Bull Durham: Trout Pre-season Saga

"The Trout Trade"

Mike Trout traded just before the 2014 season begins in Bull Durham (52)

On Monday, this trade was brought to my attention via the @OttoneuTrades account I started on twitter.  Good work guys! These are the type of things that I love to analyze.  Hopefully it can be mildly helpful to all, and at the very least be a basis for conversation.

The Background: 

  • Since March 16, 9:31pm, there have been roughly 200+ messages relating to this topic (yes, I read them all) on the “Bull Durham League” homepage. So, this has definitely been a hot button issue within the league.  Lucky Strikes [LS] already wrote a separate post about this as well (yes, I read this too).  The original trade was cancelled by LS (using commissioner powers), then re-accepted by We Got Wood [WGW] after more time was given to the league to deliberate.
  • At the time of the accepted trade above LS had $7 ($393 of $400) in cap space, while WGW ($389 of $400) had $11 free.
  • In total, LS gains $3 of cap space from the move.

Trade Analysis: (Opinion of deal – looking at players in question specifically)

From my experience, the best way to analyze any deal is to break it down piece by piece.  This allows everyone to focus on which players are being exchanged for which specific players, along with spot any mismanagement of assets.  The easiest component of this trade is Soriano ($4) for Reed ($10) – advantage Reed.  I personally do not put much stock in relievers, but I see the upgrade, even accounting for cost, as pretty significant.  After checking the RP available in FA, I would pretty easily prefer Steve Delabar or Daniel Webb – both can likely be had for $2 or less –  to Soriano.

Baez ($8) for Russell ($7) – advantage Baez.  Baez is considered the better offensive prospect to Russell (and I am the biggest Russell apologist you will find). The only way that a case can be made for Russell over Baez is if Russell is staying at SS and Baez is not. Currently, it appears as though the Cubs and Athletics are going to give both prospects the chance to stay at the position.  When factoring present and future value, I believe that Baez-Soriano for Russell-Reed is very fair.  The gains, from the RP (which matter more to contending than non-contending teams) offset the potential losses on either prospect (this is further justified by Russell’s current hamstring injury).

Fister ($9) for Yelich ($8) – Push. Much can be made about pitcher injury rates, or about the soreness that Fister is feeling in his elbow – Fister threw 2 IP on the 17th, and is scheduled to start Saturday’s spring training game.  It is important to remember that for many of these players, spring is the first game action they have had since the end of September.  When you see a pitcher with soreness in spring it is easy to cry “INJURY.”  However, it is equally as important to realize some of this happens simply due to shaking off the rust.  Just because SP get injured more often than position players does not mean that you should not trade for SP or that SP are not valuable.  If anything, I think it offers a lot of validity to not paying top dollars ($30+) for a pitcher but loading up on cheaper salary guys like Fister or Cole who still are impactful.  This can also be justified by Yelich’s skills.  While Yelich could provide a good OBP (which ottoneu FGpts loves), he is likely to do so with subpar to average power but great speed.  Now, OBP and Power are the two most important traits for a hitter to have in FGpts, while speed is near worthless (check the point settings). I know, there are different ways speed can be measured, and it has impacts beyond SBs  – trying to stay high level here – but my main point is that Yelich has to develop power first (one of the last skills to develop) before he can be a true Ottoneu force.  Due to price increases that happen in Ottoneu, it is no guarantee that he is an impact player before he can no longer be kept.

Trout ($70) for Cole ($14) – Push.  This will certainly cause debate, but honestly I believe how you see this portion of the deal is centered on 1 issue.  Are you fully committed to competing this year?  If I was, then I definitely think Cole is a worthy price to pay.  However, if this deal was made in July, I could easily see myself pulling Cole off the table. To me, Cole is only available because the deal is being made preseason (I say this being completely open to the opinion that Cole is too much for an un-keepable Trout), but I personally cannot see myself giving up more than Cole for Trout especially if there is any inkling that my odds of winning are not large.

In total, the deal stacks up as I see it and is pretty fair. Could see adding 1 minor piece on LS side, but it is far from essential.

