This trade dramatically reduces the Braves’ chances of making the playoffs in 2010 - by approxmiately 15%. That’s what makes this deal painful. What makes the deal somewhat more bearable is that there’s a decent chance that it improves the Braves’ payroll structure and overall talent in the long-term. To appropriately assess the merits and demerits of the trade, it will be necessary to consider the cost of making the trade against the potential benefit.
Let’s begin our analysis by considering a counterfactual hypothesis. Javier Vazquez is a member of the Atlanta Braves for the entire 2010 season. When his contract expires at the conclusion of the 2010 season, Frank Wren has to decide whether or not to offer him salary arbitration. For simplicity, let’s assume the Vazquez is offered and declines salary arbitration. Since Vazquez will likely be a Type A free agent, this would net the Braves two compensatory draft picks.
By going down this counterfactual path, we’re able to get a clear picture of the full cost of making this trade. The Braves gave up one year of Javier Vazquez plus two compensatory draft picks and team control of Boone Logan for three more years.
Research shows that these draft picks are worth about $8 million.
The lost value of Vazquez’ contribution is best measured in relation to the player(s) that will replace him. This would either be Kenshin Kawakami or Derek Lowe.
[4.7 WAR (Vazquez’ 8-yr average) – 1.7 WAR (Kawakami’s 2009)] X $4.5 million (approximate value of marginal wins) = $13.5 million.
$13.5 million - $11.5 million (Javier Vazquez’ 2010 salary) = $2 million.
(4.7 WAR – 2.6 WAR) X $4.5 million = $9.45 million. $9.45 million - $11.5 million = -$2.05 million.
Bumping Lowe out of the rotation instead of trading Vazquez would have actually resulted in a net economic loss for the Braves, which may come as a surprise to the bloodthirsty masses that wanted to completely cut ties with Lowe at whatever cost necessary - but not to the discerning Screaming Indian reader.
We'll assume optimal decision-making on the part of Frank Wren (I know, I know), and say that the cost of losing Vazquez is $10 million because he would have bumped Kawakami, not Lowe out of the rotation.
Let’s estimate that Melky Cabrera will cost a total of $9 million during his three years remaining under team control. Dunn is very similar to Logan in skills, age, and service time, so there can’t be much expectation for profit there. For simplicity, we'll assume the following:
Boone Logan - Mike Dunn = 0
That gives us a final total of the cost of the Vazquez trade at $19 million.
Now, for the benefits.
The Braves got 6+ years of Arodys Vizcaino, 6+ years of Mike Dunn, 3 years of Melky Cabrera and $0.5 million.
Projecting Cabrera’s value in 2010 and beyond is difficult because of role uncertainty and limited (if NY-aggrandized) major league experience, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll add much (if any) value to the line-up other than as a fourth outfielder and marginal contributor.
So whether this will be considered a good or bad trade may ultimately come down to whether Arodys Vizcaino reaches - or how nearly he reaches - his considerable ceiling. Much of the burden of recovering this $18.5 million will be placed on his his ability to outperform his pay grade if/when he makes it to the big leagues.
The Braves could rid themselves of a potential albatross of Francoeurian proportions if they were able to flip Melky Cabrera. Talking Chop suggests that Frank Wren would be well-advised to act as quickly as possible while Cabrera still has that brilliant Yankee sheen. I agree. Otherwise, Cabrera may be a candidate to become non-tendered in the coming years, given how much his salary could grow in arbitration. If he’s traded or non-tendered, this trade goes from ‘outside shot long-term win’ to ‘probable long-term win’ for the Braves.
This article can also be found at the Braves Baseball Blog.