Friday, August 2, 2013

How Do We Evaluate Trades?

There was a lot of discussion in the comments section about the Bud Norris trade, about whether it was a good deal or a bad deal for the Astros. Some of that was because I foolishly and prematurely called L.J. Hoes the centerpiece, before knowing the rest of the deal. I now believe Hader and the draft pick were most likely much bigger factors.

But the rest of the discussion was about how we judge a trade like in the moment. Luhnow traded a known a relatively known quantity for three assets of varying risk. L.J. Hoes is old enough and advanced enough to know pretty much who he will become. A high OBP left fielder with minimal power. The question is whether his OBP and defense in LF will be enough to make him an everyday outfielder. The remaining two assets are both higher risk/higher reward. Hader has drawn comparisons to Chris Sale and could potentially be a rotation stalwart for many years. However, he is very young, and flameout potential is high. The draft pick has huge value and could result in the best player in the trade. However, we literally have no idea who that player is, let alone how he will perform. So the obvious answer to judging this trade is "we'll see."

Some argued it is arrogance to suggest anymore than that. I disagree.

Every trade has varying degrees of risk/reward for both sides. Judging a trade in the moment is simply a question of asking whether the GM appropriately managed the risks for the team at the time. It is an open question whether that was done here. I believe it was, and you are free to disagree. However, I believe that is a conversation that is appropriate to ask now, even before we really know the results.

And the thing is, the results won't necessarily change that assessment. For example, I loved the Chris Johnson deal. I thought the risks associated with Krauss and Borchering outweighed the known quantity of C.J.'s fairly mediocre numbers. The fact that, out of the blue, C.J. is currently leading the league in hitting in the NL should not change that equation. A general manager can only deal with foreseeable risks. Chris Johnson BABIPing his way to a .346 BA and a .384 OBP is not a foreseeable risk. Likewise, I'm a huge fan of the Maxwell trade, even though there is a slim chance that Maxwell, at the age of 30, will get his strikeouts under control and become a more well rounded player. There is just too much upside in Kyle Smith to not make that deal worth it, and that will be true even if Smith ultimately flames out.

That brings up the final point. I really have no idea what I'm talking about, as you might have gathered. I've never seen Smith or Hader pitch, and even if I had, I'm not sure what I would be able to see. I'm not a scout. I am relying on the opinions of other for nearly everything I know about prospects. Luhnow and crew have earned a level of trust with me, that my default is going to be an assumption that they got good value. Doesn't mean I am going to like everything, but I will tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, simply because they know more than me. Your level of trust might vary, which might change how you view a particular trade. But it is still appropriate to ask the question, and come to conclusion beyond "we'll see."