Trade Values, a discussion
Zobrist and We-Need-Help! Related

This post came up simultaneously with mine and Moe's.  It doesn't explicitly deal the things in those two threads.  FYI.  - Dr D


On the Zobrist thread, Matt said he would be willing to trade DJ and Franklin for Ben the Magnificent, just because he fits our needs perfectly as one of the two bat adds we want before the deadline.

I said, essentially: "Calm your pants, Matthew.  Peterson is our #1 prospect* and you don't cough that up for a Zobrist."

rick has a GREAT post here about the worth of prospects:

Is DJ a better prospect than Choi? Better than Blash? Is he really that much better than Henry? Is he going to be able to man the outfield? Can he cover the ground needed in Safeco? Does he have holes that haven't yet been exploited? He's only now playing at AA.

Color me skeptical. I got me the Ackley, Smoak, Montero Can't Miss blues.


He goes on:


No player is untouchable. If a player is untouchable, all that really means is the holder of that player has decided he's worth more than anything anyone would offer for him. It also means, in too many cases, that the holder is going to stand pat, and fall short of a pennant run again.



I agree with all of that.  However... let's talk about what prospect lists are for, shall we?

Prospect lists do not accurately describe the talent, upside or depth in the system.  They cannot possibly quantify the variables between players in their own system at various levels, let alone the differences BETWEEN the farms of various teams.  They are only predictive in a rough, thumbnail-sketch form, because even the best prospects fail a huge percentage of the time.

However, there is one thing prospect lists do VERY well: they give teams a value designation to sell their fans on when trades happen. "We got the #3 and #6 prospects in their system, both former 1st-round picks, each of whom were top-50 prospects in their qualifying years" is a nice selling point.  Does it mean that DJ and Nick will work out? Not at all.  DJ might not even be the best eventual big-leaguer on his own minor league squad.

But "prospect worth" is a consensus vote.  You look for buckets to cross off to make deals happen.  "I'll give you a RH corner hitter, one of my better-but-not-best arms, and a low minors talent who doesn't have to be on the 40 man for a couple years still."  And then you go to your top prospect list to see who fits the bill.  That could be Kivlehan / Sanchez / O'Neill or it could be Deej / Diaz / Gohara.  That's what the arguments are about when it comes to trades:  getting similarly-rated players swapped in for other players.  In a Deej vs. Kivlehan argument, the other team is gonna want Deej.  Kivlehan could absolutely wind up being the better player during his club-controlled years... no way to know yet.  But I guarantee you that Peterson is higher rated by everyone in baseball, and you want to get back the M's #1 (or 2) hitting prospect rather than their 8th-best one.  Easier to sell to your fans, better to flip to someone else if they're not working out.  Pedigree matters in your pre-big-league career, and will fetch you better players in trade.


We do have a prospect problem: we can't play everybody we have and still be a winner (kids take time to break in en masse) so we'll want to spread out their arrival times or consolidate them into major talents. There may indeed be a match for trading DJ for an impact bat.  The problem is, I don't see which non-contenders are willing to move hitters that would be "worth" him in a large prospect-for-ML-Talent swap. A player like Zobrist shouldn't cost DJ, and a hitter like Stanton isn't available in a several-for-one swap.

Maybe if we did Price-and-Zobrist-for-whatever, as I believe Matt also suggested, DJ would go out in that. So would Walker, most likely.  So Walker, Peterson, Franklin, plus a couple lower-minors guys who aren't 40-man ready yet.  We could pay for what those guys would cost in prospects. We could do it without even emptying the system, though it would obviously be somewhat bruised.

But when you throw DJ into a Zobrist trade, then A) you don't have him for a Price trade (or whatever else we might do at the deadline or in the offseason to improve) and B) the asking price of other teams trading with you goes up.  Because you traded one of your best bats, plus a slugging MIF prospect (plus whatever), for a 110 OPS+ player who will be in his mid-30s for his time with you. So if HE is worth that, then MY player is worth... whatever extra percentage he's worth now.  I wasn't entirely kidding that a DJ trade for Zobrist devalues the system for future trades.  It's very much a secondary concern, but it happens.  Everybody looks twice as hard at the Kivlehans and Wilsons and Martes wondering about extra flaws in their games, since the Ms "should" have been able to get Zobrist without giving up a Peterson.

