Ramon Santiago vs. the Shortstop Trade Candidates

It seems that everyone is looking for the Tigers to make a deal to acquire a shortstop at the trade deadline this season. Arizona’s Stephen Drew may be the top target, as Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports. But is Drew the best candidate? Who, of the available shortstops, would add the most value to this year’s Tigers team?

In order to answer this question, I set out to find who the available shortstops might be. I started with all players who have accumulated 150 plate appearances, and played 200 innings at shortstop this season. I then trimmed out the guys on contending teams (like Jose Reyes), as well as a few “untouchable” type players (like Starlin Castro). I left in Hanley Ramirez as a baseline, and Yunel Escobar, because I’ve heard his name mentioned in Tigers trade talks (chances of getting Escobar are probably very low).

The first thing I wanted to do was to see how many more wins or losses each player would add based on the current year’s stats. My starting point for this was Fangraphs’ WAR (wins above replacement) statistic. I took the WAR numbers and divided it by each player’s plate appearance total so that all players started on a level playing field. I then multiplied this WAR/PA number by 300 (the approximate number of plate appearances remaining for a Tiger shortstop) and subtracted Ramon Santiago’s value. What I got was an estimate for the number of wins (or losses) each player would add to the Tigers for the remainder of the season, relative to Santiago. The results are in the table below. (…)

Hanley Ramirez 0.3 3.1
Ramon Santiago 0.0 0.0
Alex Gonzalez 0.0 -0.1
Cliff Pennington -0.2 -2.0
Stephen Drew -0.3 -3.5
Juan Uribe -0.5 -5.3
Yunel Escobar -0.8 -7.9
Josh Wilson -1.3 -13.4
Ronny Cedeno -2.0 -20.4
Ryan Theriot -2.3 -22.6
Jason Bartlett -2.3 -23.0
Yuniesky Betancourt -2.5 -24.8
Cesar Izturis -2.7 -26.8
Tommy Manzella -3.6 -36.0

(based on current year data, relative to Ramon Santiago)

The results surprised me. I figured Ramon would stack up well, but none of the available players would add any value over him, and Hanley Ramirez wouldn’t even add a full win. But these results are only based on this season, and trying to determine true talent level from only a half year is insane, so I tried another idea.

For my second attempt, I took offensive and defensive data from the last three full years, plus this season (2007-2010). Using wOBA and UZR (at shortstop), I was able to calculate offensive and defensive (run) values for each player (they’re beautiful metrics). I based my calculations on 300 plate appearances and 585 innings (65 games). Some simple addition lumped the defensive and offensive numbers together, and I was able to develop a table similar to the one above, but this time using 2007-2010 data.

Hanley Ramirez 1.3 13.2
Yunel Escobar 0.2 2.2
Ramon Santiago 0.0 0.0
Jason Bartlett -0.2 -2.1
Alex Gonzalez -0.3 -2.9
Ryan Theriot -0.6 -5.7
Stephen Drew -0.7 -6.7
Cliff Pennington -0.8 -8.0
Juan Uribe -0.8 -8.1
Cesar Izturis -1.3 -13.4
Ronny Cedeno -1.7 -17.3
Yuniesky Betancourt -1.8 -17.7
Josh Wilson -1.8 -18.4
Tommy Manzella -3.0 -29.8

(based on 2007-2010 data, relative to Ramon Santiago)

Again, the results are surprising. Only Yunel Escobar made the jump from below Ramon to above him (a whopping 0.2 wins), and I’ve already expressed my doubts to his availability. Again, none of the names we often hear thrown around are above Santiago in value.

But I didn’t want to give up here. I decided that a projection system might to better to estimate future offensive production than our data so far has. ZiPS projection data was readily available to me (thanks again Fangraphs) so I decided on that. I used the expected wOBA, as projected by ZiPS, and combined it with the 2007-2010 UZR (ZiPS is offense only) to generate a third table. This table would project the value of each player for the remainder of the season, and again, it’s relative to Ramon Santiago.

Hanley Ramirez 1.9 18.8
Yunel Escobar 0.6 5.9
Stephen Drew 0.2 2.2
Juan Uribe 0.2 1.8
Ryan Theriot 0.0 0.5
Jason Bartlett 0.0 0.0
Ramon Santiago 0.0 0.0
Alex Gonzalez 0.0 -0.2
Cliff Pennington -0.4 -4.0
Ronny Cedeno -0.6 -6.4
Cesar Izturis -0.8 -7.8
Yuniesky Betancourt -1.1 -10.8
Josh Wilson -1.1 -11.4
Tommy Manzella -1.4 -14.1

(based on ZiPS projections and 2007-2010 UZR data, relative to Ramon Santiago)

Here we see a little more movement. Stephen Drew, Juan Uribe, and Ryan Theriot all move ahead of Santiago, but none add even a quarter of a win. Not even Yunel Escobar would be all that appealing to me at the deadline.

So what’s the takeaway? Maybe shortstop isn’t a position that the Tigers should address at the deadline. A guy like Stephen Drew would add youth, and he has a brighter future than Ramon Santiago does, but the trade deadline would not be the correct time to make a move for him. He likely won’t add much value over Santiago for the rest of the season, and he’d fetch a much lower price at the winter meetings. Trade deadline deals are very expensive, so it’s not the right time to “buy” for the future.

It’s also important not to underestimate the value of good defense. Many of the guys listed in the tables are better hitters, but Ramon is top-notch with the glove. A run saved on defense is just as valuable as a run created on offense.

And by all means, let me know (with a comment below) if I left out your favorite shortstop trade target. I’ll see if I can run the numbers on him to see how he stacks up.

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Tags: Ramon Santiago Trade Deadline

  • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

    Matt- This works only if Santiago truly is the Tigers starting shortstop. Based on the past 24 games (since Everett was DFA’d)that just isn’t the case. Santiago has started 13 games at short since then and Worth has started 11 games at short. What do the numbers look like if we combine the relative values that Santiago and Worth bring to the position?

    I don’t think it’s a fair comparison made with the other players if we are assuming Santiago will be starting virtually everyday, since recent history says he will not.

    I’m guessing here, but I assume that adding Worth’s value to the equation would make many of those potential targets much more appealing.

    • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

      John, I guess the idea was to compare Ramon playing everyday to the other guys playing everyday (all the numbers are scaled to plate appearances and innings). We shouldn’t trade for a player just because Leyland (wrongly) insists that Ramon isn’t good enough to play everyday, he is good enough!

      I guess, then, it also shows that playing Ramon everyday would be just as good as trading for a guy like Drew and playing him everyday, but it wouldn’t waste prospects.

      The only added value you’d get in a trade would be the ability to play Santiago instead of Worth on the off day, but if you traded for a “true” starting shortstop, there wouldn’t be many off days.

    • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

      There’s no 2007-2010 history or ZiPS for Worth, but I can include him in the current year table. Simply playing Worth everyday would be -2.1 wins (relative to Santiago), and the 13/11 split we’ve seen would be -1.0 wins.

      So keeping the split will cost the team one win for the remainer of the season. Stephen Drew, for example, would be 0.7 wins better than the current Santiago/Worth platoon (based on the current season’s stats.)

      Again, I think the best option would be to give Santiago the Lion’s share of the playing time, and not make a trade.

    • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

      I went back and also forced Worth’s season numbers into the 2007-2010 table. The platoon becomes 1.5 wins worse than Santiago, and Drew becomes 0.8 wins better than the platoon.

      Putting Worth’s season in with Santiago’s ZiPS numbers puts the platoon 1.2 worse than Santiago. Drew becomes 1.4 wins better than the platoon.

      This split does make the trade candidates look better, but either way, just playing Santiago the vast majority of the time will likely reach the same end (and it’s much cheaper)!

  • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

    That’s sort of what I expected. The problem now become convincing Leyland to play Santiago everyday. He has been steadfastly against the idea ever since the Tigers let Renteria walk after 2008. I really can’t see him changing his tune now.

    So really, fans are left to hope for a trade that will cost them prospects (and salary) just so Leyland isn’t tempted to undermine his own team’s chances of winning.

    Sounds like the manager, not the shortstop, is the problem here.

    • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

      Yeah, it’s turned into conventional (un)wisdom vs. actual performance. But even considering the platoon, is it worth trading any good prospects to gain one more win this season?

      • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

        It would have been worth it last year…

      • mike

        SMART WINS Matt and Leland has made a lot of unwise and less smart moves. he does not manage pitching well and does not adjust line-ups well. He lets the players “think
        too much” get them to use the natural talent and play not think. Thinking is for those times in a game when thinking is required-
        knowing which base to go to, making a pitcher who is iffy on control throw more pitches etc. Thinking on a reaction play-
        gets people caught in between. i do like Leland…i have outguessed him 7-1 on pitching moves over the last 3 years–i think that is a pretty good record- and that like you assumes that the players do the average or typical.

  • Bob

    Since last years’ disastrous late season trades, I no longer trust DD to make good deadline deals, I can’t think of a better scenario than letting Santiago & Worth share the shortstop job for the remainder of the year. I simply don’t see the need to do anything at that position. Santiago is a solid but unspectacular player and I would hate to see them give up on Worth so soon. I’m with Matt on this one. Let’s keep the status quo and see where it leads us.

    • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

      I’m hard pressed to blame DD for Huff and Washburn’s complete lack of production. Huff seemed especially terrible, and there’s no way anyone could have predicted that (he’s having a nice year this year).

      And I wouldn’t recommend the current split. I’d limit the playing time of Worth, and give Ramon a bigger share.

      • Bob

        I do blame DD. He made the trades and they were both hideous. He gets the credit when a trade works out well and takes the heat when they fail. That’s the nature of the job. That’s why they pay him the big bucks.

        • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

          I agree Bob, that’s part of the job.

          When Randy Smith shot for the moon and traded for Juan Gonzalez, I knew it was a make or break type deal for Smith. If it had worked out, and Gonzalez hadn’t sucked and left town as soon as he could, Smith might still be in charge today with some club, if not Detroit.

          That it didn’t work set the organization back a few years and probably cost Smith future opportunities himself.

          That’s the nature of running a team; if the trade works, you’re a genius, if it doesn’t, you’re an idiot.

          • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

            I would still trade for Aubrey Huff every time in that situation. He’s a career .348 wOBA hitter, and he hit .257 as a Tiger (the difference in those numbers alone is 10 runs, or 1 win). That’s not Dave’s fault, that’s Aubrey’s fault.

          • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

            Washburn was top five in league ERA at the time of the trade.

            Some trades work, some don’t.

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