dexter Fowler leaves, Wilson Contreras (amateur free agent) will probably take on a larger catching role with the retirement of David Ross, and so on.  But, in the championship season of 2016, you would have to say that the talent brought in from trading and free agency were the key drivers of the team’s success.
 
One other designation we’ll look at is the concept of a player being "Home Grown".  A homegrown player is defined as a player that is still with his original team.  On the 2016 Cubs, those players would be:
 
Players
2016 rWAR
Kris Bryant
7.70
Javier Baez
3.40
Wilson Contreras
1.80
Albert Almora
0.70
Rob Zastryzny
0.50
Matt Szczur
0.40
Jorge Soler
0.20
Felix Pena
0.00
Gerardo Concepcion
0.00
Kyle Schwarber
-0.10
Jeimer Candelario
-0.20
 
The total of the above is 14.4 rWAR, which equates to roughly 25% of the team’s total.  So, we would say that 25% of the 2016 Cubs’ talent is "homegrown".  Note that this excludes young players like Addison Russell, who, although he was acquired as a minor leaguer/prospect and was promoted to the Major Leagues from the Cubs’ minor league system, is classified in this study as having come from outside the organization via trade.  Therefore, he would not be considered as homegrown, since he is not with his original team.
 
Approach
 
In doing this study, I was mostly interested in looking at the past 40 years (1977-2016), since that represents the time frame for which all 4 major sourcing options have been available.  The annual amateur draft began in 1965 (with Rick Monday as the first ever selection), so that’s been available for a little over 50 years.  The first true free agency class was 1977, although you can find a handful of players (such as Catfish Hunter) who predate that.  However, 1977 was the first true class of free agents as we currently know them.  So, it’s really been over the last 40 years that teams have had all 4 of these primary options available.
 
Before proceeding, though….a quick sidebar:
 
Sidebar:  The 1977 Free Agent Class
 
Speaking of that first major free agent class of 1977….do you ever think back to that?  I was in my teens at the time, and it was something brand new.  The thought of a team just going out and acquiring an established star without giving up anything to the other team in return…..well, I guess not everyone was excited about it, but it sure did shake things up.
 
Here is a list of the players from that first class, sorted by WAR3 (which is the total of the player’s rWAR from the prior 3 years).
 
Name
From Team
To Team
Age
 WAR3
Yrs
Bobby Grich
Baltimore
California
28
     20.6
7
Reggie Jackson
Baltimore
New York (AL)
31
     17.7
10
Gene Tenace
Oakland
San Diego
30
     14.4
8
Sal Bando
Oakland
Milwaukee
33
     14.3
11
Bert Campaneris
Oakland
Texas
35
     12.9
13
Dave Cash
Philadelphia
Montreal
29
     11.6
8
Joe Rudi
Oakland
California
30
     10.2
10
Don Gullett
Cincinnati
New York (AL)
26
       8.7
7
Gary Matthews
San Francisco
Atlanta
26
       8.3
5
Don Baylor
Oakland
California
28
       7.7
7
Eric Soderholm
Minnesota
Chicago (AL)
28
       7.6
5
Rollie Fingers
Oakland
San Diego
30
       7.6
9
Bill Campbell
Minnesota
Boston
28
       6.8
4
Steve Stone
Chicago (NL)
Chicago (AL)
29
       5.5
6
Richie Hebner
Pittsburgh
Philadelphia
29
       5.4
9
Willie McCovey
Oakland
San Francisco
39
       5.1
18
Wayne Garland
Baltimore
Cleveland
26
       4.4
4
Dick Allen
Philadelphia
Oakland
35
       4.0
14
Doyle Alexander
New York (AL)
Texas
26
       2.2
6
Tito Fuentes
San Diego
Detroit
33
       1.0
11
Tim Nordbrook
California
Chicago (AL)
27
       0.3
3
Paul Dade
California
Cleveland
25
       0.2
2
Royle Stillman
Baltimore
Chicago (AL)
26
     (0.2)
2
Billy Smith
California
Baltimore
23
     (1.7)
2
Ed Crosby
Cleveland
Oakland
28
          -  
6
 
The Orioles and the A’s took the biggest hits, as the Orioles lost Reggie Jackson, Bobby Grich, and Wayne Garland (who won 20 games in ’76), while the A’s were decimated by losing key players such as Gene Tenace, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Joe Rudi, Don Baylor, Rollie Fingers, and an aging Willie McCovey (although he still had a little left in the tank).
 
Reggie Jackson was one of the big prizes and immediately paid off dividends to the Yankees (as did Don Gullett, although he missed significant time), who won back-to-back championships in 1977 & 1978.  However, a lot of other major signings didn’t translate to immediate success for the respective teams, and some teams that suffered key departures didn’t seem to feel the effects either.  A few examples:
 
  • The 1976 Padres were 73-89, then signed Gene Tenace and Rollie Fingers, but proceeded to decline to 69-93 in 1977

  • The 1976 Angels were 76-86, signed Joe Rudi, Bobby Grich, AND Don Baylor, but dropped to 74-88 in 1977

  • The 1976 Brewers were 66-95, then signed Sal Bando, but went 67-95 in 1977

  • The 1976 Braves were 70-92, then signed Gary Matthews, but dropped to 61-101 in 1977

  • The 1976 Indians were 81-78, then signed 20-game winner Wayne Garland, but dropped to 71-90 in 1977 as Garland led the league in losses
 
In addition:
 
  • The 1976 Phillies were 101-61, then lost Dave Cash, but repeated their 101-61 record in 1977 anyway.

  • The 1976 Orioles were 88-74, then lost Bobby Grich, Reggie Jackson, and Wayne Garland, but nevertheless improved to 97-64 in 1977 (only 2.5 games back of the Yankees)
 
Some results went according to expectations, though.  The A’s did plummet from 87 wins to 63 after losing all those players.  The Rangers picked up Campaneris and improved from 76 wins to 94 wins (not all due to Campy, of course….but they did improve).  The Red Sox got a great year out of Soup Campbell.  And, of course, the Yankees were thrilled with the return on investment for Reggie Jackson.  But, by and large, you’d have to say that the first free agent class provided some immediate evidence that signing a bunch of free agents didn’t necessarily guarantee immediate success.
 
Continuing with the Approach
 
So, the approach for this study was to look over the past 40 seasons and see how roster composition, as measured by the various sources of talent acquisition, has trended over the years.
 
First, to establish some benchmarks, here is the overall distribution of talent acquisition over the past 40 years.  Note that this shows 2 different splits:

  • The table on the left shows distribution by the 5 major sources (which will total 100%)
  • The table on the right shows the % home-grown vs. non-home-grown split
 
Amateur Draft
Amateur Free Agent
Trade
Professional Free Agent
Other
 
Home Grown
Non-Home Grown
36.7%
7.5%
34.6%
18.8%
2.5%
 
44.3%
55.7%
 
So, the amateur draft is a typical team’s primary source for value, although trading isn’t far behind, with professional free agents a distant third.  Those 3 options tend to account for about 90% of the value in organizations, with the other 10% coming from amateur free agent signings and "all other" smaller categories.  In addition, the typical team in a given year tends to possess more value in its talent base that did not originate with that team than it has from players that have been only with that team.
 
How have these trended over time?  I divided the data into 5-year chunks, beginning with 1977-1981, and so on.
 
