Wednesday, July 04, 2007

is it the name?

it is, isn't it? "melky". it's a damned ridiculous name.

but even that doesn't explain the passionate resistance to my last bit about value, which has been called everything under the sun by more than a few -- including this choice conniption.

in pointing out that zambrano doesn't have nearly the value that many starry-eyed cub fans seem to think he does -- that value is actually related not just to talent but to the terms of the relevant contracts, and that in consideration of those terms cabrera (or a player with a similar projection) represents a good value in trade -- there's been a something of a tempest.

one of the points that seems to elude too many is that the cubs don't control zambrano for much longer. most people seem instead to think of trades without any contractual component at all, instead conceiving of a swap of pure talent where talent somehow has to balance regardless of how the money goes.

that's less than half an idea, of course -- there is a contractual component and it's most of the deal. zambrano isn't a cub in perpetuity. the cubs are trading the use of him for three short months, and that simply is not worth all the tea in china.

one would have thought that the recent memory of jim hendry just a year ago trading three months of greg maddux for the whopping return of a season and a half of cesar izturis -- and having to send $2mm with him to boot -- would have clued people in to this fact. apparently, people must have thought hendry got wildly fleeced and should have come away with two or three high-ceiling prospects.

but in truth, by the calculus of value, maddux-izturis represented a pretty square deal. maddux, in his half a year, was likely to provide the dodgers with about 2.5 warp while costing about $3mm for the last two months of the year. izturis, for his part, was expected to run up about 4-6 warp over the season and a half remaining on his deal, costing about $5.2mm.

PlayerProj WARPProj WorthSeasonsPriceValue
Greg Maddux2.0$5.10.3$3.0$2.1
Cesar Izturis5.0$10.71.3$5.2$5.5

that is, maddux represented about $2.1mm of value, whereas izturis represented $5.5mm. the cubs sending $2mm to los angeles approximately balanced the value. i myself probably wouldn't have believed that at the time, but we get older and wiser, don't we?

the dodgers made a different trade that same deadline -- the kind many would've liked to see hendry make with maddux -- obtaining julio lugo from tampa bay for joel guzman and sergio pedroza.

PlayerProj WARPProj WorthSeasonsPriceValue
Julio Lugo1.5$2.50.3$1.7$0.8
Joel Guzman18.0$40.95.0$3.0$37.9
Sergio Pedroza12.4$23.95.0$2.0$21.9

the dodgers shifted nearly $60mm of five-year-window value to the devilrays in return for lugo. why the discrepency? in short, player-development risk -- pedroza had at trade time never got past single-a, and guzman was in his first triple-a season. some of the risk had been worked out of guzman, nearly none from pedroza, and there remained a significant risk that neither would much contribute in the majors. tampa accepted that risk in addition to giving up two months of lugo, and in return was granted a very sizable upside of value that was and is, of course, not limited to $60mm. in this way, tampa leveraged themselves with the lugo deal.

we could analyze our theoretical deadline deal for carlos zambrano similarly.

PlayerProj WARPProj WorthSeasonsPriceValue
Carlos Zambrano1.8$3.30.3$4.1($0.8)
Melky Cabrera21.9$55.24.3$20.0$35.2

cabrera would represent a value transfer of something like $36mm. not as much as what lugo fetched? agreed -- but then cabrera's been in the majors for over 700 at-bats already at age 22. his player development risk is much lower than that of guzman and pedroza. a lesser prospect could also be folded in to give the deal more leverage and upside for the cubs.

one could imagine any manner of hypothetical trades for zambrano to be looked at in this way, and i'd encourage it. feel free to dump ideas into the comments. the more familiar people become with the concept of value, risk and trade, the more intelligently we can all talk about it. that would be good, because the state of the conversation now in cubdumb is pathetic.

i give credit to maddog at acb for understanding that zambrano isn't worth nearly as much as most cub fans commonly believe in a deadline deal -- but beneath and beyond the white-knuckle raving, his rant brings up another commonly-held fallacy: that getting the draft pick is comparable to or even preferable to getting a player like cabrera.

melky cabrera essentially is a first round draft pick -- but without 90% of the player development risk as he's already been in the majors more than a year at age 22.

take a good, hard look at the 2003 draft class, first round. this was the draft from cabrera's first mlb year. how many of them have a higher five-year warp projection than cabrera's 23.9? nick markakis (24.1), lastings milledge (24.4), and brandon wood (25.3).

three out of 37 first-round picks -- in other words, a first round pick has about a 10% chance of becoming a player with melky cabrera's upside. hard to believe? go on and look at every player on the list through bp pecota and compare their five-year warp projection to cabrera's. not delmon young. not rickie weeks. not chad cordero. not saltalamacchia. not adam jones. not chad billingsley. not ian stewart. and i'm obviously not mentioning the full 40-50% that will never smell the majors because they've crapped out already.

the draft is good fun, but you can't have your head crammed up your ass about it. it's extremely risky. every dimwit in cubdom seems to think they never draft a first-round bust for his team around draft time, even though the cubs have done little but draft busts for years. that should be a warning that getting a first-round draft pick doesn't mean as much as you'd like, but few people seem to heed such warnings.

in short, getting a draft pick in compensation for zambrano is not worth a tenth of a player like melky cabrera (who himself is hardly the second coming of christ) because there's only a 1-in-10 chance that it represents a player as good as cabrera. melky may not be babe ruth, but he worth ten times the draft pick that the cubs might get in compensation for zambrano walking at the end of the year. you can unfortunately go quite a bit lower on the talent scale before not trading zambrano becomes the better alternative.

in any case, there will be more time in july to talk about trades that, in most likelihoods, the cubs won't even consider -- particularly now that they've climbed up to 5.5 back. that's as close as they've been since june 15. it's probably a vain hope but a sincere one -- maybe people can at least begin to talk about such things sensibly and in a context broader than the standard myopia of belligerent fandom.

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