Collette Calls: The Unmeasurables

Collette Calls: The Unmeasurables

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

The most recent trade deadline was arguably the most exciting and insane in recent memory. We saw both a quantity of names as well as a quality of names change addresses in July as teams continued either their pursuit of a pennant or a more controllable payroll in the coming seasons. Teams had visions and hopes for each player acquired, yet the performance of the players since they were traded varies greatly. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned.

Using weighted runs created plus (wRC+), the table below shows how each of the major league hitters fared before the trade and how they have performed since the trade (data through end of games Aug. 30):

Player

wRC+ before trade

wRC+ since trade

% Change

Nelson Cruz

141

83

-41%

Joey Gallo

139

88

-37%

Starling Marte

139

135

-3%

Kyle Schwarber

137

182

33%

Trea Turner

137

128

-7%

Kris Bryant

132

134

2%

Adam Frazier

129

48

-63%

Anthony Rizzo

114

103

-10%

Jordan Luplow

111

66

-41%

Josh Harrison

117

108

-8%

Eduardo Escobar

105

111

6%

Javier Baez

105

92

-12%

Adam Duvall

103

103

0%

Cesar Hernandez

99

68

-31%

Joc Pederson

93

103

11%

Myles Straw

93

104

12%

Abraham Toro

89

129

45%

Stephen Vogt

86

7

-92%

Jorge Soler

80

152

90%

Nelson Cruz and Joey Gallo were arguably the two biggest players — both figuratively and literally — involved in the trade deadline. Both were well above average hitters

The most recent trade deadline was arguably the most exciting and insane in recent memory. We saw both a quantity of names as well as a quality of names change addresses in July as teams continued either their pursuit of a pennant or a more controllable payroll in the coming seasons. Teams had visions and hopes for each player acquired, yet the performance of the players since they were traded varies greatly. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned.

Using weighted runs created plus (wRC+), the table below shows how each of the major league hitters fared before the trade and how they have performed since the trade (data through end of games Aug. 30):

Player

wRC+ before trade

wRC+ since trade

% Change

Nelson Cruz

141

83

-41%

Joey Gallo

139

88

-37%

Starling Marte

139

135

-3%

Kyle Schwarber

137

182

33%

Trea Turner

137

128

-7%

Kris Bryant

132

134

2%

Adam Frazier

129

48

-63%

Anthony Rizzo

114

103

-10%

Jordan Luplow

111

66

-41%

Josh Harrison

117

108

-8%

Eduardo Escobar

105

111

6%

Javier Baez

105

92

-12%

Adam Duvall

103

103

0%

Cesar Hernandez

99

68

-31%

Joc Pederson

93

103

11%

Myles Straw

93

104

12%

Abraham Toro

89

129

45%

Stephen Vogt

86

7

-92%

Jorge Soler

80

152

90%

Nelson Cruz and Joey Gallo were arguably the two biggest players — both figuratively and literally — involved in the trade deadline. Both were well above average hitters at the plate for their former teams, but have yet to catch that same kind of fire in their new homes. Cruz was in the third year of his free-agent deal with Minnesota and called his departure from the organization "shocking," "emotional" and "heartbreaking" as he left. The numbers Cruz has put up have mostly been on the road or while feasting at the all-you-can-slug buffet Baltimore pitching serves up on a nightly basis. Gallo had known no organization other than Texas, and perhaps the expectations and brighter lights of New York City take longer for him to adjust to. Both players could easily point to the standings and show their teams have each won 30 games since the All-Star break, and both have been around for long winning streaks with their new club. 

Those two are not even the largest disappointment as Adam Frazier went from surprise All-Star to a shell of his former self. Frazier had a phenomenal bounce-back season after a down 2020 season for Pittsburgh with a .324/.388/.448 batting line before the deal, but has struggled mightily with a .228/.271/.261 line in San Diego with no homers and just one stolen base in 109 plate appearances. 

Cesar Hernandez was added by Chicago to upgrade its experience at second base and provide the club with another veteran. On paper, Hernandez was someone we thought would handle a trade well because it was within the same division, yet he too has seen his offensive output decline since the trade as the White Sox have also cooled off as they continue to play in cruise control to their presumptive AL Central crown. Javier Baez has, um, had issues in New York and his production has been thumbs-down worthy around some memorable positive moments. 

