Trade valuations for Oakland A's left-handed relief pitching targets

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I like to play around with formulas to determine trade values for both established major leaguers and prospects. Although I don’t have access to inside information or understand what models actual teams are using, so far I’ve found that the models I use largely conform with reality. For background, I use the model described here, and for WAR purposes I average out bWAR, fWAR, and fWAR + WPA, which I've found aligns well with actual reliever trades.

Some AN commenters have asked that I compile a list of A’s pitching targets to see what the price would be to acquire them. Part one was for starting pitchers. This is part two.

In the table below, I start with their fair value, which means that if supply and demand were balanced, that would be their price. But at the summer trading deadline, supply and demand are usually out of balance for pitchers. The good news is that it’s not quite as bad for relievers – there are a lot of them, so the premiums will likely not be as high as for starters (with some exceptions).

Here’s the table for left-handed relief pitchers:


Fair Value ($M)

With 50% Premium

With 100% Premium









































The first observation is that Vasquez and Garrett are valued much higher than the others because they both come with multiple years of control. In Vasquez’s case, he signed a very team-friendly deal and he’s coupled that with All-Star level performance – always a good combination. In Garrett’s case, he’s controllable through 2023, and at league-minimum salary through 2020, plus you have to figure he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. That’s a powerful combination as well.

I’ve added Minor here because, even though the Rangers have been using him as a starter, I suspect an acquiring team would want to use him in the bullpen, where he was lights-out last year with the Royals. Most of his value comes from that.

Avilan is an above-average LOOGY with one more year of control after this one. Conley is a failed starter whose stuff is playing up now as a reliever, which bodes well for him, so there may be more upside in that role.

Britton is a challenge because of SSS this year, but even when giving him the benefit of the doubt, he hasn’t been as impressive as his reputation, plus he’s a rental, so his value is low. I do think he’ll go for the max premium, though, given all the teams interested in him.

Diekman is meh. Liriano has been mostly a starter, but he’s terrific against lefty hitters, so he should be used strictly as a LOOGY. Duke is okay but underwater valuation-wise because his numbers aren’t great and he’s a rental. And Blevins is having a terrible year and can’t even get lefties out. I think he’s done.

Now let’s look at prospect valuations, to see what the A’s would theoretically pay in prospect capital. I arrive at these using two systems – the one described by Fangraphs here; and the one by TPOP here, which relies on BA rankings. They mostly align, but where there’s a gap I simply average the two. You’ll note that I am not including premiums here, because for pitchers, this is a seller’s market, which means the price for the veteran may be inflated, but not the prospect – otherwise they'd cancel out.

Prospect Value ($M)
Luzardo: 40
Barreto: 31
Puk: 27
Murphy: 22
Mateo: 20
Armenteros: 17
Beck: 15
Kaprielian: 11
Neuse: 11
Martin: 11
White: 10
Jefferies: 10
Allen: 10
Holmes: 10
Deichmann: 10
Laureano: 10
Ramirez: 8
Campos: 8
Howard: 8
Shore: 8
Merrell: 8
Dunshee: 7
Brito: 7
Marks: 7
Vargas: 6
All others: 5 or below

Once again, you can see a similar pattern here as the pitcher table above – the top end is disproportionately more valuable than the middle and low ends. That’s because studies have shown that a higher quality prospect has a much better chance at both making the big leagues and being a productive player once they get there. It’s a bell-curve thing. That means that Luzardo alone is more valuable than the combination of Kaprielian, Holmes, Jefferies and Shore. This is a very important point.

Now let’s put these together to see if we can package up some trades. In other words, here’s what it would take to get each LHRP. We’ll also keep in mind the needs of the selling team and the supply/demand forces for each:


  • Premium required: 100%
  • Value with 100% premium: $78M
  • Pirates’ needs: P, C, OF, IF
  • Package: Barreto, Puk, Mateo
  • I don’t see any way the Pirates are trading Vasquez without requiring a 100% premium, because they’re not out of the hunt this year, he’s an All-Star, and they can foresee being competitive again while they still have Vasquez under contract (through 2021). So this package is way too rich for my blood.


