Revisiting 2003 Trades Using Todays

I’ve got another post up at MLB Notebook, this one informally using the Guttridge-Wang trade model that looks at the excess value (value in dollars converted from WAR minus salary) acquired by both teams (that is, the way I looked at the Sherrill trade and a potential Huff trade – I didn’t formally use the model, but most of the main pieces were generally there). I looked at 6 trades from 2003 – including the O’s trading Sidney Ponson to the Giants – to see how history has compared to what the model would have generally predicted. Couple of excerpts below; click through for the full version.

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“The Baltimore Orioles trade potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher Sidney “The Punching Aruban” Ponson (though he may not have earned that nickname until later) to the San Fransisco Giants for pitchers Kurt Ainsworth, Ryan Hannaman, and Damian Moss.

SFG was expected to receive $2.8 M in value (1 WAR of production) for $1.4 M in salary, but there’s no real bump for increased chances of making the playoffs since they already had a 12.5 game lead in the NL West. The Giants also potentially got two draft-picks as compensation for Ponson leaving as a free-agent after the season – which they didn’t take advantage of – with $3 M in value. That’s a total of $4.4 M.

BAL was expected to receive $10 M in excess value from Ainsworth, who was pitching prospect in the top 50 overall, $3.5 M from Hannaman, who I’d say was around a B-/C+ pitching prospect back then, and $2 M from Moss, who was a 0.5 WAR pitcher at the time with a year plus of service time. That’s a total of $15.5 M.

So the O’s “won” the deal by $11 M or so. In reality, Ainsworth got hurt, Moss sucked, and Hannaman never made it. The production the Giants got out of Ponson was the only thing that happened from this deal.”

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“The Reds hit on Aaron Harang (but not the other two pitchers) and Texas hit on Adrian Gonzalez (but traded him away, while not getting anything from the other two prospects) while not giving up a ton of talent. The O’s gave up a little value and ended up with nothing as their pitchers crapped out – and they doubled the loss be resigning Ponson the following offseason to less than stellar results. The Pirates gave up a fair amount of value in Lofton and Ramirez without getting anything back in that deal (and I still don’t understand why they wanted Jose Hernandez), but they more than made up for it by getting Freddy Sanchez. So overall, the “sellers” ended up getting a little bit better value than expected – the “won” the trades at the time by +$25 M but received (or should have received, in the case of Gonzalez) something like +$100 M in excess value. That may just be a product of the trades in 2003, as Ponson was very possibly the best “veteran” that was traded. It’s much harder for a team getting prospects to lose when they’re not giving up star players. And a little strangely with the prospects, they either flamed out completely or become All-Stars. I guess this serves as a reminder that while the model is useful for looking at trades at the time that they happen – since we have no idea if a guy is going to turn into Harang or Burksch, the average expected outcome is about as good as we can do – the eventual success or failure of a trade can depend entirely on how just one out of a group of prospects turns out (it’s really just a bonus when you get Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio, Tony Butler, and George Sherrill as throw-ins with Adam Jones).”