So we're back from Thanksgiving! Everyone have a great time? Feeling good? Ok well let's ease into what will hopefully be an active December Nats wise with some foolishness, trading Ian Desmond
Why is it foolishness? Well when you make a trade you have two goals. The lesser, but sill important one, is to make a trade where you get back equal (or possibly) more in value. You want to "win" the trade. The greater one is that you want to make your team better. You want to win, period.
The former can be tricky to estimate at first because you are usually trading talent for prospects. Overall you might get more back, but it may take 5 years before you can prove that. The Nats aren't in that position though. They aren't trading for prospects (at least not from SS where they have no immediate back-up). They are trading for talent straight up. That's easier to measure.
Well sort of. Fangraphs would tell you Desmond was about the 18th most valuable player in the majors the past two years. Baseball Ref would tell you he's the 75th. But the important thing is not the difference but the general sense, so I think splitting the difference is fine. Let's say he's around the 45th. That means around 45 players in the league are going to get you equal or more value back in a trade for Ian. Of course that's real real rough. You have to consider age and trends and injuries, etc. etc. but Desmond is only 27 and has consistent value over the past 2 full years. Assuming his defense doesn't suddenly revert to 2011 levels, I think about 45 players outperforming him in the next 2-3 years is about right. If it was split up evenly that's not quite the 2 best players on every team. It's hard to get that back in value.
But it can be done! Let's say you want a David Price (since that's really the point here, isn't it?). Straight up it's a pretty fair deal. Of course that is in terms of absolute value, or "winning" the trade. What about winning games? What matters in the end for that is relative value, or how much better will this player perform than the player that would replace him. Ian Desmond plays SS. That's a difficult position to fill. You may get matching production from Price over the next couple of years, but right now Desmond would be replaced by Danny Espinosa, one way or another. Last year Danny was useless and he does not look to be improved*. If that were to continue Desmond to Espinosa, even with Danny's fielding, would be a net loss of like 4-5 WAR. David Price would replace the Nats 5th starter. For arguements sake let's say the Nats 5th starter ended up being worth 1 WAR (it usually shakes out something like that). So David Price at a 5 WAR level or so, is going to end up making you 4 WAR better. In other words, overall the team is +4 adding Price but -4-5 losing Desmond. The team is overall in a little worse shape.
There's a ton of variance and looking at things within ranges, etc. etc. so don't take any numbers above as gospel or anything. This is all just a fancy way of saying that because the drop from Desmond to whoever is behind Desmond is so huge, it's going to be nearly impossible to bring someone in, straight up, who you'd feel confident would improve the team overall. At best you'd be gambling that you'd end up the winner on a 50/50 like ticket.
So what about a package? Well sure, but considering the Nats want to win now you are going to have to add someone considerably better than who the Nats use right now. On the Rays who would fit that bill? Evan Longoria would. Zobrist. Myers likely. You have to notice though that it makes the Rays way worse to do something like that. The Nats are pretty average around the field with a couple bright spots meaning another player would have to be at least good to make you feel secure they would make a difference. Who is going to deal a great player and a good player for Desmond? You'd have to have a hell of a deep bench to even consider it (which is why I brought up the Cardinals - who didn't make sense themselves) or else you are going to get appreciably worse. Either that or you have to be rebuilding and have the Nats throw in prospects but then why are you taking in Desmond?
The only option that is forseeable is something that has multiple parts, like a trade and sign. Desmond for Price and sign Brandon Phillips as Rendon slides over? The team is probably better...probably... for 2014. Desmond for Price and sign Cano as Rendon slides over? The team is definitely better. Damn well better make sure you are going to sign that other guy though.
In the end a trade using Desmond just doesn't make sense. It's too hard to replace his value in a deal because his relative value to the Nats is so high. In order to make it worthwhile for the Nats, it would almost certainly be too costly for the other team.
*BECAUSE HE WON'T GET SURGERY FOR SOME REASON!!! TELL ME HE"S A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST OR SOMETHING, PLEASE!!! MAKE IT MAKE SENSE!!!!