Which is why you try not to do it. Overpaying has more consequences than just the immediate loss. Losing the pieces you would use in a "real" major trade, plus calling into question the talent in your system and paying higher premiums in future trades should be avoided if possible.  Maybe it's not possible.  Maybe the price of adding Zobrist, for us, IS a DJ + Nick + whatever scenario. I just doubt it.


Would I pay it if we had to?  I believe in players like Kivlehan and Choi, and Wilson has really impressed me this year, so DJ hasn't separated himself enough from those guys for me to curl into the fetal position if we were to lose him. With Jackson and Morgan added to the system, we're pretty flush with interesting, valuable hitters even if some of em are years away. Honestly, it depends what our other moves are. There are scenarios where adding Zobrist now is worth losing DJ. Felix can't keep throwing like this forever, right?  Might as well make a playoff push in ONE of his Cy Young caliber seasons - unless it's too much hassle for the "good night at the ballpark" front office anyway.

I just don't think it would be necessary.  We have a lot of talent in the minors and among our rookies (whom I count as Paxton, Walker, Jones, Leone and Elias).  We can swap in an extra trade piece instead of DJ.  Kivlehan + Diaz makes up the difference - and might hurt us more in the long run.  But there are only 25 slots.  The entire farm is built around filling those 25 with the best players we can get, either internally or via trade. Whatever we have to do to make our 25-man competitive with the Best in the West, we need to do. And besides, DJ is a 1B, not a 3B and probably not any kind of OF either.  If you don't like him at first, then you should probably try to move him as a 3B where his value is higher before he gets blocked off in our system. (Aside: I like him just fine at first base, even though he's not gonna slug .600).

Matt's response to my "Holy Prospect Overpay, Batman!" exclamation, btw?


Agreed that under most circumstances, you don't give your best offensive prospect for the #2 guy on your wish list to win now. And as I noted, I considered that offer an overpay. Thing is...our other, less glam prospects no one wants right we need to get's not a good situation but we've killed the value on guys like Franklin and Kivlehan by having a giant string of Mariner prospects come to the show and immediately flop.


If Ackley, Montero, Smoak et al have killed our prospect cache to that extent, then we definitely have a problem. Because we NEED to get that RH OF hitter this trade deadline.  HAVE to.  All the more reason to make sure you're overpaying for a stud, then.  I love Zobrist and would call him many flattering things.  I'm not sure if "stud of my dreams" is one of em...

But the Ms add several quality prospects to the system every year. If you're adding 3 blue-chippers every draft/ IFA period, and you only wanna add 1-2 a year to the big league club, then you have overage to work with.  Normally that's taken up by the injury toll (see: Hultzen, Danny) but the Mariners still have a bit of a surplus to work with.  They could take the hit on DJ and keep rolling.

And as rick intimates in his great post back at the beginning:  if DJ is only going to wallow in misery like Ackley, Smoak, Montero, Romero, Almonte, (Miller?) etc have before him, then why keep him?  Trade him for a hitter who won't crack under big-league and Safeco pressure.

We'd better be sure Zobrist is that dude, that's all, because DJ is a major piece for ANY deal, and once he is gone we don't have a lot of upper-minors trade pieces with cache.





Is a Kelly Blue Book of prospect values. Sounds like there is one, these prospect lists and such, that is understood by the GMs doing the dealing. So...Franklin's been dinged up - still a top prospect per se, but in fair...maybe good condition. And if you can flip him later, Beane style, you got yourself a pretty good vehicle.
Great insights, Gordon. Appreciate it, as always!


This is a great point, and sometimes I think the dominating factor.   
You can just picture one GM arguing that Lee-for-3-no-name-but-quality guys is the right precedent, and another one arguing that the Haren quantity trade is the right precedent, and another arguing that the Shields trade is the right precedent.
But, without a doubt, if you say "devil may care" and give a package that has EVERY national site rolling in the aisles laughing, then your future trade partners are going to want to negotiate from that baseline.  Zduriencik, in particular, strikes me as the type of man who is hyper-aware of this.
With Tampa, it is obviously about the "name recognition," as with Myers.  (D.J. has this, being in Sickels' and others' top 100.)  Also the Cubs went with the single glam prospect, as opposed to the 6-for-1 paradigm.
At SSI, we'd much prefer the 6-for-1 type deal -- Beane has often taken quantity back -- but not every GM is going to pull off the idea of the one exciting name.
The most RECENT deal tends to weigh heavily as a precedent:  Oakland got Samardzija PLUS, for one great prospect.  But Tampa is (apparently) demanding that people ignore this, and give them (say) Taijuan, DJ, and another name prospect.  So Price stays.
Another great read amigo.


