Trade Value: Carlos Pena

The first of June is tomorrow and while no significant trades are likely to be made in the first few weeks of June, the Cubs do find themselves to be far from contenders at this point. The Cubs will likely trade a few players near the deadline for prospects so it seems a good time to start talking about the trade value the players have. It’s actually fairly simple to calculate. A win (WAR) is worth $4.5 million. I’m going to assume all trades are made on July 31st so the player would have two months remaining. I’m also going to use the current ZiPS projection and will update these later on to reflect talent changes.

Along with knowing the value of the win, we have a reasonable projection for each player and know how much he’s likely to contribute over the final two months of the season. If we multiply those numbers we find how much the player is worth above a replacement level player making league minimum. Then we just factor in the contract. Two-thirds of the season is gone by that point so only a third of the contract remains to be paid.

We also have a good idea of how much draft picks are worth for players who may be eligible for arbitration. One additional draft pick is worth $2.5 million. A type B free agent would bring one draft pick if the club offers arbitration. A type A free agent brings two draft picks so his value in draft picks is $5 million. Furthermore, we know the value of rated prospects based on how similarly rated prospects have performed at the big league level. Combining all of this we get a reasonable idea of how much we should expect in return for the players.

There’s a lot of error obviously. A player may be playing on a bad leg and his projection moving forward isn’t actually as good as ZiPS thinks it is. Maybe the team trading for the player only wants to use the guy in limited action making his value a bit lower to the team trading for him. There are all kinds of other examples so don’t take these numbers for anything more than what they are: a reasonable expectation for return if the player is traded.

Over the next couple months we’ll cover all the players on the roster unless the team suddenly finds itself in contention. At that point we’ll change gears and look at what the Cubs can acquire to improve the team and how much they’d have to give up in terms of prospects. That seems unlikely at this point, but it’s still possible.

Carlos Pena‘s updated ZiPS is a .371 wOBA. Over two months we’d expect him to get 200 or so plate appearances. I’m ignoring defense because of how unreliable it is even over the course of one season, but over the course of a couple months it’s useless. A .371 wOBA over 200 plate appearances is .8 WAR. That’s a value of $3.8 million. Pena’s contract is a little bit odd.

He’s being paid $5 million this season and $5 million next year even though it’s only a one-year contract. It’s unlikely any team is going to pick up the payment for next season so the Cubs are on the hook for that. Over the final two months this season he’d be paid $1.7 million. It’s probably OK to think he’ll be a type B free agent, which is another $2.5 million in value. His surplus trade value is $4.7 million (after rounding). A top 10 hitting prospect is worth just over $36 million so obviously the Cubs won’t get anything close to that in return. Grade B hitters are worth $5.5 million and two Grade C pitchers, 22 and younger would be worth a combined $4.2 million. You can look at the grades for the Cubs prospects to get an idea of what the Cubs could get in return for Pena.

The additional $5 million the Cubs will have to spent next season also needs to be factored in somehow, but I’m not really sure how to include it. It’s possible the Cubs could just write that off as an expense and not include it in his value. It’s even possible the Cubs convince the other team to pay it, which would net them nothing in return except freeing up some payroll, which may be more valuable than you think.

UPDATE: After Carlos Pena hit a home run agains the Yankees, his trade value is basically the same as the above.