The Numbers Game: Cardinals’ cost per WAR scenarios if they sign Oswalt

Each Wednesday, I’ll look at St. Louis Cardinals news from a sabermetric viewpoint. The column is titled The Numbers Game. I’ll review anything from translating traditional statistics through the microscope of today’s statistics, to WAR calculations, win probabilities and the increasing spectrum of sabermetrics. I realize that sabermetrics is not mainstream…yet. With this in mind, I will do my best to purely use the numbers to explain either a trend or explain my point of view on a subject. Don’t worry, we won’t be reviewing calculations.

Sep 07, 2011; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt (44) delivers to the plate during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Braves 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The rumor mill surrounding Roy Oswalt has slowed down since he was packing his bags for St. Louis this past Friday. Oswalt has since visited with the Texas Rangers on Monday. As of this morning the only word we received from the meeting was it was “good”. Bringing Oswalt into the Cardinal rotation is viewed by many as a good move for depth and because it provides a boost over Jake Westbrook, the suspected pitcher to lose innings with Oswalt on board. The Cardinals have also been looking for a trade partner for Kyle McClellan. With Oswalt reportedly looking for $10 million, McClellan’s $2.5 million salary removed was perceived to balance what the Cardinals could afford to pay Oswalt.

In a vacuum and assuming Oswalt is going to be healthy (a big assumption), which of the following players would you want?

On its face, signing Oswalt looks like the right move. A healthy Oswalt is obviously a firm upgrade over either Westbrook or Kyle Lohse. We thought the Cardinals had $7.5 million left in their budget to spend for 2012, so why not go for it? But, today Ken Rosenthal writes that $10 million, even with moving McClellan, could be too much for the Cardinals. Rosenthal states Oswalt may not have much leverage, especially if he continues to assert he will only pitch in either St. Louis or Texas, where each team has a full rotation set already. I won’t dwell on Oswalt’s leverage or lack thereof right now. I’d like to visit the financial aspects of the prospective moves.

I’ve been in favor of signing Oswalt since it was announced he would settle for a one year contract back in late December. I even suggested offers would be around $10 million. If we look at signing Oswalt and the subsequent move of trading McClellan from a cost per WAR scenario, are the Cardinals really gaining anything by this move?

These are estimations for Oswalt, McClellan and Westbrook (as a starter with 183 IP), pulled from Bill James’ projections found on FanGraphs. I simply used the same number of innings for Westbrook in the reliever role as was projected for McClellan who Westbrook essentially replaces. Westbrook’s stats as a reliever are proportionate to the number of innings pitched as a starter. Easy enough.

We can see by these projections that for $7.5 million more in salary the Cardinals would gain only 0.7 WAR. We further see that the cost of 1 win is $1.367 million more than currently constructed. This is not financially responsible and this could be the Cardinals’ hang up. They cannot simply look at the transactions as getting rid of McClellan to make room for Oswalt. The move is adding Oswalt, trading McClellan and transferring Westbrook into the role of reliever and spot starter at a robust $8.5 million for the season.

One thing to consider is maybe, and this is a big maybe, the Cardinals can figure out a way to trade Westbrook instead of McClellan. Westbrook of course, would have to waive his no trade clause. One thing works to the Cardinals’ advantage. Westbrook is going to be a free agent after the 2013 season. He could lose a good chunk of value in the open market if he throws just over 100 innings this season and if a majority of those innings are out of the bullpen. He may feel that if he can showcase himself as a starter for another team, it would prove beneficial versus a yo-yo act in and out the Cardinals’ rotation. He certainly has a better shot at more money in 2013, if he throws 183 innings and performs well in 2012. His worst case scenario is that all five members of the rotation are healthy. If that ended up being the case, he would have a hard time accumulating 100 innings. This is all pure speculation of course. At this point that is all we can do. So, what would it look like if the Cardinals could convince Westbrook to waive the no trade clause?

