Q. Which prospects do you trade?
A. You will notice that (say) the New York Mets are always glad to give you these 5 guys, but no way no how will they give you these 3.
Notice that the buying team has control of which prospects it gives up. It plays a shell game, and when the other team names players that it doesn't believe in -- maybe players who are a little injured! -- then it deals.
This is a huge unmeasurable that changes the game on July 31. In ANY blockbuster deal, the buying team will say NO to the deal if it has to give up players that it likes best. So here's yet another "invisible" factor. The team holding the prospects knows about invisible warts on those players.
Tony Butler just got powerflushed. What did the Mariners know?
Kam Mickolio has done squat since being traded. Who knew him best: the M's or O's?
Adam Jones? Have you looked up his EYE this season? It is 8 walks and 56 strikeouts (!!). His UZR was bad in 2009 and is mediocre this year. Perhaps the Mariners had a slightly better feel for Adam Jones than the Baltimore Orioles did? Maybe the Orioles saw him as an impact ML center fielder and the Mariners simply correctly understood him to be an ML mediocrity?
George Sherrill, I loved. The Mariners did not. Backstage, they were laughing at the idea of Sherrill closing.
Don't forget: in any, repeat any, blockbuster, the buying team is letting you have guys it doesn't like as well as the rest of baseball likes them.
Q. How does the budget fit in?
A. ML franchises don't tell you what their real profits are -- certainly not with a view to their bottom-line profit, the one that includes franchise appreciation. Fans confuse "cash flow" with "profit" -- much to the owners' delight.
You run an 8-plex and cashflow $1,000 this year ... but the property's market value increased from $1.1m to $1.3m, and you refinanced and pulled out a cool $200 grand. Hey, you made only $1,000 and you're even going to give that back in rebates. Neat, isn't it? What a philanthropist.
When you say that Cliff Lee is "an $18MM asset" you're talking about ephemereal dollars against ephemereal dollars. Who said that MLB franchise had a fixed $110M payroll anyway? They want it to be $115M, it's $115M. Its franchise value just went from $625,000,000 to $714,000,000 this past year.
Why count Lee's "4.0 WAR" as $18M? When the season's over, that $18M is gone. The accountants don't count a 2.00 ERA as $18M.
It doesn't make sense anyway to count a few games in the standings as $10m to this or that franchise. What we're talking about, is who makes the World Series and who becomes a saleable product. That's what CEO's are thinking about.