Throughout the off-season, we have been looking at potentially available trade targets and non-tender candidates from other teams that the Pirates may have interest in obtaining. One of the analysis tools that we have been using is Victor Wang’s research into Surplus Trade Values of prospects, based on their quality classification. For the complete table of how much each type of prospect is worth, check out this link from Beyond the Box Score.
On Wednesday, the Rockies traded their presumed starting catcher in Chris Iannetta to the Angels for 21-year old starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood. In 2011, Iannetta had a triple slash line of .238/.370/.414 (785 OPS, .347 wOBA), while Chatwood debuted in the majors and pitched 142 innings with a 4.75 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 4.69 K/9, and 4.50 BB/9. Iannetta is under contract only for 2012, as he now has the choice to void his 2013 option since he was traded prior to the 2013 season. Chatwood is still under the Rockies’ control for 5 more years. At first blush, this looks like a steal for the Rockies as they got 5 years of service for a starting pitcher for 1 year of Iannetta. But is it?
Using Fangraphs’ WAR calculations, Iannetta was worth 3.3 WAR in 2011. His career WAR totals have been all over the place as a function of his spotty injury history, but when he has caught 100+ games in a season his WAR’s are 3.4 and 3.3. For discussion purposes, let’s assign Iannetta a WAR of 3.0 for 2012, accouting for a natural decline due to age (29 in 2012) and the switch to the AL and all that entails. As in previous articles, we are assuming 1 WAR = $5M.
Chatwood debuted in 2011 as a 21-year old pitcher for the Angels and made 25 starts that resulted in a WAR of 0.5, barely above replacement level. However, coming into the 2011 season, Chatwood was rated as the #76 overall prospect by Baseball America. If we use Wang’s Surplus Value for pitchers rated 76-100, we see Chatwood is valued at $9.8M. Interestingly, if Chatwood was rated just one spot higher at 75, his presumed Surplus Value would be $12.1M and make this a nearly even trade.
But since Chatwood is technically no longer a prospect, let’s run his value out under his 5 years of Rockie control, as well. Now with a 21-year old starting pitcher, it is very difficult to presume a whole lot about his potential career. Chatwood is projected to be a good back of the rotation pitcher, like a #4, but if things break right he could be a #3. For purposes of this back-of-the-envelope analysis, I’m assigning a consistent 1.0 WAR to each of his five years. I’m not sure if this is overly conservative or not, but it at least gives us a chance to look at a value for him. His salaries are the league minimum in 2012-13 and then 40-60-80 percent of his $5M presumed worth through arbitration.
In this evaluation, you can see that Rockies come out ahead of the deal, with $15.0M presumed Surplus Value to Iannetta’s $11.20M for the Angels. Of course this assumes that Chatwood does not get injured significantly at any point during those 5 seasons or regress, just the same as it does not assume that he may develop into a 2 or 3 WAR pitcher and increase this even more.
The purpose of this article was to evaluate in a vacuum the Iannetta-Chatwood trade, but it is worth noting that in conjunction with trading Iannetta the Rockies also signed Ramon Hernandez to a 2 year, $6.5M deal. Assuming it is an equal split in yearly salary, the Rockies are paying virtually the same amount of money for Hernandez AND Chatwood ($3.75M in 2012) as they would have for just Iannetta ($3.55M). If you consider that Iannetta and Hernandez are the same tier of catcher, then Chatwood is like a “free” player this year. The Hernandez element really swings the deal in the Rockies’ favor.
The Pirates are starting to accumulate a surplus of pitching prospects and outfield prospects that have similar profiles. With a pressing need to obtain a starting pitcher that can bridge this rotation until Cole and/or Taillon hopefully arrive in 2013, I would like to see the Pirates package some players together to obtain such a pitcher. Even though it was just shown above that the Rockies may benefit in the long run, you can see that it is also worth it to obtain a 3-win player for the short-term, too. Factoring in the high attrition rate of prospects, especially pitching prospects, reinforces the idea to get the “bird in the hand” instead of hoarding “two birds in the bush”.