Trade: TBD | Who’s Your Haddy?

Who’s Your Haddy? sends:¬†CF AJ Pollock ($54), CF Lewis Brinson (minors), 2017 2nd Round Pick
TBD sends: SP Zack Greinke ($80), SS Willy Adames (minors), 2017 4th Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†I don’t love Greinke at his price or Pollock at his, but their track records are certainly cause for optimism. But man… was Greinke even getting kept? TBD was tight against their budget, he’s really expensive, and he’s coming off a discouraging year. I think it was like 60/40 he was getting sent to auction. So trading Pollock, a top-25-ish fantasy prospect, and a pick upgrade for him is a lot given that so many players that were going to end up cut seem to have been dealt at discount prices. I mean, within this same off-season, Greinke was already dealt straight up for David Peralta. So this looks like a really great short term investment for TBD.

The difficulty¬†with Greinke or any $80 player, really, is that they have to be elite to return value. And I love Greinke historically. I’d rather gamble $80 on him than some other guys and I think every now and then you have to roll the dice on guys that have been great year in and year out. But still, it’s a big gamble.

And I sort of hate to do it, but because it was such a hot button deal when it went down, I have to circle back to it: Pollock was originally acquired, along with David Dahl, for Mookie Betts. Remember that? Pollock was hurt and Betts at $61 seems totally reasonable, so at the time, everyone was just so taken aback. It looked so much like a deal to save some cash and turn attention to 2017, which is fine. But here we are, and now Pollock got swapped for Greinke, who is $10 more costly than Betts. It’s just really hard not to connect these two. It’d be different if Pollock was healthy at the time, but his arm was broke and he was effectively done for the year, so there was no other way to look at it then “eyeing 2017.” Dahl still came of that deal, and with Coors setting his floor, he looks like he’ll be solid. But Brinson’s a similar prospect, right? Worse park, obviously. But a year or two from now, might Brinson and Dahl be interchangeable? Maybe, maybe not. The point is, including Brinson kinda chews into some of the value of Dahl from that original deal.

But that’s a totally different trade. For this one… I just really prefer the TBD side. Their pitching can absorb not having to take the Greinke gamble. Pollock should be good. Brinson should be decent at some point. I like Willy Adames, but shortstop isn’t as weak as it once was, so how much is his playing there really worth? And jumping up two rounds in the draft is just a nice bonus.

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†Haddy gets another play that I really enjoy and like. Greinke. He’s awesome. But, what in the fuck are you doing here man? I believe Greinke bounces back, but Pollock should too right? There’s just something going on here. What does Haddy know that I’m not seeing? I’m lost.

Is Willy Adames the secret? Is his stock rising or something? Guh.

Trade: The Foundation | Who’s Your Haddy?

The Foundation sends: SP Chris Sale ($93), 2017 4th Round Pick, 2017 3rd Round Pick
Who’s Your Haddy?¬†sends:¬†SP Alex Reyes (minors), LF/CF/RF Nick Plummer (minors), 2017 1st Round Pick, 2018 1st Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts: At first glance, I really, really like this deal from the perspective of both teams.

To be clear, Chris Sale is the only piece The Foundation is sending away here. Third and fourth round picks are just whatever. To me, future draft picks that late are only a slight tick above nothing. They’re what you ship to someone if you need to buy a seventh start or what you ask for if you’re waffling about whether or not to cut a player. Or, in this case, they’re what you kick back to the team giving up first round picks to be a fair trade partner.

For Haddy, acquiring Sale this late in the season gives him not just a force at the front of his rotation to maybe go from an unexpected 9-7 to a playoff spot, but it also gives him a big time asset that he can keep. Just like I said with the recent Max Scherzer trade, I don’t believe this is a rental by any means. Earlier this year, Haddy swung a deal that effectively downgraded from Mookie Betts to AJ Pollock in 2017, while also freeing up $53. He doesn’t have a ton of easy cuts on his roster, but I think if you couple that savings with cutting someone like $30 Adrian Gonzalez or $32 Todd Frazier and then keeping Sale, you’re coming out ahead. So it’s a win-now move and sort of a long play into next year.

