Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Get Done on the Good Foot

At a time in my life when little or nothing was necessary to stir the courage of my convictions,
I felt particularly oppressed by Martha Stewart. Whether she was
clipping credit cards as a shill for Amex or recycling used paper towels into colorful centerpieces,
her tanned, relaxed face menaced me. I decided to trek eastward to her pristine home, where I could scoop up the real deal,
the dirt that Martha Stewart hides from us all.
Martha Stewart's Dirty Secrets

"I guess that was your accomplice there in the wood chipper?" (Polygram)

I promised something like what has turned into this detailed transaction series on Ken Williams a year ago, around the trade deadline. But there’s little room for in-depth writing on the beat, even less for anything remotely artful.

[The first gamer I ever wrote in Minneapolis was a Fargo pastiche. It was rejected in typical CSN panic, and then and there I knew that for all the talk of game stories having gone passé, passé was indeed the order of the day at that stodgy megacorp of mediocrity.]

At that time, my impression of White Sox GM Ken Williams is that he was dramatically underrated, and the Moneyball stain on his record was unwarranted, cheap, and inaccurate. As envisioned in the first in this series, I imagined Williams as so quick and aggressive, he was sitting pretty, smiling with his prize before another GM realized what hit him.

While that hasn’t entirely turned out to the be case—Williams has his soft spots, and generally has “overpaid” to bring wins to town—the notion that he's an underrated, uncommonly durable and clever GM is now more firmly rooted to me than before.

Sometime in 2013, I will update this entire series, not only with the additional travails on field and transactions off it to come, but by broadening the scope of the WAR and WAR/$ study beyond that of just Baseball-Reference. For now, here’s an updated and revised snapshot of how KW has performed, broken down by trades and by free agency, followed by a bit of trivia/miscellany regarding his near-dozen years at the helm.

Trading Summary
Williams has traded 134 White Sox players and acquired 120.

He’s traded away 136.3 player seasons and acquired 128.

The players dealt went on to accumulate 93.6 WAR, while the players acquired have provided the White Sox 128.2.

Translating WAR into sheer dollars, Williams has dealt away $363.6 million in talent and acquired $507.5 million.

The traded players went on to earn $244.2 million in salary, while Williams has paid his acquisitions $408.8 million.

The GM has included $13.9 million in total cash considerations over 17 trades, while getting back $47.8 million in 14 deals for the White Sox.

The overall surplus value—the dollar value players produced, above player salary—that Williams has dealt away is $119.5 million, while acquiring $98.6 million.

Free Agency Summary
Including the commitments to his own players (avoiding arbitration, extensions, or re-signings), Williams has done an outstanding job with regard to free agency. Counting all signings, here’s how the numbers break down:

Williams has signed 115 players and cut 34 loose.

He’s signed 156 player seasons, giving up 42.

He’s acquired 174.5 WAR, surrendering just 28.2.

The dollar value of players he’s signed is $661.5 million, while allowing $102.2 million to walk.

He’s paid players he’s signed $648.7 million in salary, while the players he’s cut loose signed for $164.9 million.

The overall surplus value Williams has gained from his signings is $13 million ($83,000 per player season, or $113,000 per player).

The locks of a champion.
Baby Steps, Bobby.
The players Williams has let go have produced -$62.7 million in value for their new teams, an ugly figure gobbled up substantially by just two deals: Magglio Ordonez’s seven-year, $99 million contract (producing -$52.2 million for the Detroit Tigers) and Bobby Jenks’s two-year, $12 million deal (producing -$13.8 million for the Boston Red Sox).

Even when parsing out returning White Sox and evaluating only outside players brought into Chicago, Williams’ record remains consistent. He’s signed 77 outside players, who have played 86.6 seasons and produced 56.7 WAR. The dollar value of that WAR comes to $222.5 million, so $214 million salary paid leaves a surplus value of $8.5 million ($98,000 per player season, $110,000 per player).