Here we see a scenario where the Cardinals trade Westbrook and pay $4 million of his salary (no one is taking on Westbrook for $8.5 million). Now they are shedding $4.5 million versus the $2.5 million for McClellan so it brings the Cardinals into a territory they may feel more comfortable pulling the trigger. The estimated WAR increases to 4.3 and the cost per WAR is lower too. Who knows if this is something that general manager John Mozeliak is trying to work out. It really would hinge more on Westbrook and someone willing to take him on for $4.5 million than Mozeliak’s desire to trade Westbrook.

One thing is clear, Oswalt feels he is worth $10 million and doesn’t seem to be backing down from that. The Cardinals would have to believe in a complete rebound out of Oswalt to pay the $10 million. If they felt that way now, they may have already made the deal. Since the risk is bringing doubt, the Cardinals would have to go out on a limb to pay $10 million and hope to trade McClellan. Or they can let Westbrook know he is looking at a season in the bullpen and a shrinking value for 2013. Maybe with some pressure, they can they move the unmovable?

You can ‘Like’ Redbird Rants on Facebook here. You can follow Redbird Rants on Twitter at @FSRedbirdRants and Christopher Carelli on Twitter at @BaseballStance.

Topics: Cardinals, Contract, Free Agent, Jake Westbrook, John Mozeliak, Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan, Roy Oswalt, Salary, St Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, WAR

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  • http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/John-Weitzman-124454 johnwvideo

    With out even looking at the number’s, it makes more since to trade Westbrook for the EXACT reasons you gave.. And based on what Rosenthal wrote, Oswalt SO FAR is willing to wait and see.

    One question arises is ” How long will Roy wait ”

    2) Will the Cardinals or Rangers be willing to sign him and try to make a trade during camp?

    I still dont understand WAR and I was an A student in Math> Wins above replacement value.

    How is it actually calculated ?

    In the Chart with dumping Westbrook, I am not sure where you got the wins and losses for Roy and Mac. and for that reason I dont see how you got to 3.8M for 1 WAR. Though no matter how you got the numbers it clearly shows it makes more since to trade Westbrook..

    I think there has to be more to it then Ken R wrote. or this deal would be done, I just dont see Roy waiting out one of 2 teams to make a trade. Its frustrating..

  • http://www.redbirdrants.com/ BaseballStance

    @johnwvideo

    Yes, it does seem that Oswalt is willing to wait on a team to give in to him. Yesterday, I read the Red Sox are still on him too. They may have an advantage as they need pitching.

    But it is not like the Rangers or Cardinals HAVE to make a move right away either…

    WAR for pitchers to do with player’s ERA respective to league ERA and how it correlates to preventing runs, thus creating wins. A replacement player is like a callup from the minors worth 0 WAR. Starters and relievers are measured differently. Starters have a larger impact on the result of games.

    The projections are by Bill James’ which I got from FanGraphs. I used those numbers within a WAR calculator. Once I got the WAR, I divided the total salary by the total WAR to get the $3.8MM per WAR.

  • http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/John-Weitzman-124454 johnwvideo

    @BaseballStance I heard that as well about boston BUT did you see this from last night>Red Sox GM Ben Cherington Says Boston “Unlikely” To Add Another Starting Pitcher>?

    I understand WAR enough to know that its based on the replacement value which could be 0 , I just dont get the formula ?

  • http://www.redbirdrants.com/ BaseballStance

    @johnwvideo

    Yes, I saw that. I don’t believe any of these guys anymore until the player is signed…

    Yea, the exact formula is complicated (and there are mulitple variations) so honestly, I use someone else’s calculator to get the number.

  • http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/John-Weitzman-124454 johnwvideo

    @BaseballStance Agreed, I went to sleep one night in Dec thinking we will get Albert back to wake up and see the end result ! There all talk until the ink is on the paper !

  • http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/John-Weitzman-124454 johnwvideo

    With out even looking at the number’s, it makes more since to trade Westbrook for the EXACT reasons you gave.. And based on what Rosenthal wrote, Oswalt SO FAR is willing to wait and see.

    One question arises is ” How long will Roy wait ”

    2) Will the Cardinals or Rangers be willing to sign him and try to make a trade during camp?