 
Amateur Draft
Amateur Free Agent
Trade
Professional Free Agent
Other
 
Home Grown
Non-Home Grown
1977-1981
38.7%
9.2%
37.3%
12.8%
2.1%
 
49.0%
51.0%
1982-1986
39.2%
6.7%
40.7%
10.8%
2.7%
 
47.2%
52.8%
1987-1991
42.5%
4.6%
36.9%
13.6%
2.3%
 
47.7%
52.3%
1992-1996
37.3%
6.2%
29.6%
23.7%
3.1%
 
43.4%
56.6%
1997-2001
29.2%
9.6%
35.9%
22.6%
2.7%
 
38.6%
61.4%
2002-2006
30.3%
7.9%
34.0%
25.6%
2.2%
 
37.9%
62.1%
2007-2011
39.3%
6.8%
31.0%
20.2%
2.6%
 
45.4%
54.6%
2012-2016
38.5%
8.3%
32.0%
18.7%
2.6%
 
46.5%
53.5%
Overall
36.7%
7.5%
34.6%
18.8%
2.5%
 
44.3%
55.7%
 
This implies that free agency as an option gathered momentum over time after its inception, peaking in the early-to-mid 2000’s, but over the past 10 years or so has declined some (not necessarily in usage, but in terms of the overall value represented by free agents) 
 
Conversely, value represented by amateur draft signing declined from the late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s through the mid-2000’s, but has since rebounded to roughly the same % that it was 40 years ago.  This also implies that teams, after trending towards more outside (non-home grown) sources (to the point where over 60% of the value was from players who did not start with their current team), seem to be returning to more home-grown trends.  However, it has generally been true that most of the value on a typical team comes from outside the organization.
 
More Slicing and Dicing
 
What are some other ways to look at the trends?  How about winning teams vs. losing teams?  Have winning teams favored one method vs. another as compared to losing teams?
 
Winning Pct.
Amateur Draft
Amateur Free Agent
Trade
Professional Free Agent
Other
 
Home Grown
Non-Home Grown
< .500
36.7%
6.8%
34.3%
18.9%
3.4%
 
43.1%
56.9%
>=.500
36.7%
7.9%
34.7%
18.7%
2.0%
 
44.9%
55.1%
Doesn’t appear to be much distinction there.  Winning teams had slightly more of a "home grown" factor, but not much more. 
 
How about teams that made the postseason vs. those who didn’t?
Did Team Make the Postseason?
Amateur Draft
Amateur Free Agent
Trade
Professional Free Agent
Other
 
Home Grown
Non-Home Grown
No
37.8%
7.1%
34.2%
18.1%
2.8%
 
45.0%
55.0%
Yes
34.2%
8.2%
35.3%
20.4%
2.0%
 
42.6%
57.4%
Well, a little more separation there.  Teams making the postseason tended a little more towards outside sourcing vs. home grown talent, with slightly higher proportions of trading and free agent signings.
 
How about World Series winners vs. non World Series winners?
Did Team Win the World Series?
Amateur Draft
Amateur Free Agent
Trade
Professional Free Agent
Other
 
Home Grown
Non-Home Grown
No
36.9%
7.5%
34.5%
18.6%
2.6%
 
44.5%
55.5%
Yes
33.1%
7.3%
36.5%
21.3%
1.9%
 
40.1%
59.9%
Looks like slightly more separation there, as teams winning the World Series were represented by just under 60% of their value coming from other organizations.  The World Series winners tended to realize a bit more of their overall value from trading and free agency than did non-World Series Winners
 
I’m not sure that any of these are earth-shattering, and I don’t know that they reach any level of significance.  It’s just a quick look as to how the data has shaken out.
 
Individual Teams
 
OK….how about looking at some interesting single-season distributions?  I wasn’t sure whether to focus on high absolute rWAR figures or high % of total figures.  In other words, if I wanted to see which teams were successful at trading, would I look for high absolute trade rWAR totals, or a high trade % of a team total? 
 
I decided to do a quick and dirty metric, by taking the absolute rWAR figure multiplied by the % of team total figure, to come up with a "score".  That way, we would avoid teams that may have had a high % of their value coming from a particular category but didn’t have high overall value. 
 
Note that, because there can be negative rWARs in certain categories, there are some teams that have more than 100% of their team’s total rWAR represented by a single category.
 
Let’s look at a few:
 
Teams with High Amateur Draft Scores:
 
Year
Team
Team Win %
Amateur Draft rWAR
Team rWAR
Amateur Draft % of Team Total
Amateur Draft Score (rWAR x % of Team Total)
Postseason?
WS Winner?
1987
BOS
.481
34.9
32.8
106.4%
37.13
No
No
1982
MON
.531
40.0
45.2
88.5%
35.40
No
No
1988
BOS
.549
38.2
45.1
84.7%
32.36
Yes
No
1986
BOS
.590
35.3
42.8
82.5%
29.11
Yes
No
1983
BOS
.481
29.7
30.8
96.4%
28.64
No
No
1980
MON
.556
33.7
41.9
80.4%
27.10
No
No
1984
BAL
.525
31.3
36.2
86.5%
27.06
No
No
1992
MIL
.568
35.9
47.9
74.9%
26.91
No
No
2015
SF
.519
33.1
40.8
81.1%
26.85
No
No
1991
MIL
.512
30.3
34.2
88.6%
26.84
No
No
 
Lots of 1980’s Boston and Montreal teams, and two early 1990’s Milwaukee entries.  As you can see, most of these teams did not make the postseason, although most did finish over .500.  Let’s look at a few of these different squads, skipping over the "repeating" entries.
 
Note that in the following tables, "Yrs" indicates the number of years that the player had been with the team (including the season in question) in his current tenure with them (in other words, if he left the team and then returned to them, it only counts the most recent tenure)
 
1987 Boston Red Sox
Team Record: 78-84
Team rWAR: 32.8
Amateur Draft rWAR: 34.9 (106.4%)
Amateur Draft Score: 37.13
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Roger Clemens
9.5
4
6/6/1983
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 19)
2
Wade Boggs
8.3
6
6/8/1976
Draft (Amateur) - Round 7
 
3
Dwight Evans
4.8
16
6/5/1969
Draft (Amateur) - Round 5
 
4
Bruce Hurst
3.8
8
6/8/1976
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 22)
5
Mike Greenwell
3.6
3
6/7/1982
Draft (Amateur) - Round 3
 
6
Ellis Burks
2.9
1
1/11/1983
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 20)
7
Marty Barrett
1.6
6
6/5/1979
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 1)
 
8
Todd Benzinger
1.2
1
6/8/1981
Draft (Amateur) - Round 4
 
9
Sam Horn
0.9
1
6/7/1982
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 16)
10
Calvin Schiraldi
0.9
2
 
11/13/1985
Trade
NYN
11
Jeff Sellers
0.8
3
6/7/1982
Draft (Amateur) - Round 8
 
12
Spike Owen
0.5
2
 
8/19/1986
Trade
SEA
13
Don Baylor
0.4
1
 
3/28/1986
Trade
NYA
14
Bob Stanley
0.4
11
1/9/1974
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 7)
 
15
Al Nipper
0.4
5
6/3/1980
Draft (Amateur) - Round 8
 
 
An interesting team….this was the team that followed the 1986 World Series runner-up (which also was on the list at #4), and while that 1986 squad was a better team, the 1987 version had a higher proportion of its value coming from the draft, and less coming from other sources, which gave them the #1 spot by my criteria. 
 
