The other side of the Santana tradeby Victor Wang
February 11, 2008
In my previous article, I analyzed the Johan Santana trade. I did this by comparing the historical value of the types of prospects the Twins received to the projected value of Santana. I concluded that the Twins were not ripped off like others have claimed. However, I did conclude that the Mets were slight winners based on a couple of factors. One of these factors was that the Twins were not able to accept the best offer, though this may make the Twins losers more than it makes the Mets winners.
I was asked by a couple of readers to take a look at the other packages that were rumored to be available for the Twins. So, in this article I will be looking at the players and prospects the Twins supposedly could have gotten from the Red Sox and Yankees. The methodology and exact figures for valuing certain prospects are in my previous article. Note that the Mets do not gain as much value from Johan as I stated in the first article because they negotiated Santana’s 2008 salary to a figure that is much closer to his market value. In other words, the Mets do not receive as much surplus value by being able to underpay Santana.
I will take a look at the Red Sox prospects first. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Twins could have gotten Jon Lester or Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, and Justin Masterson for Santana. It is also likely they could have gotten a lesser prospect thrown in. Kevin Goldstein rated Ellsbury as the #16 prospect in baseball, Keith Law rated Ellsbury as the #19 prospect in baseball, and Deric McKamey rated Ellsbury as the #13 prospect in baseball.
Based on these rankings, Ellsbury is a consensus 11-25 ranked hitting prospect. Lowrie was rated 57, 55 and 65, a consensus 51-75 hitting prospect. Masterson was rated 53, 78 and 43. Three different evaluators rated Masterson in three different prospect groups so I will take the middle group and rate Masterson as a 51-75 pitching prospect. Lester is a bit harder to rank since he is not a prospect anymore and has used about a year of service time. However, Goldstein rated Lester one spot above Ellsbury on his Red Sox 25 and younger player rankings. I feel comfortable rating him in the 11-25 pitching prospect group. I will take away 20% of that value from him since he already has a year of service time under his belt. The reason I don’t take away only one-sixth of his value is because Lester will earn less in his first three years than in his fourth-sixth years of service time. This is because Lester will be eligible for arbitration in his fourth-sixth years of service time. With these rankings in hand, this is how the Mets’ group of prospects compares to the Red Sox’s group.
Carlos Gomez, 5.5 WAB
Deolis Guerra, 3.9 WAB
Kevin Mulvey, 2.5 WAB
Philip Humber, 1.5 WAB
Total: 13.4 WAB
Red Sox prospects
Jacoby Ellsbury, 10.92 WAB
Jed Lowrie, 6.18 WAB
Justin Masterson, 4.69 WAB
Total: 21.79 WAB
Difference in Value- 8.39 WAB, $40.94 million
Jon Lester, 4.92 WAB
Jed Lowrie, 6.18 WAB
Justin Masterson, 4.69 WAB
Total: 15.79 WAB
Difference in Value- 2.39 WAB, $11.66 million
From this, we can see that Twins potentially lost out on a lot of value. Depending on the package, the Twins lost out on 2.39 to 8.39 WAB or $11.7-$40.9 million in value in today’s free agent dollars. A lot of the value lost comes from the tremendous value elite hitting prospects like Ellsbury gives. Elite hitting prospects are the most valuable prospects in the game. In fact, my research from my previous article showed that hitting prospects rated in the top 75 have had more value than any group of pitching prospects. However, even the package headed by Lester still projects to be more valuable than the package received from the Mets.
Next we can take a look at the possible package the Twins could have gotten from the Yankees. According to Rosenthal, the Twins could have gotten Philip Hughes, Melky Cabrera and additional prospects. Reports in the past have suggested the additional prospects the Yankees offered would have been two mid-level prospects.
To simplify things, I’ll give the mid-level prospects the same value that I gave Mulvey and Humber so that they are worth 4 WAB combined. Hughes still has six years of service time available before he becomes a free agent, but he pitched enough in the majors in 2007 so that he is no longer a prospect. Goldstein rated Hughes above Chamberlain (Chamberlain rated #4 on Goldstein’s top 100) on the Yankees' under-25 player rankings. While others may not be as high on Hughes as they were in the past, I don’t see any reason not to rate him as a 1-10 pitching prospect. Melky Cabrera, who has four years left before free agency, is a bit harder to evaluate. Some see Cabrera as the next Bernie Williams, while others see him as a glorified fourth outfielder. Goldstein rated Cabrera below Jesus Montero, a player who didn’t make his or any one else’s top 100 prospect list, on his Yankees' under-25 player rankings. What I decided to do was to evaluate Cabrera and his range of possible production. Basically, I calculated the production and savings Cabrera would bring as a 1 WAB player and a 2.5 WAB player. I thought that this was a reasonable range between Cabrera’s upside and downside. When I did that, I got this as the value for the Yankees’ package in comparison to the Mets’ package:
Mid-level prospects, 4 WAB
Phillip Hughes, 5.89 WAB
Melky Cabrera, 5.39-13.54 WAB
Total- 15.28-23.43 WAB
Difference in Value- 1.88 WAB-10.03 WAB, $9.17 million-$48.95 million
The Yankees’ package stacks right up with the packages the Red Sox could have offered. Despite having a lower upside than some of the other players offered, Melky Cabrera provides excellent value given that we have a much more reliable estimate of how Cabrera will do in the majors. Whether one would rather have the Yankees or Red Sox package depends mainly on the valuation of Cabrera. Cabrera’s low-end projection still offers a better deal than the players from the Mets, while his high-end projection rates slightly higher than the Ellsbury package. Also, it could be argued that Phillip Hughes’ and Jon Lester’s values should be higher given that one is a major league-ready pitcher and the other has had a year in the majors already.
In conclusion, the Mets deal was clearly inferior to the packages rumored to be offered from the Red Sox and Yankees, which is really no surprise. If the Twins in fact could have executed one of the proposed trades with the Red Sox or Yankees, they may have lost themselves up to $50 million in value by not being able to get the best offer. This potential loss in value is close to the projected gain in value the Twins received by trading Santana to the Mets. Also, while these numbers may say the Red Sox and Yankees saved themselves a lot of value, it is worthwhile to remember that these numbers do not include the factors mentioned in my first article. While all we can do is speculate, I think it would be reasonable to say the Twins lost out on a lot of value by not pulling the trigger on the Yankees or Red Sox deals.
References and Resources
Thanks to Lee from England and others who suggested this article.
Victor Wang's work on OPS has been featured in SABR's By the Numbers magazine, and was the 2007 recipient of SABR's Jack Kavanagh Memorial Youth Baseball Research Award. He can be reached via email here.