Thursday, November 15, 2012

Statistically A's 2011 Fire Sale Bigger than Marlins' 2012

The Marlins pending trade of Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes is the talk of baseball right now and the predictions of doom for next season are flowing. The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay today authored a satirical send-up of the 2013 roster -- joining Giancarlo Stanton are an old doughnut and a recycling bin among other discarded or underutilized inanimate parts. The general consensus seems to be that the time will be a real stinker and may drop as many as 100 games. Hmm, that last bit sounds familiar.

A's fans were told after the team last off season shipped off the team's last three "All Stars" -- Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez -- that there was little reason to have hope for 2012. 100 losses were predicted for a team that was 74-88. The Marlins were slightly worse in 2012, finishing at 69-93. Neither team, despite having some seemingly very good players was actually any good in terms of win-loss record.

It may not be probably, but it's possible that the Marlins could have a season like the A's did in 2012 that defies all odds.

Ranking the Fire Sales

Removing salaries, which are often wildly disproportional to actual performance, the Marlins are sending away three players with a total combined WAR of 10.4. Factor in the previously traded Heath Bell and this rises to 10.8. The A's in the 2011 off season traded (for this purpose Bailey, Cahill and Gonzalez) or allowed to leave via free agency (for this purpose David DeJesus and Josh Willingham) a WAR of 11.3. Here are the breakdowns, according to FanGraphs:

2011 A's WARs
Andrew Bailey -- 0.9
Trevor Cahill -- 2.6
David DeJesus -- 2.2
Gio Gonzalez -- 3.6
Josh Willingham -- 2.0
Total = 11.3

2012 Marlins' WARs
Heath Bell -- 0.4
Mark Buehrle -- 2.1
Josh Johnson -- 3.8
Jose Reyes -- 4.5
Total = 10.8

When you factor in salary, thanks to Cot's Contracts, a huge difference can be seen:

2011 A's Salaries
Andrew Bailey -- $465,000
Trevor Cahill -- $440,000 (Opening Day) / $500,000 + $1,000,000 Signing Bonus after mid-season contract extension
David DeJesus -- $6,000,000
Gio Gonzalez -- $420,000
Josh Willingham -- $6,000,000
Total = $14,380,000

2012 Marlins' Salaries
Heath Bell -- $7,000,000
Mark Buehrle -- $7,000,000
Josh Johnson -- $13,750,000
Jose Reyes -- $10,000,000
Total = $37,750,000

In addition to producing a smaller WAR, the Marlins' players in the 2012 off season that were/are being traded cost $23,370,000 more than the five that the A's either traded or let walk away in the 2011 off season.

Let's take one final look, this time based on value expressed in dollars based on performance as calculated by FanGraphs:

2011 A's Value in Dollars
Andrew Bailey -- $4,300,000
Trevor Cahill -- $11,500,000
David DeJesus -- $9,800,000
Gio Gonzalez -- $16,200,000
Josh Willingham -- $9,200,000
Total = $51,000,000

2012 Marlins' Value in Dollars
Heath Bell -- $2,000,000
Mark Buehrle -- $9,400,000
Josh Johnson -- $16,900,000
Jose Reyes -- $20,100,000
Total = $48,400,000

According to this data, the free market value determined by performance of the 2011 A's in question either traded or that the team made no attempt to sign is greater than the free market value determined by performance of the 2012 Marlins either traded/being traded.

After all this, you can only conclude that the A's fire sale in 2011 was bigger than this Marlins one. The difference is that the Marlins players made far more money than the A's players. Also, unrelated to performance or real/contractual value of the players, but crucial to the current outrage is the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars went to a new stadium for the Marlins with an expectation of a decent/large payroll. The A's had no such subsidy. The A's also toil in what can feel like relative obscurity from a media perspective on the West Coast. Aside from Bay Area reporters, no one really went off on the A's moves last season. This might be a reason why G.M. Billy Beane didn't leave for the Cubs last year or the Red Sox in years past.

The spotlight is just a little less bright out here, but the fire sales are no less intense.

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