Vetoes and Loans:

First and foremost, I am strongly of the opinion that you make trades because of the players involved and not because of the money changing hands.  If the players stack up, then you give the money to make the deal work.  There are certainly situations where money can cause too much of an issue with a trade, this is not one of them.  Other owners may not see it this way, which is absolutely fine.  However, the issue with this is that (as LS described in the Bull Durham message board) it is very difficult to draw a line between what loan is too much and what loan is not enough. If done subjectively, it is completely determined by each owner’s predispositions, which is not adequate objective reasoning to veto in my eyes.  Certainly teams can veto because of their subjective preferences, but they should acknowledge that they are doing so. (I will say that I have seen several trades made during the preseason that rival this Trout deal; this loan STILL did not cause me to raise an eyebrow).

It is also important to consider that teams are free to deal with whom they choose (unless collusion can be proven). I agree that a player like Trout should be shopped, but the reason he should be shopped is not to appease your league mates (and this is nothing against your fantasy companions, as keeping up good relations is extremely important). Players of Trout’s caliber should be shopped for the sole purpose of getting the best offer available. If WGW feels that the current deal does that, then I see no problem with the tactic.  He may not have spoken with all teams regarding the trade, but it is also possible that he knew he would not trade Trout to certain teams given the assets that they currently possess. Also, it is easy to see what Trout returned in a trade – now that a trade has been completed – and then say you would offer more or less. This is because a baseline of Trout’s value is now set, and teams near the top now have added incentive to keep Trout out of Lucky Strike’s hands.

Lastly, from experience, I will say that vetoes can easily fracture leagues.  Personally, I tend to shy away from a veto and will likely only do it as a last resort, and this is one of the main reasons why.  The other reason I try not to wield the veto axe is that I believe it is nearly impossible to be objective when analyzing a trade that will impact you positively or negatively.  I do not trust my subconscious to stop being biased against helping my rivals when analyzing a trade, when my sole purpose from all my other actions is to crush them into oblivion.  So I do everything in my power to not veto as an issue of fairness. In my eyes, it is more unfair to tell a team how he should or should not run his team than it is to try and determine if a team is getting equal return for the assets in question.  I have been in on the other side of deals like this – where two league companions make a deal of this caliber – and I will say that one of the most fun parts of that season was consistently trying to catch (and eventually overtake) the team getting an impact talent.  I would do it again in a heartbeat. There is no better chance for an owner to prove his competence than to overcome odds that are unfavorable.

One final alternative, if teams do have issues with a veto situation, I would be more than happy to review trades for leagues and act as a mediator. It’s an option if you’d rather not deal with the veto discussion, but by no means necessary.

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9 thoughts on “Bull Durham: Trout Pre-season Saga

  1. Trey says:

    Wow, this is cool to see someone outside our league review our trade (a controversial one at that). I’m the one acquiring Trout in this deal so it’s easy to be biased, but this analysis seems very fair to me and makes some excellent points on both sides of the debate (particularly good point about making deals that center on the players without worrying about the money or loan changing hands). Our negotiation of this deal was similar to what you’ve described here, though I think both owners see quite a bit more value in Baez over Russell that even what you’ve stated here. In other words, we expect Russell to be a solid SS, but we also both expect Baez to be a monster, likely top 10 player in the game (I love Baez so much I initially turned down this trade).
    Would love to see more trade breakdowns on this blog, maybe even give readers a chance to vote on the winner once context is explained?
    I look forward to reading this in 2014…

  2. davidrogoff says:

    This really got me thinking about how to best evaluate trades. When I’m making trades I tend to think about points added vs. points subtracted (e.g., if I trade Chris Davis for Ryan Braun, the points subtracted from my lineup would be the difference between Davis and my current backup 1B for the remainder of the season, while the points added would be the difference between Braun and whatever OF gets bumped into a backup role). Dollars, as you suggested, tend to take a back seat, but I do consider how keepable a player is at their current price. If I’m likely to keep a guy for multiple seasons, that definitely factors in — but I generally discount future value pretty heavily.

