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Did the Rays lose the David Price trade?

No. No they did not.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There once was a blogger who thought he was more clever than the gods. For that sin of hubris, he was given the task of convincing an angry Tampa Bay fan base that the Rays won the David Price deal. It's tough to be a fan when the heart of your team is ripped out before you're completely out of contention, but now that I've had a chance to think about this rationally, I'm convinced it was actually a pretty good haul. Here goes.

The prevailing wisdom on how to evaluate a trade is to look at the surplus value headed to each side. Compare how many games you think each part will win for you with how much they will be paid. Where a team is on the win curves of course affects these values, particularly for deadline deals, but let's ignore that right now. Back in the offseason, Michael Valancius looked at historical pitcher trades, and decided that a trade for Price should net the Rays $75 - $100 million of surplus value. Other smart people on this site thought his conclusion was a bit high, and that the Rays would get less than that based on past deals.

Danny did some work with other team blogs, looking at potential trades, and decided that the best deal the Rays were likely to get was worth $92 million in surplus value. Let's break down the pieces in this trade. I'm using $7 million as the value of a win, and giving Smyly and Franklin a projected salary of 40% of their projected value in their first year of arbitration, 60% percent in their second year, and 80% in their eighth year.

David Price - $34 million surplus value

I've looked at the Steamer projection for Price for the rest of the season, and then I bumped it up slightly, because I think he'll be better. I've then assigned him a projection for next year identical to what he will have produced this year. That's very good.

Year Salary Projection Value Surplus Value
2014 $      6.0 1.5 $      10.5 $                   4.5
2015 $    20.0 6 $      42.0 $                22.0

Add to that the fact that he'll surely bring back a draft pick, which is likely worth $5 - $10 million, and you have have $34 million in surplus value.

Drew Smyly - $38 million surplus value

Scouting Report

For Smyly, I used the same process, except I didn't goose the projections in his favor like I did for Price. For all subsequent years, I assumed he would produce identical value to what he did this year. I happen to think he'll improve, but feel free to debate this point.

Edit: After alert reader Win-cicum pointed out that Smyly is a super-2 arbitration guy, I've changed the weightings to be 25/50/70/85. That drops his surplus value by about $8 million

Year Salary Projection Value Surplus Value
2014 $                   0.2 1 $             7.0 $                   6.9
2015 $                   4.6 2.6 $           18.2 $                13.7
2016 $                   9.1 2.6 $           18.2 $                   9.1
2017 $                 12.7 2.6 $           18.2 $                   5.5
2018 $                 15.5 2.6 $           18.2 $                   2.7

Straight up, Smyly on his own has more projected surplus value than Price, but that's not really the way these trades work. A win now is worth more than a win later, so you really do need to get a lot more back when you trade away a star like David Price.

Nick Franklin - $73 million surplus value

Scouting Report

Franklin isn't going to play much in the major leagues this season, despite being ready or nearly ready, so his surplus value is all tied up in future seasons. He has five years of team control. For these projections, I used the Oliver multi-year projections, and stepped it down a touch for the year Oliver doesn't cover.

Year Salary Projection Value Surplus Value
2015 $         0.5 3.5 $       24.5 $                24.0
2016 $         0.5 3.6 $       25.2 $                24.7
2017 $       14.7 3.7 $       24.5 $                   9.8
2018 $       15.1 3.6 $       25.2 $                10.1
2019 $       19.6 3.5 $       24.5 $                   4.9

Willy Adames - $21 million surplus value?

Scouting Report

Adames is much more difficult to project. He's only 18, and this the first season he's been stateside. Still, it sounds like he's doing well and that scouts like what he's shown so far. Michael has also done some work on the surplus value of prospects, and I'm assigning this value off that. As you can see, I'm assuming Adames will appear on industry prospect lists, and calling him a young shortstop, ranked #75-100.


That's $198 million worth of surplus value coming back to the Rays. That's the top end of what we expected Price to bring back in the offseason, and it's coming from players who can contribute next year, when the Rays intend to be competitive once more. This allows them to take advantage of the longer-than-expected contracts they've given out to James Loney and Yunel Escobar. These aren't spectal wins that will arrive some time in the distant future (except for Adames's). These are real live wins to be enjoyed starting right now. And no, surplus value doesn't just get you the "Service Time Championship." It gives a team the flexibility to acquire or retain other good players because of the money they saved in on the cost-controlled contributors.

Of course Smyly, Franklin, and Adames could all bust. Any young player can. But Smyly is already a major league player, and Franklin is the next closest thing. They're lower risk than true prospects, and there's plenty of return. Andrew Friedman has done well. This is a good deal.