Miami Marlins baseball 2.0: How to value organizational assets


Oct 12, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward (22) hits a two run home run during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs in game three of the NLDS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Last week the Diamondbacks and Braves completed a transaction which swapped Northpaw starting pitcher Shelby Miller for a package of prospects including OF Ender Inciarte,  and SS Dansby Swanson. It’s easy to see why the Diamondbacks would be motivated to make this kind of move, they recently signed 32 year old Zack Grienke to a six year deal and are eager to build a strong core around him while he’s still in or around his prime. Unfortunately for them, it appears they may have become overly focused on what they wanted, and failed to properly value their own assets, leading to quite a large overpay. Fortunately for everyone else, this presents an awesome opportunity to examine the proper way to evaluate an assets value.

Let’s discuss Shelby Miller, and a quote from Dave Stewart that demonstrates the incorrect way to value players. When facing criticism immediately after the trade Stewart said “When looking at Shelby you’re looking at a guy that was traded for Jason Heyward last season, Heyward is now looking for a 200 million dollar contract (Heyward since then has signed for $180 million), if you value it that way we got great value.” While Stewart is certainly correct that if you value it that way the D-Backs came away with a steal (the three prospects they gave up will make less than 1 million dollars combined in 2016), but thinking there is an equivalency between how much a player is payed and their value is a very silly thing to do.

First and foremost it’s important to understand the value of a win, wins in this case referring to the W portion of WAR not the first number in the win-loss column (though there’s a strong correlation obviously). It’s estimated that every win a player produces is worth around 8 million dollars on the open market. Essentially picture a world where all context was removed and at the end of the season each team had an equal chance to purchase each player’s production, and you’ve got the idea of an open market. Based on this we can get a pretty solid idea of who is over payed, and who is under payed. Quick examples Paul Goldschmidt produced 7.4 WAR in 2015 and was payed $3.1 million, so he was basically payed $56.1 million less than he was worth, conversely Ryan Howard received $25 million and produced -0.4 wins, I think you get the idea.

Now your probably saying to yourself “Wait, Goldschmidt can’t be worth $59.2 million a year, Greinke just set the record for AAV with $33.5m” you’re absolutely right my very astute reader, those things don’t line up because we live in a world where context exists. How much a player gets payed does not reflect what they are worth, only what they can negotiate. The closer a player’s situation gets to the impossible “free market’ the more leverage they have and the more the gap between what they’re worth and what they get payed shrinks.

This is why Stewart’s quote is stupid, it ignores all context and nuance in the world and boils talent evaluation down to a simple comparison of paychecks. By that logic our earlier examined examples, Ryan Howard and Paul Goldschmidt could be traded straight up for each other and and since he got the one being paid more, Stewart would feel that he got the better player. Clearly that wouldn’t be the case.

All of that only addresses the issue of evaluating a player based on his paycheck, there’s another problem with Stewart’s thinking, but for brevity’s sake I’ll keep this parts shorter.

On the issue of two guys being traded for each other being equal the flaw is obvious. Atlanta didn’t trade Heyward for Miller because they thought he was better, they did it because they were going into a rebuild and needed to swap out a short term asset for a long term one. Rebuilding teams should always look to stockpile long term controllable assets for when they reach they’re goal of contention, the same way that contending teams should be willing to mortgage their future in order to get a piece to push them over the hump. That second part is what the D-Backs were trying to accomplish, which is why the trade isn’t a complete disaster, they just gave up too much and got back too little.

Self awareness is very important for franchises, especially small market (or more appropriately low budget) teams like our own Miami Marlins. You have to know if your close to competition or not so that you can act accordingly. In recent moves (and rumored moves) we’ve seen that the Fish have a lot of trouble with this concept. The Dee Gordon trade is probably the best example, swapping out prospects and mortgaging our future in order to win 71 games, but that’s been beaten to death.

Ultimately the point is there are many aspects to think about before acquiring or trading away a player, they’re assets and managing them is the entirety of a GM’s job.