Nick already has a) a very large ego about his future as an All-Star caliber player and b) a chip on his shoulder about being passed over for Miller and "worst pick of the first round" level sneering in his direction.  When you get somebody who can channel that kind of energy into increased production on his part... look out.
Too bad it won't be us.  Ship him to someone who's terrible with player development.  Wait, he's already ours, guess that won't work...


1.  I absolutely prefer not to trade DJ.  I don't think we have to to get Zobrist.  But, as I've written, were we to get a Grichuk or Souza in a simultanious trade, then I could rationalize that we've got a RH prospect at least as promising (or close) as DJ.  And they bring CF capability to the mix.
2.  I'm more and more intrigued by Kivlehan.  He may well turn out to be better than DJ.  It's close.
3.  And I would bet that Franklin hits again.  Our problem is that he has no place to play for Seattle.  Unless we want to LF him, and I'm not seeing any indication such a move in is the works.
Mucho appreciated Gordon


In the past, Zduriencik has acted with great decisiveness when drafting his top players. "Give me THAT one." And in large part he's been very good at that.  His returns in the first three or four rounds since he got here are as good as ANYone's.
But when it comes to picking which dude is getting and keeping the major league positioning, he's been far less charge-minded, dickering around at the bottom of the hill with several options rather than picking one and shooting the rest off for reinforcements.  Almonte or Jones, Miller or Franklin... not a lot of decisiveness, and it's had to have hurt the trade value on those dudes.  Replacements for Ackley and Smoak haven't truly been sought, because "one of these days their earn their prospect status."  Well, that hasn't happened, and probably won't happen here.  Romero was promoted for no apparent reason, then benched, then shipped back off after having his prospect status savaged.
Peterson is still playing 3B.  Kivlehan is still mostly at first base after spending a bunch of this season and last at the hot corner trying to keep a job he has no prayer of doing at the big-league level.
If Peterson is a 1B, then move him there and prepare him.  If you're keeping him at 3rd in the hopes of upping his trade value at the lower-producing offensive position, then TRADE HIM WHILE HE'S PLAYING IT.  Otherwise you're making him work on his glove instead of his hitting, and keeping him from getting good reps at first.
We have a decent amount of name recognition in the system.  Paxton, Walker, Franklin, Sanchez, Wilson, Jackson, Gohara... all those guys are first or second round picks (or talents), with Sanchez and Gohara as our international bonus babies.  But if you're gonna trade your name-rec guys, then you need them not to have bumped up against a ceiling.  If the Padres were gonna trade Hunter Renfroe, now would be the time. Blocking him off in AAA next year and saying he's not good enough to displace what you have is not a way to build prospect value.
Same with Joc Pederson.  You trade that guy this offseason if he's not gonna crack your team.  All he has to do is stall in his approach or get injured for his value to plummet.
Right now, I agree with you: DJ has the most "glam" of any of our available hitters (Jackson and Morgan can't be traded til after next year's draft).  If we're keeping Walker and Paxton off the list, then DJ is THE name you can get out of us.  He might not turn into the best player, but he's the most famous and he's doing pretty well.  Kivle-who and Mart-huh? are not well-known.  The only other real name hitter we have who can be traded is Austin Wilson, but his value isn't quite there yet.  Give that a year.  It's why a Walker or Paxton would HAVE to go in any major deal.  Franklin is a second or third piece, and DJ is probably another.
But since the Ms don't believe in blockbuster trades that bring us the best player, I'm not too worried about that.  If we're gonna trade DJ it needs to happen in the next 18 months... but I expect him to stay.  The Ms can get Zobrist and Willingham/Byrd/whoever for less than the price of a DJ.
If I'm the Ms, fungibility also plays into it.  Franklin, Marte and Taylor all play blocked positions currently and are in AA and AAA.  If we love Taylor then we can trade Miller, but I don't expect us to do that.  Right now the ONLY first basemen we have in system are Choi, DJ and Kivlehan, and Choi is a lefty (while we need a couple righties).  If we're keeping DJ, I expect Kivlehan to go.
If Tampa's desires win out and we part with The Name to make a deal happen... then we'll hope for the best from Kivlehan and the remaining hitters.  And for Zobrist/whoever to be the kickstart to the offense that can plate enough runs to get us to the playoffs.
Because in the end, this year counts too - and that's a part of making decisive decisions.  Beane traded away CarGo for Holliday, then flipped Holliday for Brett Wallace (aka the worst-case comp for DJ Peterson who faceplanted Smoak-style for Houston), Shane Peterson (who?) and Clayton Mortensen (pen arm, bounced to CO and BOS after his brief time in Oak-Town).  Wallace was traded for Michael Taylor, who also faceplanted.
Billy got NOTHING but 3 months of decent-but-not-stellar service out of Holliday, and lost CarGo in the process.  Has it hurt the As?  It did... but not significantly.  Most players are replaceable, and Beane isn't scared about finding ways to replace them. We horde our shiny toys until they're scuffed and broken, while he's flipping bubble gum to get a paper clip and then a box of matchsticks - eventually turning em into a new car.  Or at least that's the theory.
DJ might be a future All-Star.  He might be the next Brett Wallace / Justin Smoak / name a failed Mariners prospect.  If he's Will Clark, you'd best NOT trade him.  If he's Billy Butler, I prefer you don't.  If he's Brett Wallace, you'd better be hitting your Dr. Evil drop-him-into-lava button immediately.
But in terms of trade?  We restock the system every year.  The ONE thing Jack is good at is picking well-liked prospects who do well in the minors.  If that's his skill, and we wind up over-paying to get actual ML production the form of Zobrist and whomever... it's a recoverable loss. ;-)  Be decisive.