Let’s be clear though: Sale has some concerns. And I don’t mean his being a sociopath. His strikeouts are way down. Like, way down. He’s striking out three fewer hitters per nine innings than he did last year. He and the White Sox have been preaching a “pitch to contact” philosophy, but who knows if that’s just dancing around decreased performance. His walks are also up slightly, his home runs are up, and his BABIP is the best it’s ever been, so in some ways he’s been lucky. His FIP has gone from 2.73 last year to 3.69 and his xFIP from 2.60 to 3.74. He’s still Chris Sale. He’s still really good. He’s averaging almost 35 points a start. I’m just saying… his profile has some warts this year.

Meanwhile, for The Foundation, this move turns a lot of gears. The draft picks are fine. Haddy’s pick currently projects to be 10th overall and theoretically his team should improve, so that’s likely a pick in the 10-12 range. All first round picks are not created equal, of course, so while “omg a 1st round pick!” is cool, that really comes out to the 10th- or 12th-best prospect that is several years away from reaching the big leagues. The one in 2018 is nice too. Picks are just really hard to gauge, but for me personally, I’d always rather have them than not and they’re something I like to try to upgrade when possible. I think if you’re trading a player of Sale’s caliber, you need to recoup as much value as possible, and wildcard draft picks help accomplish that.

The headliner though is obviously Cardinals pitching prospect Alex Reyes. I think you could easily make the case that he’s better than Tyler Glasnow, the headline piece for Scherzer, and maybe even the second best pitching prospect in baseball behind Lucas Giolito. Some might even debate that. Reyes projects to be really, really good. And as a bonus, he’ll get to pitch in a park that does a good job suppressing home runs for a team that is always competitive.

But here’s the other thing moving Sale does: it opens up the space to keep $111 Bryce Harper, $90 Paul Goldschmidt, and $59 Jon Lester. Or anyone, really. One swift trade opened up a bunch of space. And yeah, he could have just held Sale until the off-season and explored something else to free up space, but I think now was the time to strike if you can land a prospect like Reyes and some picks to tinker around with.

Trade: Team Hydra | Who’s Your Haddy?

Team Hydra sends: CF AJ Pollock ($49), CF David Dahl (minors)
Who’s Your Haddy?¬†sends:¬†CF Mookie Betts ¬†($61), SP Michael Wacha ($41)

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†A decision was made here that was extremely rushed. Looking from Hydra’s side first. They trade away a minor leaguer and an injured semi-keepable all-star for an all-star and an above average pitcher. Easy trade. From Haddy’s side, I really don’t get this at all. I’m going to keep it short because Andrew sums this up in 800 words beautifully.

We just saw Bailey get two deals where he got back multiple assets for one player being sold. Haddy shot two bullets and got..maybe two… assets back. The price difference between Pollack and Betts isn’t worth swapping them for. I really don’t see how Hydra turns down Betts for Pollock/Dahl. If they did, fine, wait it out. Betts wasn’t likely to lose value over the next two weeks. Wacha is whatever, but he shouldn’t be a throw in to get a deal done.

Look Haddy, I don’t hate you playing the game, but I think the way you played it was blinded by an urgency that just did not exist. There’s 14 other teams in the hunt and looking to improve, I think you do better by opening the bidding than to quickly make backroom deals.

I can’t wait to see this deal in two seasons, who knows, Dahl could be the only piece worth anything.

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†I get what Haddy was doing here, but I don’t like¬†it very much for him at all. At least, I don’t like the way the two big name outfielders seem to have been swapped so evenly for one another.

For Haddy, who sits at 1-5 with a very, very remote shot at the postseason, making moves that better his squad in 2017 makes sense. ¬†He’s publicly said that he prefers Pollock to Betts straight up and the $12 salary gap there helps, but I’m not sure I see it that way. I mean, I can see the two players being coin flips. I don’t agree that they are, but that’s not a complete stretch. I’m just not sure $12 is all that much of a difference for a player that is five years younger¬†and has more growth and development to do compared to a guy in Pollock that has, at 28-years-old, one full season of awesome production. He was great in 2014 too, but in just 75 games. That sort of speaks to the knock on Pollock: he’s suffered a myriad of injuries, including this year’s broken elbow that will likely keep him out all year. He’s less risky than a prospect but I think he’s far more risky than pretty much any outfielder with a salary of, say, $30 or more. Pollock might be the most risky major league outfielder, period.

