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Grading Trades V: The Long View

One of the most interesting aspects of the Brewers rebuilding thus far is that nearly everyone involved in the Carlos Gomez-Mike Fiers trade took a step back in 2016, or raised some question marks about their profile. Mike Fiers and Josh Hader arguably had the best years of the bunch, and even Hader himself still has not necessarily solved the question marks about his future role (yet, he didn’t necessarily step backwards, as one would expect the fireballing southpaw to crack the MLB, probably as early as 2017). Fiers arguably had the best season of his career in terms of total workload, WARP, and even full-season DRA. But everyone else had a relatively rough season: Brett Phillips produced overall value as an extremely young Southern League player, but struggled with contact and swing mechanics; Domingo Santana suffered through injuries at the MLB level, precluding any chance at sustaining consistent success throughout the season; Adrian Houser’s rough surface stats hid some solid underlying performance measures, but that silver-lining was toast when the righty underwent Tommy John surgery; and finally, and perhaps most importantly, Carlos Gomez, the bona fide superstar centerpiece of the deal, had his worst season since breaking out with the Brewers and establishing his all-out power/speed swagger.

After one year, this trade raises many question marks. Granted, there’s still quite a lot of value present in the trade, both in terms of future rotation potential (or trade value) for Houston (with Fiers), and trade, controllable contracts, and hopefully potential performance for the Brewers quartet. Still, even raising these types of vacant hopeful pleasantries does not substitute the fact that one year out, what looked like a blockbuster for both sides is creeping toward a somewhat value-neutral non-event. If there’s any lesson to be drawn from this trade, however, it is that the perception of a trade can change over time, and that a trade’s legacy is certainly not finished on its consummation day, nor one year later. In 2017, this trade might still have those value questions for Milwaukee, and even in 2018 or 2019; yet, it is somewhat absurd to suggest that analysts must wait five years to assess the total value of the trade. What is more interesting is to dig deeper into those years and understand how a trade’s legacy and change year-in and year-out.

I know no better trade with which to demonstrate this point than the Zack Greinke trade orchestrated between the Brewers and the Royals. It was commonplace during the 2014-2015 World Series appearances (and Championship) by the Royals to hear Brewers fans groaning about how former President Doug Melvin traded away Championship-caliber players, but it’s easy to forget that by opening day 2013, the quartet of youngsters traded to Kansas City had dwindled to two roster spots (Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain) and a total of 3.1 WARP between the 2011-2012 seasons. Interestingly enough, Zack Greinke suffered his own surface stat nightmares in 2011, waddling through a productive WARP season while ranking fourth best in terms of runs prevention on a solid, consistent Division Championship rotation. Still, the trades for Shaun Marcum and Greinke were indeed vindicated by the Division Championship and League Championship Series run, which undoubtedly netted the Brewers significant playoff revenue shares, not to mention local merchandise.

Greinke netted a strong 8.67 WARP for the Brewers before the front office traded the righty away midseason 2012, understanding that the club would not be able to defend their NL Central crown. By the end of 2012, the trade looked like a rout — the Brewers netted 8.67 WARP, playoff revenue, and Jean Segura, while the Royals controlled the contracts for 3.1 WARP worth of production; about the only benefit Kansas City could claim were those reserve rights.

Using harsh 3-Year, 10-percent depreciation analysis, as with the other sections of the Grading Trades series, one can see that the prospective value of the Brewers prospects matched up quite well with the production value of Zack Greinke; various WARP or contract surplus estimates place the trade package within 80 percent of Greinke’s expected value, which seems quite good for estimating trade value.

Greinke Trade (Day Of) Previous WARP (1yr) 3-Year Depreciation Contract Surplus Value Needed Note
Zack Greinke 5.1 14.28 ($100M) 9.52 (+39.3M) $105.9M
Alcides Escobar (Reserve+) 0.1 0.42 ($2.9M) 0.70 ($4.9M) $9.8M 2010 Brewers Top Prospect ($34.3M value)
Lorenzo Cain (Reserve+) 1.6 1.12 ($7.8M) 2.24 ($15.7M) $31.4M 2009 Brewers #6 Prospect ($19.6M value)
Jeremy Jeffress (Reserve+) 0.0 0.0 ($0.5M) 0.0 ($0.5M) $0.5M 2009 Brewers #4 Prospect ($19.6M value)
Jake Odorizzi (Prospect) n/a n/a n/a [$4.9M] 2010 Brewers #14 prospect ($4.9M value)

EDIT: Updated November 2 to add Yuniesky Betancourt. 1.5 WARP in 2010; 0.14 3-Year Depreciation ($0.5M). Contract surplus: -$5.8M. 

