The Foundation sends: SP Braden Shipley (minors)
Preseason Double Stuffs send: 3B/LF Danny Valencia ($4)
Andrew’s thoughts: This trade created quite a bit of buzz in our group chat and here’s why: since the beginning of 2015, Danny Valencia ranks 13th in the major leagues in wOBA (minimum 400 PA). He has the same wOBA as Manny Machado in that time and is just .002 behind Nolan Arrenado. He’s posted a higher weighted on-base than Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis, Yoenis Cespedes, Kris Bryant, and… well, you get it.
And Valencia costs $4.
So the controversy was: sure, Braden Shipley is cost controlled and will be $1 next year assuming he debuts in 2016 (likely), but Valencia will be just $6. Maybe he gets hit with greed. Even if he does, he’ll cost around $20 maximum. For the thirteenth most productive hitter in baseball, 2015-present! He’s also just 31-years-old. He’s not over the hill. He’s certainly not any more of a risk than a prospect, particularly a pitcher.
The problem, of course, is that Valencia has heavy platoon splits that make him questionable against RHP, though this year he’s crushing them too, to the tune of a .354 wOBA. And this isn’t totally new. He had a .351 wOBA in 2010. He had a .381 wOBA in 2013. Granted, he was a sub-.300 guy in every other year he played, but the point is that it’s not like he’s just all of a sudden hitting. He’s done this before.
For the Double Stuffs, I do like getting Shipley, who recent reports suggest has turned a corner and has been able to generate more K’s, in a vacuum. Even if he’s “just a number four starter,” as some lamented in our chat, that type of guy can be quite valuable in a system like ours where prospects get paid only if they produce. More valuable than Valencia? Likely not. But still.
I think the Double Stuffs wanted to “sell high” here, but to me, the definition of selling high isn’t simply exporting a guy when he’s performing well. It’s being overpaid for that player at that time, which I don’t think happened here. I do understand wanting to cash out before he crashes back down to Earth though, but this is a case where I’m not sure that crash even happens. And if it does, it’s not like it was going to happen overnight (part of the controversy was along the lines of “we put him on our trade block and this is all we were offered,” which is true, though he was only on the trade block for less than 24 hours, so how thoroughly was the market tested?).
Ultimately, I don’t feel strongly about this for either team. But it’s boring to write a review where you just shrug. I can see it from both sides. I think landing Valencia is great for The Foundation. Jordan needed a 3B and some offense and got it without sacrificing any present day contributors. The Double Stuffs don’t really need Valencia, since they’ve also got Nick Castellanos and Yasmany Tomas at third.
I’m not sure the market has caught on yet to the value of productive veteran players on cheap contracts. Like, how is any prospect’s cost control status worth a lot but a guy like Valencia being only $4 seems like an afterthought? I don’t know. If Shipley sucks, his cost control status means you just never pay him until the day you eventually cut ties. If Valencia falls off between now and 2017, you just cut him and move on. If he doesn’t, he’s $6. I think cheap, productive players have as much risk/reward as prospects do. There’s a cost of acquisition involved, sure, but any asset you acquire has risk associated with it. With guys like Shipley (cost control) and Valencia (cheap), I don’t think there’s any big difference. At least with the veteran player, you pretty much know what you’re getting.