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Playing the Odds: Previewing the Buyers and Sellers of the Trade Deadline

With the trade deadline approaching rapidly, teams are trying to decide which direction they are going in.  Some teams are going to trade young talent to try and win this year.  Take the Cardinals: they have already traded away 4 prospects, varying from really good to "meh", and are still on the hook for 2 PBTNL's.  And while that certainly hurts them in the future, the returns this year, namely DeRosa and Holliday, are expected to vault them into the playoffs.  Indeed, since the trades, the Cardinals increased their playoff odds drastically and are now the heavy favorites to win the NL Central.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Pirates.  Faced with the realization that they had virtually no shot of making the playoffs, have already traded 3 players who are in their primes and have peak value (McClouth, Morgan and Laroche) in an effort to stack up for the future.

However, while those two teams have made up their minds; others are faced with some more difficult decisions.  Take the Mariner's, a team that is playing quite well, yet is a longshot at making the playoffs.  Do they sell high on Washburn and Bedard and try and stock up for the future, or do they go all in for Roy Halladay or someone (I think I know what Lookout Landing wants).  Many other teams are going to be facing such dilemma's over the next few days, so I spent some time in excel and a chart depicting the playoff implications of adding or subtracting talent to each team:

Team Playoff Odds +1 Wins +2 Wins +3 Wins -1 Wins -2 Wins -3 Wins
Athletics 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Blue Jays 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
D-Backs 0% 0% 1% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Indians 0% 0% 1% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Nationals 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Orioles 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Padres 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Pirates 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Reds 0% 1% 1% 2% 0% 0% 0%
Royals 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Marlins 2% 2% 4% 7% -1% -1% -2%
Mets 2% 2% 4% 7% -1% -1% -2%
Astros 4% 2% 5% 9% -2% -3% -3%
Mariners 7% 3% 7% 12% -2% -3% -5%
Rangers 10% 4% 8% 12% -3% -5% -6%
Giants 12% 5% 11% 19% -4% -7% -9%
Twins 12% 4% 9% 13% -4% -6% -8%
Brewers 13% 4% 10% 17% -4% -7% -9%
Rays 24% 7% 14% 23% -6% -11% -15%
White Sox 27% 7% 14% 21% -6% -11% -15%
Braves 29% 8% 16% 26% -7% -13% -18%
Rockies 41% 9% 19% 28% -9% -17% -23%
Cubs 47% 9% 18% 27% -9% -17% -24%
Cardinals 55% 8% 16% 23% -8% -16% -24%
Tigers 60% 7% 13% 19% -7% -15% -22%
Red Sox 76% 5% 10% 14% -5% -12% -19%
Angels 83% 4% 7% 10% -6% -12% -18%
Phillies 88% 4% 7% 10% -5% -11% -18%
Yankees 94% 4% 6% 6% -5% -12% -19%
Dodgers 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% -1% -2%


Note: I have realized that some people may not understand how these odds are calculated.  Here is first installment of the odds, with the methodology described.

The columns are pretty self explanatory.  They depict the current odds for each team, and the change in odds based on adding or subtracting a given amount of wins to their projected totals the rest of the way.  You can click on the headers to sort.

These are freshly updated this morning, so the numbers in the "Playoff Odds" column are an accurate portrayal of each teams current playoff odds, at least by my projections.  Click on the full article for some commentary.    

The Roy Halladay Sweepstakes

Sky already looked at how much Roy Halladay was worth in a trade, and found that he would have a surplus value of about 23 million over this year and next.  This year, Halladay would be about a 2-3 win upgrade for most teams in the rotation, and he figures to be the only guy on the trade market who is capable of that kind of an upgrade.  If you'll look at the above table, the teams that would benefit most from acquiring Roy Halladay would be the Rockies, Cubs, Braves, Cardinals and the Rays. 

Given that the Cardinals have already gutted their farm to get Holliday and DeRosa, and the Rays probably can't take on Halladay's contract; the three most practical suitors would be the Cubs, Braves and Rockies.  Interestingly enough, those three teams haven't been linked to Halladay at all.  Instead, the Dodgers and the Phillies appear to be most interested. 

For the Dodgers, acquiring Halladay would almost certainly be a big mistake.  The Blue Jays are reportedly asking for Clayton Kershaw, who is cost controlled and awesome.  Given that they already have a 100% chance of making the playoffs, Halladay's only real value would be in the playoffs.  Even if Halladay does improve their chances of doing something in the playoffs once they get there, paying that much in talent for really 3 or 4 meaningful starts seems quite foolish.  

The Phillies would also be unwise to make the trade for the same reason as the Dodgers.  While they aren't as much of a sure thing as LA, they are sitting at 88% to make the playoffs as of this morning.  Dan looked at the possible trade combination yesterday, and found that they were all heavily lopsided in the Jays favor.

Is there such a thing as too good?

I already touched on this earlier, but the Dodgers are really good.  So good in fact, that if they lost 3 WAR from their projected record, they would still have a 98% chance of making the playoffs.  It goes against common sense to sell from a contending team, however in this case it makes a lot of sense.  Players like Randy Wolf and Jeff Weaver are having career years and don't figure to be in the future plans of the team, or play a big role in the playoffs.  If you could get some decent prospects for one of those guys, that would be an excellent move for the Dodgers.  

Minor improvements can go a long way

League average players aren't that hard to find on the trading block.  Guys like Austin Kearns, Jarrod Washburn and Jack Wilson could all be had cash and a couple of C prospects, and would probably provide about a 1 WAR upgrade for most teams the rest of the way.  If you'll sort by the "+1 WAR" column, you'll see that the playoff odds for teams like the Rockies, Cubs, Braves and Cardinals would all be greatly improved by adding such players.   

Please don't get injured!!!

At the top of the -X WAR columns, are teams like the Cardinals, Rockies and Braves.  Those teams are the ones that have the most to gain, but also the most to lose.  If Javier Vasquez or Chipper Jones were to go down for the Braves, that would essentially torpedo their playoff odds.  Ditto with the Cardinals and Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols, and the Rockies with Ubaldo Jimenez.


So I hope this was helpful to everyone.  With the trade deadline coming up soon, I'll be updating the playoff odds more frequently and giving you the chart at the beginning of this article each time so you can see the possible implications of every trade rumor that comes up.