Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Heyman breaks down a trade, fails to understand the relative value of players involved, cashes another paycheck

[Note added after posting: as I am only marginally less fucking stupid than Jon Heyman, Chris W had to point out to me that the Cubs didn't even get $3 MM in salary relief. They've got to pay Volstad (or non-tender him, which wouldn't surprise me given how dumb the trade is in the first place) and he's arbitration eligible for the first time. Last year Jason Hammel and Kevin Slowey, two pitchers who are slightly better than Volstad but probably comparable, got 2 years $7.75 MM and 1/$2.7 MM respectively in their first years of eligibility. Put the bubbly on ice, Cubs fans. IT'S GONNA HAPPEN HOPEFULLY.]

As Theo Epstein frantically rushes to establish that the two BoSox titles of the '00s were not of his making (A damaged but talented Carlos Zambrano for a guy who might maybe be a #5 starter on his best day and $3 MM in salary relief? Hot sizzle!), Heyman provides this incisive analysis:

The agreed-upon trade between the Cubs and Marlins of volatile former star Carlos Zambrano for talented former phenom Chris Volstad

The word "talented" needs to be moved back in the sentence so that it's next to "volatile."

works for everyone.

In the sense that it works well for the Marlins.

The Cubs get rid of the volatile Zambrano, who had lost his friends in the clubhouse after losing is way on the mound last year.

Even if the Cubs never wanted him to start another game for them, he's still worth a hell of a lot more than Chris Volstad. It's essentially a contract year for Zambrano. He has a 2013 option that vests if he's in the top 4 in the 2012 Cy voting, in which case you'd like him on your team in 2013 anyways. Otherwise he's gone in 10 months. You eat $15 MM of his $18MM salary and all you get in return is Chris Volstad? Holy moly, how much were the Marlins going to pay if the Cubs asked for nothing but salary relief in return? What a crap trade.

The Marlins give up Volstad, whose great promise has seemed to dissipate the past few years to the point where he was an unacceptable 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA for the Marlins in 2011.

Yes, it "seemed" to dissipate since his very good rookie year in 2008. Since then he's had one sort of barely acceptable season, and two where he was replacement level or worse. 88 starts since the beginning of 2009, ERA just under 5 (in the NL, in a mild hitters park), WHIP over 1.40, bad strikeout numbers, cumulative WAR of 1. Can you say "future 6th/7th inning guy?"

This trade represents a fresh start for both right-handers.

That's true. Could you have thought up that angle on your own? Heyman hopes CBS doesn't think so.


Adam said...

"Larry B. Breaks Down Article, Fails to Understand Relative Value of Players Involved"

The fact that Theo Epstein was even able to get a serviceable major league starter for Carlos Zambrano seems like a good deal from the Cubs perspective.

When Zambrano purposefully got ejected, cleaned out his locker during the game, and then said he was retiring last August, it was pretty obvious he would never pitch for the Cubs again. The thing is, everybody knows you either have to trade or release him. That makes his trade value slightly more than zero.

Given choices between a kinda ok pitcher and a big pile of guano, I'll take the pitcher.

This is true even if Zambrano was still good, but I'm not even sure of that. He is not the same pitcher as he once was. He had a horrid year in 2011 and his stuff has not been the same for the last few years. There is no way in hell he is going to finish in the top 4 in Cy voting in 2012.

I don't know where you're getting your WAR data from, but Volstad had a 1.3 last year and Zambrano was at 0.9. Zambrano has been trending downward and Volstad will probbaly be static or slightly better.

What's next, if they trade Alfonso Soranio's corpse for some chump, "Hey that's a 40-40 guy for Peter Freaking Bourjos???"

Larry B said...

I use baseball-reference WAR, because I like WAR based on stuff that actually happened rather than stuff that maybe might could have happened. Fangraphs WAR, like most everything that comes to be as a result of Fangraphs, is a joke.

Sure, Zambrano had a terrible 2011. He also had a better 2011 than Volstad, and even in his less-good-than-his-prime 2009 and 2010, he was better than Volstad will likely ever be. He's still only 30. Volstad came up in 2008, got off to a great start, then the league adjusted to him, he's been shitty ever since. Odds are strongly against him ever being not shitty.

I understand Volstad is a warm body, so the Cubs did get something in return for a guy who accumulated 2.7 WAR in 2010. Volstad can probably put up 150-200 innings next year at slightly above replacement level, but that doesn't make this not a miserable trade.

Of course Zambrano's option isn't going to vest. I included those details because at the time it was technically true that 2012 wasn't technically a technical contract year for Zambrano.

You mention leverage- sure, maybe the Cubs wanted him gone and he wanted out. That doesn't destroy all their leverage. This isn't a Carmelo to the Knicks situation. It's baseball, where giving up assets for a one year rental is not a big deal. (And there are plenty of contending teams looking for SPs right now.) Zambrano might have preferred to go to the Marlins to be with Ozzie, but I didn't read anything that said Zambrano would only accept a trade to the Marlins. Even if that were the case, it really shouldn't have affected much. If the Cubs were willing to eat all but $2.5 MM of his salary, I'm willing to guess that plenty of teams would have been happy to give him a flier in exchange for someone better than Volstad. One of three things is true:

1) Epstein's scouts say there's some problem with Volstad that they can easily fix, making him worth more than I think he's worth
2) Epstein decided to do Zambrano a favor and send him to the Marlins rather than shop him around
3) Epstein thinks Zambrano and $15.5 MM is worth no more than Chris Volstad

In any case, I respectfully disagree with pretty much everything you said.

Adam said...

I'm pretty sure it's 2 with a little bit of 1 maybe.

Overall though, I think you're overestimating the Cubs' leverage in this situation. There were no indications that Zambrano wanted to leave. He had a full no trade and according to what I have read, he was not willing to waive it at first. He later agreed to the Marlins after Ozzie Guillen ended up in Miami.

If Theo decided he did not want Zambrano to pitch at all for them in 2012, and Zambrano was not willing to waive the no trade clause; the options were pretty limited.

So those things considered, I'm not sure what else you think they could have gotten for him.

Larry B said...

You're right about the no-trade, and I'm sure Ozzie was a huge draw. That still doesn't mean Epstein couldn't have shopped him elsewhere and then tried to talk him into the benefits of heading that way. Perhaps he did. I'm just shocked the return was this bad considering I never heard anything about Zambrano only wanting to go to Florida.

And even IF Zambrano would only go to the Marlins AND the Marlins knew this and used that fact as leverage... the Cubs are saving $0 in the aggregate and getting Chris fucking Volstad in return? It's still pathetic, unless #1 from above is true. Which I doubt it is.

Chris W said...

"Adam makes incredibly condescending comment, refers to Chris Volstad as a kinda ok pitcher"

The ironing is delicious