Before the champagne dries, before the plastic curtains are removed from the locker room, even before the presentation of the World Series trophy, the offseason begins. Offseason is speculation season, the time of the baseball calendar when we get answers where players fit. During this time we will hear lots of suggestions -- piles and piles of suggestions. Not so much with free agents, because those are more straightforward, but with trades. It's fun to try and figure out the puzzles that are the 30 different baseball teams, but trades are complicated and we fans need a little help constructing our proposals. Lucky for us help is here, because this is the Fan's Guide To Creating Trade Proposals.
Our primary concern when proposing a trade either in print or verbally is looking like an idiot. Fortunately, if we follow one simple rule we can avoid that outcome.
Rule 1: Don't make a trade proposal. Ever.
The first thing we will want to do when making a trade proposal is to not make a trade proposal. Really. Our trade proposal will not work. It's not because we weren't fair, or didn't take numerous factors into consideration, it's that trades are so complicated there is almost no way we on the outside can possibly come up with a realistic option. Oh sure, it makes sense to us, but almost certainly there is some angle we aren't considering where it won't work. The players, the teams, the agents, the market, their contracts, their family, the cities, the fans, and the media are all complicating factors that create varying layers of opacity. Put them all together and it's like looking through a brick wall.
But, if we must put together a trade proposal because we are compelled to, either by employment, bravado due to talk radio anonymity, over-consumption of our favorite substances, demonic possession, or simply because we don't believe the above paragraph, well, then we need to follow the rules below.
1. A Trade Must Make Sense For Both Teams.
They say finish with the strongest material, but this is so important that it's going right up top. Other teams are not farm systems for our favorite team. Mike Trout isn't joining the Astros even if they give up our favorite player, Jason Castro. And he's not going to the Red Sox even if they give up super-prospect Xander Bogaerts. That's because it isn't about how much other teams give up to get Mike Trout, it's about the fact that the Angels aren't trading Mike Trout. It just doesn't make sense for them to do that, even if the package of players going back in exchange is amazing.
2. Prospects Are Valuable…
We can try to get Mike Trout with prospects, but two things:
A) If our best prospects aren't involved, it's a waste of time. Would we deal our best player for another team's second, fourth, and eighth best prospects? No, of course not. The names don't matter, because we aren't going to do that. If we were a Nationals fan and someone proposed any team's third, seventh, ninth, and tenth best prospects for Bryce Harper, we'd laugh at them and then not be their friend anymore.
B) If our best prospects are involved it's still a waste of time because the Angels aren't trading Mike Trout.
3. …But Not As Valuable As Good Major League Players.
Every team wants good prospects, so including them in a trade proposal makes sense. Prospects are potential. That makes them both fun and desirable. But the majority of prospects won't make it. (If you don't believe me, pick any year you want and go back and look at the top round of the draft.) No matter how high a player is ranked by prospect experts, or how many articles we've read on how great a guy will be, or what we think we know about a player, there is a fair chance that in five years we'll look back and think, "Wow, I can't believe how wrong I was about that guy." Teams know that. That's why Miguel Cabrera wasn't traded for just Andrew Miller. He was traded for Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, Mike Rabelo, Burke Badenhop and Frankie De La Cruz and oh wow that's awful.
4. Quantity Does Not Equal Quality.
We can't propose a trade for Giancarlo Stanton wherein the Marlins get the 10th-30th ranked Yankees prospects. Why can't we? Because the Marlins aren't interested in those guys. Nobody is interested in those guys. That's a terrible idea. What were we thinking?
5. Value Is Created By Player Quality and Cost.
Look at David Cameron's trade value series at FanGraphs. Any year will do. The top guy is someone who is both A) really good, and B) has a cheap salary. The converse, guys who are A) really bad, and B) expensive, have negative trade value. We actually have to give up value to get them off the roster. Thus, if putting together a trade for Giancarlo Stanton, proposing dealing a player who is good but expensive will be a non-starter. Just as the Marlins don't want to trade for Ryan Dempster, who is expensive and not very good, they also don't want Jonathan Papelbon who is fine but expensive. Heck, they probably don't even want Felix Hernandez, who is amazing and super expensive.
But what if we're putting together a trade proposal for Jonathan Papelbon? Phillies fans would argue that he's good, which we could quibble with, but for the sake of argument let's grant the premise. But even if he's good, he's still incredibly expensive and that drives down his trade value. (Or it should. If many teams are looking to deal for Papelbon then his value goes up because he becomes a scarce commodity. This goes back to our earlier point about knowing the market and how we can't do that.)
6. Teams Have Budgets.
They do! And we don't know what they are. And they won't exceed them. Unless they will. It's all very complicated.
7. Teams Are Not Stupid.
We can quarrel with results and even with process, but just because a deal went bad or because we don't like the weight a front office put on certain criteria, it's not because an idiot runs the team. Every team has made a bad trade at some point. That doesn't make it a bad front office. Example time! The World Series champion Red Sox made a horrendous trade just last year. They traded Mark Melancon and other players for Joel Hanrahan. Melancon went on to have the third most valuable season of any reliever in baseball (per FanGraphs) while Hanrahan went on to be awful for a month before his arm blew up. What's more, Hanranhan was expensive while Melancon was super cheap. And, it gets worse, Hanrahan is now a free agent whereas Melancon is still under team control for three more seasons.
So, to sum up, absolutely atrocious trade for Boston, but that's the same front office that made a bunch of moves last off-season that turned a last place team into the reigning World Series champs. Our point is we can't propose a deal where our team gets Star Player X and the other team gets bupkis because look at those morons!
8. Three-Way Trades: Just Nope
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So remember, if you have to make trade proposals, don't. But if you still have to, still don't. But if you still still have to, we don't recommend it. But if you absolutely must, make sure to follow all the above rules. Also wear a gag, disguise your voice, never use your real name, and when finished flee the country immediately.