There's been a lot of talk on the interwebs recently about the Cardinals and Albert Pujols. This is because Pujols is the best player in the game right now and this is his last season under contract with the Cardinals.
Even more recently there has been talk that the New York Yankees might be interested in trading for Pujols. Would that be a good trade for them? Would that be a good trade for the Cardinals? Let's take a look.
Ken Rosenthal got this started with this article suggesting that the Cardinals and Yankees could swap first basemen. The thought being that if the Cardinals are going to lose Pujols they could at least get Yankees' first baseman Mark Texiera back to help offset the loss.
When analyzing any trade there are a number of things that we have to consider.
First, How good are the players in relation to each other
This FanGraphs graph shows the value of all first basemen from 2003 to 2010 (the length of Mark Texiera's career)
embiggen it to get a better look. What you'll see is that Pujols has accumulated 67 WAR in the 8 year period (8+ WAR per season), that's by far the most of any first baseman. Texiera has 36 WAR (4 WAR per season), which is the 4th most. Clearly, Pujols is the better player.
But we don't want to consider what the players have done in the past, we want to know what they will do in the future.
If we project Texiera as a 5 WAR player this season and apply a .5 WAR per season aging curve then we get that Texiera should produce 22.5 WAR over the rest of his contract.
If we project Pujols as a 7 WAR player this season, and next, and apply the same .5 WAR per season aging curve then we get Pujols as being worth 54.5 WAR over this season and the next ten. Why ten?
Pujols, as mentioned, is a free agent following this season. The prevailing wisdom says that Pujols will sign a contract in the neighborhood of 10 years and $250 to $300 million and the second thing that we need to consider are the players' salaries.
The idea that Pujols will get that contract is based on these assumptions:
Pujols will sign a 10 year deal just as Alex Rodriguez did.
Pujols will be a 7 WAR player in 2012 and decline at a rate of .5 WAR per season.
Salary inflation will be 5% per season.
Crunching those numbers gives us $286 million over 10 years.
The Yankees signed Texiera to a $180 million deal two seasons ago. Texiera has 6 seasons and $135 million left on that deal.
The third thing that we need to look at is surplus value. It is generally accepted that 1 WAR is worth about $5 million this season. If we apply 5% inflation to salaries each season and multiply by expected WAR then we get a players expected value.
Doing this for Texiera we get an expected value of $125 million. Since Texiera is going to be paid $135 million over the next 6 seasons then we have calculated that Texiera is being paid $10 million more than what he is expected to produce.
Doing this for Pujols we get an expected value of $335 million. Since we are projecting Pujols to earn $291 million ($27.5 million from 2012 to 2021 plus $16 million this season) we have calculated that Pujols will be paid $44 million less than what he is expected to produce.
This means a Pujols for Texiera trade would be a net gain of $54 million for the Yankees.
So, does that mean the trade would be a net loss of $54 million for the Cardinals? No.
The only reason that the Cardinals would trade Pujols would be if they could not sign him. If they can't sign him then they are not losing out on Pujols' surplus value from 2012-2021.
From the Cardinals point of view they would be gaining Texiera, which is a net loss of $10 million. They are also losing out on this year of Pujols, in which he is expected to have a surplus value of about $19 million. All-in-all they'd be losing out on $29 million in the trade. Not much incentive to have a handshake.
Of course, if the Cardinals were to sign Pujols, they'd be on the receiving end of Pujols' $45 million in surplus value while the Yankees would be stuck with Texiera and his $10 million loss.
I'd say, no deal.
The Cardinals would almost surely get the short end of the stick. Better to get value out of Pujols this year by playing him, getting two draft picks (if compensation doesn't go away) after he becomes a free agent, and using that money to fill up some other holes next season.
Link to the google.doc spreadsheet I used for the calculations.