Sunday, August 4, 2013

By Robert Cunningham, Contributor - 

As saber metrics have become more prominent throughout Major League Baseball, the term “replacement level player” has become a part of the baseball vernacular.

The term applies to a generic “average” player that most teams could call up or trade for at any time to provide a neutral value in comparison to other players.

Wins Above Replacement, otherwise known as WAR, is a fairly comprehensive value that tries to value players above or below this generic, average player. The generic player typically has a value of zero WAR that is used as the baseline (however this isn't usually the case in reality).

FanGraphs also defines a replacement level player as a player who costs no marginal resources to acquire. This fits into the overall discussion of what a replacement player is.

This leads to the following blind, side-by-side player comparison (projected out to 600 at-bats):

Player B seems like the preferred choice, right? So who are these masked men?

Player A is Alberto Callaspo and Player B is Chris Nelson.

Callaspo was owed a little over $1.5 million for 2013 and $4.8 million for 2014. Nelson will become arbitration eligible in 2014 and a free agent after the 2017 season. He is making $491,000 this season (and the Angels paid about 80% of that this year).

Through a simple waiver pick up back in May, Jerry Dipoto has built some incremental value for the team by trading away a resource that was easily replaced.

Chris Nelson is a very similar player to Alberto Callaspo but with a bit more pop and speed minus some of the defense. Nelson also strikes out more than Callaspo but in the end they are similar in total value.

Although we have sacrificed one area (defense) for another (offense) Dipoto has effectively saved the team money for next season with this move.

Oh and did we forget to mention the really nifty prospect that was acquired in the form of Grant Green? If Green were to take over third base next season could Nelson be moved in trade as well before August waivers end? In other words is Nelson being showcased?

As fans we get far more excited by the big moves a team makes than the little ones. Sometimes these moves have an immediate impact and sometimes it takes years to see good results.

However, it is the little moves that sometimes create the biggest impact over time and this trade will likely turn out to be a very solid move by Jerry Dipoto and the front office. If you consider the facts that we saved money, replaced Callaspo with a replacement level player, and acquired a solid prospect, it is hard to argue against it being a smart move.

Perhaps this will go a ways towards helping to quell some of the talk about Jerry Dipoto being a replacement level General Manager.

Love to hear what you think!

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