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The Braves "Won" the "Melky Cabrera Trade"

Let's start off by explaining the sarcastiquotes in the title. The quotes around "Won" are kind of obvious, since neither the Braves nor the Yankees have gotten much value from last winter's blockbuster trade that sent Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to New York and Melky Cabrera, Michael Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino to Atlanta. So far, you'd obviously have to call both teams "losers," though I think it's pretty clear that the Braves' end of the deal has been relatively less bad than the Yankees' end.

As for the quotes around "Melky Cabrera Trade," that's because I'm sick of mainstream commentators (even the Braves' own announcers) characterizing Cabrera as the centerpiece of the deal. I understand that he was the only piece on our end that started in the big leagues, but anyone with even the slightest knowledge of prospect evaluation can tell that, from the Braves' perspective, the trade was all about acquiring Vizcaino. And saving money, of course.

It is probably too early to really judge this trade; we still have no idea what kind of value the Braves will get from Vizcaino, and Dunn looks to be a cheap, helpful bullpen arm for the next few years as well. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for Boone Logan and the Yankees. We can, however, safely close the book on Melky's time in Atlanta (now that the Braves have released him) and Vazquez's time in New York (since there's no way they offer him arbitration).

The full breakdown is after the jump.

So let's perform a cost analysis for where this deal stands at this point, keeping in mind that if Vizcaino amounts to anything, the trade will only look better for the Braves. All dollar values are based on the WAR statistics from Baseball Reference (BR) and FanGraphs (FG). This season, 1 WAR was worth about $4.1 million on the free-agent market. I got salary data from the amazing Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Just as a disclaimer, yes, I know that many people are skeptical of WAR. But in this case, anyway, the traditional statistics tell basically the same story (just with less precision): Vazquez and Melky sucked in fairly big roles, while Dunn and Logan were pretty good in smaller roles. Feel free to chime in if you disagree with the numbers.


$3.1M salary
Worth between $-4.9M (FG) and $-1.6M (BR)--yes, those are negative dollar values.
Underperformed by $4.7M to $8.0M.

~$0.15M salary (pro-rated MLB minimum)
Worth between $0.5M (FG) and $1.6M (BR).
Overperformed by $0.3M to $1.4M.

The Braves received $0.5M from the Yankees in the trade (not to mention Vizcaino).

Total So Far
The Braves side of the trade is underperforming by $2.8M to $7.2M; Dunn and Vizcaino are still pre-arbitration.



$11.5M salary
Worth between $-0.8M (FG) and $0.0M (BR).
Underperformed by $11.5M to $12.3M.

$0.59M salary
Worth between $1.5M (FG) and $3.7M (BR).
Overperformed by $0.9M to $3.1M.

Total So Far
The Yankees side of the trade is underperforming by $8.4M to $11.4M; Logan is a second-year arbitration case.


Putting that all together, the Braves have lost less value from the trade so far. They also have the better and cheaper remaining assets. Basically, in order for the Yankees to get the better value from this trade, Logan will have to be a much better value going forward than Dunn and Vizcaino combined. Which seems pretty darn unlikely if you ask me, especially since Logan is due a raise in arbitration this year (if the Yankees even offer him arbitration).

None of this is to argue that this trade was necessarily the best one Frank Wren could have made. I do think it is very likely that he didn't have any clearly better offers, but the only ones who can say for sure are Wren and the other GMs that he was in discussions with. Obviously we all would have preferred if Wren could have gotten a top prospect like Vizcaino and immediate help for the major league club in exchange for Vazquez, but not every trade can be a knockout victory. Sometimes you have to settle for mediocrity now and hope for the future.

As I mentioned at the top, this trade from the Braves' perspective was all about getting Arodys Vizcaino and saving money. It certainly appears that the money aspect of the equation is working out in the Braves' favor (or at least, it's not hurting them as much as it hurt the Yankees). If Vizcaino turns into a quality big-leaguer, Braves fans will forget all about Melky Cabrera's antics, and this trade will go from "relatively less bad" to "actually pretty good."

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