Update [2006-7-12 11:6:19 by lboros]: espn radio is reporting that the astros acquired aubrey huff from the devil rays for two minor leaguers. here's a link from the 'stros official site.[end update]
halfway through spring training i ran a post titled, simply, "moneyball". it analyzed the st louis payroll using a pricing paradigm that cardinal stat consultant mitchel lichtman -- better known as mgl -- had described in an interview. i'll reprint the relevant passage:
we all good with the concept? let's proceed.
baseball prospectus has a variety of metrics to evaluate how many marginal runs a given player is contributing. the most straightforward is VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), an expression of the marginal runs a player contributes with his bat or his pitching arm. then there's FRAR (Fielding Runs Above Replacement), which attempts to capture the player's marginal-run production with the glove. neither metric is perfect, but both are free and readily accessible; just go with them, with the understanding that they're merely estimates.
if we sum a player's VORP and FRAR, we get a rough figure of his value in marginal runs; multiply by $200,000, and you can determine whether or not he is paying his own way. keep in mind that the $200K-per-marginal-run pricing structure applies only to players who are free-agent eligible; the market is obviously a lot cheaper for players who are unable to sell their services to the highest bidder.
let's start with the new acquisitions -- guys jocketty acquired this past off-season. the "marg runs" column in this table contains full-season numbers, extrapolated from each player's performance through the first 87 games. the "value" column represents the player's worth at $200K per marginal run. here we go:
basically, walt had a lousy winter but redeemed it with two heads-up acquisitions in spring-training. the looper and encarnacion contracts will both get worse over time, as their dollar values increase and the dividends in marginal runs likely decrease. but for this season, neither one is a disaster. the bottom five guys on this list -- from ponson on down -- consumed $8.4 million (nearly 10 percent of the payroll) without raising the team much above replacement level. but hancock and zpiezio are making significant contributions for the minimum wage, balancing out the ledger sheet nicely. i'm being generous to include hancock and zpiezio on this list, because neither was a free agent in the way we normally think of them -- that is, they weren't productive players who became eligible to sell their services to the highest bidder. they were, on the contrary, expendable players who got released and were fortunate to latch on with another major-league team. but i've got them on the list because they were shrewd value moves, and the point of the exercise is to gauge how well walter is deploying his financial resources.
now we'll turn to the holdover free-agents -- guys on multiyear deals that they signed as free agents before 2005:
that's very good, especially when you consider the very large number of marginal runs these guys contribute. as a group, they're worth more than 250 marginal runs, or roughly 25 marginal wins over the course of the season. it's the core of the team -- with one very large exception -- and walter has them locked in at very attractive prices.