Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Trading Desmond (or really NOT trading Desmond)

Monday, December 02, 2013

Monday Quickie - Trading Desmond (or really NOT trading Desmond)

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. 



JWLumley said...

Danny Espinosa does not believe in surgery because it makes you lose gamery grittyness, which is what all ballplayers should be measured by.

That being said, here's a brief list of guys I'd trade Desmond for:

Mike Trout
Manny Machado
Mike Trout
Andrew McCutchen

Yup, that's about it. You just aren't replacing Desmond's consistency and durability at SS and even if you could improve somewhere else like SP, you could get more of a net gain through some other deal. Now Adam LaRoche, I would trade him for roughly eleventy thousand different players.

Harper said...

Eleventy Thousand is exactly where Fangraphs rates him (BRef has him more at nineish thousandy)

JWLumley said...

@Harper, your comment made me laugh. Another thing that makes me laugh is watching LaRoche stare down a pitcher who has just struck him out, as if to say, "You got lucky...again."

Donald said...

I just can't see them trading Desmond either because they don't have any prospects to replace him. They'd be making a hole up the middle and Rizzo would hate that. I think this is about getting a gauge of Desmond's worth for contract extension purposes.

Donald said...
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Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

Harper I know you love the Stras hating and Stras vs Jzimm debate, take a look at the comments here:

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

"Another thing that makes me laugh is watching LaRoche stare down a pitcher who has just struck him out, as if to say, 'You got lucky...again.'"

Finalist for funniest comment of the year?

Froggy said...

Ok, that will be enough of the trading Desmond talk!

BlueLoneWolf said...


Zimmerman11 said...

With the AL/NL league swap... This could turn out to be a real nice trade!

John C. said...

Or instead of trading Ian Desmond, you could trade - oh, I don't know - Lombardozzi, Krol and Robbie Ray for Doug Pfister!

I love this trade for the Nats, but really don't get it from the Tigers' perspective. The Nats get two years of control of Doug Pfister for one mid-level pitching prospect, a LOOGY candidate and a replacement player.

DezoPenguin said...

Holy crap, we actually got Fister! And to think, when I suggested calling Detroit about him a few weeks back, I suggested trading players who were decidedly better than the ones we actually gave up (I think I said something like Storen, Espi, and Moore). I don't understand this trade at all for Detroit, even if Krol turns out to be more than just a LOOGY...but wow, I am not complaining; I've liked Fister for years; this is a guy whose fWAR was 5.2/3.5/4.6 the last three seasons

Dave Cameron seems to agree:

Kenny B. said...

Fister trade seems like a great move, and one that I didn't really expect. Look forward to our host's inevitable "why the Fister trade isn't as good as it seems" post.

I do mean that lovingly. I come here for my contrarian Nats analysis, or at least for a cold, robotic calculation of what's going on. Also, to make fun of Rick Ankiel.

Donald said...

Harper loves the AL -> NL switch for pitchers so I suspect he'll love this trade, though losing Lombardozzi may pull at his heartstrings.

Of course I could be wrong. He may be writing the "Detroit backed the truck up to Nationals Stadium and emptied us out for a rightie version of John Lannan" as we speak.

BlueLoneWolf said...

At least it's a more consistent, better version of John Lannan, at least. And he's not occupying anything above #4 in our rotation, which helps.

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