Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's Worth a Win?

Too many pennies for a whistle
is what we all pay, you and I,
just for a little foolish pleasure.
Pay a price that's quite too high.
Edward Eggleston, "Too Much for the Whistle"

 Shopping at Sax's: Under Williams, trading for wins has come at a heavy cost. (Nam Huh/AP)

Any White Sox fan should have confidence that when it comes of acquiring wins, GM Ken Williams has brought in more than he's shipped out in his near-12 seasons running the club. But the GM's confidence and aggressiveness comes at a cost, most amusingly reflected in his tendency to chase players past prime simply because he loved them once (coming to the 2013 White Sox: Torii Hunter).

While Williams has brought in 125.2 WAR in trades and given up just 93.3, his cost per win is exceedingly high: The overall surplus value--the dollar value players produced, above player salary--that Williams has dealt away is $124.7 million, while getting back just $101.4 million.

The man brings in wins--but boy, he pays for them.

Surplus Value Wins: The Great Eight
On the WAR side of this study, Williams has done rather well, so these breakout lists were lopsided in his favor: Ten deals where the GM "won" a trade by 5.0 WAR or more, just five where he "lost" the trade by 5.0 WAR. On the value side, the script is flipped, so strap it down and enjoy this list while it lasts, Sox fans. 

1. December 6, 2006: White Sox acquire Gavin Floyd ($45.5 million) from the Philadelphia Phillies for Freddy Garcia (-$11.2).
Surplus Value$56.7 million
Put this highway robbery in perspective thusly: To date the White Sox have paid Floyd just $3.5 million more than Philadelphia gave to Garcia in 2007 alone--for just 58 innings and 11 starts.

2. December 23, 2006: White Sox acquire John Danks ($61.7 million) and Nick Masset (-$1.5 million) from the Texas Rangers for Brandon McCarthy ($5.1 million).
Surplus Value$55.1 million
Danks has provided greater value to the White Sox than Floyd, but given the brief debit of Masset and the fact that McCarthy offered some (hair-tearingly lesser) value to Texas, the lefty is just KW's second-best value trade. To date, Danks has also been paid more than $5 million more than Floyd.

3. March 20, 2006: White Sox acquire Matt Thornton ($29.9 million) from the Seattle Mariners for Joe Borchard (-$700,000).
Surplus Value$30.6 million
With Thornton's salary catching up with (and likely surpassing) his WAR value, don't expect this deal to continue to pay surplus dividends to the White Sox. But a $30 million advantage is plenty, eh?

4. January 15, 2003: White Sox acquire Bartolo Colon ($6.6 million) from the Montreal Expos for Orlando Hernandez (-$4.1 million), Rocky Biddle (-$11.7 million) and Jeff Leifer (-$4 million).
Surplus Value$26.4 million
When you combine one strong season from Colon, two underperforming careers in Montreal for Biddle and Leifer, and Hernandez never suiting up for the Expos, you get an outrageous surplus trade in the White Sox's favor.

5. March 27, 2002: White Sox acquire Damaso Marte ($16.1 million) from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Surplus Value$16.1 million
The deal steals drop dramatically after the top four, huh? Marte's WAR in four White Sox seasons topped $23 million, a value that his budding salary was unable to catch up with.

6. December 13, 2004: White Sox acquire Scott Podsednik ($6.3 million), Luis Vizcaino ($1.4 million) from the Milwaukee Brewers for Carlos Lee (-$6.9 million).
Surplus Value$14.6 million
Given what Scotty Pods did for the 2005 White Sox and Lee finding his salary in the process of catching up and passing his production value, this trade feels like it should rank even higher on the list. And while it can't be officially quantified, the savings created by cutting Lee loose allowed Williams to plug in other key cogs on the South Side, including Tadahito Iguchi. The spirit of this steal, then, does carry a higher value than $14.6 million.

