I opened up trade talks with my esteemed colleague Brandon Warne the other day, inquiring on one of his three elite SS in our ottoneu league.
His reply was direct – “Probably will just start Sano at util.”
While I could go small and target Miller – a guy I like, but with big enough warts and question marks to come relatively cheap off a team with so much MI depth – I’d prefer to make a big splash. I might end up going back to Miller, but no need to start there.
To make any trade work, I have to find an offer that makes the other owner’s team better. To pry away a guy like Machado, Correa, or Bogaerts, I probably also have to overpay – those guys are studs, they are young, they are priced reasonably, and I have to overcome the endowment effect, which I find to be especially strong with guys who theoretically still have upside.
I need to understand where he needs improvement and there are a couple ways to go about this – one is to ask him or look at his trade block; the other is to analyze his team on my own.
Best case, you do both, but Brandon’s trade block is not helpful (“I have money to take on a big $$$ player”) and his reply to my trade inquiry was not either, so I have to go it alone here. The key is to be empathetic – don’t evaluate their team based on your valuations, but try to understand theirs. For example, I am not a big fan of Starlin Castro, even at only $8, but I know Brandon likes him. This a) adds to his depth at MI and b) suggests a player I should not try to trade for – our values just won’t align.
Looking at Brandon’s team, he is stacked with young, cheap talent, but I still see three holes. This is where that empathy comes in. The three I see (1B, SP, and OF) could all be areas Brandon feels good about. I don’t like $22 Adrian Gonzalez and I think a $3 Joe Mauer is little more than a depth piece, which means 1B is a need. I have concerns about some of those SP (even Danny Salazar has a HR problem that mutes his value in FanGraphs Points leagues). And I question his OF depth, as well – Gregory Polanco’s profile isn’t great for the format, barring a power outburst; Byron Buxton is highly unproven; $9 Billy Hamilton is useless, $18 Wil Myers is intriguing but certainly not a sure-thing.
But I can’t assume Brandon will take a 1B, and OF and a SP from me – he has Alex Wood, Matt Moore, Andrew Heaney, Shelby Miller and others cause he likes them – this is his team that he has been building.
That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t target those positions, but I need to be careful – being told, “Your OF sucks, so you might as well trade me a SS for my OF,” is never pleasant if you don’t agree. Brandon is a rational trade partner, but plenty of others would take that statement and dig their heels in on how strong their OF is. It’s a bad decision for them, but doesn’t help me either.
I do have two very useful data points though. One is that by playing Machado at 3B and Sano at Util, he has the option to replace a SS with a Util bat, if he wants. The other is that he is willing to take on salary to improve. If I offered him (for example) my $38 Jose Abreu for his $12 Correa, his 2016 team would be better. Abreu will almost definitely outscore Correa and in this case he would directly replace Correa with Abreu (moving Machado to SS and Sano to 3B). And he can take the hit on dollars.
Of course, as I said, I have to overpay to pull Correa away. Abreu will outproduce Correa this year, but his value won’t be higher. Maybe I can close that gap by adding in an $11 Todd Frazier? He could start Abreu (at 1B) and Frazier (at Util), instead of A-Gon and Correa, while still having spots for Sano, Machado, and Bogaerts. He also could use some OF depth, so let’s add a $7 Michael Taylor to the mix.
So now we are talking $38 Abreu, $11 Frazier and $7 Taylor for $12 Correa. That actually seems quite fair to me, but age and price factor in, too. Frazier will be 30 by opening day, Abreu 29. Bogaerts will be 21. So he’s getting a big boost this year and probably next year, but at a high cost – after that, who knows.
So let’s future-proof this – Abreu, Frazier, Taylor $3 Manuel Margot and $3 Forrest Wall for Correa. Now he gets a big boost this year and next, a top OF prospect, and an exciting MI prospect. Is that enough? Not sure, but it represents a legitimate effort to a) understand his needs, b) think through his roster, and c) construct an offer that is not one-sided or unfair.
And if it isn’t enough, maybe it convinces him to find a match, or to talk about Bogaerts. Either way, the ball is now in his court.
Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.