Just What is Brad Hawpe Worth Exactly?

In the comments of my column last week about the Rockies' contract situations, much of the discussion centered around what the Rockies should do with outfielder Brad Hawpe this offseason.


Brad Hawpe

#11 / Right Field / Colorado Rockies

6-3

205

L

L

Jun 22, 1979

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Brad Hawpe 145 501 82 143 42 3 23 86 79 145 1 3 .285 .384 .519


Dan O'Dowd has said that Hawpe wasn't on the market, inferring that he wouldn't move Hawpe unless it was for a Matt Holliday-type return. Hawpe is due $7.5 million in 2010 with a $10 million team option in 2011 that will be voided if he is traded--meaning that for other teams he'd be a one year rental. Also of note is that Hawpe would likely qualify as a Type A free agent for the team that traded for him, netting that team two first round draft picks as compensation were Hawpe to walk away after the one year.

Here's the thing: Hawpe rode a hot streak with the bat in 2009 to the All-Star game but came back down to earth hard in the second half, all the while providing subpar defense. In fact, according to FanGraphs, Hawpe's batting value was virtually canceled out by his fielding last year. Due to this fact, despite Hawpe's offensive production he was worth only 1.3 WAR in 2009--which is actually right in line with his $5.5 million compensation.

The Rockies have a good problem with outfield depth, as Hawpe just may be the fourth best outfielder on the Rockies' roster going into 2010, behind Seth Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, and an improving Dexter Fowler. Because the Rockies will have an abundance of potential salary arbitration cases this winter, Hawpe's contract may be a little too unwieldy to remain on the roster--O'Dowd may need Hawpe's money to pay for a player like Rafael Betancourt, Jason Giambi, or the replacement of Garrett Atkins.

After the jump, I'll use the Trade Value Calculator, originally developed by Beyond the Boxscore's Sky Kalkman, to determine Hawpe's value to both the Rockies and to a prospective trade partner, as well as a short foray into simple economic theory.

Projecting Hawpe in 2010

Adhering strictly to the FanGraphs calculation of WAR, as I outlined a few months back, I was able to come up with a reasonable projection for Brad Hawpe in 2010.

First, and most importantly, was the determination of Hawpe's projected 2010 wOBA. I used a combination of Bill James' projections for Hawpe in 2010 (which admittedly are a little optimistic) tempered with my own observations (Hawpe won't get as many PAs as James projects, nor will he play as many games due to the Rockies OF depth).

Using a baseline of 575 PA, 136 games played, and 1150 innings, I came up with the following values for Hawpe:

For batting, I used wOBA = .384, which is pretty much in line for Hawpe (.383 and .385 in 2008 and 2009), leading to a total of 26 wRAA. Fielding was a little trickier, but I used Hawpe's career FRAA total (-90.8) and divided it by his total innings played on defense, then multiplied it by my projected 1150 innings to get a 2010 FRAA total of -18.6.

Replacement ((#PA/600) * 20) and Positional ((GP/162) * -7.5) adjustments were relatively simple, with Hawpe getting 19.2 and -6.3 RAR in those categories.

All told, I'm projecting Hawpe to produce a little over 2 WAR in 2010.

 

Hawpe's Value to Rockies and Others

In other words, teams looking to trade for Hawpe as a one year rental that will play a corner outfield position can expect to receive this much net value: 

Brad Hawpe      
   
Year Sal (M) WAR Val (M) Net (M) Sal (M)
2010 $7.5 2.0 $9.3 $1.8 $7.5
2011      
FA Picks $5.0  
Total $7.5 2.0 $14.3 $6.8

Looking at Hawpe from a purely quantitative standpoint, what is represented above should be his perceived value to other teams. However, as has been suggested numerous times, Hawpe would be more valuable to an AL club as a DH.

 

Projecting Hawpe as a DH would mean using the positional adjustment for a DH (-17.5 RAA) while erasing his negative fielding impact. As a result, Hawpe's new projected WAR would increase to over 3 for 2010:

Brad Hawpe      
   
Year Sal (M) WAR Val (M) Net (M) Sal (M)
2010 $7.5 3.0 $13.9 $6.4 $7.5
2011      
FA Picks $5.0  
Total $7.5 3.0 $18.9 $11.4

As you can see, Hawpe could be a very valuable commodity if he were simply to leave his glove at home and hit full-time in the American League. Of course, with the AL currently being the stronger league, there is no guarantee that Hawpe's projected numbers would come to pass.