The top 9 players (and 12 of the top 15) on this team came from the draft, and this list doesn’t even capture Jim Rice, who was down at #19 on the list for this season.  In fact, the team’s amateur draft rWAR is higher than the team’s total rWAR, as the other categories (professional free agents, trade, and amateur free agents) all had negative rWARs.
 
1982 Montreal Expos
Team Record: 86-76
Team rWAR: 45.2
Amateur Draft rWAR: 40.0 (88.5%)
Amateur Draft Score: 35.4
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Gary Carter
8.6
9
6/6/1972
Draft (Amateur) - Round 3
 
2
Andre Dawson
7.9
7
6/3/1975
Draft (Amateur) - Round 11
 
3
Steve Rogers
7.7
10
6/8/1971
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 4)
 
4
Al Oliver
5.2
1
 
3/31/1982
Trade
TEX
5
Tim Wallach
4.4
3
6/5/1979
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 10)
 
6
Jeff Reardon
3.5
2
 
5/29/1981
Trade
NYN
7
Tim Raines
2.8
4
6/7/1977
Draft (Amateur) - Round 5
 
8
Warren Cromartie
2.7
8
6/5/1973
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 5)
 
9
Charlie Lea
2.6
3
6/6/1978
Draft (Amateur) - Round 9
 
10
Scott Sanderson
2.6
5
6/7/1977
Draft (Amateur) - Round 3
 
11
Bill Gullickson
2.5
4
6/7/1977
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 2)
 
12
Chris Speier
1.0
6
 
4/27/1977
Trade
SFN
13
David Palmer
0.5
4
6/8/1976
Draft (Amateur) - Round 21
 
14
Dan Schatzeder
0.4
1
 
6/15/1982
Purchased
SFN
15
Rodney Scott
0.2
1
 
12/14/1978
Trade
CHN
16
Mike Gates
0.2
2
6/5/1979
Draft (Amateur) - Round 7
 
 
Another interesting group with lots of home grown talent.  89% of the team’s value (including 9 of the top 11 players) was attributable to players they had selected in the amateur draft, including 2 Hall of Famers (Gary Carter and Andre Dawson) and another who may soon join them (Tim Raines, who had a bit of an off-year in ‘82), not to mention other strong players such as Steve Rogers, Tim Wallach, Warren Cromartie, Charlie Lea, and so on.  It makes one think back and wonder (as I often did) why those late ‘70’s to late ‘80’s Expos teams didn’t do better, with their only postseason appearance occurring in the 1981 split season.
 
1984 Baltimore Orioles
Team Record: 85-77
Team rWAR: 36.2
Amateur Draft rWAR: 31.3 (86.5%)
Amateur Draft Score: 27.06
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Cal Ripken
10.0
4
6/6/1978
Draft (Amateur) - Round 2
 
2
Eddie Murray
7.1
8
6/5/1973
Draft (Amateur) - Round 3
 
3
Mike Boddicker
5.2
5
6/6/1978
Draft (Amateur) - Round 6
 
4
Storm Davis
3.8
3
6/5/1979
Draft (Amateur) - Round 7
 
5
Wayne Gross
2.7
1
 
12/8/1983
Trade
OAK
6
Mike Flanagan
2.3
10
6/5/1973
Draft (Amateur) - Round 7
 
7
Mike Young
2.0
3
1/11/1980
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 11)
 
8
Scott McGregor
1.1
9
 
6/15/1976
Trade
NYA
9
Gary Roenicke
1.1
7
 
12/7/1977
Trade
MON
10
Rich Dauer
0.9
9
6/5/1974
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 24)
 
11
Rick Dempsey
0.8
9
 
6/15/1976
Trade
NYA
12
Todd Cruz
0.7
2
 
6/30/1983
Purchased
SEA
13
Al Bumbry
0.5
13
6/7/1968
Draft (Amateur) - Round 11
 
14
Larry Sheets
0.4
1
6/6/1978
Draft (Amateur) - Round 2
 
 
The 2 Hall of Famers drafted in the 1970’s (Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray) dominate this list, supported by other draftees such as Mike Boddicker, Storm Davis, Mike Flanagan, and Mike Young.  There is a sprinkling of trade pickups among Wayne Gross, Scott McGregor, Gary Roenicke, and Rick Dempsey, but the team value was heavily draft-oriented.
 
1992 Milwaukee Brewers
Team Record: 92-70
Team rWAR: 47.9
Amateur Draft rWAR: 35.9 (74.9%)
Amateur Draft Score: 26.91
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Bill Wegman
4.8
8
6/8/1981
Draft (Amateur) - Round 5
 
2
Paul Molitor
4.7
15
6/7/1977
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 3)
 
3
Jaime Navarro
4.6
4
6/2/1987
Draft (Amateur) - Round 3
 
4
Pat Listach
4.4
1
6/1/1988
Draft (Amateur) - Round 5
 
5
Cal Eldred
4.2
2
6/5/1989
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 17)
 
6
Darryl Hamilton
3.6
4
6/2/1986
Draft (Amateur) - Round 11
 
7
Scott Fletcher
3.4
1
 
2/23/1992
Free Agency
 
8
Chris Bosio
3.3
7
1/12/1982
Draft (Amateur) - Round 2
 
9
Kevin Seitzer
3.3
1
 
4/5/1992
Free Agency
 
10
Mike Fetters
2.3
1
 
12/10/1991
Trade
CAL
11
Jim Austin
2.0
2
 
2/15/1989
Trade
SDN
12
B. J. Surhoff
2.0
6
6/3/1985
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 1)
 
13
Greg Vaughn
1.8
4
6/2/1986
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 4)
 
14
Robin Yount
1.6
19
6/5/1973
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 3)
 
15
Dan Plesac
1.5
7
6/6/1983
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 26)
 
 
This was kind of a surprising entry for me.  It’s not a particularly memorable team, although with 92 wins it was probably the best Brewer team between the 1982 Harvey’s Wallbangers crew and the 2011 NL Central champion.  The top 6 players (and 11 of the top 15) were selected by the Brewers in the amateur draft.
 
The most recognizable names, of course, are the twin Hall of Famers Robin Yount (who was getting near the end of his career) and Paul Molitor (who was in his final season as a Brewer before joining the Blue Jays), but most of the others on here were mid-to-late 1980’s draft picks who had good seasons.
 
An interesting note….the Brewers have not traditionally been known for great pitching staffs.  This might have been their best season in that regard.  The team’s ERA of 3.43 was their lowest ever other than a 3.38 mark in 1971, which was pre-DH.  Bill Wegman, Jamie Navarro, Chris Bosio, and Cal Eldred (11-2, 1.79 ERA in his rookie year) all pitched well.
 
