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."


Anonymous said...

Thanx for the commentary AC!! The rabble is happy once again to hear your voice!!

Anonymous said...

I'm so stoked that we have 3 of the first 44 picks next year. It's been reported to be a stronger class than the last 2 years. I was really big on Bud but I think he had hit his top value. I look at it as 2 lottery tickets and a 1st round pick. I think Luhnow has shown a track record of picking good lotto numbers so I think we got great return.

So i think some of the backlash was due to Bud being loved by the fans. (me too).

Lyle said...

Amen brother!

Rafe said...

"We'll see" is useless in terms of analysis. Of course we'll see. We always see. But when GMs make trades, they have to make them on the basis of predicted future value, not on actual future value, since that's not known. Likewise, we have to evaluate trades based on what was knowable at the time of the trade, not based on hindsight that comes with seeing how things actually turn out. Obviously people can evaluate actual outcomes down the road to refine their model of what makes for a good prospect (or good veteran), but that is a bit different than judging how good a trade was.

Anonymous said...

I was the one who said "we'll see."

The author mentioned that because he has faith in Luhnow, he is happy with the trade. Fair enough. Doesn't say anything about the actual trade, just about who made it.

Otherwise, the point is that no one commenting here (at least I doubt) has ever seen these people play. Yet, some appear almost compelled to declare winners and losers. That is arrogant.

At most, these people are relying on information from someone else, someone who also hasn't probably seen the players in person.

The second aspect of arrogance is that that there are always professionals on the other side of the trade. They are not rubes, despite what some commenters think, and have far more information about what they are doing than any commenter on a website.

Luhnow himself would probably admit this. While he undoubtedly thinks he made a good trade, he is also keenly aware that he won't know for sure for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Also, results do, and should change assessments in talent evaluation and acquisition. That is all that matters at the end of the day. I'm sure Purpura liked all of his picks.

The Batguy said...

To the "we'll see" commenter:

I can't speak for the people commenting on these posts, but I can speak for those of us who are writing the posts. Granted, most, if not all of us have not seen the players being traded to Houston. That said, the people we are getting our information from do watch these kids play, or at least talk to scouts who have. That's their job. Guys like Jonathan Mayo, Keith Law, John Sickels, Jason Parks, and Jim Callis know what they're talking about, and they've proven to be right more often than not over the years. We also talk to and read the other teams' bloggers; people who know their teams' farm systems, much the same way we know the Astros system. They don't have the same track records as the above mentioned guys, but their opinions are hardly hacks who should have their opinions completely thrown out.

Does that mean we know for sure how these deals are going to work out? No, on that you have a point. But that doesn't mean we can't judge them where they are now, based on the information we gather from those who have seen the players involved.

To suggest that commenting on the strength of a trade is arrogance is pretty hyperbolic. I don't claim to be able to predict exactly how much value we'll get out of these trades, but part of what we do here is give our commentary, analysis, and opinion about any and all things Astros related. Should we not do so for a fairly significant event such as this?

Anonymous said...

Sure, observations about Norris and/or Maxwell and their value are appropriate. Observations about trading what you perceive as their value within the Astros' grand plan are appropriate. I just don't think it is appropriate to declare winners and losers about unknown future events.

I have respect for some of those guys you listed, but please put their information, and the nature of their business into context. Do their lists even match, and do they accurately reflect the future? Of course not. That is the nature of the business. At least recognize that.

Just for kicks, take a buddy to some minor league games, or some high school games, and predict the future of the participants. You and your buddy will most likely see things differently. Then bet money on your opinions. When is the bet decided? That day, or well into the future?

Nostradamus said...

To the "we'll see" commenter:

You're fighting a strawman. No one here is "declar[ing] winners and losers about unknown future events." As the author of the article clearly said, "[j]udging a trade in the moment is simply a question of asking whether the GM appropriately managed the risks for the team at the time."

If it helps, think of a trade as involving two separate "winners": the value winner, and the results winner. Let's use an example: Assume Luhnow convinces the Twins to trade him Byron Buxton for Mark Krauss and a Tony Eusebio bobblehead doll. Who is the value winner? Now assume that two years later, Krauss is one of the best reserve outfielders in the league, while Buxton washes out of the minors due to sudden-onset chalk phobia. Who is the results winner? (And if only the "results winner" should matter as you suggest, which GM do you want making your *next* trade?)

If your main point is that fans shouldn't express opinions on the "value winner" of a trade because fans are too ignorant, then we'll just have to agree to disagree. There is a massive amount of statistical data, online video, and independent scouting reports upon which fans can form their own opinions about the relative value of prospects. Regardless of whether the fan is ultimately wrong or right, it's not "arrogance" to try. In fact, it's quite fun.

Anonymous said...

That information merely allows the average Internet poster to delude themselves into thinking they too are capable of talent evaluation. They aren't, and thinking that based on a video, Keith Law's opinion, etc, they are then on equal terms with the professionals is a bit much.

There is no objective thing as a "value winner.". Results are all that matter. No one should congratulate a GM who wins an Internet poll (your value winner); instead, they congratulate ones who have good results over time.

Let's hope Luhnow fits that description. Time will tell.

Nostradamus said...

To the "we'll see" commentator:

No one has said that the "average Internet poster" is on "equal terms with the professionals." I said only that it is not "arrogant" (your judgmental term) for fans to use the resources available to them to come up with their own value conclusions about trades at the time of their making.

In fact, I'd suggest that it is far more "arrogant" for you to categorically tell everyone on this website (including the authors) that they are "delud[ing]" themselves if they dare to disagree with a "professional," however you define that term.

If you want to live in a black-and-white world where the only things we can talk about (or evaluate a GM on) are the actual results of a trade two years down the road (even where those results are based on pure luck, player injury, etc), I am bummed for you. That sounds really dull. But in the spirit of friendship, I'd suggest that you give the website of the Houston Chronicle a try. You just may find the absence of forward-looking analysis that you are looking for.

Matt said...

@Nostradamus LOL at Tony Eusebio bobblehead. That guy looked like he was carrying a toothpick when he was at the plate.

Ankit Gupta said...

The author says that because he has faith in Luhnow, he is happy with the trade. Fair enough. Doesn't say anything about the actual trade, just about who made it. Luhnow undoubtedly thinks he made a good trade. Observations about Norris and/or Maxwell and their value are appropriate. Observations about trading what you perceive as their value within the Astros grand plan are appropriate. I just don't think it is appropriate to declare winners and losers about unknown future events. If you want Astrology services then you can check this website out.