7. December 2, 2003: White Sox acquire Juan Uribe ($8.5 million) from the Colorado Rockies forAaron Miles (-$2.3 million).
Surplus Value$10.8 million
Williams knew when to get out from under a weighty future contract for Uribe, keeping the sentimentality of 2005 in check by cutting him loose after the 2008 season. Friend of the Program Ned Coletti gets to overpay Uribe these days.

8. April 1, 2009: White Sox acquire Sergio Santos ($10.2 million) from the San Francisco Giants for future considerations.
Surplus Value: $10.2 million
This April Fools' steal by Williams is sort of unfair to include here, in that this was a courtesy swap on behalf of Santos and the White Sox. During spring training, Chicago brass told Santos he was not going to make it as a shortstop and was interested in trying him out as a pitcher. Santos was intrigued, but asked for one more shot as a hitter, so the White Sox obliged by sending Sergio west, with the condition that if he didn't make the Giants, Santos would come back to the South Side. Thus the most successful hitter-to-pitcher transition in White Sox history began; a year later, Santos led the White Sox bullpen with his scoreless April. 

The Bottom 12
This is going to be painful.

1. January 3, 2008: White Sox acquire Nick Swisher (-$5.9 million) from the Oakland A's for Gio Gonzalez ($31.1 million), Ryan Sweeney ($20.7 million) and Fautino de los Santos (-$800,000).
Surplus Value: -$56.9 million
This is the equivalent of the Danks or Floyd deals, now told from the victim's view of the story. The best thing to say about this debacle of a deal is that with Giovany and Ryan both out of Oakland, the ugly numbers are set in stone and can't get any worse for Williams.

2. December 13, 2001: White Sox acquire Todd Ritchie (-$4.7 million) from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Kip Wells ($25.7 million), Josh Fogg ($4.6 million) and Sean Lowe (-$300,000).
Surplus Value: -$34.7 million
Losing Wells was no major shake, but this early move is a typical in defining Williams to critics: A GM too willing to sacrifice low-cost, good-production talent for the sake of a big splash. The miscalculation here is that Ritchie's last (and only) measurably splashy season (3.1 WAR) came in 1999.

3. December 20, 2005: White Sox acquire Javier Vazquez ($10.1 million) from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Chris Young ($33.4 million), Orlando Hernandez (-$1.4 million) and Luis Vizcaino ($3.4 million)
Surplus Value: -$25.3 million
Critics can point to this as another deal that epitomizes Williams' weaknesses, namely dealing blue-chip prospects for overdone veterans. That applies for this deal only mildly, at best; Vazquez produced well for the White Sox and was turned over (in a relatively rare White Sox deal) in a modestly productive trade three years later. Young was no lock for stardom in the first place, and with his salary rapidly catching his value, the final value tally may tilt back toward a more reasonable loss before Young's time is done.

4. July 18, 2004: White Sox acquire Carl Everett (-$6.5 million) from the Montreal Expos for Jon Rauch ($13.3 million) and Gary Majewski (-1.0 million).
Surplus Value: -$18.8 million
The same sort of benefit that the White Sox gained from the year-to-year efficiency of Damaso Marte worked against them in surrendering Rauch. Also of note is Majewski, who was involved in seven separate transactions with Chicago, including being drafted in the second round in 1998, despite never pitching a single inning for the club.

5. July 31, 2009: White Sox acquire Jake Peavy (-$16.1 million) from the San Diego Padres for Clayton Richard ($3.0 million), Aaron Poreda (-$200,000) and Adam Russell (-$1.1 million).
Surplus Value: -$17.8 million
While the Vazquez-Young deal is a virtual WAR wash at this juncture, the Peavy megadeal four years later has clearly swung in Chicago's favor with Peavy's resurgence. This is seemingly the perfect win-win deal for Williams, where he gets the better end in the talent barter, but pays pretty dearly for the privilege.

6. November 6, 2009: White Sox acquire $1.5 million and Mark Teahen (-$14.2 million) from the Kansas City Royals for Chris Getz ($3.6 million) and Josh Fields ($800,000).
Surplus Value: -$17.1 million
It wasn't a bad idea to deal for Teahen; to have immediately extended his contract, sight unseen, represented Williams at his Christmas-morning worst. When the only celebration a subsequent trade (Teahen and Edwin Jackson to Toronto at last year's trade deadline) is that it helps remove a commitment off of the books, this awful trade could leave a bad taste for years to come.

