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The Value of a Trade

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By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer - 

Today the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim traded 1B/OF Mark Trumbo and RHP A.J. Schugel to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a 3-way trade that sent OF Adam Eaton to the Chicago White Sox, LHP Hector Santiago and LHP Tyler Skaggs to the Angels, via the White Sox and Diamondbacks, respectively, and a PTBNL from the White Sox to the Diamondbacks.

Jerry Dipoto’s goal was to add young, controllable starting pitching and with this trade he has accomplished that task. There may be more to do yet but this trade can be viewed as nothing short of a complete win for the Angels front office. Let me explain why from a prospect point of view (needs), a value point of view, and a strategic point of view.

The Prospect Point of View (Needs) Trade:

In the previous ‘Hot Stove Trade Speculation’ series I reemphasized the common view that prospects are inherently cheaper in value because they do not have a proven track record at the Major League level. A majority of prospects flame out in the Minor Leagues and never make an impact in the Show.

It is for this very reason that prospects are used, quite often, as trade chips where one or more prospects are sent in return for an established Major League player with a proven track record of performance. The Diamondbacks have used their prospect base to acquire Mark Trumbo, sacrificing potential future value for proven 30 home run performance.


So from a purely prospect point of view this trade is a slight overpay for the White Sox. For the Diamondbacks the potential and risk of both Skaggs and Eaton has been transferred to the Angels and White Sox, respectively, and the more reliable performance of Trumbo has been acquired in their stead.

This is why teams trade prospects and extra roster pieces away (obviously). However as Dave Cameron of FanGraphs recently pointed out in this article, a prospect that performs at a 2+ WAR per year level can provide immense value to the controlling team for at least 2 years or more.

The point of all of this is the old baseball adage “build from within”. Even a mediocre farmhand can provide value when they are making the league minimum. Good scouting, evaluation, and player development can create even greater value by identifying common traits and abilities in prospects that generally lead to greater success in the Major Leagues.

All of this conversation leads to the next part of this article: the value point of view.

The Value Point of View Trade:

In order to get a better idea of the true value (essentially estimated long term value) of the players in this trade we have to make some basic projections of their future performance.

This is a bit dicey to do but I have made these ‘best guesses’ to each player’s long term WAR contributions and have embedded them, along with appropriate arbitration salary estimations, in the value calculations to arrive at a total value over their controllable years as seen in the table below:


Note: Skaggs, Santiago, and Schugel’s values have been reduced 20% to account for possible, future DL time.

When you reevaluate this trade based on potential long term value it becomes readily clear (if it hadn’t already by merely observing it with your own eyes) that the Angels came out on top.

Hector Santiago by himself should have been an equitable trade for Trumbo on a value basis but Skaggs was added in on top of this transaction creating a lot of strong value for the Angels. Schugel as a starter will give the Diamondbacks a decent value in return but if A.J. can’t maintain a starter’s workload moving him to the bullpen will reduce his value by over half making this trade even more lopsided.

The White Sox probably broke even on the trade but Eaton’s upside might make this look better for them long term. Only time will tell for Eaton and them, although Adam’s on-base skills, speed and outfield versatility will likely make this trade a positive.

In the end the Diamondbacks decided that their window of contention (2014 and beyond) is more important than the long term value they just gave up in both Skaggs and Eaton. Every team makes this decision at some point in time and today the decision belonged to Arizona.

Dipoto made a really smart off-season move that should impact not only next season but for years to come. The value he just created was significant and hopefully both pitchers stay healthy over their remaining controllable years.

This trade should remind every GM that generally the best way to improve your team is through building a strong farm system and prospect development. It can help build real value and provide you with assets to acquire pieces you need to compete.

The Strategic Point of View Trade:

Clearly this trade satisfies areas of need for all three organizations but for the Angels, in particular, it adds a tremendous amount to their 2014 season.

The Angels acquire two young, controllable starters with upside. Skaggs has the ceiling of a #2/#3 type starter and Santiago has the ceiling of a #3 starter or a high-leverage late inning reliever. Mark Trumbo (and the two associated prospects) certainly had value but acquiring two starting pitchers has to make Jerry Dipoto feel good about the trade.

For the Diamondbacks they get a corner outfielder and backup 1st baseman who can hammer the ball. Trumbo’s power will play well in Arizona (and Coors field too) and provide a middle-of-the-order presence behind Goldschmidt. Additionally the D-backs will receive A.J. Schugel in the deal along with a White Sox Rule 5 candidate or prospect that they selected in the most recent First Year Player Draft.

Finally the White Sox obtain Adam Eaton, a former top prospect in the Diamondbacks system. Eaton can play all of the outfield positions, including center field, and has a great track record of on-base skills in his Minor League career that should translate well into the Major Leagues. He could be a current or future CF for the White Sox hitting out of the lead-off spot.

The Angels got their pitching, the Diamondbacks got their power, and the White Sox got their young prospect outfielder. All three teams met some of their strategic needs today.


If you haven’t already made up your mind about this trade, I’ll clarify it for you by declaring it a real win for the Angels.

In a sense the Diamondbacks are winners too because they got the guy they wanted to put in their lineup. I’m sure their front office feels like they took a significant step towards contention next season so they must be happy.

Also for the rebuilding/retooling White Sox they added a young, cost-controlled outfielder that has a good chance of building some real value over the long term for their organization.

As a final note I generally reduce a controllable (2+ years) pitchers value by 10-20% to account for the inevitable Disabled List time that will be lost during their tenure with their respective ball clubs.

If Skaggs and Santiago were to stay healthy over their controllable years they would add an additional $14MM and $6MM respectively making this trade even better than it appears above from a value perspective.

Good job Jerry, you earned your keep today!


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