Monday, June 13, 2011

Just how good was that Nady trade?

While Xavier Nady was in town with the Arizona Diamondbacks, there was some talk in the local Pittsbugh media about the trade that sent him and relief pitcher Damaso Marte to the Yankees, in return for Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorff. By all accounts this is was one of the most successful trades of the Neal Huntington era. To see just how successful it was, I ran the following analysis:

Using, I looked at three separate values. The first, is WAR (Wins Above Replacement). WAR is defined as follows: "WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth 6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth 3.5 wins." link

I aggregated the WAR stat for all players from the day of the trade to today. Here are the results:

Tabata 3.3
Karstens 1.4
McCutchen -.8
Ohlendorff 1.9
Total = 5.8

Nady .3
Marte .3
Total = .6

So, since July 26, 2008, the players the Pirates picked up have been worth 5.8 wins compared to the .6 wins generated by Marte and Nady. The Pirates picked up 5.2 wins in the trade.

While picking up wins is desirable in any trade, what is most important for small market franchises like Pittsburgh is getting the most bang for every buck they spend. Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodg...errr, Met...errr, um, big market teams in general, can afford to be somewhat less efficient with their resources. This is not a privilege the Pirates enjoy. To be competitive, the Pirates need to pay less and get more. It is exactly this aspect of the trade that arguably makes it Neal Huntington's masterpiece.

To tap into the resource efficiency of this trade, I looked at the salaries of each player and compared it to his "free agent dollar value." Dollar value = "It is not a salary predictor, or in way a projection of what a player is going to get when he becomes a free agent. It is a backward looking value statistic that quantifies the replacement cost of a certain level of production based upon the market price for that value. In terms of function, it is much more of a price than a value. In other words, the best description of the question that the valuation is answering is “how much would you expect to have to pay to replace this performance in free agency if you knew that you were going to get this level of value exactly?” Link. Here are the results:

Name/Salary since 2008/dollar value

Tabata .6/13.7
Ohlendorff 1.7/8.5
McCutchen .616/-.8
Karstens 1.3/6.0
Total = 4.2/27.4

Nady 11.8/1.8
Marte 10/ .9
Total = 21.8/2.7

In sum, the Pirates paid 4.2 million for a level of performance that was worth about 27.4 million on the free agency market. In other words, to match the same level of performance they received in the trade through free agency, they would have had to pay and expected 23.2 million extra. Conversely, Nady and Marte have delivered a level of performance that would be worth an expected 2.7 million in free agency, while earning salaries of 21.8 million. (note: it is difficult to get perfect information on player salaries. See my post "Neal Huntington's Trades" for more on this issue. Also, these numbers have been revised from the original post. The original post did not include data from the exact day of the trade forward.)

Thanks for reading and leave any comments below.