We often hear talk of which team “won” a trade, despite the fact that most deals are driven at least as much by organizational need as they are asset valuation. Truthfully, assessing a swap from that perspective alone is rarely sufficient and often misleading. That being said, it can be an interesting exercise to focus purely on value, especially when a deal involves long-term assets on both sides.
That’s the way this poll will approach the recent trade between the Braves and Angels. Let’s break down the contractual assets that changed hands:
- Andrelton Simmons, 26, SS — Controlled for five years with $53MM guaranteed. Arguably the game’s best defensive player, Simmons has historically been merely an average hitter for his position. He has shown some power (17 home runs in 2013), though, arguably making him a high-floor player with upside.
- Jose Briceno, 23, C — The backstop, seemingly a minor part of the deal, has yet to advance into the upper minors and struggled last year at the High-A level.
- Sean Newcomb, 22, LHP — Rising prospect with 6+ years of control available who pitched at Double-A level last year. The power southpaw has significant upside but has battled control issues.
- Chris Ellis, 23, RHP — Fast-moving college arm who could contribute at the back of a rotation. He also reached Double-A in 2015 and can be controlled for 6+ seasons in majors.
- Erick Aybar, 31, SS — Entering his final year of control at a $8.5MM salary, Aybar could be an underappreciated part of this deal. He’s a quality veteran infielder coming off of a down year, but with a history of sturdy defense, good speed, and an above-average bat for a shortstop. He could also become a trade chip this winter or at the trade deadline.
- $2.5MM (representing difference between 2016 salaries of Simmons and Aybar)
Both organizations have new general managers who went out on a limb, in different ways, to strike this deal. And both talked about the value proposition that they faced (in addition to considerations of organizational need).
Angels GM Billy Eppler has many roster holes to fill, and could easily have relied on Aybar, but explained that the trade presented a rare chance to add a top-quality defender at the game’s most important position in the field. “When you have an opportunity, you do it,” he said. “The free agent market does not generally offer a plentiful amount of shortstops. It was a supply-and-demand equation.” Only that kind of premium ability could justify giving up Newcomb’s huge arm, per Eppler, who said that doing so “gives you a lot of pause and makes your stomach hurt a little bit.”
For Braves GM John Coppolella, meanwhile, there were also references to the need to seize an opportunity to acquire hard-to-get assets at an appealing price. “It’s a very tough trade, and a painful trade for us,” he said. “We didn’t want to trade Andrelton Simmons. But we felt this was too good for us to pass up. We felt like we were getting so much talent back in this deal, that if we didn’t make this trade, it would be very tough for us to keep going forward with our plans.” He went on to discuss the importance of Aybar to the swap, noting that the deal was not “some kind of prospect trade,” but rather “was a value-for-value trade that had two really good prospects in it.”
So, both general managers felt so torn about the deal that their comments referenced pain (physical or otherwise). Yet both also saw a value proposition that was simply too good to pass up. The Halos pulled the trigger even though they already had a good shortstop in place for 2016 and will have rotation openings thereafter. And the rebuilding Braves made the deal despite Simmons’ youth and control, not to mention the fact that they have already built a stable of young pitching through other trades.
We’ll have to wait to see how things play out, of course, but it’s still fun to ask: if you were forced to take one side of this deal, from a pure value perspective (i.e., ignoring team-specific context), which one would you take?