Trading Scherzer (aka, the Difficulties of Valuing an Ace)

I own Max Scherzer in three leagues right now. Three different formats, three different sets of rules, and three different places in the standings. And I am working on trading him in not one, but two.

The problem is trying to find the right value. And valuing a guy like Scherzer is not easy.

The one league where I am keeping Scherzer is the one where trading him, to some extent, makes the most sense. In the original ottoneu league, he costs $33 and my team is still about 7-8 points out of the money. But I am making an effort to build for a run in that league and so trading Scherzer isn’t an option.

In another league, he costs me $12 ($14 next year) of a $260 cap. That league has 12 teams, 25-man rosters and 14 keepers. There are some complications around a two-round minor league draft that make what we call “designated players” highly valuable, particularly in trades.

In the third, there are 20 teams and 45-man rosters, with no salaries or salary caps, and 28 keepers.

So how do you find the right value for a $12 Scherzer or a sure-fire keeper Scherzer?

Let’s start with this: both are CBS leagues and Scherzer, by CBS’s ranks, is the 14th best pitcher in both. That’s pretty damn good – legit #1 or #2 in the 12-teamer, clear #1 in the 20-teamer.

And Scherzer’s 3.37 ERA is not totally representative of his underlying performance. His 12 wins are tied for the league lead, but considering how good the Tigers are, there is little reason to think he can’t keep pulling Ws.

Based on that, alone, he is worth elite return in both leagues.

But Scherzer also has future value. He just turned 30 (Sunday, in fact – Happy Birthday, Max!), which isn’t young, but isn’t Jamie Moyer, either. Scherzer has consistently taken his rotation turns, hitting the 195 IP mark three of the last four years (the other he was at 187.2). Both ZiPS and Steamer see him breaking 210 this year.

Oliver’s five year projections show a guy who should be at about the same elite level the next couple years, and still very, very good for a couple more.

There has also been some buzz lately (this is a great primer) that aces have only about a 50-50 shot of being aces again the next season.

So while Oliver is confident and the track record is impressive, we’ve all seen the Verlanders and Lincecums and know what can happen.

So what does that mean for Scherzer’s value?

Well, in the 12-teamer, I have been offered Christian Yelich and James Paxton. I’ve also been offered Corey Dickerson and Evan Gattis. And Javier Baez has been dangled, though a second piece is needed there. So far, I have passed.

In the 20-teamer, the two best deals on the table seem to be Alex Guerrero, Danny Salazar, Matt Moore, and Bradley Zimmer or (and this deal is not yet on the table) Jean Segura and Matt Wisler. So far, I have passed.

My take on it is this – Scherzer shows no signs of slowing. In fact, his K% and BB% have barely moved. His velocity is down a bit, but his SwStrk% hasn’t dropped much and his zone% is up, so he still has his control.

Of course, I could also read those slight decreases in velocity and SwStrk and say he is on his way to the bad half of that 50-50 proposition.

So let’s assume, rather than the 2-3 years of elite performance and 2-3 more of very good performance that Oliver sees, I’ll assume another elite year, and 2-4 really good years.

If I am giving that up, in either league, I need to get potentially elite performance in the next year or two as part of the return. Remember, I can easily keep Scherzer in both leagues and harnass his elite performance for myself.

I really like Paxton and Yelich, but is either going to be elite any time soon? Maybe Yelich, but I am not sold. Dickerson would be a buy-high, for sure, even if you think he can maintain some semblance of this pace.

Salazar and Moore are intriguing arms, but both have big question marks around them. And Guerrero has looked great in the minors, but smacking around AAA pitching in your age-28 season isn’t exactly proof of a great future. Segura at least has that elite potential, as evidence by his couple months to start 2013. But that potential has been no where to be found this year.

And yet I am not sure I can blame the other owners for failing to increase their offers. In the 12-teamer, I think it takes a Designated Player (or a 2015 draft pick), which effectively allows me to add a 2015 player without using a keeper spot. In the 20-teamer, I want an elite prospect or a more sure-thing bat. If I could combine the deals (Salazar and Moore’s upside with Segura’s production, at least in speed), maybe that makes some sense. But that isn’t available.

The reality is, valuing and trading a player like Scherzer is really hard. I suppose the lack of offers that meet my standards suggest I am overvaluing him. But if I can get into contention next year, keeping Scherzer could prove to be a big part of that.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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Dorena Dragons
8 years ago

I got David Wright for Scherzer. Would have you done that trade in a 12 team keeper league?

8 years ago
Reply to  Dorena Dragons

What is the point of that though? You’re trading a 30 year old pitcher in his prime for a 31 year old hitter who’s begun to decline. If I’m trading an ace in his prime, it’s only because the rest of my team isn’t ready to make a real run at a championship. In that case, I wouldn’t be looking for players of similar age, I’d be looking for guys in the 22-25 year old range with upside to either start a rebuild if my core is old, or fit in with my other young players if I’ve begun the rebuild already.