Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"The Book" Blog & The Lee Trade

"The Book" Blog has quickly turned into a must read. Contributing to the blog are the three authors of "The Book: Playing the percentages of Baseball". They are Tangotiger, Michael Lichtman (MGL) and Andrew Dolphin. There's just so much great information there, including the discussions that follow in the comment sections. Check it out.

One post that caught my eye was a discussion on the Carlos Lee trade. Here's MGL's take:

The Tex/Mil trade is an interesting one. “Trades” mostly have to be considered in the context of the contracts that come with them, which is the one thing that is mostly and usually overlooked. If I “trade” for Jeter, A-Rod, Konerko, and Bonds, and give up some young decent players and prospects, have I made a great trade, or have I simply acquired a bunch of very good players with bloated contracts? If you would not sign a FA for a certain salary/contract, you certainly shouldn’t give up something of value for the opportunity to acquire that player and that contract. There are very few FA’s who are actually worth their contracts. Of course it depends on the team and the value of a marginal win for that team at any point in time. Lee is definitely not one of them (FA’s who are worth their contracts), even though he is underpaid compared to his current reputation. But I’ll get to him later.

Cordero is NOT a good, or even very good, reliever. He is a premier/elite reliever, along the lines of Wagner, Rivera, Ryan, and K-Rod. He is one of the best relievers in baseball. He never was a big name, and fell out of favor with Texas after pitching badly for like one month, typical of a bad organization, which TEX is. The guy has posted these NERC’s (SSRATES), or normalized component ERA’s, (the average pitcher is defined as 4.00, the average reliever is 3.90 and the average closer is 3.30) over the last 4 years:


The guy is an absolute stud. I don’t normally advocate spending a lot of money for a reliever, even a great one like Cordero, but he is worth a lot as a closer and is vastly underpaid, especially by closer standards. Tex is NOT a sabermetrically oriented team, never has been as far as I can recall, and is and has been generally terrible at evaluating player talent, sabermetrically speaking. Cordero should not have been traded. Period. It is a joke. Let’s look at the other personnel in this trade.

Nix is in fact a very good defender in CF, which is worth a lot in and of itself. His hitting is a little below average for a CF’er, which means that he is a little above average overall for a CF’er. That is worth 5-6 mil in the FA market! The guy is making 345,000 this year. He is an absolute steal! He is one of those good, young players that you want to hold onto until his arb or FA years, assuming that he is going to command big money in those markets. These kind of players are gold and the only reason to trade them
is to get better or more gold in return (other good, young players or prospects or the very occasional underpaid FA).

Carlos Lee is the classic (way) overrated player. A big, slow, 30 year-old, below average on defense, corner outfielder, who is having a great current season. His Superlwts projection is less than 1.5 wins above replacement! He is making 8.5 mil this year, which is about 5 mil more than he is worth! Who the hell would want his contract? I don’t! Lots of stupid teams would. He is similar to Konerko. ALL first baseman and corner outfielders hit well. If you are a corner outfielder and hit REALLY well, like Lee and Konerko, unless you are good on the bases and very good on defense (which neither one of these guys are), you are simply a win or so above average - maybe.

And after this season, in order to get those draft picks (and it is not clear how much they are worth anyway), they have to offer Lee arb of course. If he takes the arb, he is going to be vastly, vastly overpaid by Tex, making the whole deal even worse than it is! They’ll probably end up signing him to some bloated long-term contract anyway. They are a BAD organization!

Mench meanwhile is a BETTER player overall, and a much underrated one. He does not hit as well, but he is better defensively, has a better arm, runs the bases better, and is 2 years younger! Add everything up and he is actually worth more (in Superlwts projection for 06 and beyond) than Lee for 1/3 the price!

You are 100% wrong for all the above reasons about this trade. It was absolutely horrible for the Rangers. They traded away a better player for a worse one who is making almost 5 mil more per season (and both are FA in 07). In addition, they gave away a way underrated good, young, cheap player in Nix, and one of the best relievers in baseball who is vastly underpaid.

This is one of the most misunderstood trades in baseball history by almost everyone and I am here to set the record straight!

— MGL, 08/02 @ 11:47 PM

But later...

I forgot about Cruz. I don’t know anything about him, but his MLE’s over the last 3 years are excellent, especially for a CF’er. If he is of average defense in CF, or even a little worse, he is in fact gold. If he is a corner OF’er, then he is not worth all that much given his MLE’s and at his age. But you are right. He must be included in the equation.

My main point was the assumption that Lee was much better than Mench, which is patently false, and that people seem to forget or ignore how great Cordero is and has been. Thinking Lee is so good is a perfect microcosm for what is wrong with player evaluation in baseball.


The stuff on Lee being overrated is not suprising. I think many Brewer fans already knew that. He's certainly not worth 5 years, $60 mil, which is apparently what teams will be willing to offer him.

Considering the huge defensive upgrade Gwynn or Nix would be to Gross or Clark, perhaps the Brewers would be better off going to a new option in CF soon? I'm not convinced Gwynn's stick is ready yet but Nix is tearing up AAA right now and may very well get a chance to show his stuff next year.

Finally, Cordero being considered an elite reliever by MGL certainly makes me feel better about him making $5 mil next year. If MGL is correct, Cordero is worth a lot more than. Considering he has 7 saves in 9 appearances while giving up no earned runs with the Brewers, he's certainly walked the walk so far.

Giving up Cruz hurts but I'm liking the trade more and more.


Anonymous Robert Poole, Jr. said...

I never had an issue with Cordero in this trade but my problem was that Lee for Cordero straight up didn't seem like the best possible deal for Cordero. We pushed for Mench and the way Texas shuffled players together makes me believe that we could have had Cordero for far less considering we approached them with the Lee trade.

Mench is NOT a better hitter than Lee regardless of what SABR stats someone pulls out to try to prove otherwise and I do think that until Fielder develops into a legit power threat regularly we have a bit of a power vaccum in the lineup. Hall has some pop but I am not sure we can count on him to be a 35 HR hitter perennially.

I like the acquisition of Cordero, I just wonder if he could have been acquired for less.


6:03 PM  

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