  • Premium required: 50%
  • Value with 50% premium: $42M
  • Reds’ needs: P, OF, IF
  • Package: Mateo, White, Jefferies, lottery ticket
  • As with Vasquez, I don’t see the Reds trading Garrett without an overpay, but here I think it would be a more reasonable 50% because he’s only just converted to relief, and he hasn’t yet been able to consistently get out lefty hitters. This package is still too rich for me, though, as I think we have better alternatives that wouldn’t require us to part with so much talent.


  • Premium required: 10%
  • Value with 10% premium: $11M
  • Rangers’ needs: P, OF, IF, C
  • Package: Neuse
  • I love this one. Minor was lights-out as a lefty reliever last year for the Royals (.236 xwOBA, career-high WPA of 1.97, and a ridiculous .431 OPS allowed vs. lefties). But he signed with the Rangers with the intention of being a starter, and in that role he’s been… okay (4.56 ERA, 4.58 FIP, compared to 2.55 and 3.59 as a reliever last year). The bad news is his that he’s on a relatively expensive contract: he’s owed $9.8M per year through 2020. I’d prefer to see the A’s just take that on, so all we’d have to give up is Neuse, who can be Beltre’s replacement.


  • Premium required: 25%
  • Value with 25% premium: $6M
  • Sox' needs: P, OF, IF, C
  • Package: Vargas or two lottery tickets
  • Avilan is a perfectly sensible choice for the A’s. He’s consistently good against lefty hitters, but isn’t so good that he’s expensive, either in prospect cost or salary, and he’s under control through 2019. I’d do this one.


  • Premium required: 25%
  • Value with 25% premium: $5M
  • Marlins’ needs: P, OF, IF, C
  • Package: Two lottery tickets
  • I love this one too. After failing as a starter, Conley’s stuff has been playing up out of the bullpen and he’s been terrific against lefty hitters, who, against him, are slashing .171/.245/.293/.538. SSS warning, though: he’s only pitched 26 innings at the MLB level so far this year, he’s relatively new to relieving, and wasn’t great at AAA earlier this year. Hey, that’s why he’s a value play.


  • Premium required: 100%
  • Value with 100% premium: $5M
  • Orioles’ needs: P, OF, IF
  • Package: Two lottery tickets
  • I’m not totally sold that Britton is back. I think he’s being rushed, and he took a pretty severe dip in effectiveness last year, which hasn’t changed yet. And multiple teams are bidding for him, thinking he’ll return to his old self. That will double the price, at least. Someone will give up more than even this premium for him, but I wouldn't, as I think he's overhyped. I’d do it for this cost, though not more.


  • Premium required: 25%
  • Value with 25% premium: $0.4M
  • Rangers’ needs: P, OF, IF, C
  • Package: One lottery ticket
  • The Rangers are motivated sellers. He’s a passable rental. He’s basically free for taking on the $1M+ left on his salary, so why not?


  • Premium required: 0%
  • Value with 0% premium: $-1.3M
  • Tigers’ needs: OF, IF, C
  • Package: Salary relief, maybe one lottery ticket
  • Liriano is underwater relative to his contract, so he too is effectively free. Last year the Astros traded for him (giving away too much) with the idea of using him out of the ‘pen, as he has always been effective against lefty hitters (and this year is no exception: lefties are batting a ridiculously low .117/.221/.217/437 against him – and that’s as a starter, so it’s conceivable he could be even better, if that’s possible, as a reliever). All we’d have to do is take on the remainder of his contract through this year (less than $2M). I’d do it in a nanosecond.


  • Premium required: 0%
  • Value with 0% premium: $-1.7M
  • Twins’ needs: P, OF, IF, C
  • Package: Salary relief, maybe one lottery ticket.
  • Duke is a rental on his last legs. He’s been effective against lefties this year (.572 OPS allowed), but I don’t like his WPA (-.83). He’s free for taking on his low salary (about $1M left), but I prefer others.


  • Premium required: 0%
  • Value with 0% premium: $-2.9M
  • Mets’ needs: IF, OF, C
  • Package: Salary relief, maybe one lottery ticket.
  • I’m a hard pass on this one. Jerry’s done. Even if the Mets ate his salary, I don’t think there’s enough baseball value here to justify it.

Alternatively, we could either convert Brett Anderson to a reliever or roll with just Buchter and either Coulombe or Bleich.

Either way, be sure to check out Trade Valuations for Starting Pitching Targets as well. And let me know what you think about this one in the comments. Now here's a poll: