Fire Gardy

Mismanaging games since 2002

Surplus Value

After the news that Boof has been traded to the Red Sox for a PTBNL or cash, we also learned that the Twins have been actively trying to trade Perkins, and that Casilla is also available. That raised a question in the comments around here, based loosely around this premise:

** If the Twins are unloading backups like this, why would Casilla be “available,” why not try to trade Punto, who is a better player than Casilla, in an attempt to get more in return?**

First, a quick check into their values:

  • Casilla peaked in 2008 with +1.2 WAR, but in 2007 & 2009 he was worth -0.9 and -1.4 WAR, respectively. In his career, he’s been worth a total of -1.0 WAR.
  • Punto peaked in 2006 with +3.1 WAR, and also had +2.6 in 2008. He was +1.3 WAR in 2009. He’s never been below replacement level with the Twins (he did produce -0.1 and -0.2 in 2002-2003 in extremely limited time with the Phillies). In his career, he’s been worth a total of +8.7 WAR.

In addition Punto is at least capable of offering a steady hand at any infield position; Casilla has offered no more than a flashy but subpar glove at second base. It seems to me that there’s little doubt that Punto is the more valuable baseball player. So the Twins would have better luck trying to trade Punto, rather than Casilla, right?

Well, no. Not really.

The first thing to look at is their respective ages: Casilla is 25, while Punto is 32. Casilla could possibly improve and become a useful player at his peak in a year or two. Punto is almost certainly past his peak. Teams will definitely consider that kind of thing.

But the second, and arguably more important, thing: surplus value.

Punto will probably produce somewhere between +1 and +2 WAR this year; it’s possible he has a 2006/2008-esque great year, and it’s also possible he falls off a cliff and reverts to pre-2006 shit-Punto, but neither are particularly likely. At the same time, Punto will be paid $4M, which is right around what a team would expect to pay for 1 win worth of production on the free agent market.

This is important: if a team wanted a player who would provide as much value as Punto does, they could sign someone on the market for the same amount that Punto is making.

Similarly, if the Twins were to trade him, that team would then be paying Punto the same amount that he’s worth. So what kind of prospects can the Twins expect in return? Virtually nothing. Punto’s contract has exactly zero surplus value.

But Casilla is making considerably less. He’s before his prime. You can’t sign athletic 25 year old infielders on the free agent market. It’s feasible to guess that Casilla could be a useful player in a year or two, possibly with more time in the minors. If a team wanted to take a mild risk, they could acquire Casilla and hope to get some good value out of him.

The Twins could probably trade Casilla for a Boof-like haul, ie close to nothing. That represents his value on the trade market right now — but even though he’s a worse player than Punto, he’s worth more in trade.

Something to think about when you’re hoping for a trade or analyzing who your team is getting/receiving. You’re not just looking at the players involved — you’re also looking at their contracts.

4 comments

4 Comments so far

  1. Josh December 10th, 2009 2:58 pm

    Very thoughtful concept… I wish most fans could see it this way instead of offering up crazy trades where Punto and Perkins net a guy like Uggla.

  2. Ed Bast December 10th, 2009 3:16 pm

    how about casilla and perkins for uggla though.

  3. Ed Bast December 10th, 2009 3:19 pm

    oh & i’m flattered that my question spurned such a thoughtful post. though mostly i was looking for an excuse to dump punto. looks like i’m out of luck on that one.

  4. Schulte December 10th, 2009 9:03 pm

    To dump Punto, you’d probably have to find a manager that covets him more than Gardy.

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