This has been a great primer in the finer points of baseball salesmanship.  It never occurred that DJ was the most sellable because of his draft pick and backstory, and not because he was better than Ji Man Choi and Kivilehan.  After noodling on this, it rings true.  
Every time you talk ball with a non-Mariner fan, he thinks the Mariners consist of Felix, Cano, Iwakuma, Rodney, and a bunch of nobodies.  Except, the discerning fans in Texas have evidently developed a cult aversion (like a cult following but opposite) to Kyle Seager.  They have a Kyle Seager hate club.  I like that.
But, back to the point.  When you bring up the Mariners to a non Mariners fan, Condor, Farquhar, Furbush, Medina Paxton and Leone are complete unknowns.  They have no star power or reputation.  These are some good ballplayers that have absolutely no national love.  Just like Kivelehan and Choi.  So sell high on DJ, and if they get some steak with all that sizzle, then so be it.


At the time the Mariners traded Randy Johnson, they had to carefully explain who Freddy Garcia was, much less Carlos Guillen and John Halama.
At the time Beane dealt Haren, he had to pretty much explain who Brett Anderson and Chris Carter were, though CarGo was hyped at the time.
When we got Cliff Lee, it was for three guys that were ????? to people in 29 cities.
When Beane cashed in Mark Mulder ... Daric Barton and Dan Haren were merely Cardinals prospects, not nationally-hyped prospects.
I don't believe I have EVER seen a non-MLB blog focus on anything other than sizzle, other than SSI :- ) but it is interesting to see which GM's trust their own judgment far more than Baseball America's.  :- )
Tampa's does not, that I can tell.  They go with sizzle.  Of course the fans there do not have the robust "grandpa taught me the game" legacy that exists in, say, St. Louis.
To be honest, it makes me kinda sick to my stomach to hear ESPN employees say "Org X doesn't have the prospects to compete for player Y."  When you read that, recognize that the blogger (or radio personality) is way out of contact with actual MLB thinking.
But yeah.  Tampa has to sell trades to an illiterate fan base.  As do the Mariners.


great piece and follow ups G Man..
I wonder how much Tampa has been holding out because of the failed Upton trade... I mean Upton and something small for a HEALTHY Walker, non blemished Franklin, and a few other not so small add-ons... I am sure that trade has been brought up to Jack a few times

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