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Evaluating Three MLB Offseason Trades With Surplus Values

Was Craig Kimbrel worth the prospect capital given up? Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Was Craig Kimbrel worth the prospect capital given up?
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

To wrap up our informal Surplus Value rollout week, let’s use the newly minted 2016 Surplus Values to evaluate three trades that have happened this offseason in baseball. All three were shocking at the time, two because of perceived talent imbalances and one because of the player given up.

I’ll also try to give a “what were they thinking” as a devil’s advocate the side that seems to be out of balance.


SS Andrelton Simmons and C/1B Jose Briceno to the Angels. SS Erick Aybar, LHP Sean Newcomb, and RHP Chris Ellis to the Braves.

LAA gets Player $ Remaining Yrs. Control Projected WAR FA WAR Value Surplus Value
A. Simmons $53.00 5 14 $112.00 $59.00
J. Briceno $0.00 6 0 $0.00 $0.00
Total $59.00
ATL gets Player $ Remaining Yrs. Control Projected WAR FA WAR Value Surplus Value
E. Aybar $8.50 1 1.5 $12.00 $3.50
S. Newcomb $0.00 6 8.3 $66.40 $39.00
C. Ellis $0.00 6 0 $0.00 $0.00
Total $42.50

Analysis: Andrelton Simmons has 5 years and $53M remaining on his deal. I have projected his WAR to be the following over the next five years, which are his age-26 to age-30 years: 3.0, 3.0, 3.0, 2.5, 2.5, for a total of 14 WAR. At $8M/WAR, you have his $112M value and then $59M surplus value.

Erick Aybar is a perfectly cromulent stopgap for a rebuilding Braves team and he’s not without value himself, albeit small, as you can see. The jewel for the Braves is the arrival of Sean Newcomb, rated as a #11-25 pitching tier prospect in the latest BA Top 100 (#24). His projected WAR and surplus value are the averages for that tier of player.

Briceno seems like a total non-prospect. Chris Ellis appears to have some back-of-rotation/middle reliever potential, but for the purposes of this exercise I did not assign him a surplus value, as he’s not a Top 100 prospect. However, if you think he could be a bullpen guy good for 3 WAR over his team control, then that is essentially the value of a #51-100 pitcher and you can give him $15M of surplus value. If that happens, then the $16.5M deficit for the Braves turns into a wash.

What were the Braves thinking ?Clearly, the Braves are rebuilding and saw that a defense-first SS (albeit one that is a wizard) made for a better trade asset than building block. They didn’t believe in the bat rebounding much, but what it tells me is that the Braves’ front office either doesn’t value defense that much or values it differently than the general public does. I’m skeptical of UZR and other defensive metrics, but it’s clear that Simmons is the best in the business. I wouldn’t have made this trade, because of Simmons’ age, but also because I think Newcomb’s high BB/9 is going to preclude him from being a successful major-league starter.


RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Gabe Speier to the Diamonbacks. OF Ender Inciarte, SS Dansby Swanson, RHP Aaron Blair to Braves.

ARI gets Player $ Remaining Yrs. Control Projected WAR FA WAR Value Surplus Value
S. Miller $22.00 3 10 $80.00 $58.00
G. Speier $0.00 6 0 $0.00 $0.00
Total $58.00
ATL gets Player $ Remaining Yrs. Control Projected WAR FA WAR Value Surplus Value
E. Inciarte $39.50 5 18 $144.00 $104.50
D. Swanson $0.00 6 13 $104.00 $62.00
A. Blair $0.00 6 3.7 $29.60 $16.50
Total $183.00

Analysis: If you really, really like Shelby Miller and you really don’t believe in defensive metrics, then you could say that Miller for Enciarte straight up would be a fair swap. But the way I see it, just those guys 1-for-1 is even a huge imbalance in favor of ATL. Then when you add in the two prospects of Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair, the scales grossly get tipped in the Braves favor.

I have Miller accruing 3.0, 3.5, and 3.5 WAR in his three years of team control. Using his $4.4M in arb-1 salary this year as the baseline, his next two arb years could be $7M and $10.5M using the 25/40/60 model we developed.

Gabe Speier is a non-factor at this point.

Inciarte is going to be a Super 2 player and based on his production, plus our 20/33/50/70 Super-2 arbitration model, I have his salaries as $0.5M, $4.5M, $7.5M, $11.25M, and $15.75M. The 25-year old Inciarte is controlled through his prime years of 25-29 by the Braves, which I’ve estimated his value at 3.0, 3.5, 3.5, 4.0, and 4.0 WAR for the total of 18 WAR shown.

Dansby Swanson was the #1 overall pick. Not, like, 5 or 10 years ago, but rather just this past year. He was tossed in with apparently no hesitation by GM Dave Stewart, even though as a #11-25 hitter he is ultra-valuable, especially if he sticks at SS. And then to top it off, Aaron Blair (#51-100 tier of pitcher) is treated like a throw-in to wildly unbalance this trade.

What were the Diamondbacks thinking ? Clearly, GM Stewart does not care much for prospects. He’s traded away a vast array of talent in his short tenure and even basically sold Touki Toussaint to the Braves last year to get out from under the Bronson Arroyo deal. As a Flags Fly Forever guy myself, he’s trying to go for it, but it just seems like the package he got rid of could have procured a better level of pitcher than Shelby Miller.


RHP Craig Kimbrel goes to the Red Sox. OF Manuel Margot, SS Javier Guerra, SS/2B Carlos Asuaje, and LHP Logan Allen go to the Padres.

BOS gets Player $ Remaining Yrs. Control Projected WAR FA WAR Value Surplus Value
C. Kimbrel $25.00 2 3.5 $28.00 $3.00
SDP gets Player $ Remaining Yrs. Control Projected WAR FA WAR Value Surplus Value
M. Margot $0.00 6 4.9 $39.20 $22.40
J. Guerra $0.00 6 4.9 $39.20 $22.40
C. Asuaje $0.00 6 0 $0.00 $0.00
L. Allen $0.00 6 0 $0.00 $0.00
Total $44.80

Analysis: Craig Kimbrel is one of the 2 or 3 best closers in the game right now. His numbers last year declined from ‘otherworldly’ to merely ‘awesome’, so I’ve put him at 1.75 WAR for each of the next two seasons. He makes $24M over these next two years (with a $1M buyout on a 2018 option that I did not assume would be picked up automatically), so there’s not a ton of surplus value here.

Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra were both ranked closely in the 50’s on BA’s Top 100, so each has the $22.40M surplus value. Asuaje looks like a utility guy that may struggle to make the Majors and Allen is an 18 year old that pitched in the GCL rookie league last year.

It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see one of Margot or Guerra go in a 1-for-1 for Kimbrel, but both of their inclusions, plus two other interesting-enough parts makes this appear to be a very lopsided deal in the Padres favor.

What were the Red Sox thinking ?New GM Dave Dombrowski doesn’t care about any of that analysis above. He was plagued by bad bullpens nearly his entire time in Detroit and seemed determined to not let it happen out of the gate in Boston. He had no attachments to those prospects and simply wanted to build a powerful pen. With the also-acquired Carson Smith and Koji Uehara pitching in front of Kimbrel, the Red Sox have a formidable back end of the bullpen now. This is also a Flags Fly Forever move.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.