Category Archives: Trades/Free Agency

Is that a shiny new free agent in your stocking, or an old lump of coal?

NFL playoffs are right around the corner, but ’tis the season for a jolt of baseball excitement too, as teams sign new players. The contracts are getting bigger and bigger, supported by growing MLB revenues. Some of the major signings under the tree this year (more here):

  • Zack Greinke, 6 yrs, $147 million (Dodgers)
  • Josh Hamilton, 5 yrs, $125 million (Angels)
  • B.J. Upton, 5 yrs, $75 million (Rays)
  • Anibal Sanchez, 5 yrs, $80 million (Tigers)

But before you start thinking playoffs, remember that many big deals don’t work out. Who will be nice and who will be naughty this year?

The Old Lumps of Coal

From the list above, Greinke is 29 years old, Hamilton is 31, Upton is 28, and Sanchez is 28. Not many young players are available through free agency, but are these 4 to 6 year deals for 28 to 31 year olds a good idea? I tackled this question with my friend Jeff Phillips for ESPN the Magazine in early October.

Specifically, we wondered if long deals for 30 year olds made more sense during the steroid era, when players could recover, train, and maintain more easily. There are two sides of the coin: (1) how has older player performance changed, and (2) has older player compensation evolved appropriately. We focused on players in the top quarter of the salary distribution, since that’s where the big money is spent. To measure performance, we examined average Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP)* by age during and after the steroid era:

WARP bars

Uh oh. Although performance for all highly paid players has gone down, older “stars” have turned out to be coal indeed. Looking year by year highlights the post-PED age decline. Average WARP for older and younger stars was remarkably similar through the steroid era, but older player WARP Continue reading

The Islanders offered ALL THEIR PICKS for the 2nd pick: doh!

Incredibly, the Blue Jackets turned them down! I thought the Redskins trade for the second pick in the NFL draft (used to select Robert Griffin III) was crazy. The Islanders offered the fourth pick along with six other picks. How could the Blue Jackets — who are terrible — refuse the chance to collect six extra prospects? Doing so would give them trade assets and limit their risk exposure substantially. Even if their second pick (highly regarded defenseman Ryan Murray) works out, how can he possibly be worth more than seven draft-worthy players, including the fourth overall pick?

As in the NFL, I was shocked by the value the Blue Jackets and Islanders placed on the second pick. There’s so much risk involved with top draft picks. Given the price teams are willing to pay, why not trade them for known quantities (current NHLers) or multiple picks slightly lower down? I made this same argument about the first pick in the NFL draft this year. Just because Andrew Luck is “the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning” (or whoever) doesn’t mean the Colts should have drafted him. The value of that pick was astronomical precisely because Andrew Luck is considered to be a sure thing, when we all know there’s no such thing as a “sure thing” in a sports draft.

Edit: At least the Bobcats have realized that they should trade the second pick this year. Even if they had the first pick (which they surely would keep), I would suggest that they at least check Anthony Davis’s market value.

Byebye, Nene

When the Nuggets resigned Nene to a large contract in the off season, I wrote that they were making the most of a bad situation (few marquee free agents available, Nene not worth the money). Today, they admitted as much by trading Nene in a three team deal that landed them talented but unreliable JaVale McGee.

Although the Nuggets have bucked the trend slightly by having some success post-Iverson and Carmelo, my preferred models for NBA success are the South Beach Talents and the Seattle Scientists. The Talents involve trading or signing two (or three!) top 15 players, and spending the spare change on spare parts to fill out the roster. The theory is that mid range guys are overpaid, so just spend you money at the top and bottom.

If you’re a small market, it’s tough to attract stars these days, so I suggest the Scientists, a hypothetical NBA team that attacks a different undervalued asset: effort. The Scientists hire guys who will be in better shape and work harder than every other team. They press on offense AND defense.

The Nuggets are neither of these. They are doing okay with their strategy of paying mid range guys (Afflalo is another example); they have the 6 seed right now. However, they probably aren’t a championship team. Wouldn’t it be fun to try something new instead?

Trading Luck

If this is what the second pick is worth, I can only imagine what the first pick is worth.

Seriously, that is a lot of picks to give up for a college quarterback. The Browns made a similar offer, only to be outbid! Couldn’t the Redskins (or the Browns) have gotten an above average NFL QB for that price instead? What if Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin get hurt? What if they just aren’t any good? If I were the Colts, I would trade the first pick too and let someone else gamble on Luck.

The Celtics endgame

The Celtics are hanging onto the 8 seed for dear life. Last night, they got a big win over the Cavaliers (who are ninth) and managed to tie up the Knicks for the 7 seed. In Boston, most people realize that this group is done. I’m reminded of the Pistons in ’08-09; here’s the IMDB:

Endgame (2012)
PG-13 (66 games and 1 playoff round) – Sports Action

In 2008-2009, the Detroit Pistons are coming off six straight Eastern Conference finals appearances. However, their core players — Chauncey Billups, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace — are aging, Continue reading

NBA superstar trades

Jerry West had some interesting comments yesterday on superstars demanding trades in the NBA. Basically, he says wait them out. His two arguments:

  1. Players and agents will “resign” themselves to the situation and “re-sign” since their current team can offer them as much as $30 million more than another team (by NBA rules)
  2. Even if they don’t, the value you get in a trade is crappy

I disagree with point 1 (Exhibit A: LeBron James), but he’s right about point 2. In my South Beach Talents model, Continue reading

Why try your luck on Luck?

The Colts are going to take Andrew Luck first overall in the draft. No one will blame them if he doesn’t work out because every team without a star quarterback would draft him, given the chance. However, is this the right choice? Here are the career numbers for all first pick QBs since 1990 (from Pro Football Reference):

I listed each quarterback’s draft year, games played, winning percentage, completion percentage, TDs and INTs as a percentage Continue reading