2015 San Francisco Giants
Team Record: 84-78
Team rWAR: 40.8
Amateur Draft rWAR: 33.1 (81.1%)
Amateur Draft Score: 26.85
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Buster Posey
6.1
7
6/5/2008
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 5)
 
2
Madison Bumgarner
5.9
7
6/7/2007
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 10)
 
3
Brandon Crawford
5.6
5
6/5/2008
Draft (Amateur) - Round 4
 
4
Matt Duffy
4.9
2
6/5/2012
Draft (Amateur) - Round 18
 
5
Brandon Belt
3.9
5
6/9/2009
Draft (Amateur) - Round 5
 
6
Joe Panik
3.4
2
6/6/2011
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 29)
 
7
Jake Peavy
1.9
2
 
7/26/2014
Trade
BOS
8
George Kontos
1.6
4
 
4/4/2012
Trade
NYA
9
Chris Heston
1.6
2
6/9/2009
Draft (Amateur) - Round 12
 
10
Javier Lopez
1.5
6
 
7/31/2010
Trade
PIT
11
Hunter Strickland
1.4
2
 
4/2/2013
Waivers
PIT
12
Santiago Casilla
1.1
6
 
1/2/2010
Free Agency
 
13
Gregor Blanco
1.1
4
 
11/19/2011
Free Agency
 
14
Nori Aoki
1.0
1
 
1/19/2015
Free Agency
 
15
Kelby Tomlinson
1.0
1
6/7/2011
Draft (Amateur) - Round 12
 
 
Certainly interesting that this is the team that made the list, rather than one of the World Series "even year" champions.  The key to this team making the list despite the presence of serval players acquired by trade or free agency further down the list is that the top 6 players above (Posey, Bumgarner, Crawford, Duffy, Belt, and Panik) were all amateur draft picks, and those 6 players alone represented nearly 30.0 rWAR, which was about three-fourths of the team’s total value.  
 
Teams with High Trade Scores:
 
Year
Team
Team Win %
Trade rWAR
Team rWAR
Trade % of Team Total
Trade Score (rWAR x % of Team Total)
Postseason?
WS Winner?
1998
SDN
.605
40.5
43.9
92.3%
37.36
Yes
No
1984
CHN
.596
35.4
41.0
86.3%
30.56
Yes
No
1998
HOU
.630
39.6
56.5
70.1%
27.76
Yes
No
1979
CLE
.503
28.9
30.9
93.5%
27.03
No
No
1982
CLE
.481
29.8
34.4
86.6%
25.82
No
No
1982
SDN
.500
27.1
30.0
90.3%
24.48
No
No
2014
CLE
.525
29.5
36.6
80.6%
23.78
No
No
1984
CLE
.463
27.9
33.1
84.3%
23.52
No
No
1985
CHN
.478
26.6
31.9
83.4%
22.18
No
No
1977
NYA
.617
34.4
53.7
64.1%
22.04
Yes
Yes
 
These teams had a little more notoriety and success than the amateur draft listing, as 3 of them had winning percentages over .600 (with the ’84 Cubs just missing), 4 of them made the postseason, and one of them (the ’77 Yankees) won the World Series.  There’s also a definite Cleveland vibe to this list, as 4 Indians teams made the list.
 
Looking at a few selected entries a little closer:
 
1998 San Diego Padres
Team Record: 98-64
Team rWAR: 43.9
Trade rWAR: 40.5 (92.3%)
Trade Score: 37.36
 
Top players by rWAR:
 
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Kevin Brown
9.1
1
 
12/15/1997
Trade
FLO
2
Greg Vaughn
6.3
3
 
7/31/1996
Trade
MIL
3
Andy Ashby
4.6
6
 
7/27/1993
Trade
COL
4
Trevor Hoffman
4.1
6
 
6/24/1993
Trade
FLO
5
Quilvio Veras
3.6
2
 
11/21/1996
Trade
FLO
6
Ken Caminiti
2.7
4
 
12/28/1994
Trade
HOU
7
Sterling Hitchcock
2.6
2
 
12/6/1996
Trade
SEA
8
Donne Wall
2.3
1
 
11/19/1997
Trade
DET
9
Wally Joyner
2.0
3
 
12/21/1995
Trade
KCA
10
Joey Hamilton
1.8
5
6/3/1991
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 8)
 
11
Chris Gomez
1.7
3
 
6/18/1996
Trade
DET
12
Tony Gwynn
1.6
17
6/8/1981
Draft (Amateur) - Round 3
 
13
Dan Miceli
1.5
1
 
11/19/1997
Trade
DET
14
Ruben Rivera
0.9
2
 
4/22/1997
Trade
NYA
 
So much for growing your own……
 
A whopping 12 of the top 14 players on this team (which was probably the best team in Padres history, winning 98 games and going to the World Series) were acquired via trade.  92.3% of the team’s value was represented by players obtained by trade.
 
Among the top players, only Tony Gwynn (who was 38 and getting near the end of the line) and Joey Hamilton were drafted by the team.  This was the year Greg Vaughn hit 50 HR’s and Trevor Hoffman saved 53 games, and also represented the lone year that Kevin Brown pitched for the Padres (he went 18-7, 2.38 ERA).
 
The ’97 team won only 76 games, and the ’99 team tumbled to 74, but the ’98 squad will at least have the memory of getting to the series and being swept by the 114-win Yankees.
 
1984 Chicago Cubs
Team Record: 96-65
Team rWAR: 41.0
Trade rWAR: 35.4 (86.3%)
Trade Score: 30.56
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Ryne Sandberg
8.5
3
 
1/27/1982
Trade
PHI
2
Rick Sutcliffe
4.2
1
 
6/13/1984
Trade
CLE
3
Steve Trout
3.7
2
 
1/25/1983
Trade
CHA
4
Leon Durham
3.7
4
 
12/9/1980
Trade
SLN
5
Dennis Eckersley
3.5
1
 
5/25/1984
Trade
BOS
6
Gary Matthews
3.2
1
 
3/26/1984
Trade
PHI
7
Bob Dernier
3.1
1
 
3/26/1984
Trade
PHI
8
Scott Sanderson
3.0
1
 
12/7/1983
Trade
MON
9
Jody Davis
2.1
4
 
12/8/1980
Draft (Rule 5)
SLN
10
Ron Cey
1.6
2
 
1/19/1983
Trade
LAN
11
Lee Smith
1.4
5
6/3/1975
Draft (Amateur) - Round 2
 
12
Henry Cotto
1.3
1
6/7/1980
Free Agency (Amateur)
 
13
Warren Brusstar
1.2
2
 
1/25/1983
Trade
CHA
14
Rich Bordi
1.0
2
 
12/9/1982
Trade
SEA
15
Richie Hebner
0.8
1
 
1/5/1984
Free Agency
 
16
Tim Stoddard
0.7
1
 
3/26/1984
Trade
OAK
17
Mel Hall
0.6
1
 
6/6/1978
Draft (Amateur) - Round 2
 
18
Keith Moreland
0.5
3
 
12/8/1981
Trade
PHI
19
Steve Lake
0.4
2
 
4/1/1983
Trade
ML4
20
Ron Hassey
0.4
1
 
6/13/1984
Trade
CLE
 
A famous team, one of only 8 Cubs teams to make the postseason since 1945.  86% of the team’s value was acquired by trade.  This was Sandberg’s memorable MVP season as well as the season where Sutcliffe went 16-1 after coming over in a mid-season trade.
 