Alex from Team Hydra had tried really hard to sell me on Pollock, but I just wasn’t interested. He’s $51 to start next season and vulnerable to greed and, to me, he’s a prime target to get a few bucks. A guy with a limited track record coming off a significant injury seems like a guy whose price you want to get up as much as possible to either force a decision or elevate the risk.

Interestingly, Jordan and I were talking about Betts earlier in the day before this deal went down and without even knowing Betts was available. One point I made to Jordan was this: with Mike Trout in center, Haddy was playing Betts in right. The impact of that is negligible, but I think you prefer to play your players in the slots where they are most valuable, and Betts is more valuable in CF than RF. Again, negligible.

Anyway, when we’re discussing game theory, we usually use our own players as examples, so one of the questions I pondered to Jordan is: if you concede Betts is going to be used in RF instead of CF, is the gap between him ($61, 232.3 points) and my right fielder, Nick Markakis ($4, 178.8), or his right fielder, Kole Calhoun ($10, 212.5), really that big? Betts has been worth 3.8 points per dollar, while Markakis has been worth 44.7 and Calhoun has been worth 21.25. Obviously, you’d rather have Betts on your team than Markakis or Calhoun. He’s objectively better, he’s more fun to root for, etc. We’re also looking at just a fraction of the season. But when you start talking about value, the conversation changes dramatically. I’m not suggesting Markakis or Calhoun are worth more, that Betts is worth less, or anything of that nature. I just think it’s interesting to look at this stuff through different lenses. My ultimate point, I think, is to say that while I may not like Betts-for-Pollock and while you may even think that’s an outrageous deal, the case could be made that neither player is all that good of a value long-term.

As for the other two pieces, I don’t think a Wacha-for-Dahl straight up deal is bad. As of this posting, Wacha is averaging 26.06 points per start, putting him right around the league average mark. Jordan and I have beaten this drum to death, but league average guys are valuable. If your team is in “win now” mode and the cost of a league average starter is a good prospect, you do it. Average pitchers are worth it. And Wacha is a very nice piece for anyone’s¬†pitching stable. But he strikes me as more of a SP3 or SP4 and at $43 minimum in 2017, I’m not sure he’s someone that gets kept. To me, Wacha’s a guy that could be dropped every year and bought back at auction, essentially existing in our league on a never-ending cycle of one-year deals. You may even overpay for him at auction knowing that you’ll dump him at year’s end, and that’s fine. He’s good, but he’s the 27th highest paid starting pitcher. He’s not that good.

Dahl, on the other hand, was the 33rd overall pick in our minor league draft and at the absolute worst gets to play all of his home games at Coors Field. That’s worth something. For a team that’s out of it in 2016, I have no qualms flipping Wacha, who Haddy could have a shot to buy back next year anyway, for Dahl.

I think a piece is missing here for Haddy. Maybe not a big piece, but something. A draft pick would have helped some. One of Hydra’s underpaid pitchers, a guy like JA Happ ($3) or Tyler Chatwood (FA) on a dice roll. I’m not one of those over the top Mookie Betts fans, but I think he was worth more than an oft-injured outfielder at a $12 minimum discount.

Trade: TBD | Team Hydra

TBD sends: LF,CF Kevin Pillar ($5)
Team Hydra sends: P Kyle Gibson ($7)

Jordan‚Äôs thoughts:¬†Here is finally a trade that I feel pretty strongly about the results. I think Kevin Pillar is a fine player. He’s a borderline starter in CF and in LF. He plays everyday. All of this is fine and good. But, he’s really not really a prize. He’s started this season off with a slow 3.05 points per game average. There’s not a lot to love. Granted Team Hydra has been spending the last two weeks trying to replace AJ Pollock with about anything that moves.

The reason I’m so down on Hydra for making this swap is that I believe Kyle Gibson has a lot to offer. Gibson had 16 starts last year where he pitched over 30 points. Touching 56 once. He did have two meltdown starts, but his floor is relatively high with potential to be good or even great. This is the kind of pitcher in my opinion that has a gross amount of value because he is serviceable in basically any week you need him, but he profiles as a guy that can improve slightly and be a consistently good pitcher.