Bajenaru, the Mesmerizer
7. March 8, 2006: White Sox acquire Alex Cintron (-$14 million) from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jeff Bajenaru (-$1.2 million).
Surplus Value: -$12.8 million
OK, so Williams wasn't quite perfect in 2006. Here's how to sum up this swap of awful players, by way of explaining how this afterthought is marked as the seventh-worst value deal of Williams' tenure: the Snakes had the sense to pitch Bajenaru for just one inning, while KW allowed Cintron to be a subpar member of not just one but two White Sox teams.

8. July 6, 2003: White Sox trade D'Angelo Jimenez ($12.1 million) to the Cincinnati Reds.
Surplus Value: -$12.1 million
In exchange for the useful Jimenez the White Sox took back Scott Dunn, who never pitched for the team. He in fact was flipped three weeks later to the Angels for Scott Schowenweiss--another (albeit less painful) bad trade.

9. December 4, 2008: White Sox acquire Brent Lillibridge ($2 million) and Tyler Flowers ($2 million) from the Atlanta Braves for Javier Vazquez ($16.9 million) and Boone Logan (-$1.4 million).
Surplus Value: -$11.5 million
Vazquez's faltering down the playoff stretch in 2008 put him on the block in spite of fine overall value and production in Chicago; Williams could hardly be faulted for failing to foresee a Cy Young quality effort upon the righty's return to the NL. This is somewhat of a win-win deal, in that two valuable pieces came back to the White Sox in return; swapping Lilli to Boston in the Kevin Youkilis deal seems like the move all fans will look back at fondly if the South Siders reach the 2012 postseason.

10. November 13, 2008: White Sox acquire Wilson Benemit (-$4 million), Johnny Nunez (-$600,000) and Jeffrey Marquez (-$600,000) from the New York Yankees for Nick Swisher ($6 million).
Surplus Value: -$11.2 million
Is $10 million the right price for pest control?

Chair, aloft.
11. July 1, 2003: White Sox acquire Carl Everett ($800,000) from the Texas Rangers for two players to be named later: Frank Francisco ($11.1 million) and Josh Rupe ($600,000).
Surplus Value: -$10.9 million
One man; two bad trades. Ah, the fickle nature of the PTBNL. Who knows how many other names were bandied about in exchange for Everett Mach 1. But Texas settling for (or demanding, or picking out of a hat) Francisco as one of the minor throw-ins would haunt Chicago for more than five seasons of Frankie throwing strikes and tossing chairs in Texas. Perhaps this was a case of easy-come, easy-go, as KW had picked up Francisco from Boston for the deadline booby prize of Bobby Howry just one year earlier. 

12. December 3, 2002: White Sox acquire Billy Koch (-$10.2 million) and player to be named later Neal Cotts ($3 million) from the Oakland A's for Keith Foulke ($3.5 million), Mark Johnson (-$1 million), and $1 million.
Surplus Value: $10.7 million
Much like the Santos acquisition was a bit of a wink-wink addition to the great eight trades above, the Koch deal is tough to beat Williams up on given the uniquely tragic nature of the closer's career-ending illness (Morgellons, a fatiguing, slow-healing disease marked by bugs and worms popping out of the skin, infected his entire family.) Foulke was destined to end one Sox's long World Series drought, but it was to be Boston's in 2004, not Chicago's in 2005.

Part Three: The free agent free-for-all.
Part Four: Who bullies Ken? (A study of GMs)
Part Five: What-ifs, and other trade miscellany.

Fine print: In many cases, exact details of cash considerations are unavailable, so educated guesses were made. Some player-for-considerations deals have been skipped or omitted. WAR data came only from Baseball-Reference, while yearly dollar/WAR values were estimated primarily from Fangraphs data. Players included in trades who never contributed at the major league level are not listed.

No comments:

Post a Comment