Deconstructing an Outwardly Lopsided Trade

I run polls on this site because the results often fascinate me. There was no better an example this past week with my fake case study regarding a keeper league trade decision. I asked:

You own hot prospect Alex Bregman in a keeper league in which you still have 2016 title hopes. The last place team offers you Josh Harrison for him straight up. Your move:

Here were the choices:

You make the deal. Harrison’s SBs in a scarce category, either for you or as trade bait, have more value.

You make the deal because any major leaguer will be more valuable than a speculative prospect.

You turn down the deal because Luis Valbuena will not block Bregman for long, and Houston likes to move their prospects quickly.

You turn down the deal because you’re not about to give up a top prospect for a mediocre major leaguer.

Admittedly, there are pieces if information not included here that would have been nice to have. For instance, where is your team in the stolen base category? How prevalent is trading in your league? How long can you keep prospects? How damaging would a Bregman failure be to your title chances? And perhaps most important, who would Harrison be displacing in your active lineup?

But in a vacuum, the answer to this scenario lies in your own risk tolerance.

Here is what these two players are doing so far this season:

                         AB     HR    SB     BA
Josh Harrison (MLB)     303      3    14   .274
Alex Bregman (AA/AAA)   272     19     5   .309

Here is my own personal analysis of the choices.

You make the deal. Harrison’s SBs in a scarce category, either for you or as trade bait, have more value.

This is the most conservative approach. For me, it’s also the most rational. With Harrison, you know exactly what you are getting. He contributes to a category that is painfully scarce this year. Bregman could become a superstar, but right now, he’s just a speculation sitting on your bench, a non-contributor to your title hopes. In essence, with a view squarely placed on the present, Harrison represents free stolen bases (and his .274 batting average is not too shabby).

When you have title hopes, you have to do all you can to reach that goal. “Flags fly forever” is real; you never pass up a chance to grab the golden ring, even at the expense of your future. This would be my choice.

You make the deal because any major leaguer will be more valuable than a speculative prospect.

The decision is the same, the rationale a bit more loose. But there is a good deal of truth here. Last week’s article showed that you cannot predict which prospects are going to hit the ground running and which ones are going to take their time ascending the growth curve. Is Bregman going to take the Kris Bryant path or the Gregory Polanco path? We simply don’t know.

But by the same token, Harrison is not perfectly projectable either. He was batting .325 on June 1 and has batted just .203 since. A full season is made up of small. diverse samples, but still…

You turn down the deal because Luis Valbuena will not block Bregman for long, and Houston likes to move their prospects quickly.

This may be true. Moreover, it is the only thing that makes rational sense if you are choosing to turn down the deal. If your eye is on the potential for a 2016 title, a Bregman promotion is enticing. Still speculative, but enticing nonetheless.

Until you consider what numbers Bregman might put up. Check this out:

                            AB     HR    SB     BA
Josh Harrison (MLB)        303      3    14   .274
Alex Bregman (Rough MLE)   272     14     4   .275

If we convert Bregman’s numbers to their major league equivalents, suddenly we are looking at two players whose only difference is their contribution to power versus speed. Of course, home runs have more of an impact on the Runs and RBI categories, but again, stolen bases are more scarce.

Bottom line is that these two players are potentially more alike than we would think, at least speculatively at the major league level. But Bregman is still putting up his numbers in the minors.

You turn down the deal because you’re not about to give up a top prospect for a mediocre major leaguer.

I can support this if my team has no chance for the title this year. But if I have any real shot, this perspective is short-sighted and a potential barrier to success. The question is never about who is the better player; the question is always about who can best help my team now.

Of course, if “now” is not important, then Bregman’s “later” potential certainly surpasses Harrison’s “now” reality. But even there, the labels of “top prospect” and “mediocre major league” are heavily biased towards a Bregman = Bryant argument which, again, is speculative.

That’s my analysis. Of course, your responses did not agree:

30% – You make the deal. Harrison’s SBs in a scarce category, either for you or as trade bait, have more value.

11% – You make the deal because any major leaguer will be more valuable than a speculative prospect.

22% – You turn down the deal because Luis Valbuena will not block Bregman for long, and Houston likes to move their prospects quickly.

37% – You turn down the deal because you’re not about to give up a top prospect for a mediocre major leaguer.

In summary, 41% of you would make the trade; 59% of you would not.

The Shiny New Penny Syndrome is very prevalent these days, as more and more elite prospects seem to hit the ground running. But given the real expectations of what Alex Bregman might do should he be promoted, and the fact that Josh Harrison’s steals might help my team more than Bregman’s homers – all within the unknown context of this imaginary league’s standings – I would definitely consider this deal.

Final follow-up question… When I first constructed this poll, the major leaguer I had offered was Jacoby Ellsbury. I decided it might be more equivalent if I used a 3B-eligible player instead. But would that have made a difference?

 

4 thoughts on “Deconstructing an Outwardly Lopsided Trade

  1. Jonathan

    I agree with your view of this offer even with Harrison, so I would likely also do the deal with Ellsbury. I also suspect that the name recognition of Jacoby Ellsbury and subjective view many have of him as a star who happens to play for the Yankees might up the percentages in favor of making the trade moreso than a less famous name like Josh Harrison.

  2. Drungo Hazewood

    Trades always depend on league context. In my league, you can get more for Bregman. I should know, because I just traded him for Todd Frazier. The context is that Frazier had a $48 salary for a second division team, so he was not a keeper candidate. I am in contention, with my only real weakness in power numbers and I had a hole at 3B, so this was an ideal trade for me. But as you say, I have a good chance to win this year, so I am not holding back. I would regret more not pulling the trigger and coming up short than finishing second and having Alex Bregman turn into a Hall of Famer. You have to take your shot when it is there.

  3. Jonathan Tomevi

    I am getting trade offers left and right for Starling Marte in a 10-Team Standard 5×5 Roto League. I am 17 SB clear of 2nd Place in the category and am looking to make up ground in Runs, HRs, and RBIs. I am in second place overall by four points and the first place owner is making a big push to acquire Marte. He would likely gain 2 points in SBs with a trade, but I would have to know I could make up 2+ points elsewhere for me to pull a trigger. My current SS situation is Tim Anderson and Jose Ramirez. I can likely get Corey Seager and another bat for Marte. The rest of his roster includes Posey, Hosmer, Odor, Justin Turner, Aledmys, Eduardo Nunex, Justin Upton, Mazara, Brad Miller, Dickerson, Morales, Sano, Gregory Polanco, AGon, Franco, and AJ Pollock. He has a few closers as well as Kershaw and Scherzer. Do you see any combination that would make sense for me to deal Marte for where you’d feel confident I would be taking a step forward to offset the SBs he will gain? Does it make more sense to field offers from owners elsewhere in the standings or is that too defensive?

    1. shandler Post author

      Without a full view of the standings, it’s impossible to see which players would best help you. But really, this process needs to start by you shopping Marte to other teams. There is no reason you need to deal with the first place team if there are other potential suitors out there. It has nothing to do with being defensive.

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