2019 Mid-season FAQs and Observations

Now that BTV has been live for a few weeks, we’ve received a lot of questions and feedback, all of which we appreciate. We’ve also noticed some common patterns in the trade proposals, which we'll work into our answers here.

Why do the trade values for stars like Jacob deGrom and Mike Trout seem low?

Generally speaking, trade value is synonymous with surplus value, which, as we explain here, is the player’s adjusted field value minus the salary. Sure enough, that’s how we’ve coded our simulator as well.

But in real life, that salary component plays a huge role. If you want your trade to be realistic, don’t ignore it.

Example: Jacob deGrom

Trading for deGrom is not as simple as matching up the median values, because in reality, any team trading for him would need the ability to absorb his huge contract. Yes, he’s the most valuable player on the Mets in terms of expected on-field contributions over the next 5.5 years (which is why his AFV number is very high, at $214M as of this writing), but he’s also owed a whole bunch of money over that timeframe ($169.5M), creating a surplus of only $44.5M. We’ve added a market premium to that because, obviously if he were made available, there would be multiple bidders for his services. Therefore, that $44.5M number is the low point of his range.

But in reality, the acquiring team inheriting that contract knows it would now be on the hook for paying that $169.5M. That’s a big chunk of change. Now, you might think, whatever, who cares? But you know who cares? The owners care, because they’re the ones signing those checks. And the GMs care, because the owners care. Every single team today is being run on the basis of financial efficiency. That’s why the free agent market has changed so drastically – teams are very disciplined now about salaries, so much so that they will rigorously avoid the risk of underwater contracts, especially for over-30 players (as is deGrom).

The point is that any team trading for deGrom is already taking on a big liability with that contract, which is why they wouldn’t offer a ton of prospect capital on top of that burden, no matter how good he is. Therefore, realistic trades would need to either accept this reality, or have a significant amount of cash included in the deal, to reduce that burden and enable the Mets to get a better prospect return as a result. You’re essentially swapping monetary capital for prospect capital.

The same concept holds true for any star player on a big contract – be it Scherzer, Altuve, or even Trout. In reality, those guys are unlikely to be moved, because they’re cornerstones, but even in this simulated environment, it’s an important point for those of us looking to make realistic trade proposals. (And if you’re not, sure, go crazy.)

How often do we update these values? And do the values take into account current performance?

During the season, we update the values for major-leaguers on a monthly basis: at the end of May/early June, to reflect the 1/3 mark of the season; and at the end of June/early July, to reflect the halfway point of the season. Currently, we do this by hand, because it’s a complicated process, so it’s a rolling change, not a bulk upload and an immediate switch-over. You’ll see values on players change roughly around that time on a daily basis as we go.

It’s important to note that these numbers are prorated. We’re trying to balance preseason projections with mid-season performance.

Some may debate that point, and think: Why not just jettison the preseason numbers and go with the in-season numbers only? Aren’t those more significant?

No and yes. No, because over the years we’ve noticed lots of hot-and-cold performances that tend to even out over the course of the year, and revert closer to the preseason projection. So we want to guard against giving too much weight to the hot (or cold) performer in the first half and apply some healthy skepticism.

Early in the season, Nick Margevicius was hot and getting lots of media attention as an out-of-nowhere find. Then he turned into a pumpkin and reverted to his low-expectation mean. On the flip side, Chris Sale got off to a rough start and people were wondering if he was done. Then he got rolling, and reverted to his higher-quality mean. So we think most of the ups and downs are normal and temporary, and try not to overreact too much in either direction.

That said, there are some performances that do warrant correction. On the downside, this includes severe injuries or illnesses (like the horrible case of Carlos Carrasco), situations where a pitcher or hitter seems to have lost something meaningful (like Kyle Freeland); or, on the positive side, cases where a hitter has found a new swing or a pitcher has found a new pitch, and shown evidence that the change is sustainable. We will make more substantial adjustments for those.

For prospects, we update them periodically based on updates from the sources we check (if you're a regular, you may have noticed that quite a few prospect values have recently changed). But we also do our own sweep of every prospect in our system based on how well they’re performing during the season, and adjust up or down as necessary, typically on a monthly basis.

Why are injured players available for trade?

Why not? While it’s true that injured players are less likely to be attractive trade candidates to acquiring teams, there’s also a case for them if that team doesn’t need their services right away, and their value is affordable. In mid-season, the focus at the summer trade deadline is on players who can make an immediate impact to contending teams, and rightly so. Fans are often so focused on this that they overlook anyone injured, or even go so far as to think they have no value at all.

But many injured players do have value. In 2017, Sonny Gray was traded from the A’s to the Yankees for a package that included two injured prospects (one with a shattered knee, the other with Tommy John surgery). The A’s were thinking long-term with those prospects, and were willing to wait out the recovery period. Their acquisition cost was cheaper because of the injuries, but their upside was still there.

What if I think a player’s value is too low or too high?

Let us know by contacting us. We’re happy to double-check to see if we missed something. We think we’re pretty thorough and objective, and we pride ourselves on seeing both the pros and the cons of each player. We understand that the perceptions of fans tend to skew to the overly-positive side of their favorite teams and players, so we try not to let that influence us too much. That said, we also respect the knowledge of our users, who follow their teams and players closely. So if you think we’re off, or we’re missing something, we’ll check and see.

Is there a way to see the most popular trades in one view?

We’re working on that as an enhancement.

Why can’t we do three-team trades?

We had hoped to launch this feature sooner, which is why it’s mentioned on the site, but the coding and design challenges turned out to be more significant than we first envisioned. We want to make sure we get the details just right. It’s coming – it’s just taking a bit longer.

When actual real-life trades happen, what will you do if your values are off?

We’ll humbly acknowledge it, learn from it, and use it as an opportunity to improve the model. If we’re close or on point, we’ll humbly acknowledge that as well.

 What is the point of this site?

To have fun!

Please feel free to reach out to us with any comments, suggestions, critiques, or questions at: baseballtradevalues@gmail.com

About the Author