Look at the amazing amount of players that had been with the team a very short period of time.  Eckersley, Sutcliffe, Matthews, Dernier, Sanderson, Hebner, Stoddard, Hall, and Hassey were all in their first season with the Cubs.  In addition, Ron Cey and Steve Trout were only in their 2nd seasons with the team, and Larry Bowa (who’s further down the list but was the regular SS) was only in his 3rd season with the team, as were Ryne Sandberg and Keith Moreland. 
 
Every starting position player with the exception of Jody Davis (who was a rule 5 acquisition) and the entire starting rotation was acquired via trade.  The average tenure (defined as the length of time that the player had been with the current team in his current stint with the team) was only about 2 years, one of the lowest figures for any team in the study that made the postseason.  It was a veteran team in terms of overall Major League service, but it was also a team that had not played much together prior to that season.
 
This is another one of those "moment in time" teams.  In 1983, the team went 71-91, and in 1985 they fell to 77-84, everything clicked in 1984.  They had another postseason team a few years later in 1989, but those were the only 2 Cubs teams to have winning records in the ‘80’s.
 
1998 Houston Astros
Team Record: 102-60
Team rWAR: 56.5
Trade rWAR: 39.6 (70.1%)
Trade Score: 27.76
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
WAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Craig Biggio
6.5
11
6/2/1987
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 22)
 
2
Jeff Bagwell
6.3
8
 
8/30/1990
Trade
BOS
3
Moises Alou
6.2
1
 
11/11/1997
Trade
FLO
4
Derek Bell
5.4
4
 
12/28/1994
Trade
SDN
5
Mike Hampton
4.4
5
 
12/10/1993
Trade
SEA
6
Randy Johnson
4.0
1
 
7/31/1998
Trade
SEA
7
Shane Reynolds
3.9
7
6/5/1989
Draft (Amateur) - Round 3
 
8
Jose Lima
3.7
2
 
12/10/1996
Trade
DET
9
Carl Everett
3.4
1
 
12/22/1997
Trade
NYN
10
Sean Berry
2.5
3
 
12/20/1995
Trade
MON
11
Richard Hidalgo
2.0
2
7/2/1991
Free Agency (Amateur)
 
12
Sean Bergman
1.8
1
 
1/14/1998
Trade
SDN
13
Brad Ausmus
1.7
2
 
12/10/1996
Trade
DET
14
Billy Wagner
1.7
4
6/3/1993
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 12)
 
15
Doug Henry
1.5
1
 
11/26/1997
Free Agency
 
16
Bill Spiers
1.2
3
 
1/10/1996
Free Agency
 
17
Jay Powell
1.2
1
 
7/4/1998
Trade
FLO
18
Scott Elarton
1.1
1
6/2/1994
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 25)
 
19
Trever Miller
0.8
1
 
12/10/1996
Trade
DET
 
Yes, back to 1998 again…..
 
This team did not have as high of a percentage of trade value as most of the other teams on this list, but they had a very high absolute trade value figure (nearly 40 rWAR), and so they ranked high by the formula.  The team did have some significant homegrown talent (Biggio, Reynolds, Hidalgo, Wagner), but it was still very much a trade-driven roster.
 
Unlike the Padres and Cubs teams, this Astros team was in the middle of a pretty successful run of seasons, as they made the postseason 6 times between 1997 and 2005, going to the World Series once.  The 1998 team still holds the franchise record for the most wins in a season with 102.
 
Similar to the Cubs’ and Sutcliffe, the Astros brought over Randy Johnson in a big mid-season trade and he went on one of the great late season runs in history, posting a 10-1 record with a 1.28 ERA.  However, they were knocked out in the postseason by the team 2 spots above them on this list, the 1998 Padres.
 
I’m going to bypass the 4 Cleveland entries because I don’t think they’re very interesting to examine…..most of the Cleveland squads were during a rather drab run of seasons where they kept reassembling the team via a bunch of trades.  So, I’m going to skip down to a more interesting team, the #10 team on the list:
 
1977 New York Yankees
Team Record: 100-62
Team rWAR: 53.7
Trade rWAR: 34.4 (64.1%)
Trade Score: 22.04
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Graig Nettles
5.5
5
 
11/27/1972
Trade
CLE
2
Mickey Rivers
5.3
2
 
12/11/1975
Trade
CAL
3
Thurman Munson
4.9
9
6/7/1968
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 4)
 
4
Ron Guidry
4.8
3
6/8/1971
Draft (Amateur) - Round 3
 
5
Willie Randolph
4.6
2
 
12/11/1975
Trade
PIT
6
Reggie Jackson
4.5
1
 
11/29/1976
Free Agency
 
7
Sparky Lyle
3.7
6
 
3/22/1972
Trade
BOS
8
Roy White
3.6
13
7/1/1961
Free Agency (Amateur)
 
9
Ed Figueroa
3.4
2
 
12/11/1975
Trade
CAL
10
Bucky Dent
2.7
1
 
4/5/1977
Trade
CHA
11
Mike Torrez
2.5
1
 
4/27/1977
Trade
OAK
12
Chris Chambliss
2.3
4
 
4/26/1974
Trade
CLE
13
Dick Tidrow
2.3
4
 
4/26/1974
Trade
CLE
14
Don Gullett
2.0
1
 
11/18/1976
Free Agency
 
15
Cliff Johnson
1.9
1
 
6/15/1977
Trade
HOU
16
Lou Piniella
1.4
4
 
12/7/1973
Trade
KCA
17
George Zeber
0.6
1
6/7/1968
Draft (Amateur) - Round 5
 
18
Paul Blair
0.5
1
 
1/20/1977
Trade
BAL
19
Dave Kingman
0.4
1
 
9/15/1977
Trade
CAL
20
Mickey Klutts
0.4
2
6/6/1972
Draft (Amateur) - Round 4
 
21
Fran Healy
0.2
2
 
5/16/1976
Trade
KCA
 
Several teams had a higher % of their roster’s value represented by traded players, but this team had one of the highest raw totals of players acquired by trade.  Although you do see some home grown talent (Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, and Roy White) and the 2 key free agents (Reggie Jackson and Don Gullett), this team was very much built via the trade:
 
  • Graig Nettles – acquired from Cleveland for Jerry Kenney, John Ellis, Charlie Spikes, and Rusty Torres
  • Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa– acquired from California for Bobby Bonds
  • Willie Randolph – acquired from Pittsburgh (with Ken Brett and Dock Ellis) for Doc Medich
  • Sparky Lyle – acquired from Boston for Danny Cater and Mario Guerrero
  • Bucky Dent – acquired from Chicago (AL) for Oscar Gamble and Lamarr Hoyt
  • Mike Torrez – acquired from Oakland for Dock Ellis, Marty Perez, and Larry Murray
  • Chris Chambliss and Dick Tidrow – acquired from Cleveland for Fritz Peterson, Steve Kline, Tom Buskey, and Fred Beene
  • Lou Piniella – acquired from Kansas City for Lindy McDaniel
 
That’s a pretty impressive run of trades.  They basically came out ahead by a good margin in all of those exchanges (with the possible exception of the Dent deal) and it was a key part of the team’s success in the late ’70’s.  As mentioned before, this was the first season of true free agency, and the team landed 2 big ones in Jackson and Gullet, and they did supplement well with Guidry and Munson out of the farm system, but the trades were a big part of the puzzle.
 