    I still dont understand WAR and I was an A student in Math> Wins above replacement value.

    How is it actually calculated ?

    In the Chart with dumping Westbrook, I am not sure where you got the wins and losses for Roy and Mac. and for that reason I dont see how you got to 3.8M for 1 WAR. Though no matter how you got the numbers it clearly shows it makes more since to trade Westbrook..

    I think there has to be more to it then Ken R wrote. or this deal would be done, I just dont see Roy waiting out one of 2 teams to make a trade. Its frustrating..

  • http://www.redbirdrants.com/ Chris_Carelli

    @johnwvideo

    Yes, it does seem that Oswalt is willing to wait on a team to give in to him. Yesterday, I read the Red Sox are still on him too. They may have an advantage as they need pitching.

    But it is not like the Rangers or Cardinals HAVE to make a move right away either…

    WAR for pitchers to do with player’s ERA respective to league ERA and how it correlates to preventing runs, thus creating wins. A replacement player is like a callup from the minors worth 0 WAR. Starters and relievers are measured differently. Starters have a larger impact on the result of games.

    The projections are by Bill James’ which I got from FanGraphs. I used those numbers within a WAR calculator. Once I got the WAR, I divided the total salary by the total WAR to get the $3.8MM per WAR.

  • http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/John-Weitzman-124454 johnwvideo

    @BaseballStance I heard that as well about boston BUT did you see this from last night>Red Sox GM Ben Cherington Says Boston “Unlikely” To Add Another Starting Pitcher>?

    I understand WAR enough to know that its based on the replacement value which could be 0 , I just dont get the formula ?

  • http://www.redbirdrants.com/ Chris_Carelli

    @johnwvideo

    Yes, I saw that. I don’t believe any of these guys anymore until the player is signed…

    Yea, the exact formula is complicated (and there are mulitple variations) so honestly, I use someone else’s calculator to get the number.

  • http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/John-Weitzman-124454 johnwvideo

    @BaseballStance Agreed, I went to sleep one night in Dec thinking we will get Albert back to wake up and see the end result ! There all talk until the ink is on the paper !

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  • Pingback: Report: Red Sox, Reds And Phillies Have Remained In Contact With Roy Oswalt – SI.com | philyphills.com

  • http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/John-Weitzman-124454 johnwvideo

    Now that it is the 5th of Feb, I just wonder if Management went threw these type of numbers and are just sitting there, knowing Oswalt showed his hand , and waiting for him to sign for 5 to 7 M, to bring the cost of his WAR down..

    Unbelievable he is still on the market, and Jackson signed already for the same 10M.

    Its hard to believe he would even think of retiring if he does not get his money, since this is the one year he wants to prove he can still pitch to make more money next year..

    I just wonder what the true hold up is here. If they have the money why not just sign him already, even if he only gives 20 or so starts. Just make a reasonable offer less then the 10m .

    If this goes on much longer, I can now see good old Walt coming out of the closet and signing him to the Reds making them 7 deep with 2 going back to the pen or making a trade during camp, though making the Reds far more formidable.

    Or will he be sitting at home in 2 weeks..

  • http://yardsellr.com/yardsale/John-Weitzman-124454 johnwvideo

    Now that it is the 5th of Feb, I just wonder if Management went threw these type of numbers and are just sitting there, knowing Oswalt showed his hand , and waiting for him to sign for 5 to 7 M, to bring the cost of his WAR down..

    Unbelievable he is still on the market, and Jackson signed already for the same 10M.

    Its hard to believe he would even think of retiring if he does not get his money, since this is the one year he wants to prove he can still pitch to make more money next year..

    I just wonder what the true hold up is here. If they have the money why not just sign him already, even if he only gives 20 or so starts. Just make a reasonable offer less then the 10m .

    If this goes on much longer, I can now see good old Walt coming out of the closet and signing him to the Reds making them 7 deep with 2 going back to the pen or making a trade during camp, though making the Reds far more formidable.

    Or will he be sitting at home in 2 weeks..

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