A not-so-modest trade proposal for the Marlins


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The first part of a resposne on FishStripes became an idea for a post I’ve been brewing up in my head for quite some time. I’ve avoided being that guy who makes rampant trade speculation that is mostly unwarranted and comes off as a plea to the front office and a pipe dream rather than a realistic proposal. I wanted to look more in-depth at a player to whom I think the Marlins should pay some interest. It’s not going to be someone who is too sabermetrically impressive though, and truthfully this name flies against a lot of what I want this team to improve on.

Freddy Sanchez of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Let that sink in for a second. Sanchez is an odd name for me to throw out there because everything he does offensively goes against what is traditionally desired by sabermetric offensive analysis. Sanchez holds a lifetime .328 wOBA, right around league average for most seasons. However, he has sustained this decent wOBA in all the wrong ways. Sanchez is essentially a singles hitter. He has a career OBP of .336, league average acceptable until you realize that his career walk rate is a minuscule 4.8%, meaning he’s deriving a lot of those trips on base through hits, which are much more variable than walks. His career .121 ISO shows he isn’t going to be hitting the balls he contacts very hard; on good seasons, he can rack up doubles, but in bad years you won’t see too many extra bases from Sanchez. His career BABIP sits at a .328, which is acceptable and has seen its ups and downs. However, his lack of speed, evidenced by a career speed score of 3.8 (scale is out of 10), should act to supress his BABIP.

So if all he does goes against all I want for my team, why would I ever even propose the idea? Well, there’s one thing that I feel Sanchez does that the Marlins could desperately use, and that’s a glove. Sanchez has over 1300 innings logged at third base and he’s come off with a UZR/150 of 17.6 at the position. Total Zone Rating likes him even more, giving him a +32.7 runs in 1250 defensive innings. Now, neither of those values is likely correct. I would sincerely doubt that Freddy Sanchez is the next coming of Brooks Robinson or something like that. However, I do feel he’s a far better option at third base than the one we’re currently sporting. In addition to that, Sanchez can be moved to second base in a pinch in case resident anger magnet Dan Uggla continues to struggle at second. Sanchez isn’t nearly as good there, with a UZR/150 of 4.2 and a Total Zone Rating per 1250 innings of -3.8, more or less saying nothing about his defense except that he might be in the ballpark of average over his career. If Uggla’s defense improves at third base, it could come out as just as much of an improvement overall for the team.

This of course is just speculation, both regarding the trade and the value of it. There’s also just a tiny problem with his $8M vesting player option that would trigger if he were to reach 600 PA this year, which seems fairly likely, especially if he’s dealt to a contender. In order to make it worth the Marlins’ money, he’d better produce. Let’s hand out some weights and see if we can’t predict a possible value for the team. Sanchez has currently racked up 378 PA and has averaged 638 PA over the last three seasons. I’m comfortable with him reaching that total again this year. That would leave currently 260 PA to go for the season. Let’s make it 250 for ease of calculation and because the trade wouldn’t happen today, but would have to happen this week. With 250 PA left, there’s not much time left for production. For the remainder of the season, let’s give Freddy his ZiPS remaining season projection for ease of calculation. Sanchez is projected to havea  .324 wOBA the rest of the year, equating to -0.8 wRAA. On defense, it’s a bit more difficult to guess at. Assuming there’s some 63 games left in the year and that Sanchez will get 56 of those games, affording a few days worth of rest. Here’s the weight system I gave him for the his defensive capabilities at third:

10% chance, +15 UZR/150
20% chance, +10 UZR/150
70% chance, +5 UZR/150

Given those numbers (which I think are fair for a regression of UZR based on the small sample size), he would yield +2.6 runs by UZR in the 56 games. Combine that with his offensive value and the expected positional adjustment and replacement level values and you get:

-0.8 wRAA + 2.6 UZR + 0.9 positional adj. (3B) + 8.3 Replacement level: 11.0 runs above replacement, or 1 WAR.

One win over the course of 250 PA is not shabby at all. Special consideration should also be made to the fact that the player he would be replacing, Emilio Bonifacio, is currently underneath replacement level, if only by about four runs. Truthfully, we’d be expecting an added bonus of 1.5 WAR, worth $6.8M on the open market. Sanchez would be making approximately $2.1M prorated over the remainder of the season, for a net worth of $4.7M for this year.