Teams with High Professional Free Agent Scores:
 
Year
Team
Team Win %
Free Agent  rWAR
Team rWAR
Free Agent  % of Team Total
Free Agent Score (rWAR x % of Team Total)
Postseason?
WS Winner?
2005
BOS
.586
34.7
48.0
72.3%
        25.08
Yes
No
2001
SEA
.716
38.1
67.7
56.3%
        21.44
Yes
No
2002
TEX
.444
25.1
34.4
73.0%
        18.31
No
No
2013
BOS
.599
29.8
55.1
54.1%
        16.11
Yes
Yes
1994
DET
.461
18.4
22.3
82.5%
        15.18
No
No
2004
BOS
.605
28.3
54.6
51.8%
        14.67
Yes
Yes
2006
SEA
.481
21.9
33.1
66.2%
        14.49
No
No
2005
NYN
.512
24.0
40.5
59.3%
        14.22
No
No
1993
NYA
.543
25.0
44.4
56.3%
        14.08
No
No
2006
LAN
.543
23.2
38.3
60.6%
        14.05
Yes
No
 
Similar to the list of teams with high amateur draft scores, Boston is prevalent on this list as well.  In contrast, though, the Boston teams with high amateur draft scores were during the 1980’s, where as the post-2000 era Red Sox transformed into an organization that relied more heavily on the option of signing free agents.  In fact, 2 of the 3 World Series titles that the franchise has won in the past dozen years (2004 and 2013) are included here, as well as the 2005 version that made the playoffs.
 
Let’s look at a couple of these a little closer:
 
2005 Boston Red Sox
Team Record: 95-67
Team rWAR: 48.0
Free Agent rWAR: 34.7 (72.3%)
Free Agent Score: 25.08
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
David Ortiz
5.3
3
 
1/22/2003
Free Agency
 
2
Tim Wakefield
4.5
11
 
4/26/1995
Free Agency
 
3
Manny Ramirez
4.4
5
 
12/19/2000
Free Agency
 
4
Johnny Damon
4.0
4
 
12/21/2001
Free Agency
 
5
Jason Varitek
3.9
9
 
7/31/1997
Trade
SEA
6
Trot Nixon
3.4
9
6/3/1993
Draft (Amateur) - Round 1 (Pick 7)
 
7
David Wells
3.3
1
 
12/17/2004
Free Agency
 
8
Bill Mueller
3.2
3
 
1/10/2003
Free Agency
 
9
Matt Clement
3.1
1
 
12/22/2004
Free Agency
 
10
Mike Timlin
3.0
3
 
1/6/2003
Free Agency
 
11
Bronson Arroyo
2.5
3
 
2/4/2003
Waivers
PIT
12
Edgar Renteria
1.4
1
 
12/19/2004
Free Agency
 
13
Tony Graffanino
1.3
1
 
7/19/2005
Trade
KCA
14
Kevin Millar
1.1
3
 
2/15/2003
Purchased
FLO
15
Mike Myers
1.1
2
 
3/29/2005
Trade
SLN
16
Jonathan Papelbon
1.1
1
6/3/2003
Draft (Amateur) - Round 4
 
17
Wade Miller
1.0
1
 
12/22/2004
Free Agency
 
18
Doug Mirabelli
0.7
5
 
6/12/2001
Trade
TEX
19
John Olerud
0.7
1
 
5/2/2005
Free Agency
 
 
Similar to the 2004 World Series title team that’s also on this list, this team leveraged free agency heavily in building its roster, including the duo of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, who combined to hit 92 HR’s in 2005, as well as key position players including Johnny Damon, Bill Mueller, and Edgar Renteria, as well as 3 members of the starting rotation (Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement, and David Wells).
 
2001 Seattle Mariners
Team Record: 116-46
Team rWAR: 67.7
Free Agent rWAR: 38.1 (56.3%)
Free Agent Score: 21.44
 
Top players by rWAR:
#
Players
rWAR
Yrs
Home Grown?
Acquired
via
Team
1
Bret Boone
8.8
1
 
12/22/2000
Free Agency
 
2
Ichiro Suzuki
7.7
1
 
11/30/2000
Purchased (Free Agent)
Orix
3
Mike Cameron
5.9
2
 
2/10/2000
Trade
CIN
4
John Olerud
5.2
2
 
12/15/1999
Free Agency
 
5
Edgar Martinez
4.8
15
12/19/1982
Free Agency (Amateur)
 
6
Freddy Garcia
4.2
3
 
7/31/1998
Trade
HOU
7
Mark McLemore
3.5
2
 
12/20/1999
Free Agency
 
8
Jamie Moyer
3.4
6
 
7/30/1996
Trade
BOS
9
Carlos Guillen
3.3
4
 
7/31/1998
Trade
HOU
10
David Bell
3.3
4
 
8/31/1998
Trade
CLE
11
Stan Javier
2.8
2
 
12/20/1999
Free Agency
 
12
Aaron Sele
2.6
2
 
1/10/2000
Free Agency
 
13
Arthur Rhodes
2.6
2
 
12/21/1999
Free Agency
 
14
Dan Wilson
2.1
8
 
11/2/1993
Trade
CIN
15
Joel Pineiro
1.5
2
6/3/1997
Draft (Amateur) - Round 12
 
16
Paul Abbott
1.4
4
 
1/4/1999
Free Agency
 
17
Jeff Nelson
1.4
1
 
12/4/2000
Free Agency
 
18
Kazuhiro Sasaki
1.1
2
 
12/18/1999
Free Agency (Amateur)
 
19
Al Martin
1.1
2
 
7/31/2000
Trade
SDN
20
Tom Lampkin
0.9
3
 
12/14/1998
Free Agency
 
 
Obviously, a very famous team, tied with the 1906 Cubs for the most victories (116) in a regular season.  Several teams had a higher % of team value represented by free agents, but no one was able to approach their free agent figure of 38.1 rWAR.  Although, that comes with a bit of an asterisk.  The web site counts Ichiro Suzuki in the free agency total, which I think is a debatable designation, but I decided to keep that designation.
 
If you include Ichiro, then key free agents on the roster included Bret Boone, Ichiro, John Olerud, Mark McLemore, Stan Javier, Arthur Rhodes, Aaron Sele, Jeff Nelson, and Paul Abbott.  When you combine it with the trades they made (Mike Cameron, Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Carlos Guillen), and roughly 90% of the team’s value was brought in from outside the organization.
 
