17 January 2018

Gerrit Cole Trade: Wins Over Dreams

I found it rather remarkable how so many in the media and secondary baseball blogs railed against the Pirates' pieces arriving from dealing Gerrit Cole.  The argument was that Gerrit Cole is a good, but not great pitcher and that the Pirates only got spare parts.  In turn, they allegedly had a deal with the Yankees on the table that would have given them Clint Frazier and a couple spare parts.  Here at the Depot, we rarely look at the dealings of other teams so explicitly, but this may prove to be a useful discussion given the current state of the Orioles and the likelihood that we might see some significant pieces being dealt at some point this season.

For this discussion, I have little interest in what Gerrit Cole is worth.  Instead, I am interested in comparing the two deals.  The Astros handed the Pirates Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, and Justin Martin.  This will be compared against the Yankees deal with Frazier and two spare parts.  We will assume the spare parts in the Yankees' deal are one pitching and one position prospect.

Now, prospect writers tend to be biased.  They love the big splash.  They like to be able to say lofty thing and extol on plus tools.  That is certainly a generality, but conversation about mid-level pieces does not get you much unless there is a loud tool in there to dream on.  Moran and Martin does not have any fancy tools.  Musgrove and Feliz do, but also have significant time in the majors to tarnish that shine.  It is a dull package.

From the Yankees side, it is a bit more splashy.  Clint Frazier, whose last year and a half has actually dimmed his value, is a once sterling prospect.  Before the 2017 season, he was around 20th across the boards on the top 100 MLB prospects lists.  However, it should be noted that the backend of 2016 was a struggle at AAA and 2017 AAA was hitting on level.  His time in the Majors, enough to cause his rookie status to expire, was also fairly uninspiring.  In this exercise, we will assume that his youth saves him from any of this and that he still rates on par with a positional prospect around 20th overall instead of indications that point toward these struggles as indicative of a prospect who should be around the 50th to 60th rank.

Looking at Bust Rates, Frazier is pegged as a 20-40 position prospect.  Fringe prospect probabilities were assessed using original methodology of Victor Wang in conjunction to the Perez study linked.  Feliz was treated as a fringe pitching prospect.  Moran and Martin were treated as fringe positional prospects.  Musgrove's outcomes are based on projection modeling.
Bust Bust
Clint Frazier 68% Joe Musgrove 65%
Fringe A Position 89% Michael Feliz 93%
Fringe B Pitching 93% Colin Moran 89%
Justin Martin 89%
All crap out 54% 46%

That does not seem like much of a difference.  The Pirates stand to have a 13% better chance of avoiding a complete bust situation.  However, the chances of receiving an exceptional prospect (>2.5 WAR/yr) is 27% for the Yankees package vs. 21% for the Pirates package (29% less).  I would even offer that the bust rate is too high for Musgrove who looked at times as if he was a fairly top notch bullpen arm.

Regardless, the difference in outcomes is not that much.  The Astros' deal offered the Pirates fits where they lack organizational depth plus a great probability that at least one player will be a solid MLB pro.  The Yankees deal offered a much better profile for a superstar player (ignoring the last 20 months of Clint Frazier's play), but at a position where the Pirates currently have some measure of MLB solutions.  What the Pirates needed was pitching and infield.  This move will likely better set up the Pirates to win as opposed to taking a chance on a superstar player.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment. I think people underestimate Moran too. Astros dealt from positions of organizational strength (2nd tier pitching and 3B) to get a solid SP. Martin was available as a Rule 5 so he is a throw-in (but he is a LH OF). If the O's could get a package like (I know these can't be had together) Cole, Musgrove or Feliz, Moran, and Martin for Machado, I would think it would be a win for the O's. One good SP, one potential SP/RP, a 3B prospect, and a lesser LH OF would certainly fill some holes and mitigate the loss of Machado.

vilnius b. said...
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vilnius b. said...

Jeff Sullivan had a great piece about the Astros/Pirates trade over on FanGraphs.
It appears that Colin Moran has made dramatic changes to his swing in 2017. A hitter with a big build (6'4" and 205 lbs.) has moved from being a hitter with a heavy GB% to a hitter with a healthy FB%. His home run totals in an abbreviated season (he had injuries) jumped. He also increased his contact rates strongly last year as well.
Jeff provides some good GIFs to illustrate his points.

IMO, this exactly the type of a trade that the Orioles should try to make with any of our pending free agents. There's never any guarantee that any prospect not named Trout or Harper will succeed at the MLB level, but using a shotgun approach to prospects increases the probability that at least a few of them will succeed at the Big Show.