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What’s Solarte Worth in a Trade?

Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal and others reported that the Padres could deal Yangervis Solarte at the deadline even though he is yet to return to the big league lineup after suffering an oblique injury last month.  It may not exactly be breaking news with the organization selling off assets, but it is notable that the chatter has increased with Solarte on a rehab assignment.

As such, it seems germane to spend some time exploring Solarte’s projected value on the market, and to do so, I want to spend a few minutes talking about Surplus Value, the approximate dollar amount that a player is worth when factoring in his salary.

Surplus Value

While no statistic is perfect, Wins Above Replacement (WAR) serves as arguably the strongest evaluation of a player’s worth in a given season, which is why it is the basis for calculating surplus value.  If you have an affinity for mathematical formulas, then these two are all you need to calculate Surplus Value:

  1. Value= Total WAR x Cost of 1 WAR
  2. Surplus Value= Value – Salary

First, we start by figuring the estimated cost of 1 WAR on the free agent market, which Dave Cameron of Fangraphs projected to be around $8.4 million for the 2017 season.  This allows us to calculate how valuable a player’s production is projected to be.  For instance, the Value of a 2 WAR player for the 2017 season would be approximately $16.8 million.

To calculate that player’s Surplus Value, you simply subtract the player’s salary from their Value as the formula outlines.  So, if that 2 WAR player makes a mere $3.8 million, then his surplus value comes out to be $13 million.

Alright, that formula is all fine and dandy, but I want to demonstrate for you that it actually is a good guide to estimating trade value by directing you to some work by the aforementioned Dave Cameron, who used Surplus Value to accurately predict Chris Sale’s trade value months before it ever happened.

Chris Sale

Of course, Chris Sale has come out destroying this season in a way that was unexpected even for him, posting an insane 6.6 WAR, but don’t let that unforeseen dominance mar your perception of Cameron’s projections.  Adjusting for inflation at a 5 percent rate, this is the surplus value for Chris Sale heading into the 2017 season:

Year Age WAR $/WAR Est. Contract
2017 28 6.1 $8.4 M $51.2 M
2018 29 5.7 $8.8 M $50.1 M
2019 30 5.3 $9.3 M $49.3 M
Totals 19.1 $150.6 M

As you can see, Chris Sale’s surplus value is in the neighborhood of $150 million.   Although, there are a couple of things that I want to mention before the surplus value is used to grade the package the White Sox received.  For one, a star player normally brings in a little more than his surplus value because the premium placed on that caliber of player in conjunction with the marketing aspect of adding such players.  Secondly, the market will often get in a bidding war and drive up the price.  And lastly, while it’s easy to calculate the surplus value for players already in the majors, it can be slightly trickier when it comes to prospects or arbitration eligible players; however, Fangraphs integrated some work by the writers at the Point of Pittsburgh to place an approximate Surplus Value on prospects according to their Future Value Grade on the 20-80 scale. Here is the chart they provided:

Grade Hitter Pitcher
75 $175M $83M
70 $107M $62M
65 $70M $62M
60 $60M $34M
55 $38M $22M
50 $20M $14M
45 $11M $13M

Keep in mind that there is some range between values for each grade, so a player on the cusp of the next grade might be worth closer to the next one.  Now, let’s use that methodology to grade the package the White Sox received for Sale.

In exchange for Sale, the White Sox received Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz.  Since Moncada was the top prospect in the game and had a grade 70 prospect, that likely placed a increased his worth, bringing his surplus value around $110 million.  Kopech, according our chart, is probably worth in the $22-30 million range considering he’s on the higher end of grade 55 pitchers.  The latter two guys are mostly throw-ins, but our estimates would still have them in the neighborhood of $5 million, giving us a total surplus value very close to Sale’s $150 million.

Solarte’s Surplus Value

Moving on to Solarte, I utilized the third base trade market list from MLB Trade Rumors to compare Solarte’s surplus value with that of a few other available third baseman.  Solarte, having played second base for the majority of the year, was also included on the list of second baseman, so he also possesses some positional flexibility to increase his trade options.

As you can see, Solarte compares quite favorable to the other third baseman that are rumored to be available or have already been traded.  His three and a half years of team control ups his surplus value; however, it’s kind of a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, it ensures the team that trades for him is getting a starting caliber player for several seasons at a relatively cheap price (and whose team options present flexibility should things not go according to plan).  Although, on the other hand, it’s the acquisition cost of that time that could make him harder to move when a few cheaper rental options are available.

A cheaper acquisition cost is one of the reasons, among many others, that Todd Frazier was already moved.  If you’re thinking Frazier’s surplus value looks incredible low in light of the package the White Sox nabbed, let me try and provide a few reasons that could dispel such objections to his surplus value:

  • It’s the Yankees being the Yankees.  Even if they’re not tossing money at players the way they once did, they aren’t afraid to overpay for players.  I’m not saying that they overpaid, but it’s apparent that they outbid the competitors.
  • Teams will often pay a premium at the deadline because they’re desperate to plug holes and make a run, which is compounded when a team is grabbing three useful pieces.
  • Relievers are being valued higher than they really ever have been, and the Yankees acquired two of them.
  • This deal was only plausible because of the inclusion of Tommy Kahnle and his three and a half years of team control. Blake Rutherford was probably valued around $40-45 million with his Future Value at 55, and Clarkin, who has a mere 40 FV, was only worth a few million.  In return, the Yankees nabbed about $4 million of SV in Frazier, probably come out about even on Robertson, and received Kahnle, who, if he puts up 4-6 WAR with the Yankees, would be worth $25-35 million depending on how arbitration goes.  And since arbitration is centered on saves for relievers and Kahnle has zero, he’ll probably be vastly underpaid if this season isn’t a complete fluke.

Given that the Padres still have a few pitchers on the block, it might be wise to follow the White Sox move and attach one or two of them to Solarte, but they don’t need to do that to get something worthwhile.  Solarte has enough surplus value on his own that he warrants a 55 FV prospect, provided the market doesn’t discount him.

As far as that market is concerned, the Red Sox and Yankees have already traded for cheap third baseman, but it still leaves the Royals (2B), Brewers (2B), Pirates, and a few others on the lookout.  If it collapses, the good news is that Solarte should still remain fairly valuable this offseason if the team does not find a deal to their liking, especially if Preller gets low-balled because of the Solarte injury.

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