 
Championship Circle
 
Finally, I wanted to look specifically at some World Series winners and see who had some of the higher figures in various categories.  In this section, I’m going strictly by % of team total value, and I’m going into "abbreviated" table mode to just hit the highlights:
 
Highest Amateur Draft % of Team Total Value – Among World Series Winners Only:
 
Year
Team
Draft rWar
 Total rWAR
Draft % of Total
 Key Drafted Players
1987
MIN
18.8
  31.1
60%
 F. Viola, K. Puckett, K. Hrbek, G. Gaetti, S. Lombardozzi
1983
BAL
26.9
  45.5
59%
 C. Ripken, E. Murray, M. Boddicker, S. Davis, M. Flanagan
2008
PHI
23.8
  42.2
56%
 C. Utley, J. Rollins, C. Hamels, P. Burrell, R. Howard
1985
KC
22.8
  40.8
56%
 G. Brett, B. Saberhagen, D. Jackson, M. Gubicza, W. Wilson
2002
ANA
30.6
  55.3
55%
 D. Erstad, G. Anderson, J. Washburn, T. Glaus, T. Salmon
1984
DET
28.4
  51.8
55%
 A. Trammell, K. Gibson, L. Whitaker, D. Petry, L. Parrish
 
 
 
Highest Trade % of Team Total Value – Among World Series Winners Only:
Year
Team
Trade rWar
 Total rWAR
Trade % of Total
 Key Players Acquired via Trade
1982
STL
26.3
  40.2
65%
 L. Smith, J. Andujar, O. Smith, G. Hendrick, B. Sutter
1977
NY (AL)
34.4
  53.7
64%
 G. Nettles, M. Rivers, W. Randolph, S. Lyle, E. Figueroa
1980
PHI
27.7
  44.6
62%
 S. Carlton, T. McGraw, M. Trillo, B. McBride, G. Maddox
1992
TOR
28.7
  46.5
62%
 R. Alomar, D. White, J. Guzman, J. Carter, D. Ward
2003
FLO
21.8
  38.2
57%
 D. Willis, J. Pierre, D. Lee, M. Lowell, M. Redman
 
 
 
Highest Professional Free Agent % of Team Total Value – Among World Series Winners Only:
Year
Team
FA rWar
 Total rWAR
Free Agency % of Total
 Key Players Acquired via Free Agency
1997
FLO
20.4
  37.7
54%
 K. Brown, A. Fernandez, M. Alou, B. Bonilla, D. White
2013
BOS
29.8
  55.1
54%
 D. Ortiz, S. Victorino, M. Napoli, K. Uehara, S. Drew
2004
BOS
28.3
  54.6
52%
 D. Ortiz, M. Ramirez, J. Damon, K. Foulke, P. Reese
2009
NY (AL)
27.5
  56.8
48%
 C.C. Sabathia, M. Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, J. Damon, A. Pettitte
2001
ARI
22.0
  48.7
45%
 R. Johnson, R. Sanders, M. Grace, M. Batista, C. Counsell
 
 
Final table….I was wondering who were the World Series winners who had the highest % of their team’s total value coming from non-home grown talent…..that is, the % of talent on those teams that originated from other franchises.  That table is below:
 
Year
Team
Non-Home Grown rWAR
Total rWAR
Non-Home Grown %
 Key Players Brought in From Other Organizations
2004
BOS
52.6
54.6
96%
 C. Schilling, P. Martinez, D. Ortiz, M. Ramirez, J. Damon
2001
ARI
43.8
48.7
90%
 R. Johnson, C. Schilling, L. Gonzalez, R. Sanders, M. Grace
1992
TOR
40.6
46.5
87%
 R. Alomar, D. White, J. Guzman, D. Winfield, J. Carter
1997
FLO
30.0
37.7
80%
 K. Brown, A. Fernandez, M. Alou, B. Bonilla, G. Sheffield
2003
FLO
29.4
38.2
77%
 I. Rodriguez, D. Willis, J. Pierre, D. Lee, M. Lowell
1989
OAK
37.5
49.2
76%
 M. Moore, R. Henderson, C. Lansford, D. Eckersley, D. Stewart
2016
CHI (NL)
42.9
57.4
75%
 A. Rizzo, J. Lester, K. Hendricks, J. Arrieta, B. Zobrist
2005
CHA
34.5
46.2
75%
 J. Garland, P. Konerko, J. Contreras, F. Garcia, J. Dye
1978
NY (AL)
38.0
50.9
75%
 W. Randolph, G. Nettles, R. Jackson, M. Rivers, G. Gossage
1977
NY (AL)
39.8
53.7
74%
 W. Randolph, G. Nettles, R. Jackson, M. Rivers, S. Lyle
 
Notice anything (besides the fact that both Marlins championship teams are on here)?  Yep, the "Theo Epstein Curse Breakers" are both on here.  The 2004 Red Sox and the 2016 Cubs.  (Also, the 2005 White Sox, who also broke a long title drought, are on here as well).
 
On the 2016 Cubs, the primary "home grown" players were:
 
  • Kris Bryant
  • Javier Baez
  • Wilson Contreras
 
I suppose you could include Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler as well, but they’re pretty far down the list in individual 2016 rWAR on this roster (although Schwarber and Almora certainly made their mark in the World Series)
 
On the 2004 Red Sox, they had even fewer "home grown" players that made a significant contribution, as a whopping 96% of the team’s value was brought in from outside the organization.  The only significant home grown players on that team were:
 
·         Kevin Youkilis
·         Trot Nixon
 
(Remembering that "home grown" means that a player has only been with that team, and no other)
 
In both cases, Epstein built championship teams primarily from leveraging outside sourcing, namely heavy use of trades, free agency and other acquisition methods that involved bringing in players from other organizations.  That was a common trait to both seasons. 
 
We could keep going on, but I’m at about 20 pages in my Word document, and that’s usually a good sign for me to quit.  And so I will.
 
If you have any specific questions about how a particular team fares by these various evaluations, post a comment and I’ll follow up with a reply.
 
Thanks for reading.
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (15 Comments, most recent shown first)

KaiserD2
This subject gets a lot of mention in my forthcoming book, although I didn't try to study it systematically in this way. I just have a few comments.

1. I agree that a distinction should certainly be made between players who were signed by their existing club, and players whom that club traded for when they were still in the minors. If any team has a real knack for acquiring minor leaguers with a good future, that would be a very important skill.

2. I was interested that the correlation between free agent signings and winning went up in the 1990s, if I am not mistaken. The reason, I think, is that for some reason (?), players in that era could sustain peak performance much longer than in any other era--especially pitchers. In contrast to the 1980s, you could get your money's worth out of signing a free agent. Earlier (and quite possibly now), you are usually buying some one who was once a superstar but isn't anymore and isn't likely to be again, although he still may be above average.

3. There are two ways to improve your team. One is to add very good players. The second is to avoid having truly terrible players--players who are at least 2 wins below average, which is usually about what the estimate of replacement level is--in your lineup. One section of my book compares the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays in the period 2008-2013. The Yankees and Red Sox consistently had more very good players in the lineup--often free agents--than the Rays. But the Rays competed on nearly equal terms with those teams because they consistently avoided having anyone really terrible in the lineup, while the Yankees and Red Sox frequently had such people playing for them,. and they were usually free agent signings. The Rays found a lot of homegrown talent that could perform at an average or slightly above average level. One of the big problems with aging free agents is their fielding, which is often dreadful. The Rays' fielding was often good and they frequently reached post season even though Evan Longoria was often their only superstar.

4. I don't think you can prove anything meaningful by studying who wins the World Series, because that is mainly a matter of luck.

David K
8:59 AM Nov 23rd
 
evanecurb
Very cool article. Great research. Regarding the 1976-77 seasons: Free agency was something that everyone knew was coming at the end of the 1976 season. The A's owner tried to do something about it by selling off his players during the 1976 season, but Kuhn voided the sale. So the A's were left with no players and no money to sign new ones. Unfair. The Orioles traded Baylor and Torrez to the A's at the beginning of the 1976 season for Jackson and Holtzman. I'm not sure why they did that deal; Reggie never intended to stay in Baltimore but Baylor loved it there. Torrez had won 20 games in '75.

