If you've ever been around a set of fans discussing a mediocre player you've likely heard the phrase "Trade him for a (insert inanimate object)." Some of my favorites include a wheelbarrow of rocks, a turkey, and a weekend package for two at the nicest spa around, but the one that got me thinking was to trade a player for sunflower seeds.
At first the suggestion seemed idiotic and unrealistic, but then I began thinking, would a year's supply of sunflower seeds, Gatorade, or something like bats would actually benefit a team. It sounds radical, but let's assume five things:
1.The team is using product X amount Y every game, with slight fluctuation.
2.The player produces X amount of wins, and gets paid Y amount per those wins.
3.The team as a whole can replace the player effectively, but not always the product.
4.The player won't play in every game; the product will.
5.The player himself will consume the product; the product will never consume the player.
That leaves us with two equations:
Product X = y (162 x 32). (Note 32 = players and coaches)
Player = 162 - games played / WARP / salary.
The product has been chosen, and we're talking Gatorade, and that each player and coach will consume at least 32 ounces per game, keep in mind not all of these players are active, and not all will choose Gatorade over water. That equates out to 1,024 ounces per game, and 165,888 ounces per season with some room for error.
Since we said the player can be replaced, it likely means it's a bench player who can only play a position or two at most, perhaps is only one or the other; a good hitter or fielder, we'll say the former, and use the example of Todd Hollandsworth, the long time Dodger who mainly played left field. Todd was a career .278/..328/.439 hitter, for the large part he was okay as a role player, but not someone you want starting everyday.
He signed with the Cubs in 2004 after spending 2003 with the Florida Marlins and in 93 games producing a sub par .254/.317/.421 line, he'd provide a nice bat off of the bench in 2004 and would up his numbers to .318/.392/.547 in 57 games. This would be unfortunate for the Cubs, who would re-sign him, and inexplicably place him in the starting lineup, although to their credit they did attempt to platoon him with Jason Dubois, but of course that plan wasn't exactly smart either.
Hollandsworth is a left handed bat and for his career has an OPS of .780 against right handed pitchers; who he should hit, and .685 against left handers, who he shouldn't as a typical rule of thumb for platoons, the other players should be worse against his same hand pitchers, and better against the opposite hand, well that was true, but Dubois had an OPS against righties of .750 and .692 against lefties, which when stacked up against .780 and .685 make you wonder how these two were ever going to platoon when both had the same strengths and weaknesses.
In August of 2005 the Cubs traded Hollandsworth to the Atlanta Braves for two minor leaguers; let's assume instead that the Braves would supply the Cubs with 120,000 ounces of Gatorade, a year's supply for the full year of Hollandsworth, in other words the 107 games with the Cubs as well.
His Wins Above Replacement Player, or WARP3, adjusted to 162 games, was a combined 0.2, 0.4 for his time in Chicago, -0.2 for his time in Atlanta. In other words he was about as close to replacement level as you can get without actually reaching it, which bodes well for our prerequisites as well as our conclusion.
Hollandsworth made 900,000 in 2005, and the Cubs were 62-69 when trading him, the Braves were 74-56 and would end up 90-72, the Cubs at 79-83. After the move the Cubs would gain 17 wins, and the Braves 16. While on the team Hollandsworth saw 78 wins take place, although that's not to say he played in them all, but let's assume he helped account for a bit of those 78 wins, he got paid roughly 11,538 thousand dollars per team victory, only 0.2 of which he contributed more than a completely average player.
Now to the Gatorade, using a 1.60 dollar per ounce figures, 265,420 dollars would be the cost for the season supply of the energy drink, slightly more than fourth-fifths of Hollandsworth salary. 1,024 ounces per game equals 1,638 dollars worth of beverage, almost half of what Hollandsworth got paid per game, whether he sat or played.
Financially the Cubs are dumping a salary and the costs of Gatorade, equating to 1,165,420 dollars saved for the 2005 season. With that million plus the team could've went out and added some scouting help, had construction done on Wrigley Field, or even added the money towards a trade mid-season or a free agent in the off-season.
The other side of this would be how to replace Hollandsworth? Well look no further than their own minor leagues, 23 year old Matt Murton would come up for 51 games and hit .321/.386/.521 in 2005 and .297/.365/.444 as a full timer in 2006, while making less than 350,000 and having a 1.8 WARP3 in 2005 and 5.3 in 2006.