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Of course, Wade Davis and James Shields may have been more crucial to the Royals’ postseason success than Cain or Escobar (not to say they were unimportant), and both of those righties were traded in a package involving the Royals’ Jake Odorizzi. It is interesting that fans almost never mention that Doug Melvin traded away a depth prospect that allowed the Royals to land crucial Championship-drivers, instead focusing on the controllable Cain and Escobar. Trades are as important to building contenders as controlling players, and the Royals instantly turned around their fortunes even while making a trade that caused much head-scratching at the time (myself included). By 2013, the Zack Greinke traded proliferated to two other deals, as the Royals matched Brewers newcomer Segura with their own acquisition of key production assets.

The Jean Segura story has been told multiple times, and it may be worth revisiting it again a few years in the future. But here it is most interesting to point out that even if Segura had an up-and-down-and-out performance in Milwaukee, the shortstop may have helped to net one of the franchise’s new cornerstones. Isan Diaz, Aaron Hill, and Chase Anderson are the latest branches from the Greinke deal, with Wendell Rijo and Aaron Wilkerson added to the family by extension of the Aaron Hill deal. And so this trade moves on and on: with Diaz, the Brewers have another potentially elite trading chip, or a potential middle infield cornerstone if everything goes right.

Greinke Trade Lineage Note
Jean Segura Midseason 2012 trade between Brewers and Angels; Pre-2016 trade between Diamondbacks and Brewers
Ariel Pena Midseason 2012 trade between Brewers and Angels
Johnny Hellweg Midseason 2012 trade between Brewers and Angels
James Shields Pre-2013 trade between Rays and Royals
Wade Davis Pre-2013 trade between Rays and Royals
Elliot Johnson Pre-2013 trade between Rays and Royals
Wil Myers Pre-2013 trade between Rays and Royals
Patrick Leonard Pre-2013 trade between Rays and Royals
Mike Montgomery Pre-2013 trade between Rays and Royals
Isan Diaz Pre-2016 trade between Diamondbacks and Brewers
Chase Anderson Pre-2016 trade between Diamondbacks and Brewers
Aaron Hill Pre-2016 trade between Diamondbacks and Brewers
Tyler Wagner Pre-2016 trade between Diamondbacks and Brewers
Other trades Rays with Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery / Brewers with Aaron Hill

It is nearly impossible to write these twists and turns into the Greinke trade saga. Kansas City drew 14+ WARP from James Shields and Wade Davis, although one gets the sense that WARP sells short the situational mastery of Davis. Milwaukee received more than 10 WARP of production from Jean Segura before netting a 50-60 grade surging prospect in Isan Diaz. These figures can be added to total production received by both clubs in the original Greinke deal. Of course, even Cain and Escobar famously overcame their 2011-2012 hiccups to bolster the Royals with valuable play during their contending seasons. Prorated to normalize six years of performance against Greinke’s year-and-four-months for Milwaukee, the production value of the original Greinke deal again appears quite evenly matched:

Actual Production WARP (Seasons) Contract Surplus (Total Annual Value) Note
Zack Greinke 8.67 (2011-2012 half) $38.2M ($59.2M) Midseason 2012 trade
Lorenzo Cain 14.5 (2011-2016) $90.3M ($32.0M) 11.9 WARP from 2014-2016
Alcides escobar 6.5 (2011-2016) $30.0M ($12.6M) Top WARP 2.5 in 2014
Jake Odorizzi -0.1 (2012) $0 ($0) Traded in package for James Shields and Wade Davis
Jeremy Jeffress -0.1 (2011-2012) -$0.5M ($0) Purchased from Kansas City by Toronto

EDIT: Updated November 2 to add Yuniesky Betancourt. 1.5 WARP (2011); $5.5M contract surplus ($16.0M total annual value). NOTE: 6.6 FRAA in 2011 (!!!).

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So, one can only imagine the twists and turns that the Gomez-Fiers trade will take in Milwaukee. One can extend this lesson to nearly every trade, in terms of understanding that the lineage of a trade can take winding manifestations that are never imagined at the time of that trade. It remains to be seen if Hader, Houser, Phillips, and Santana impact the next Brewers contender more via trade or their own performances, or a mix of both. If the first year is any lesson, it is worth expecting another strange twist in 2017.

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4 comments on “Grading Trades V: The Long View”

benn_wi

All well and good with the analysis, but didn’t you forget one KEY part of the Greinke deal’s value..? YUNI B!!

Nicholas Zettel

WHOOPS! Can’t believe I forgot that…

benn_wi

No, you were right to forget. It’s best we all forget :)

Nicholas Zettel

LOL. Now I feel bad: Yuni added a boatload of surplus value at shortstop in 2011….with a 6.6 FRAA???

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