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. (…)

(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.

(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.

(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.