Chasing Rabbits | The Process Report

Chasing Rabbits

Upon discovering the technology of Archery in the game Civilization you will hear the proverb, “If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither.” Like most sayings handed down by the survivors this is more than just a clever observation. In any endeavor you will not be able to accomplish your goal without a singular focus on that which you attempt to achieve. Let distractions get in the way and you can kiss away any chance of capturing your prey.

For the Tampa Bay Rays that singular goal is to acquire as much value as possible, both for the long term, and the short. This often means early good byes for established players with the hopes that they’re replaceable and that the return leaves the team in a better position moving forward. The Rays are not alone in this pursuit, but often their peers will place more priority on either the now or the later. Today’s trade rumors involving the Dodgers are no different as their potential partner puts a large emphasis on winning today. While they would prefer to not have that come at a cost for the future if they want what the Rays are offering then they will have to pay a large ransom. With a deep roster loaded with young talent the Rays should be just as content to roll into 2016 and beyond with the very good players that they have amassed to this point.

In the link posted above Jon Heyman, the man behind the man behind the man, posits that the Rays and Dodgers are currently discussing starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. For the uninitiated Odorizzi came over in the Elliot Johnson trade with the Royals and has pitched two solid seasons for the Rays accruing more than 5 Wins Above Replacement over that time. It’s important to note that he has only pitched two years because that means he has another four before free agency. Furthermore, it means that this year he will be paid league minimum since he did not qualify for Super Two arbitration rights. As you can imagine there is a ton of value in having a good pitcher under relatively cheap control for a long time. To wit:

surplus value

I have laid out my methodology in this post, but basically we’re discounting both future dollars and future wins in an effort to see how much more production a player is likely to provide above and beyond what he is being paid. The first thing I want to call attention to is that I’m using $6.5M as the cost of a win for a very good reason. While I believe that a win in free agency costs something more like $8.0M using that reduced figure allows us to easily compare these surplus values to, arguably, the best resource for how much a prospect should cost as reproduced here:

Prospect price

On his own Jake Odorizzi should be worth all, but the best prospects in the game, and if you throw in another enviable asset like Jake McGee then that value should only go up:


I would argue, and I don’t think I’m alone here, that my WAR projections are light due to a systemic issue with undervaluing very good relievers, but also due to the high demand in the market for this skillset. If you want to tack another half a win on each year for McGee I wouldn’t fight you, and you would see his surplus value rise to nearly $13M. McGee on his own should also be bringing back a very talented prospect and when you pair the both of them you start getting into the range of being able to buy essentially whatever you would like.

If the Dodgers want to get one of the better young and cheap arms on the planet then they’re going to have to give up something very real. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that they have two of the very best prospects in baseball in the young shortstop Corey Seager and the very young, yet on the cusp, starting pitcher Julio Urias. Either one of these guys should be attainable for a package involving our two Jakes. Of course a tool is only as good as the mechanic so please feel free to quibble with my estimates. If you’re a man (or woman) of ill repute you might use these sorts of tools to portray another reality.

Case in point would be someone saying that another one of the Rays gifted starters would be worth either of those two very good Dodger prospects. Chris Archer was the name bandied about and before you laugh yourself silly know that the aforementioned McGee was also put into a hypothetical deal. On top of even that, recent acquisition Brad Miller was also included. Can you even imagine the value here? We’ve already seen McGee, but here’s the two new names:

Miller Archer

Miller contains nearly as much value going forward as Odorizzi, and you’re right to question the pessimism in those future WAR values, but I’ll side with the conservative viewpoint here as it’s important to note that the future is a mystery. Then we get to Mr. Archer who’s nascent production has already begun to take the leap from promise to super stardom. Add in that he’s on one of the best contracts in baseball that guarantees the rights to his next six seasons and you begin to unfold just how incredible of a bargain he will be.

No, sir, even one of the best prospects in the game like Corey Seager or Julio Urias can compare to what the Rays have with Chris Archer. More likely it would take both of these potential sensations to pry this arrow from the Rays quiver. The notion that one of them with some other guys of lesser value thrown in could ensnare the Rays 2016 starting shortstop, closer, and ace is ludicrous beyond words. If the Rays were to part with their heart they would need to get both of these young players. If the Dodgers were foolhardy enough to ask for more then they would need to empty the tank to acquire the present wins they covet so much.

I think trading Jakes Odorizzi and McGee for one of those players is within the realm of reason. Certainly, the minor differences could be worked out, but to get the real prize the Dodgers had better be prepared to pony up.