The Orioles made a big in-season trade with the Yankees in 1976 that netted them Dempsey, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, and Scott McGregor in exchange for Doyle Alexander (who they weren't going to re-sign) and Holtzman (who turned out to be done). In the offseason between '76 and '77, the O's signed Palmer and Singleton to multiyear contracts. Grich and Jackson never intended to stay there. They brought up Eddie Murray and Rich Dauer to play first and second (Dauer was just as big a prospect as Murray, believe it or not), DeCinces took over at third full time in '76, and they let Garland leave. The hole they couldn't fill right away was in left field. It took them a couple years to come up with Roenicke/Lowenstein.

The point of all of this is the Orioles and A's both were prepared for the beginning of free agency. The A's solution (wholesale dumping for cash) could have worked had MLB allowed it. The O's solution (re-work the team) worked because they made a good trade with the Yankees and because they had young players to fill some of the holes. I wish they could have done as well with rebuilding in 1984-85 as they did in '76-77, but by that time there was a new owner and the moves they made didn't work.

The A's, of course, wandered in the wilderness for three years then came back strong with BillyBall and rookie sensation Ricky Henderson in 1980.
10:11 PM Nov 22nd
 
CharlesSaeger
You know why all this is dominated by mid-range teams, right? Those teams will have a few of players who have good WAR totals (say, Ripken and Murray on the 1984 Orioles), which will lead to some real wins for the team, but the rest of the guys won't have too many WAR to help the big boys, leading to a mid-range team. If the few big boys all come from same source, then that source will have a high percentage.
10:07 AM Nov 22nd
 
MarisFan61
(Steve: You're giving me credit I don't deserve, although I agree with it :-) and I guess it's why I asked the question.

I was really just asking for clarification on it, without any intended goosing. But yes, the reason I thought it might be the other thing was that I wouldn't have thought the World Series 'loser' would be lumped together with all the other teams.)
1:43 PM Nov 21st
 
steve161
Maris has a point: I know a lot of people who think that you're a loser unless you won it all, but I don't buy it. If you're trying to figure out whether one team-building strategy or another is more likely to be successful, that's not a useful definition of success.

I take your point on Addison Russell: mine is that he was a prospect acquired for established players. This is a strategy that has been increasingly important in team building over the last decade or so, and I suspect we'll see it yielding even more success (even narrowly defined) in years to come.

The only way I could think of to take this approach into account was to separate out those who made their major league debut with the club. That this is also inadequate is shown by Anthony Rizzo.
7:25 AM Nov 21st
 
DMBBHF
Hi MarisFan,

Thanks.

On your question....that chart you're referring to compared World Series winners to all other teams (that is, all teams other than those that won the World Series). I can see how it's not clear, and how it could be interpreted as teams that made the World Series but lost, but I was just trying to take a quick look to see if there was any distinction between how championship teams were built vs. non-championship teams.

I could look at it the other way, though..... :)

Thanks,
Dan
9:14 PM Nov 20th
 
MarisFan61
Extreme kudos from me too. Great work!

I likewise didn't know which thing he meant about "poorer."

And what about this other clarification: Does "non World Series winner" mean teams that got to the World Series and lost, or all the 20-something teams other than the World Series winner?
8:55 PM Nov 20th
 
DMBBHF
SteveN,

Just to clarify...when you say "poorer", are you talking teams that perform poorly, or are you talking financially poorer? I'm assuming the latter, but wasn't positive. If so, then I think that would be interesting to analyze. I'd have to think about how to define it and where to get the data.

Hotstatrat - Thank you!

Steve161,

As far as I know Seamheads.com only defines it this one way. I agree that there are other reasonable ways that it could be defined, but in this case I used their definition because I wasn't aware of any other way to efficiently capture that info.

However, even in this case, I still wouldn't consider Russell to be a home grown Cub just because that's who he debuted with at the Major League level. He developed pretty far with the A's, enough that he was considered the key piece in an exchange for 2 pretty established big league pitchers (Hammel and Samardzija). If I had to subjectively decide which organization to assign him to as a "home grown" player, I would have to go with the A's.

Don,

Well, the data base I have is the list of teams and their WAR figures for each of the 5 categories for each season that I downloaded from their site (more of a series of copy and paste operations in this case, but you get the point). It's about 1100 records....not real big.

That would be interesting to do it by franchise, which is what I think you're suggesting. That definitely could yield some interesting results. I'll take a crack at it and see if it suggests anything.

Thanks to all for their feedback,
Dan


7:46 PM Nov 20th
 
doncoffin
This is a great piece of work, Dan. I assume you have a data base that includes all the teams in the 1977-2016 period; that would be a very valuable data set.

I wonder what would happen if you aggregated each team's seasonal scores, and looked at individual teams over time. Are some teams, over time, more likely to be home-grown? Are other teams (I'm thinking of the Yankees, obviously, as an example) been more reliant on outside sources? Over time, does one or the other strategy appear to have an edge?
6:27 PM Nov 20th
 
hotstatrat
Thank you for this and your previous work presented here.
5:49 PM Nov 20th
 
steve161
Does Seamheads give you any other way of defining 'home grown'? I wonder if a more useful definition mightn't be 'made major league debut with club'? Trading for Aroldis Chapman (to stick with your Cubs example) is not the same thing as trading for Addison Russell. No doubt this definition is imperfect as well--Anthony Rizzo made his debut with the Padres for a handful of games (49 with 128 PA) but was acquired as a prospect, which I suspect may well be the crux of the matter.

Whatever. Terrific piece of research and presentation, Dan.
5:29 PM Nov 20th
 
SteveN
I wonder what the trends are among poorer teams.
11:35 AM Nov 20th
 
DMBBHF
Steve,

Thanks for the kind words,

Gary,

You bring up some good points. In fact (and I'm not sure whether you already explored this or not), but Seamheads.com actually does provide the %'s of the various categories by playing time (defined as plate appearances and batters faced), so we could potentially examine it that way as well. It was my choice to use rWAR instead of playing time, but I agree it would be interesting (and perhaps more revealing) to analyze it the other way. I'll see what I can find out.

Thanks for the observation and feedback.

Dan
11:15 AM Nov 20th
 
Gfletch
I find it intriguing that there was such consistency in the percentages of each category in the makeup of all of your splits. Your research is essentially saying that major league talent pretty much follows an expected evolution…it starts out as amateur talent, it often gets traded, it often exercises free agency.

All the teams have the same opportunity to draft amateurs, and they do. If you trade for players, then there are trading partners and both teams gain or lose equivalent talent or productivity. Free agency? Interesting thing here is that there is a kind of trade going on there over and above compensation picks. A significant free agent displaces another player on the team he goes to, and a roster spot / playing time opens up on the team he leaves. Again, equivalent gains and losses, directly in opportunity, but productivity tends to follow opportunity.

What am I saying? I’m saying that the consistency of the percentages of your categories is surprising to me and worthy of more reflection. I wonder if exploring the makeup of winning and losing teams across a spectrum of W/L% might have shown more differences. I also wonder if looking at playing time (as measured by Plate Appearances for batters, or by Innings Pitched (or Batters Faced) for pitchers) wouldn’t have been more revealing than looking at productivity.

As you can see, I found your article to be provocative. Thanks.

10:55 AM Nov 20th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Excellent detailed work, as usual, Daniel.
9:34 AM Nov 20th
 
 
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