Economics of Baseball: David DeJesus trade

The Oakland A's struck first this offseason, acquiring outfielder David DeJesus from the Kansas City Royals last night. In return for DeJesus, the Royals get right-handed starting pitcher Vin Mazzaro and left-handed pitcher Justin Marks, who spent 2010 in the Midwest League and California League.

Being a good player on a rebuilding team with only a half a year plus a club option left on his contract, DeJesus was a prime candidate to be moved at the 2010 July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Unfortunately he tore a ligament in his thumb nine days before said deadline, rendering him both unable to play for the rest of the 2010 season and untradeable. Knowing DeJesus would have trade value even after missing the final two months of the 2010 regular season, the Royals wisely decided to exercise their $6 million club option for his 2011 services rather than paying him $500,000 to hit the open market.

DeJesus will be 31 years old in 2011 and has a solid all-around game. He's posted a career .342 wOBA and plays an average CF or--as Oakland will probably use him with Coco Crisp in pocket--an above-average LF. He walks about as much as the average player, strikes out significantly less, and hits for about as much power. His skill set makes him about a 3-win player when healthy.

Right now DeJesus is on the border between Type A and Type B status. Since his 2010 season wasn't as impressive to the Elias Sports Bureau as his 2009 season was (primarily on account of missing the season's final two months), he'll likely have to replicate his 2009 season or do better to attain Type A status. Either way, the Oakland A's can expect to receive some draft pick compensation after the 2011 season, provided they're willing to offer him arbitration. Splitting the difference between the value of Type A and Type B status, we'll attach $4 million in draft pick compensation to DeJesus's value.

Speaking of which, a 3-win player under a 1 year, $6 million contract with a $4 million draft pick compensation bonus is about a $10.7 million asset.

 

 

As previously mentioned, the A's get Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks in return. Mazzaro has 213 and 2/3 MLB innings under his belt and they haven't been particularly exciting, highlighted by a 1.55 K/BB, a 1.31 HR/9, and a 41.2% GB%. His minor-league work wasn't a whole lot better and he doesn't figure to be more than a back-end-of-the-rotation starter going forward. If he stays healthy and pitches around 200 innings a year he'll provide the Royals an additional win or so above replacement. Provided he stays on the MLB active roster or disabled list for the remainder of his tenure in Kansas City, he's under team control through the 2015 season making league minimum in 2011 and 2012 and eligible for arbitration 2013-2015. Mazzaro is the type of unspectacular player that's unlikely to be tendered a contract every year of his arbitration eligibility. Eventually it won't make sense to keep him around. Operating under the assumption the Royals will go to arbitration with Mazzaro only once, he'll provide about $8 million in surplus value.

 

 

As for Justin Marks, he's an unspectacular prospect but a prospect nonetheless. In August John Sickels wrote about Marks:

 

4.91 ERA with 129/48 K/BB in 125 innings between Kane County and Stockton, 124 hits. The ERA is deceptive; his K/BB and K/IP marks are strong. Sleeper for next year.

 

2010 was Marks' age 22 season and having been given a C+ grade by Sickels coming into the 2010 season, Marks is around a $2.1 million asset, making the package the Royals receive for DeJesus worth about $10.1 million.

This is how trades are supposed to work, even swaps in which both parties benefit. By my estimates this is both a fair trade and one that makes sense. Though DeJesus is a better player than Mazzaro, he's only under contract for the 2011 season, a season in which the Royals have no hope of contending. The A's could conceivably challenge the Rangers for the division title in 2011, so upgrading one of their corner OF spots makes sense. They've got a surplus of pitching after winning the bidding on Hisashi Iwakuma and can certainly spare both an unspectacular starter and a C+ prospect to do so. While Mazzaro won't play a significant role for the next good Royals team, someone has to pitch every fifth game in the interim and they could do a lot worse. The interesting piece of this deal from Kansas City's perspective is Marks, who Jim Callis says has "No. 3 SP ceiling, floor as good LHRP". There's a decent chance Marks will play a significant role for the next good Royals team, which is more you could say about David DeJesus. If I'm an A's fan, I'm extremely pleased to nab him, but if I'm a Royals fan I'm shrugging indifferently at worst.

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