Just to reiterate what I wrote in my review of the trade: I don’t dislike Buxton necessarily, nor am I oblivious to his potential. I just don’t like that you’re paying $32 for potential when prospects in our league have cost control status, effectively mitigating the risk, or when there are so many inexpensive centerfielders that are currently producing at high rates. I also didn’t like that the player traded for Buxton is super good and super valuable.
I thought of one scenario where trading for Buxton at $32 today makes sense. Here goes:
Let’s say you want Buxton and his immense potential. But you also do not want to pay him $32 — well, really, $34 into 2017, plus whatever greed allocation he may get hit with (and he’s a big fat target for it!). Well, the only way for you to have Buxton at less than that price is for him to be cut at season’s end and go back to auction.
At that point, who knows what’ll happen? He could get bid up to $50 (lol). Hell, you could execute the trade today, then he could be promoted tomorrow and hit like a monster through the end of the year, at which point $32 isn’t looking so bad. But let’s focus on the here and now, the fact that he’s all potential and no production, and that he costs $32 but you want him for less because there’s just way too much risk and likely not enough reward at that price point.
If Buxton, even at $32, is on any other team, you have no control over whether or not he makes it back to auction. If he’s on your roster, you can guarantee that he’ll be cut, at which point you’ll have the opportunity to win him back at a lower rate.
There are two points to make here.
The first is that because we have no in-season salary cap, acquiring a player that you plan to cut doesn’t necessarily harm your team long-term. Adding a bad player with a $32 salary is prohibitive in 2016 to the extent that it takes up a roster spot, and that’s it. As of this posting, Buxton is minor league eligible, so he wouldn’t even rob you of a point scoring spot. Generally speaking, it may not be a bad idea to acquire expensive players that you’d prefer to have at lower salaries, if only because you’d then control whether or not they reach auction.
The second key is determining what the value of guaranteeing a player hits auction is. And I’m not sure it’s a lot. It definitely isn’t $18 Kyle Hendricks.
In order for it to be feasible, I think, you need to bake Buxton into a larger deal. He needs to just be a piece of a bigger puzzle, not the primary return, because there’s a very real chance that even if Buxton gets to auction, you won’t win him (though if you’ve gone through all this trouble to give yourself the chance, your odds may be better than others due to sheer will). Of course, you could also ship someone something negligible, like a 3rd round pick, and make it work that way if you can’t do a package deal.
Ultimately, I’m still not fond of taking on a player like Buxton at his price if your intent is to build around him for years to come. Using my own team as an example again: Denard Span is 32-years-old, costs $4, and is quite productive. He’s probably got two or three more years of solid production left. Does he have Buxton’s “upside”? No. But given the salary difference, a guy like Buxton has to not just match what Span is doing and should do in the next few years, he needs to far surpass it. Otherwise you’re wasting resources and effectively paying a player for being younger.
In short: the option of what to do with a player is worth something, and adding an expensive guy that you know you’ll cut with the sole purpose of maybe getting them back cheaper is also worth something. It’s an interesting strategy. Feel free to poke holes in it!