    My method doesn’t account well for prospects, so I was also thinking that if you got the average price (across all leagues) for all the players involved, and found the difference between those values and the prices at which they’re owned in the league in question, you could come up with dollar values that approximate the surplus value of each side of the trade. That’s not something I’ve thought a whole lot about, so it might be riddled with problems, but it might be an interesting idea that helps establish a winner of the trade in a way that accounts for different teams having different goals in a given season.

    • David, a couple points. First, the salary data isn’t hard to come by. I’ve had some help pulling that and have have most of it already. Secondly, the reason I specifically do not mention dollar values is because when prospects are involved there is a much wider variance of opinion when discussing a prospects “value” than there is for the players like Braun/Davis. From my experience, justifying a player trade with salary (in terms of cost benefit analysis like you describe) works best if no prospects are involved. Leading to my third point, I used to worry about defining a winner and loser as defined by surplus value, leading to the equality of a trade, etc. (And this method still is useful). Then I realized something really important. When working on any trades (specifically prospect trades) you are dealing much less with projected points and much more with “shares” of public opinion. I have become much better at trading recently, not by looking at points gained and lost, but by looking at overvalued/undervalued assets in terms of how the league views them. In my experience these are two very different things. Maybe I can elaborate more on this later.

      • davidrogoff says:

        Yeah, I hear you. Opinion on prospects does seem to vary tremendously — and I think that lack of agreement is one of the best things about ottoneu as a format. The possibility of long-term gain from players adds a whole additional level of thinking to trading in this format. One of the trickiest things about trading in ottoneu is figuring out how your leaguemates value players differently from you and either (a) learning from it or (b) taking advantage of it. I’ve had plenty of trade talks that have gone nowhere because of radical differences in player valuation, but at times I’ve also been able to take advantage of it… or been taken advantage of… but no need to talk about that…

    • Gweedoh565 says:

      Dave and OTR, average player salaries across all ottoneu leagues by game type is actually publicly available, just not heavily advertised:

      http://ottoneu.fangraphs.com/averageValues

      • This is a good starting point, however, it does not reflect differences between 1st, 2nd, 3rd year leagues. This is the data I have been working to get (have a lot of it -with help from others) considering it is not publicly available.

  3. Tom O says:

    Was just commenting on this on twitter, because it reminded me of a big blowup we had in another league that was very similar – it involved Troy Tulowitzki for prospects, so not quite as big, but similar. Many teams vetoed (I was one of them), and several months later Tulo ended up being traded in a completely different deal. In hindsight, I ended up wishing I hadn’t vetoed, and my take on this trade reflects that. If it was me, I would want more than Cole for Trout, even at those prices. But, it’s easy to see why a rebuilding team would prefer a young, cost controlled Cole. In this case especially I think the other parts help the value too. I wouldn’t give up Trout for Cole straight up, but I like swapping Russell for Baez, and I especially like getting back Yelich for Fister, if you look at it piece by piece. To me, this is a classic win win where a rebuilding team trades with a team that’s going for it right now – one team adds three high end young players that can contribute long term, while the other adds an elite player for the year and another strong but older player, potentially for the long term, while replacing one of their top prospects with another well regarded one. Throw in a reliever swap and it seems good in the end to me.

  4. Brad Johnson says:

    Was scanning through the backlog and saw this…

    A pts, auction format trade analysis is very simple. the easiest way is to evaluate expected dollars against actual dollars then add a discount factor for future season. I won’t do the real math, but let’s say WGW’s side ranges from $75 to $125 in yr 1 (actual $96) and LS’s side ranges from $25 to $55 (actual $34). The surplus value range is -$21 to $39 for WGW’s package and -$7 to $21 for LS’s combo. I see that as sufficient overlap just in yr 1 for the deal to pass as “fair.” Moreover, WGW’s value is heavily tied up by Trout, who might not be a wise long term investment at $72 to keep (18% of overall budget). Beyond yr 1 and pretending we don’t know what happened in 2014, the deal probably favors WGW, albeit by a small margin.

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