Baseball Trade Commentary Made Simple

Being a baseball fan isn’t as easy as it used to be.  Thanks to the internet, comments like “Yay, team!” will expose one to merciless ridicule from those who adjudge their leisure time best spent poring over exacting statistical measures of players’ abilities.

As a service to the casual fan who aspires to participate fully in the world of sports blogs and message boards, I offer the following simple guide to one particularly treacherous realm of baseball commentary, proposed player trades.


Vih = gross value of player i to the home team (in dollars)

Vic = value of player i to his current team (in dollars)

Sic = salary paid to player i by his current team

Sih = salary that would be paid to player i (plus any further payments to player’s current team) by the home team if trade is made with the home team

Vjh = value of player j to the home team when player j is the specified alternative to player i (player j may be the current home-team player at that position, the top prospect in the home team’s minor-league system at that position, or any player on any other team other than player i)

with all other variables for player j defined analogously to those for player i.

The classic trade proposal can now be expressed in compact form as follows, with the standard corresponding objections:

Proposal: The home team should trade Player j to Team C for Player i, because Vih>Vjh and Vjc>Vjh.


(a) Team C would never make that trade, because Vic > Vjc.

(b)  Age-related decline means that within two years Vih<Vjh.  (Variant:  My new defensive metric shows that Vih<Vjh right now.)

(c)  Of course Vih>Vjh, but (Vih – Sih) < (Vjh – Sjh), so this trade doesn’t make sense financially.

(d)  Let k = New York Yankees.  Then although it is true that Vih>Vjh, and it is also true that Vjc>Vic, this trade is not going to happen because Sik>Sih.

(e)  Team C knows the true value of player i better than we do, so if Team C is willing to make that trade then it must be the case that Vic<Sic, so the home team should not make the trade.

(f)  The home team’s General Manager has much better information than any of us, so if it were really true that (Vih-Sih) > (Vjh-Sjh) and (Vic-Sic) < (Vjc-Sjc) and Sih>Sik>Sic he would have already made this trade.

(g)  Player i doesn’t play up to his potetial.

(h)  Weren’t you also in favor of signing Julio Lugo?

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