Friday, January 07, 2005

The Transaction That Wasn't 

Not wanting to talk about that other trade until finally and officially complete, I thought I'd talk about the trade that wasn't.

I could analyze the Shawn Green failed trade as a straight-up proposition. Shawn Green at a net cost to the D-Backs of $8 M ($16 M salary minus $8 M in cash from the Dodgers) in 2005 in exchange for catching prospect Dioner Navarro and William Juarez.

Shawn Green's VORP
2001 -- 79.1
2002 -- 65.5
2003 -- 36.5
2004 -- 34.7

Look, if you limited this trade to 2005, this would've been an acceptable risk to me. You're paying $8 M for one year in hopes that Green will return to his pre-injury 2001 and 2002 form while giving away a potentially good catching prospect and a pitching prospect only the most die-hard of fans know about. If it doesn't work, then we have plenty of minor leaguers (Jackson, Quentin) ready to be in the outfield in 2006, if not sooner.

The rub, of course, was the contract extension. I don't know whether to blame D-Backs management for reportedly trying to sign a 2-year extension (if not a 3-year one), or to praise them for holding firm when Green essentially wanted a $49 M contract ($16 M in 2005 plus 3 more years at $11 M each). But I'm glad that it fell through.

But I wanted to look at the trade through a different prism.

Kryzstof Kieslowski was famous for making films that showed the effects of small, random events. The best-known of the critical analyses of his work is entitled "Double Lives, Second Chances." One of the movies most inspired by his work such as "The Double Life of Veronique," is Tom Tykwer's excellent -- and fun -- "Run Lola Run." The movie shows a young German woman trying to save her dim-bulb boyfriend in a 20-minute period. Three times. Two of the endings are not happy; a third is. Here, then, is "Run Lola Run," Shawn Green-style.

Last year: Danny Bautista and Shea Hillenbrand -- combined salaries: $6.6 M
Expected Win Shares: 31. Actual Win Shares: 26.

If the D-Backs went into '05 with these two, it's likely the combined salaries would not be much lower, as Bautista and Hillenbrand might swap salaries. It's also likely the actual win shares would be lower, as both players were considered to have had better-than-expected years.

Next year / Never: Shawn Green and Chad Tracy -- combined salaries (net D-Backs cost): $8.4 M
Expected Win Shares: 32. Actual Win Shares: 28.

So maybe we pick up one win, assuming no change in Win Shares. That's pretty pricy for an additional $1.8 M. But it seems safe to say that the upside of this combo is actually, well, up. Of course, this all assumes that Green doesn't sign an extension. With the extension, this scenario seems to be just as bad as the first. The exchange of prospects, essentially Navarro and Juarez given up and Peterson (from Toronto for Hillenbrand), seems a slight negative for the D-Backs, but not worth worrying about.

Next year / Possible: Jeromy Burnitz, Shea Hillenbrand, and Chad Tracy -- combined salaries: $10.0 M (I'm guessing $4 M for Shea, $5.6 M for Burnitz)
Expected Win Shares: 32. Actual Win Shares: 31 (assumed that Burnitz played 80%, Hillenbrand 70%, and Tracy the rest)

Another $1.6 M, and another win. The upside of this combo is considerably mixed. But it seems unlikely to tie Burnitz up for more than two years. Plus, he has additional flexibility in the outfield so as to make his usefulness in 2006 somewhat relevant, even given our outfield depth. When it comes right down to it, Burnitz had a better year than Green. This ending, while not quite as hopeful as the hopeful ending in "Run Lola Run," does offer some comfort to the D-Backs fan for 2005 and beyond.

So you're probably not thrilled with $30/3? It's quite a gamble on the DBack's part.
Run Lola Run = excellent movie. Great soundtrack too. However, this season is looking more like Groundhog Day for the D'backs. Anyone remember the last time we signed a high-priced hitter who lived up to expectations?

"Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it"
-- George Santayana
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
-- Benjamin Franklin

Jim - But It's a DRY Heat...
I can think of three signings -- Matt Williams, Jay Bell, and Mark Grace. I would submit that the initial years of those contracts at least were worth the money.

It was the later years, of course, that proved problematic.
Bell + Williams had one good year (1999), but otherwise, neither hit above .275, got more than 20 homers or 75 RBIs in any season with Arizona. Given we paid them a total of $84m, rarely felt like we got value. As for Grace, he never cost us more than $3m - less than Brian Anderson or Tony Womack - so wasn't really a bank-buster.

Oh, and congrats on your half-marathoning. More than I could manage, I'm sure! :-)

Jim - But It's a DRY Heat...
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