Don’t Just Sell…Sell HIGH!
by Mike Salk
As you know, I’ve spent the past few years covering the Red Sox. Please don’t stop reading because of that fact. But in each of those years, the July 31st Trade Deadline has always meant one thing to me: buying. The Red Sox have been buyers for years. And so every year their fans work themselves into a frenzy wondering who the team will acquire at the deadline.
This year, the situation is Seattle is obviously more complex than that. New GM, minor league system nearly bereft of talent, a bunch of impending free agent veterans that are playing well, and a division that has allowed a .500 Mariners team to stick around long enough to think they have a chance. Add it all up, and you have a nearly endless debate over whether this team should buy or sell by July 31st.
So, here’s where I stand. And I promise, I was barely influenced by the sweep in Colorado over the weekend.
I don’t think the Mariners are legitimate buyers. I think they are close to being in a position to buy because of the week division and because the pitching on this team is top notch. But I don’t think they have the bats and I don’t think they are just one or two trades away either. Even more, I don’t think the farm system is capable of sustaining what trades would need to be made as buyers.
Furthermore, I don’t think “doing nothing” is the right move either. My philosophy is that teams should always buy or sell at the deadline unless they have a young nucleus that is a year away from contending. And this team does not have that young nucleus.
But simply hanging a “For Sale” sign on this team doesn’t seem quite right either.
So here’s what I think. Don’t just sell…sell high.
We all know that the goal in business, real estate or playing the market is to buy low and sell high. And in sports, it’s easy to do the former. When you buy low, you are taking very little risk. It’s easy to sign a Russell Branyan or trade for a David Aardsma. If it doesn’t work out…no big deal.
But selling high? That’s a lot tougher. That means trading away a player that is playing well. Often it means trading a key component to whatever success your team is having. Selling high can hurt – but it can also bring great rewards.
So are the Mariners in a position to sell high?
I think so. For a couple of reasons.
Value is decided in a couple of ways. Yes, supply and demand plays a major role, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to control it. If you own a house, you can remake the kitchen with premium appliances and Brazilian Cherry Wood floors. You can retile the bathroom and paint the exterior. You can do everything they tell you on HGTV’s makeover shows.
In baseball terms: you can play well. You can have your hitters hit and your pitchers pitch. They can raise their perceived value by playing at or above their potential.
It’s obviously a lot tougher to control this. In real estate, it’s the number of people looking for houses or the number of people who can secure loans or the value of other houses recently sold in your neighborhood.
Back to baseball: it’s the number of teams looking to buy at the deadline and the number of teams looking to sell. Pretty simple.
So with that in mind, let’s look at the M’s.
Internally, the players have been doing their job. Erik Bedard, Jared Washburn, and Branyan are all exceeding expectations. All could be wanted men at the deadline (provided they stay healthy). Obviously, Bedard’s shoulder and Washburn’s back are concerns, but for now let’s assume they are minor. So, internally, the value of their assets is VERY high.
Externally, it’s more complicated. On one hand, harsh economic realities are forcing teams to over-value their young players who (not coincidently) are much cheaper than veterans. So teams aren’t exactly lining up to give up prospects for expensive rentals.
But, consider this: Only 6 teams in the league are more than 6 games out of their division leads. And that doesn’t even consider the wild card! In short, lots of teams are going to at least consider making a run at a pennant. And of the last 10 games are any indication, very few teams are pulling away. Only three teams in the whole league won more than six of their last 10. Talk about mediocrity!
Even more importantly though is this adage: it only takes one.
As in, it only takes one team to want (or need) your asset to make it good sale.
Consider our real estate example. You own a house that you have worked hard to improve. Top of the line everything! You think it’s now worth $3 million even though the market tells you it’s only worth $2.3 million. But maybe Microsoft has just hired a new executive who is moving to Seattle from Silicon Valley and he has a $3 million budget for a house. Even more, he doesn’t have a ton of time to look around. If he sees yours first, you get the sale. At your price. Even if their are $3.5 million homes that have fallen into his price range, he may just prefer your design. You can sell high even in a down market.
So what should the Mariners do?
Obviously that answer depends on the specific offers that are made. But the goal should be to sell high. Even if that is a tough sell to the fans.
What do you think? Comment below and I’ll try to answer any questions or arguments. Talk to you at 11:00!
In the meantime, Dave Cameron from USS Mariner believes the team can buy and sell at the same time. I’m not really buying it, but Dave is smart and he makes some great points. If the trade he proposes could be made, I think I would support it. He joined me for a good, old-fashioned debate today.
Also, talked to Will Carroll from Baseball Prospectus. He was awesome as usual. Check it out.