Why Non-Tender Giles?

It’s no secret that the Braves don’t want Marcus Giles around anymore. You’d think it would be difficult to know this considering the team “never comments on potential player moves.” The team has been trying to move him since the season ended, and probably some before that. However, the team have not found any suitable deals. The word is that if the Braves can’t make a deal today, he will be non-tendered. This is interesting, because though Marcus Giles isn’t the world’s greatest second baseman, he’s an average major league hitter. This guy has value, so why doesn’t anyone want him?

In his four full seasons as the Braves starting second baseman, he’s posted OPS of .911, .821, .826, and .728. From those numbers, it looks like Giles is a low-.800 OPS player with a good year and a bad year. But, as I pointed out earlier this year, Giles has been one of the luckiest players in baseball. Here are his PrOPS by year and his difference from his actual OPS (OPS-PrOPS).

2003: .825, +.086
2004: .774, +.047
2005: .766, +.060
2006: .766, -.037

Now, it looks like Giles is a .770 OPS player, which is about the NL average. We knew 2003 was a fluke, but so were 2004 and 2005. But still, he has a good defensive reputation and he’s not embarrassing himself with his bat. What’s the deal?
It’s not that no one wants him, but that the Braves are in an awkward position. He’s entering his final year of arbitration and he projects to garner a salary of about $6 million. Because his stats have been over-measuring his true ability, he’s been getting bigger arbitration raises than he otherwise would have for the past two years. I estimate Giles dollar value to the Braves in 2006 to be $5.55 million (slightly more than Jeff Francoeur‘s value—where’s Marcus’s Delta commercial?). Using his PrOPS projection, he was expected to have generated about $5.9 million. This means that the projected $6 million he’ll likely get in arbitration is almost exactly what he is worth.

I think this explains what the Braves are having so much trouble moving him. Let’s pretend that Giles is a $10 million player. The team that acquires him will have to pay Giles $6 million. This means that a team wanting to acquire him would be willing to trade $4 million in assets to acquire Giles; and in return, the Braves would receive $10 million in return ($6 million freed up from not having to play Giles + $4 million in other assets). But, Giles’s value is equal to his salary. There is very little that a team would be willing give up beyond $6 million to get Giles—we’re talking a low-A weak prospect. Scott Linebrink was never an option. This is why the Braves can’t find any takers. When a player signed to an over-paying long-term contract a team will often have to pay part of the the traded player’s salary. But, in this case, the cash-strapped Braves can get his salary off the books by simply declining to offer him arbitration.

Any team that wants him will just wait until he hits the free agent market, which is exactly what will happen. San Diego can have Linebrink and Giles if they want to spend the money. I’m going to miss Marcus, because I liked watching him play. But Giles fans, don’t you worry, he will find a home very soon. And the reason that the Braves aren’t keeping him isn’t that he lacks value, but that the difference in his salary and his value is so small that it’s hard to find just the right deal. I expect he’ll sign a deal between $6-8 million in the very near future.

Update: Braves cut ties with Giles. (AP, AJC)

6 Responses “Why Non-Tender Giles?”

  1. Andrew says:

    4 yrs $30 million from the Mets maybe?

  2. Andrew says:

    But with that, wouldn’t offering Marcus arbitration (assume he gets $6 million), keeping him for they year, and getting two draft picks next off-season be a far better long term move? The move a)improves 2nd base for 2007, b)offers a large return when Marcus finally leaves. And if JS finds a suitor before July, then all the better.

  3. Herb Urban says:

    This is rather depressing. Maybe Marcus’ 2003 season was an aberration, but then so would be his minor league numbers it would follow.

    Maybe he will never be the constant .300/20/80 2B with 45 doubles and a .850ish OPS, but I have to believe he is young enough to have another 2-3 seasons like that in him. Is $6 million to retain his rights for 2007 that steep a price? What is that, a third of a Mike Hampton?

    Lack of poor planning has really cost the Braves. Furcal walked. Andruw could well follow. Marcus could be non tendered today. Andy Marte was dealt for an overpriced Edgar Renteria. Just how are the Braves better in either the short or long term by these series of moves and non moves?

  4. Marc says:

    JC,

    That was a very elegant explanation of Giles lack of value but, with all due respect, I doubt that the Braves and other teams (perhaps the A’s) are considering PrOPS and whether he has been lucky. They are just seeing a guy whose stats have declined over the last few years and who is going to make a ton of money in arbitration. I’m not sure you really have to get more complicated than that. I understand that economists like to use game theory and so forth to model economic behavior, but it seems to me that, at least with respect to baseball, it’s an overly rational model. It seems to assume that people are inherently rational actors, even if subconsciously, and will accurately assess their options.

  5. JC says:

    Well, I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that any MLB team uses PrOPS. I’d be flattered if they did. :-) I assume that they have access to superior metrics (quantitative and qualitative) to reach the conclusion that Giles has been over-performing. Maybe , in fact, they’re assessments disagree with mine. I’m just trying to demonstrate how I can rationalize the deal with the best information that I have.

    I think the threshold of rationality that I’ve put forth–that teams prefer better players to worse players and prefer to pay them less than more–is pretty basic and realistic. Models based on these simple assumptions predict very well, and I see no reason to deviate.

  6. Jason says:

    The word on the street is that Schuerholz has been ordered to cut $10 million from the payroll before next season. Not making an offer to Giles and Reitsma goes a long way towards meeting that sad goal.

    Get used to it Braves fans. This is only the beginning. At this point I’m starting to suspect that teams know that the Braves will not attempt to re-sign Andruw Jones, so Schuerholz is probably not getting anything but joke offers for a trade. I now think that Andruw will play in Atlanta by default in 2007. Given that Hudson is coming to the end of his contract (is 2007 his last year?) and based on market conditions he is seriously underpaid, things look bleaker and bleaker for the Braves. I predict continually salary cuts each year, declining attendance, and declining results in the standings. They may have enough to play .500 ball in 2007, but by 2008 they’ll be doing good if they can avoid last place.