Each of these players was acquired to fill needs on contending clubs down the stretch and soaked up a fair amount of FAAB dollars yet the return on investment has been disappointing for all parties. Jordan Luplow and Stephen Vogt were much smaller acquisitions to fill out the bench, but limited playing time for both has not helped their cause even though both are no strangers to being dealt in-season. 

Starling Marte has essentially continued his excellent production changing coasts while also becoming the first player to steal at least 20 in both leagues in the same season. There was some concern that Oakland would not allow Marte to run as often as the non-contending Marlins did, but manager Bob Melvin has permitted Marte to run at will, which has absolutely impacted some AL-only races in the industry. 

Anthony Rizzo has not produced at the same level as he did in Chicago, but he has still been a slightly above average hitter with the Yankees in August. Kris Bryant, his former teammate, has taken well to San Francisco and has not let the emotions of leaving the organization that drafted and developed him hold him back. He was rather emotional when the deal happened, yet his production has continued to be well above average. Many were likely expecting more with the ballpark and the lineup, but it has taken the vet awhile to get settled in The Bronx. 

Trea Turner got off to a late start in Los Angeles as he was hurt at the time of his trade, but changing franchises for the fourth time in his career has not impacted him at all. Adam Duvall has been the same guy he was in Miami, and was in Atlanta before that. Given that Duvall was very recently in Atlanta, being traded back to the club was about the best-case scenario for him as he returned to a familiar scene and stayed within the same division while entering a playoff race again. Eduardo Escobar has been dinged up in Milwaukee, but has continued to hit well rather enjoying being on a division-leading club while moving from one hitter-friendly dome to another.

The funny part about this deadline is the most positive changes have mostly come from unexpected sources. Joc Pederson has taken well to Atlanta, mostly because he has sat against all lefties with the crowded outfield situation. Myles Straw went north to Cleveland and has added more extra-base hits to his game, which has cut into his stolen-base opportunities while hitting higher in the lineup. He already has half as many runs scored one month in Cleveland as he did four months in Houston. 

Kyle Schwarber got off to a late start with Boston while he recovered from his hamstring injury, but has made a difference hitting high in the lineup — sometimes even leadoff. He has done exactly what Boston wanted, but Boston has larger problems that Schwarber cannot solve. 

The trade of Abraham Toro to Seattle was quite the shock, yet the deal has worked out well for the player and the team, and even the GM since Jerry Dipoto was just given a contract extension. Toro has embraced an everyday role in Seattle and put a bow on things this week by hitting a grand slam off the very pitcher that he was traded for, Kendall Graveman

Finally, we have Jorge Soler, who looks like the 2019 version of himself after getting out of Kansas City and into the pennant race in Atlanta. When I wrote up Soler in mid-June, I said I would add him to my fantasy team now and perhaps a change of scenery would serve him well and he has had a 120 wRC+ since that article was published, which helps put his 150 wRC+ for August in perspective. It is so 2021 that the one player who looked the worst before the trade now looks like the best addition made at the deadline.

The lesson for us fantasy managers is that the trade deadline involves aspects of the game we simply cannot measure. There is no metric that takes into account how comfortable a player is with one team or how uncomfortable they may be with another one. There are the logistics of moving oneself and possibly family on short notice as well as dealing with the aspects of being in a pennant race after months of playing with a non-contender. 

There are fantasy managers who will slow play FAAB budgets all year, hoping to hold the hammer for the trade deadline and make the play on what they believe will best help their club. I did not intentionally slow play AL Tout, but losing several FAAB bids and gaining back salary with a rash of injuries left me with the second-most money to spend at the deadline, and dropping $704 on Marte has been worth every cent. 

In a game that is centered on mostly uncontrollable outcomes, the trade deadline adds more factors that influence the uncertainty of a player's performance. Perhaps it is a wiser play to be aggressive early and often with FAAB where the external factors are not as prevalent as they are in July personnel moves. At the end of the day, the craziest trade deadline we have seen in many years has given us rather unexpected results one month later. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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