When his vested option kicks in, that’s when the Marlins are expected to pay a hefty price. Is he still worth it? Let’s assume he reaches 638 PA next season as well. Given the variability of his hitting skills, we can expect large swaths of change in the effectiveness of his hitting. Without doing a ZiPS like projection analysis, let’s just use some approximate weights to determine the type of hitter he might end up being. I hastily thought up these weights last night.

30% chance wOBA .300
40% chance wOBA .325
30% chance wOBA .340

I think this weighting is fair. In four seasons (including a projection of this season), Sanchez has averaged around a .328 wOBA. This encompasses one terrible season (last year), one ridiculous year (2006), two league average years (this year and two years ago), and a mediocre season his first go-around in Pittsburgh. This gives a good chance he’ll bomb or be above average, with the greatest likelihood being that he reverts to league average. This weighted analysis gives him a weighted average wOBA of .322, which given his production is probably a bit low. In this weighting, I essentially knocked out his outlier 2006 without equally knocking out his 2008 poor season, but I wanted to be conservative in my projection. Taking the league average wOBA to be .329 for the year, you get this expected WAR total:

-3.9 wRAA + 6.6 UZR + 2.1 positional adj. (3B) + 21.3 replacement level = 26.1 Runs above replacement, or 2.6 WAR

If you again consider the replacement level a bit lower due to the most likely replacement being Bonifacio, you get about 3 WAR, or a value of $13.5M. That would give him a surplus value for the season of $5.5M, or $3.7M if you don’t buy the Marlins replacing him with Bonifacio. So the total surplus value we’d receive from Sanchez over his contract given a pretty conservative regression model is somewhere between $8.4 and $10.2M. That’s pretty good, but there’s another piece of the equation, that being what we have to give back to get Sanchez.

Given that the Marlins in this situation are paying for Sanchez’s salary, the Marlins would likely have to hand out a B-level prospect, top 5 organizational type of guy, along with a couple C-level guys who serve as lottery tickets for the Pirates. I don’t think the haul would be expected to be anything like that of Nate McClouth’s in the Atlanta trade, so that would seem fair. The Marlins were in discussion last season about a trade involving B-rated pitcher Ryan Tucker, currently in Double-A. Tucker has ridiculous velocity but needs to develop control and a second effective pitch to start, according to John Sickels. So, assuming we send him and two C-rank players, how much would that be in terms of dollars? Let’s turn to Sky Kalkman, who quotes Victor Wang’s research on the value of prospects and draft picks. Here’s the chart (scroll down to Route 2: Prospects).

According to that chart, a B-ranked pitcher would cost $7.3M on average over the life of his team-controlled career. The C-rank guys, probably a young pitcher and hitter, would add up to $2.8M over their team-controlled careers. Thus, the giveaway for the Marlins would likely be a total of $10.1M, just underneath the high end of my projected surplus value. It’s also possible it would only cost Tucker and one C-ranker, making it more like $9.4M, given that the Marlins are paying Sanchez’s contract. If the Pirates would take this deal and pay Sanchez’s contract for the season, our value jumps an additional $2.1M, which would certainly help. Either way I don’t believe the Fish would have to give anything more than this package away.

To summarize:

Marlins pay, 2 C-rank prospects: between -$1.7M to $0.1M
Marlins pay, 1 C-rank prospect: between -$1.0M to $0.8M
Marlins don’t pay, 2 C-rank prospects: between $0.4M to $2.2M

This of course does not take into account the added chance of the Marlins making the playoffs, but according to vivaelpujols at BtB, the odds weren’t great to begin with. Adding Sanchez adds approximately 1 WAR, which would only increase the Marlins playoff odds by 2%. This is based on something akin to third-order wins and win% calculated at BtB, so it isn’t entirely “real” in terms of actual standings, but represents a probability based on the team’s true performance level. That 2% improvement gives about $0.5M more due to increased playoff revenue, so the Marlins could actually come out decently on top.

Looking at that, I wouldn’t totally be happy with a move given the package we’d be dealing abck. If the Marlins can get away with a smaller package like the one the Red Sox gave up to get Adam LaRoche, it would be far more interesting. However, Adam LaRoche garnered a lot less interest than Sanchez, who costs very little and provides much more production. It remains to be seen if the Fish will make a move or stay put, but I think this one is certainly something to consider.