Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How far-fetched is Justin Upton to Giants?

So the Arizona Diamondbacks appear semi-serious about moving Justin Upton. Someone threw out that they heard it would take at least two major league ready starting pitchers and a replacement outfielder. They didn’t specify if that meant someone to replace Upton or a replacement level outfielder, but then maybe the two aren’t so dissimilar. The Diamondbacks would have to put someone out there.

I quickly came up with a minimum package that goes along with the “two MLB ready starters and an outfielder.” My initial thoughts were Jonathan Sanchez, Dan Runzler – whom the Giants are attempting to groom for the rotation – and Nate Schierholtz. At first glance, I think most would agree that this wouldn’t get it done*. I think, ultimately, that’s absolutely correct. But anyway, I haven’t really taken a look at a value to value trade in some time (if ever), so here’s my crack at this very hypothetical proposal. Let’s see if it’s even in the ballpark.

*It’s important to note two things: 1) The DBacks and Giants are in the same division, and thus you’d expect Kevin Towers to demand a somewhat lopsided deal, or at least more value than say an American League team that won’t face Arizona 18 times a year. 2) You have to expect that Towers isn’t necessarily motivated to move Upton unless it’s an overpay, because Upton has superstar potential, is under control five more seasons, and at a reasonable price ($50.5 million to take him through 2015).

Justin Upton had 4.6 WAR in 2009 and a 3.1 WAR in 2010, a down year. That’s an average of 3.85 Wins above replacement per season in his young career. I think it’s reasonable to say he’ll be a 4.5 WAR player through 2015, with a decent chance he could go well over that. He’ll make $50.5 million over the next five seasons and I have written it out below:

2011: 4.5 WAR $4.25 M
2012: 4.5 WAR $6.75 M
2013: 4.5 WAR $9.75 M
2014: 4.5 WAR $14.25 M
2015: 4.5 WAR $15.5 M

So Upton might be expected to produce 22.5 WAR over his contract for $50.5 million. If you multiply his 22.5 WAR times $4 million – which is about the cost of one win on the open market – you’ll see that he could reasonably be worth $90 million through 2015 while being paid just $50.5 million.

Jonathan Sanchez has been worth 2.8, 2.1 and 2.6 WAR over the past three seasons, or 2.5 wins above replacement on average. Let’s say Towers sees Sanchez as a 3 win player the next two seasons, the length of time for which Sanchez will still be under control before free agency. In general, a player gets about 40% of his actual value in his first arbitration year, 60% in his second and 80% in his third. Assuming a 3 WAR value for Sanchez, he would get $7.2 million ((3 WAR x $4 million) x .60) in 2011 – and I think this is a bit high, because he was worth 2.1 WAR in 2010 ($8.4 million value) but only got $2.1 million via arbitration when 40% would actually be $3.36 million. Then we could project him to make $9.6 million ((3 WAR x $4 million) x .80) in 2012 before he hits free agency.

2011: 3 WAR Arb 2 $7.2 MIL
2012: 3 WAR Arb 3 $9.6 MIL

So he could be expected to produce 6 WAR over the next two seasons for $16.8 million. If you multiply his 6 WAR times $4 million – again, the cost of one win on the open market – you’ll see that he could reasonably be worth $24 million while making $16.8 million.

Dan Runzler was worth 0.4 WAR in 2010 even though he pitched limited innings because of a freak (non-arm related) injury. The Giants are currently trying to convert him into a starter, and he is throwing in the Arizona Fall League for that reason. If we take his 0.4 WAR in just 32 innings, we can hypothesize that IF he became a starter and IF he could pitch with similar success in that role, that he would have a WAR of 2.18 in a season of 175 innings (175/32 = 5.46; 0.4 WAR x 5.46 = 2.18 WAR in 175 innings). Let’s assume he’s worth a modest 1.5 wins above replacement per season through the time he’s no longer under control, i.e. 2015. He’ll make league minimum (around $450K) in 2011 and 2012 before hitting arbitration in ’13, ’14 and ’15. Using the same logic I submitted in the Sanchez explanation – i.e. 40% of value in arbitration year one, 60% for two and 80% for year three – we can surmise Runzler would cost $11.7 million through 2015; see the years below:

2011: 1.5 WAR $450K
2012: 1.5 WAR $450K
2013: 1.5 WAR Arb 1 $2.4 MIL
2014: 1.5 WAR Arb 2 $3.6 MIL
2015: 1.5 WAR Arb 3 $4.8 MIL

So he could be expected to produce 7.5 WAR over the next five seasons for a price of $11.7 million. What’s more, if you multiple his 7.5 wins above replacement by their $4 million value per, you’ll find he might be worth $30 million while being paid “just” $11.7 million.

Finally, Nate Schierholtz could be tasked with taking over for Upton – sorry Arizona fans. He was worth 0.6 WAR in 2009 and 0.5 WAR in 2010 with limited playing time. With more playing time for Arizona – which is likely given the necessary departure of Upton to make all of this madness happen – I’ll project him out with a very reasonable 0.75 WAR per season, when 1 WAR per season wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect at all given the value he has with his defense. He’ll make league minimum roughly again in 2011 before going to arbitration in 2012. He’ll get three cracks at arbitration and be under control for four total more seasons. At 1 WAR per season value – using 40/60/80% again – we can gather he might cost around $5.85 million over the next four seasons. Here it is below:

2011: .75 WAR $450K
2012: .75 WAR Arb 1 $1.2 MIL
2013: .75 WAR Arb 2 $1.8 MIL
2014: .75 WAR Arb 3 $2.4 MIL

Nate might then produce 3 WAR over that period of four seasons for a decent price of $5.85 million. If you take his 3 WAR and multiply it a $4 million per win value, we see that he’s worth $12 million while taking less than half of that ($5.85 million).

Ultimately if, and there are quite a few if’s in this scenario – Runzler becomes a starter and produces the expected value, Sanchez continues to pitch about as well as he has the next two seasons and Schierholtz’s holds down right field as he should be able to – the Giants would be putting in about $66 million of future value, and taking on a contract of $50.5 million. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, would be putting in about $90 million of future value but taking on just $34.35 million. That means the Diamondbacks lose $24 million in value but also dump $16.15 million in future salary, something they are probably looking to do when they even consider dealing Upton.

So, it seems pretty clear that Sanchez – the centerpiece – with Runzler and Schierholtz wouldn’t get this deal done. This deal seems to be about $8 million dollars light. And, as I mentioned earlier, the Diamondbacks would probably expect to be overpaid by any team, and slightly more so by an in-division team. That being said, if the Giants were willing to dangle a Top-10 prospect with this package – let’s say 2009 number one pick Zack Wheeler – this would get a lot more interesting and fast. I think Sanchez, Runzler and Schierholtz would actually be a pretty decent base and starting point for a real deal.

WAR stats provided by FANGRAPHS and Contract info by COTS Baseball Contracts

Update/ follow up to this blog can be found HERE!

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