 

Using a similar process, I projected Hawpe to regress slightly in 2011 in his age 32 season to about 1.5 WAR. This season plus his Type A free agent status affords this picture of Hawpe's value to the Rockies over the life of his contract:

Brad Hawpe      
   
Year Sal (M) WAR Val (M) Net (M) Sal (M)
2009 $7.5 2.0 $9.3 $1.8 $7.5
2010 $10.0 1.5 $7.0 -$3.0 $10.0
FA Picks $5.0  
Total $17.5 3.5 $21.3 $3.8

So what does this mean? It means that Hawpe is much more valuable as a trade asset to other teams than he is to the Rockies. Sure, he'll provide 3.5 WAR over two years to the Rockies, a surplus value of $3.8 million, but Hawpe would be worth three times as much to an AL team as a DH if he voided his 2010 option.

 

It's the type of tempting market inefficiency that the Rockies need to continually exploit if they want to survive and thrive with their mid-market payroll. Hawpe's market value to other teams is increased due to his status as an All-Star and as a potential veteran leader--a quality that Hawpe purportedly utilizes with the Rockies.

I wish that I could put a concrete value on such intangible contributions, but there's no way that those intangibles are worth $3 million. The extra value in addition to the short-term flexibility provided to O'Dowd by freeing up some payroll space is simply too good to pass up. But there's one more reason to make a trade...and that's where the economics come into play.

 

Opportunity Cost

For those of you who have never taken an economics course, an opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative which, as the result of making a decision, you have foregone the use of. In other words, the opportunity cost is the other stuff that you could be doing with your time or money, and it factors heavily into an economic decision.

What this means on a baseball level is if the Rockies were to get rid of Hawpe, they would not replace Hawpe with nobody and lose 2.0 WAR. They would instead gain incrementally increased production from players like Smith, Fowler, Gonzalez, Spilborghs, and Murton--who would benefit from more playing time. How much?

Consider this theoretical situation (I say theoretical because I doubt Tracy would play Smith/Fowler/Gonzalez regularly):

Smith would likely be the primary beneficiary of Hawpe moving on, gaining about 175 more PA, while Fowler would get another 80 and Gonzalez another 60.

Originally, using Bill James' projections (again, these are usually optimistic) Smith, Fowler, and Gonzalez were projected to produce 3.05, 2.46, and 4.09 respectively. With an increase in opportunities and the same rate stats these numbers for Smith, Fowler, and Gonzalez improve to 4.60, 2.89, and 4.55. Incrementally, this is a net improvement in WAR due to Hawpe's absence of 2.45--more value than Hawpe himself would have provided in 2010 and at a $7.5 million cost savings. Makes sense, right?

In this case, even if the Rockies were to trade Hawpe for a pile of nothing they would actually be improved due to the opportunity costs being higher than the potential economic gain of having Hawpe stay.

Of course, it really isn't as simple as that. The scenario above is something of a best case scenario for Colorado. Should any of the three starters have an injury, having Hawpe as a safety net would be better than a Matt Murton or Ryan Spilborghs to fill in. In addition, Smith seems to be doomed to a platoon situation in the outfield, making it unlikely that he'd actually be that productive in 2010.

However, even if the other outfielders are not up to the task of replacing Hawpe's 2 WAR, the payroll flexibility gained by dealing Hawpe (or the pieces received in return) will also likely produce WAR for the Rockies now or in the future, further hedging against the risk of the trade.

 

Bottom Line

While Brad Hawpe's value might have taken a hit after his cold second half of 2009, the lefty has a great deal of value (real and perceived) to other teams (especially in the AL as a DH)--more value than he has to the Rockies over the remainder of his contract due to their depth at the position and the higher relative value of payroll space to them. However, this value is more likely than not to decrease as the 2010 season progresses, so the sooner the Rockies make a move the better. 

The Rockies should be actively searching for a trade partner and be willing to accept a package built around a young back-end starter and a B prospect or corner infield depth in exchange for the 30 year old Hawpe. Should no reasonable offers emerge, then the Rockies have a pretty nice Plan B too.

Economics demands it!

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