This isn’t to say that Pillar can’t do the same things in center, but I just don’t like getting a borderline hitter for a pitcher who can score you points. Injuries make you do funny things, but I think this trade was desperate by the wrong team.

Andrew’s thoughts: I’m with Jordan. I don’t like it much for Hydra.

The context is really important: TBD had six starts heading into Sunday, so they needed to quickly acquire a seventh or just go without. In my experience, teams who have an extra start on Sunday think this gives them leverage to deal, when usually it just leads to a hasty move.

As Jordan mentioned, Kevin Pillar is fine. He hits atop a strong lineup and his defense will keep him in there. Sometimes, just playing every day carries weight. But he’s not particularly good hitter, posting just .310 wOBA last year. That needs to improve significantly for him to be anything other than a serviceable bench option.

Kyle Gibson, meanwhile, is as boring as they come but considerably more valuable. If a league average starter scores you between 24-25 points per start, Gibson’s been above that two years running. He averaged 25.39 in 2014 and 26.38 last year. He’s not setting the world on fire and probably doesn’t have much more development to do, but a slightly above average pitcher is significantly more useful than an average at best outfielder.

On Sunday, Hydra dropped Austin Jackson, who plays CF/RF and had a .305 wOBA last year. He’s older than Pillar, but the profile is almost identical. So in a roundabout way,¬†you could argue that Gibson was just erased from Hydra’s roster and centerfield was left exactly as is.

2016 Auction Review – Team Hydra

Team Hydra

hydra

Hail Hydra! Buster Posey could end up being the steal of the entire draft. A player who’s easy guess for the best player at their position, top 30 hitter and should get extra playing time compared to his peers, all for under $50. Awesome. But why the backup catcher? Silly. Hitting on this team is top notch, full of value. Pitching was left on the cutting room floor apparently, and what value that was gained, was overspent on some reaches.

Hitting – Very Good

Posey, Prince Fielder, Nolan Arenado, AJ Pollock and Nelson Cruz are a great core of hitters. That is not something many should be able to argue against. All of them except for Posey, because of his limited playing time, are candidates for 1,000 point seasons, and possible top ten hitters. It could happen that they all do. After that it becomes much more dicey. The extra money spent on Jonathan Lucroy to be a utility man hurts. DJ LeMahieu is alright, Domingo Santana seems like a reach. Marcus Semien was another guy I thought was special last year, less special this year. This line is going to be hard to deal with as an opponent as those homers fly over the fence.

Pitching – Not Quite

David Price! Yes you have your ace. The only bad things you can say about him is that he has been pitching forever, he just got paid, and now he’s in Boston. Lots of variables. Either way good buy. Your number 2 is. Your number 3 is. Your number 4 is Julio Terhran, Wei-Yin Chen, Rick Porcello, Jon Niese. Your number 5 is one of those guys. Your number 6 is Rich Hill, Kyle Gibson or JA Happ. Jason Hammel and Chris Tillman are sneaky interesting. ¬†Bullpen here is wet, sticky and hot garbage. All things aside. Hail Hydra bought high? low? on a slew of starting pitchers. I don’t particularly like any of them for the role they’re being asked to do.. This team is a solid #2 starter away from being a different story.

Depth – Very Good

I like the bench picks. Obviously Lucroy is unecessary but great insurance. Steve Pearce, Zack Cozart, Jose Peraza all seem poised to be good fillers on the infield. It should be easy enough to find a solid fourth outfielder, preferably moving Santana to that spot with an upgrade at left field. I love the pitching depth here. It goes on for days and they are all guys I covet like Scrooge McDuck covets gold coins.

Why 2016 would be bad…¬†

If David Price goes down, things get hard really fast. If Prince Fielder cannot sleep and quits hitting again that’s a huge potential problem. Posey and Lucroy are both catchers with injury history, that¬†is¬†unfavorable. Was Nelson Cruz in Seattle last year something we see more of, or has the boom stick run dry? It really does not take a lot to punch holes in this roster full of good players only.

Why 2016 would be¬†good…¬†

The hitters here will just crush a lot and the pitchers are all happily average. Not spinning 30 point starts but rarely going below 20. The narrative is clear to see, the staff is set for that kind of turnout. The hitters are locked and loaded. The team has pieces to move and could really bolster this roster without hurting this year, perhaps they do it.