Two Generations Removed
I extended the survey to not only track how traded players fared with opposing teams—after all, how else to determine who “won” a trade?—but to what return a team got if they traded a former White Sox asset. For example, Chad Bradford, acquired from the White Sox by the Oakland A’s, was eventually dealt to the Red Sox for Jay Payton. So in looking solely at second-generation assets, Payton’s $6.7 million in value brought to Oakland for Bradford counts for the A’s.

There have been 29 such deals by my count, around half of which were “megatrades” of between five and 12 players that I didn’t attempt to extrapolate a value lineage for. But of the others, former White Sox assets collectively brought little return back to teams: 20.4 total player seasons, but a mere 1.1 total WAR and a total surplus value of -$28.7 million.

PTBNL Losses
Williams has lost the war of players to be named later. Of the four significant PTBNLs (Miguel Olivo and Neal Cotts acquired by the White Sox, Frank Francisco and John Ely dealt away) included in deals, the White Sox come out behind in both WAR (-1.0) and surplus value (-$800,000).

2012 Report Card
Counting only Williams’ trades for Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano, the White Sox have come out ahead thus far in more spectacular fashion: 2.3 WAR and $3.6 million in surplus value.

No Deal
Danks gets on his horse, Toby Hall.
There are just two teams Williams has not made a trade with, at least one that had major league ramifications: the Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays. The most significant dealings between the two had mixed results: Williams letting Ordonez walk to Detroit as a free agent (-$52.2 million in value for the Tigers) and signing Toby Hall from the Rays (-$7.8 million for the White Sox).

Ken’s Faves
Williams has made eight trades with the Cincinnati Reds in his tenure, with a net WAR of -3.2 and net surplus value of -$2.3 million.

He’s made six trades with both Josh Byrnes of the Arizona Diamondbacks/San Diego Padres and Walt Jocketty of the St. Louis Cardinals/Reds. Against Byrnes, Williams has won the WAR battle (1.5) but lost in surplus value (-$13.6 million). The GM has fared better vs. Jocketty: 1.1 WAR and $7.7 million surplus value.

Interestingly, Williams didn’t make his first deal with either Jocketty or Byrnes until five years into his tenure.

Evened Out
Discounting one-time trade partners, there have been four teams which have made essentially “even” WAR trades over time with Williams:

Boston has made six deals with Williams, netting the White Sox 0.1 WAR and $1.4 million in surplus value.

Toronto and Miami have made five deals with Chicago. Williams has taken 0.1 WAR and $2 million in surplus value from the Blue Jays, while giving up 0.1 WAR to the Marlins but taking $1.4 million in surplus value from them.

San Francisco has made three deals with the White Sox, surrendering 0.3 WAR and $2.7 million in surplus value to Williams.

Six different GMs have battled Williams essentially to a tie:

Cashman, the vulture.
Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees has given up 0.4 WAR and taken $15.9 in surplus value from the White Sox over four deals.

Larry Beinfest in Miami has made three deals with Chicago, surrendering 0.3 WAR and $5.4 million in surplus value.

Kevin Malone and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago have made three swaps, giving up 0.1 WAR but taking away $3.3 million in surplus value.

Dave Dombrowski of the Marlins made two deals with the White Sox, netting him 0.5 WAR and $1.1 million in surplus value.

Allan Baird of the Kansas City Royals dealt twice with the White Sox, netting him 0.1 WAR and $5 million in surplus value.

And finally, Brian Sabean of the Giants has his three deals with Chicago outlined above.

Part Three: Free agency travails.
Part Four: Who Bullies Ken? (A study of GMs)

Fine print: In many cases, exact details of cash considerations are unavailable, so educated guesses were made to arrive at value judgments. Some player-for-considerations deals have been skipped or omitted, as are players included in trades who never contributed at the major league level. WAR data used courtesy of Baseball-Reference, while yearly dollar/WAR values were estimated primarily from Fangraphs data.

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