Is every trade a good one?

This afternoon the Atlanta Braves traded shortstop Yunel Escobar and minor league lefty Jo-Jo Reyes to the Toronto Blue Jays for shortstop Alex Gonzalez and prospects Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky. Shortly thereafter my Twitter feed erupted with instant-analysis of the deal, with most sabermetric-friendly folks calling it a steal for the Toronto.

Just focusing on the main parts, the Blue Jays acquire a 27 year old shortstop who is under team control through 2013 and has a current ZiPS-projected wOBA of .335. The Braves receive a 33 year old shortstop who is a free agent next season and has a current ZiPS-projected wOBA of .308. Arguably, Escobar is not only a better player right now than Gonzalez, but he’ll be better in the future and he’ll make less than his free agent value for three more seasons (as he is arbitration-eligible).

However, there is some contrary opinion regarding the deal. The issue really centers around inside information. Stuff that we, as outsiders, don’t know, but the Braves (and Blue Jays) have access to. Perhaps Escobar’s clubhouse issues were so bad that removing him from the team will actually help the Braves, and make up for the gap between Gonzalez’s and Escobar’s projected future value. Or maybe the Braves know that Escobar’s offensive struggles are real and that he simply won’t perform at anywhere near the level he reached in his first three seasons.

My question, then, is can we ever fully evaluate a trade or player acquisition, from the outside looking in, since we do not have complete (or anywhere near complete) information?

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  1. Anais said...

    I’m sympathetic on the human level to the idea of trading away jerks. If I had the power to trade away some of the folks at my workplace I’d surely take it.

    That said, I don’t think it was very smart from a business perspective for the Braves to sell low on Escobar. In fact, even if Escobar has completely lost his hitting ability, and his first half stats reflect his new talent level, that level would be roughly the same as Gonzalez’s career line.

  2. Myron Logan said...

    Yeah, I’m definitely in favor of the trade from the Jay’s perspective, though the inside-info angle certainly does provide something to think about.

    By the way, I didn’t see that Gonzalez has a $2.5M club option for next season (h/t: Buster Olney). Helps a bit from the Braves side, as he has a very good chance to be worth more than that next season.

  3. Beau said...

    In my view analysis of any trade, or FA signing, is only conjecture, and is only as good as whatever projection method one uses. Real analysis can only be done retrospectively of course.  There are certainly other factors at hand, such as if a team is “going for it now” or “rebulding for the future” wihch may make up for perceived gaps in future performance.

  4. nathaniel dawson said...

    Isn’t that the goal of sabermetrics? To be able to have enough information and knowledge that we can make informed judgements that are the equal of anyone “inside” baseball?

  5. Brad Johnson said...

    ^ I completely agree, but it seems unfair to dismiss trade analysis out of hand. In my opinion, there’s no better time to evaluate a trade. The longer we wait, the more we forget the factors involved at the time.

    Today we can say that the Braves basically trade Escobar and club house/work ethic issues to Toronto for Alex Gonzalez. From the perspective of today, that looks like an acceptable deal to me. The Braves are improving their team by capping a floor on SS performance in the midst of a playoff run. The Blue Jays improve their team by getting a cost controlled player who probably just needs to refocus.

  6. D Leaberry said...

    As a Nats fan, I would say that a Dunn or Willingham trade would be terrible.  A trade to unload Guzman, who still doesn’t know how to draw a walk, steal a base or speak English after ten years in the big leagues, would be just grand.

  7. Paul E said...

    Maybe the Braves found one of those Miguel Tejada-Rafael Furcal -Julio Franco birth certificates and Escobar is really 38 years old

  8. Roger said...

    “Isn’t that the goal of sabermetrics? To be able to have enough information and knowledge that we can make informed judgements that are the equal of anyone “inside” baseball?”

    I think that breaks down with young players though.  Not only do we not have the kind of track record on them, but they are also constantly changing.  And makeup (the thing we have the least access to) is much more important to prospects/near-prospects, simply because it’s such an important element in actually achieving potential.

  9. Myron Logan said...

    Great stuff, folks.

    nathaniel, I think we generally use methods that are more sound than many “baseball insiders.” However, the information we don’t have access to—a player’s attitude, a nagging injury, clubhouse tension, etc.—may certainly limit our ability to evaluate a trade.

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