A couple of “greed” allocation strategies…

Before I start spewing ideas, I should probably reiterate what “greed” is in our league.

Greed is kind of¬†a surrogate for arbitration. It’s a way of letting the market — our stable of owners — adjust the value of players league wide. Every offseason, each owner is given $1 to blindly add to a player from every other¬†roster. (This is in addition to a natural raise of $2 every major leaguer will receive.) The only players protected from this allocation process are minor league players who have cost control status and major leaguers whose salaries place them in the top-30 of the league ledger. (Read the official rules here.)

Now that that’s out of the way, how might¬†greed be applied?

The first, most obvious way to apply greed, is to slap it onto each opposing roster’s most underpaid player. Take AJ Pollock, for example. Coming into 2015, Pollock’s statistics suggested a break out may have been imminent, but he dealt with injuries and had no previous track record of sustained success. The Diamondbacks’ outfield appeared crowded. Hypothetically speaking, he may have been rostered for $5 as a reserve outfielder.

Obviously, he outplayed that number in a big way in 2015.

Based on our league settings and taking into account his monster 2015 campaign, the FanGraphs auction calculator projects him for $28 of value next season. Frankly, that’s conservative. The calculator doesn’t account for marketplace or the dynasty aspect of our league. But we’re dealing in examples here, so it’s fine.

Now, if Pollock cost $5 heading into 2015, he would by default cost $7 heading into 2016. He gets that $2 raise, y’know. At this point, he’s still projected to provide $21 of surplus value.

You fundamentally do not want your competing owners to have surplus value. So it makes sense that when applying your greed, you slap $1 on Pollock. Maybe other teams follow. For the sake of argument, let’s say nine¬†other owners see what a bargain Pollock is and hit him with their dollar as well. Suddenly, Pollock’s contract is $17.

He’s still a bargain at this price and you’re definitely keeping him, but let’s say he replicates his 2015 in 2016 and is again projected to produce $28 of value heading into 2017. A two dollar raise puts him at $19, and let’s say this year 12 total owners slap greed on him. Now he’s contracted at $31. Suddenly, the tide has shifted. If the projections hit exactly (and they pretty much never do, of course), in two offseasons your AJ Pollock has gone from a surplus boon to a -$3 valuation. He’s still a great player, so maybe that $3 isn’t a big deal and you hang onto him*, but you have a decision on your hands at this point.

* I’ve never played in an Ottoneu league but I’ve read up on it¬†and one strategy I see a lot is this: if a player is not providing surplus, he’s a cut. It seems simple enough, but I’m not sure how hard and fast a rule it should be. If you’re paying Clayton Kershaw $100 and he’s only providing you $95 of value, is he not still Clayton Kershaw? I understand cutting him and hoping to win him back at auction for less, but I can’t imagine every time the surplus scale tips even the teeniest bit dumping players is always the right answer.

I think in terms of options for placing greed, the Pollock scenario is the easiest to arrive at. But how about another example?

Let’s say first base was a black hole for you in 2015. Heading into 2016, you’d probably like to avoid¬†navigating¬†the same problem, but you’ve exhausted the trade market. You either need to hit on a free agent pick-up in-season, or you need your opponents to cut players that you can bid on at auction. That last part, you can sort of help.

Let’s say¬†you scour the league and find three guys on different teams — let’s just go with Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Lind, and Mark Teixeira — who after their $2 raises are teetering between providing surplus value and being a cut. Well, you can tip that scale. You can add your dollar to each of these guys and while, sure, a dollar isn’t a lot, it could be enough to¬†make another owner’s decision for them. Maybe they were torn between a $12 Zimmerman and a — I don’t know — $7 Yonder Alonso or something as their reserve 1B, and Zimmerman suddenly jumping to $13 seals the deal. If you force even one of these guys into the free agent pool, you’ve given yourself an additional option at a position of need.

If you really hated your 1B situation from a year prior, you could put your $1 towards a 1B on every team and hope it pushes more than one guy out.

There are all kinds of ways you could go with your greed allocations. We touched on them in one of our podcasts and I’m sure we’ll go down that road again, particularly 10-11 months from now when greed allocation is upon us. But you may want to start churning those gears in your head now.