It’s a week of big decisions for almost every general manager in baseball. Ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline, front offices need to figure out exactly where their teams are in the playoff race and how much risk they’re willing to tolerate in the name of the race this year, versus selling talent. and recharging for the future. These types of dilemmas can end up having ripple effects on franchises for years (or even decades) to come – no pressure!
This year’s deadline is even more interesting than most. On the one hand, there’s the giant elephant in the room: Washington’s openness to trade 23-year-old right fielder Juan Soto, a once-in-a-generation hitter who would shake up World Series odds and command a huge comeback. of both prospects and MLB-ready talent. Then add another wrinkle: the change to MLB’s playoff format for this season, which adds two more playoff berths and offers a first-round bye to the top two seeds in each league. These two factors will fundamentally alter the calculations regarding each team’s willingness to stick or move forward.
While we can’t tell you where Soto is headed, we can offer our annual assessment of which teams should buy and sell at the deadline and by how much. For this we use what is called the Doyle number, which represents the number of future wins over six years above replacement that a team should be willing to distribute to improve their talent of a war this season. (That ratio — named after former Detroit Tigers pitcher Doyle Alexander, in honor of a fateful 1987 trade in which he featured prominently — is based on a combination of factors, such as Elo d a team, its playoff odds and its chances of winning the World Series.)
Generally speaking, top contenders have exorbitant Doyle numbers – meaning they should be pushing all-in to win right now – while non-competing teams are closer to zero, meaning no amount of WAR this season would only be worth adding at the expense of the future. Teams on the close between buy and sell have a Doyle around 1.00, so they might be better served by either tactic, depending on the offers available to them. According to Doyle, here are the top buyers — and sellers — of the 2022 trading market:
Sure enough, the World Series favorite Dodgers and Yankees have the highest Doyle numbers; in fact, both are above 2.00, implying that they should be willing to part with double future WAR to improve this year. But there are fewer clear buyers than in the past, as only seven teams have a Doyle value above 1.00, compared to nine teams that entered that ranking last season. Meanwhile, seven other clubs are stuck between a Doyle of 0.40 and 0.90, indicating a glut of teams for whom the best delay tactic isn’t entirely obvious.
A small field of potential buyers is not uncommon; for example, 2019 also only saw seven teams with a Doyle number above 1.00. But in this case, the new playoff format serves as a limiting factor. With more teams in the playoffs, the value of a borderline playoff campaign is increased…but the value of everything else is diminished. Here’s one element of the Doyle formula – odds of making the split streak based on regular season wins – and how we’ve changed it to account for the new format:
The effect is subtle, but the new format suggests it’s less likely teams that are good — with at least 90 wins, say — but not great will progress through the playoffs. This in turn lowers those teams’ Doyle numbers, as the prospect of reloading for next season and beyond looks better if your World Series odds this season look worse. After all, why would you waste good prospects on a season that has little chance of ending in a championship?
But that’s not to say any of these mid-tier teams wouldn’t (or should) buy if given the chance to add talent this year. Here are the clubs that Doyle thinks could potentially be delay buyers – meaning they should be willing to give up more future talent than the current talent they’re picking up – if they’re able to. add either a typical starter (worth 2 WAR), an All-Star caliber player (5 WAR) or an MVP level superstar (8 WAR):
|Crew||Launcher (2 WAR)||All-Star (5 WAR)||MVP (8 WAR)||Biggest weakness|
|blue jays||2.9||8.4||15.8||SS (17th)|
The Minnesota Twins, for example, probably shouldn’t be looking for small acquisitions – adding 2 WARS of talent to the 2022 deadline wouldn’t be worth giving up 2 WARS of prospects going forward. But their short-term and long-term expected championships would be roughly balanced if they added 5 current WARs of talent for every 5 future WARs of prospects, and they could break even by adding an 8-WAR talent even if they gave up 9.8 WAR of prospects in return. Even a team like the Phillies, with a 2% chance of winning the World Series and only a 25% chance of making the Divisional Series, could be justified in going big by the deadline if transportation improves its World Series chances enough. . (We all know of a right fielder who could fit that bill, though GM Dave Dombrowski has been careful to put those rumors to rest.)
What may surprise are the teams that are not on this list – including the Cardinals, White Sox, Guardians, Red Sox and Giants, as well as the upstart Orioles. While some of those clubs have decent playoff odds in the FiveThirtyEight predictions, only Chicago (34%) and St. Louis (27%) are even 20% likely to make the Division Series, and they are also the only members of this group. with any type of World Series odds. (The White Sox sit at 2%; the Cardinals are at 1%.) Given the low likelihood of this season turning into a championship for these teams, it’s likely that any future talent traded at the deadline will end up being for nothing. .
Again, ask the Atlanta Braves about their Doyle number last season. The algorithm gave Atlanta a base Doyle of 0.47 at the 2021 deadline, with no reasonable, balanced trade in WAR supporting the Braves as buyers. Of course, Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos bought anyway — and all he did was pull off one of the greatest trade deadline move streaks of all time, helping to trigger a World Series title. So it’s entirely possible to ignore Doyle’s advice and still have a good timeframe.
But unlikely races like Atlanta are special precisely because they are, well, unlikely. Doyle, meanwhile, is rooted only in cold odds — odds that have changed somewhat as part of MLB’s expanded playoff setup. Keep all of that in mind as you look at de Soto’s suitors and the rest of this year’s deals. A ton of big names on the block and an unusually large crop of teams that aren’t obvious buyers or sellers could be a recipe for a wild deadline, regardless of the recommended odds.
Discover our latest MLB Predictions.