AKA Beating a Dead Jorsé
Now that José Reyes is officially up for grabs, the pessimists are out in full force. The embattled Mets have no chance of re-signing Reyes. The ponzified Wilpons can't afford what Reyes wants. Sandy Alderson is a failure for not trading Reyes during the season. Looking forward, people see only reasons why the Mets won't get Reyes and why someone else will, completely ignoring the reasons why the Mets will try hard to keep Reyes and why Reyes won't be pursued by most other teams and may not sign with any of them. It's all speculation, so people are just picking whatever fits their existing narrative. Fine, whatever, none of it has any bearing on what actually happens. But what about that last bit, was it a mistake to not trade Reyes?
They say that hindsight is 20/20, so this should be an open and shut case. The mythical prospects that Reyes should have been worth never materialized, Reyes's unfortunate departure would still net two draft picks, and Reyes brought the NL Batting Title to Flushing for the first time in the Mets' 50-year history. End of story, a trade made no sense. So why does the prevailing narrative call the non-trade a boneheaded move? Enough of this, let's do the math and get it right this time (I saw a few attempts at this in June/July, but they all had glaring flaws; my apologies if you posted a reasonable analysis somewhere and I missed it). Once and for all, let's get to the bottom of whether not trading Reyes was a mistake.First, let's map out all of the costs and benefits associated with both binary conditions (trade/no trade and re-sign/don't re-sign):
|José Reyes||Cost||Benefit||If Re-signed||If Not Re-signed|
|Traded||Fan Goodwill||???||+José Reyes,
-Round 2 DP
|Not Traded||$3,666,666.67||2 Months of José Reyes,
First-ever NL Batting Title
|+José Reyes||+2 Draft Picks|
The salary is based on 54 Mets games played after July 31 (we'll assume a deadline deal because of the injury that happened before the Mets started dealing and kept José out until late July). The ??? represents the mythical prospects that would come back in a trade. There was plenty of speculation of what Reyes SHOULD be worth for two months, but most people stopped short of naming names and just gave prospect rankings. I call BS on that approach - if the teams in the running aren't willing to part with that level of prospect, the whole exercise is a waste of time. Before we get into that though, let's clean things up a bit and get the equations we need to solve.
|José Reyes||Traded||Not Traded|
|If Re-signed||??? - Fan Goodwill
- Round 2 DP
|2 Months of Reyes
- $3.7 Million
+ NL Batting Title
|If Not Re-signed||??? - Fan Goodwill||2 Months of Reyes
- $3.7 Million
+ NL Batting Title
+ 2 Draft Picks
In order for a trade to make sense, the Traded column should at least be equal to the Not Traded column. This gets messy because we're comparing intangibles, cash, and speculation of future performance. Things that were unknowns in July count here because we're using the magic of hindsight.
Let's start by clearing out a few of these factors. Fan goodwill needs to go because otherwise, we'll spend all day debating its value and never get to anything of importance. Let's cancel it with the cash, which is largely irrelevant because it wouldn't have gone toward improving the team in-season (unless you know of a trade deadline deal that was scuttled over a couple million dollars, which wouldn't make sense on a team clearly out of contention, barring an unfortunate meteor strike at a Phillies-Braves game) and surely won't be the difference between signing and not signing Reyes (at least not any more than the Reyes goodwill generated by holding on to him, which I didn't bother listing).
This leaves us with two equations to solve:
??? - Round 2 Draft Pick = 2 Months of José Reyes + NL Batting Title
??? = 2 Months of José Reyes + NL Batting Title + 2 Draft Picks
If Reyes is re-signed, the value of the prospects received in trade would need to have been at least as good as a second round draft pick and the impact of having Reyes finish the season as a Met. If he is not re-signed, then that value would have to be increased by at least a compensation pick, with the possibility of also upgrading the second round pick to a first round pick. Basically, the assumption that a trade would be a white flag in the Re-sign Re-yes campaign would increase the expected return. Since we're in doom-and-gloomville, the second equation will be assumed for this exercise.
Here's your homework: Fill in the blank. (You didn't think I was going to do this for you, did you?) Put together a prospect package that a team interested in Reyes at the non-waiver trade deadline would have been willing to part with and make a case for it being worth the cost. I don't care how you do it - you can use stats, projections, gut feelings, empty handwaving, outrageous trolling, whatever. I just want some names on this non-deal so we can evaluate the non-trade and move on to non-signing speculation. Remember, Carlos Beltran brought back Zac(h|k) Wheeler, one of the best prospects to change hands during the season (and now arguably the top prospect in the Mets system). That sets the bar pretty high for Reyes and should be an indicator of what two months of a star player is worth when no draft picks are involved; with Reyes being a homegrown star whose name is not frequently preceded by #Blame, his value to the organization should be a bit greater.
But wait, there's more. Trade advocates love to trot out the old "Baseball is a business" line that is used to justify unpopular moves. The idea here is that whatever makes the most sense for the bottom line is the move that should be made. This works great in theory and in spreadsheets, but it fails miserably when pesky human beings get in the way. "Just business" is the justification typically given to excuse things like laying off workers, creating conditions that are directly responsible for deaths, rendering entire towns uninhabitable, etc.; it's what the hit-man says right before he shoots you in the face (I'll stop short of mentioning the other "just..." that takes things even further). Even business though isn't "just business;" look at successful businesses like Google, Apple, Amazon, even little guys like Rovio - they all succeed in part due to their impact on the culture of their customers. Netflix was a huge success until they made a perfectly reasonable "just business" decision, and now there's speculation that they might not recover. Even everyone's favorite "evil" companies put considerable effort into at least the appearance of being part of a fun and responsible culture. So if your justification is that trading Reyes just makes good business sense, you fail. Like any business, there's more to baseball than just the bottom line; otherwise, every non-contender would be fielding a bunch of crap and pocketing tens of millions of dollars every year (not that some haven't tried...).