If you own Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in a dynasty league, there are few managers happier than you. You have him. Not just Vlad Jr., but him him — the best prospect to come around in the last five years, advanced beyond his age, Hall of Fame blood coursing through his veins.
Whether you’re in a relatively shallow keeper league or a deep contracts league, you’re white-knuckling Vladito like he’s the last ballplayer on Earth. And why wouldn’t you? How often does someone with 70 hit/70 power come along (with some pushing as far as an 80 on the hit)? Bryce Harper was the last player to hit that bench mark. Before him was the late Oscar Taveras, who notched 80/70 on some publications.
Deep down inside we know there is no such thing as a sure-thing prospect. But we’ll all be damned if Vlad Jr. isn’t as close to a ready-made, elite big leaguer as we’ve seen in a few years. Why trade that? Realistically, you shouldn’t. Whether you’re about to open a contention window, are in the tail-end of one or are still three years away, Vlad Jr. is the rare prospect that is the perfect cornerstone for any scenario, primarily because of his proximity to the big leagues and his age. He should be up in Toronto no later than May, giving him a fair chance at 450 plate appearances all at the age of 20.
But what if…what if you put him on the trade block? And we’re talking earnestly put him on it. It’s a taboo, almost guilty thought, the kind reserved for when you open an Incognito tab on your laptop.
The Endowment Effect makes it really difficult to entertain trades for him. Because you own something, you assign more value to it than the person who does not own that thing. Naturally, surrounded by prospect publications like this one that are telling you he’s generational, high exit velocity home run videos that get thousands views and rankings that crown him as the best prospect in baseball, you’re going to want a ransom.
If I’m trading Vlad Jr., the first rule is that the centerpiece back cannot be a pitcher. I don’t care if it’s Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Jacob deGrom or Chris Sale. Pitchers are too volatile with injuries, have peaks that don’t last anywhere near as long as an elite hitter’s and the hitter that’s likely coming back with the pitcher is nowhere near Vladito’s level.
The next rule is I have to receive a hitter that’s both top 15 in dynasty value and redraft. And more often than not, we’re talking a top 10 bat.
In a 1-for-1, I would move Vlad Jr. for:
And then I’d have to really sit and think about Ronald Acuña, Alex Bregman, Trea Turner and Nolan Arenado.
Some players I wouldn’t move him for in a swap are Juan Soto, Kris Bryant, Jose Altuve, JD Martinez, Carlos Correa, Aaron Judge, or Christian Yelich.
Why? There’s a chance (even a good one) that any of the above names should produce more than Vlad Jr. in the next couple of years. But the thought of him slowly getting better is tantalizing. Steamer 2019 Projections has him slashing .306/.368/.511 with 24 home runs in 138 games. Let me frame it another way: a notoriously conservative projection system is predicting a player with zero major league experience will lead baseball in average. What, then, can he do in three years, when he’s still just 23?
Prospect development is not linear, and it’s a bit unfair of me to assume he’s just going to get a tiny bit better each year. Can he? Sure. Can he also turn in a .275/.340/.450 season and force us to pump the brakes? Yup, and that’s roughly what Johan Camargo did last season. It’d still be excellent for his age but not earth shattering, especially in light of what Soto or Acuña just did. That’s why it’s important to at least assess the market in your league. Perhaps there’s someone with glasses tinted even rosier than yours that’s willing to give you that elite proven major league stud.
What about a prospect package? There’s no way, right? Well, I don’t know. What if it was someone offering Eloy Jimenez, Victor Robles and Keston Hiura? I pull the trigger there for a couple of reasons. Robles and Jimenez are both expected to contribute heavily in 2019, matching Vlad Jr in that respect. That trio are also top 15 prospects in baseball with very safe, irrefutable tools. Jimenez has just as much (if not more) power than Vlad Jr. Robles provides the steals that are disappearing from today’s game. And Hiura has the best hit tool outside of Vladito. However, only a Blue Jays fan might offer that package. If it was just Robles and Eloy, I’d consider it, but ultimately I’d decline. The key to agreeing to a prospect package is near-ready minor leaguers. Wander Franco, Kristian Robinson and Luis Garcia (WAS) are all fantastic and easy top 100 prospects, but their distance from the majors is not a risk I’m taking on if I’m shipping off a sure thing.
When it comes to mixing and matching minor leaguers, it gets a lot more complex. What if the offer is Juan Soto and Keston Hiura? Or Anthony Rizzo, Alex Kiriloff and A.J. Puk? At that point we leave the neat vacuum hypotheticals and enter the nitty gritty of your league settings and your team needs. I’m happy to answer your specific trades on Twitter, but just stick to the three rules:
Trade for a top 10 bat
Avoid pitchers as a centerpiece
If you must make prospects a large centerpiece, ensure they’re elite and MLB ready
I’m not sure there’s a mathematical way to approach this. Should we consider something simple like the aging WAR curve of one side of a trade vs. another? Should we map out the last few elite prospects’ production via wOBA or DRC+ to see if they lived up to the hype? I feel like there are too many idiosyncrasies with that approach, though I’d welcome other suggestions.
Something else to consider if you’re trying to pry him away from someone: part of the reason trading Vlad Jr. away might be difficult is the intangible factor of saying “Hey, yeah, I own him somewhere!” Is that silly? Maybe. But fun players are, well, fun to own. And being able to tune into a Blue Jays game in June and seeing him launch a home run while you jump for joy is hard to topple. FOMO is a real thing, y’all.
No player should ever be off limits on your roster. The right deal always exists. It’s just a matter of whether someone’s willing to meet your price.