02 November 2005

Trade Freddy (Or Trade Someone): Part 1

Now that we've all self-medicated our pain from the Chicago game away, the natural fancy turns to the off season. And in the time I noticed that A Little Less Conversation was active (see post below), they've already started beating me to the punch on this topic. I think they're pretty much right on in their diagnosis, but before delving into the details, let's establish the guidelines.

Every fan has their own particular trade they'd like to make if they were the GM. Despite the brilliant nature of the trade scenarios invented by a fan, few fantasy trades ever take place. There are a number of reasons:
  1. The Fallacy of Aggregation: Putting together ten of your worst players plus draft picks to get the other team's star never works. This fallacy is most often heard on sports radio. Since there isn't much in the way of Sports Radio for MLS (The Excellent Soccer Show on JFK a wonderful exception) most soccer fans avoid this fallacy, which lead us to...
  2. The Fallacy of Complete Information: By reading the media reports, following the blogs, and watching the games, we think we know what teams need. What we don't typically see are the practices, the coach's biases, the salary concerns, the random friendships in the front office, and all of the other things that weigh on a GM's mind when making a trade. Even when we think we've identified the hypothetical good deal for all parties involved, the deal might not happen, because of...
  3. The Fallacy of "Earn Your Keep": Fans think the GM's job is to go out and get players for a coach. For a fan, frequently the burden of proof is "Why not do a deal?" For a GM (the current local baseball GM being the exception that proves the rule) the burden of proof is "Prove to me that this is a good idea." It is almost always easier for a GM not to make deal, since its difficult to criticisize the absence of a decision, but is much easier to harp on a deal gone bad. This tends to make most GMs cautious, and reasonably so. Note that many of DCU's best deals (bringing Moreno back for instance) go against this fallacy, but almost always it proves the point: The deal is good because it seems like not making it would have been so much easier at the time.
All of this leads to something I call "The DCenters Fundamental Rule of Player Transactions" Quite simply put:
The more a fan thinks about how they would manage player transactions, the less likely they are to be correct about the specifics of any transaction.
Proof? Look at all the people who said that DCU would have to find a replacement for Ryan Nelsen last season. And yet it never happened. Picking out a player that is to be replaced is probably not going to work. If a fan figures out how a trade is going down, its because the GMs are already in serious talks about it.

So why even think about the off-season then? Because while we may not be able to predict the forthcoming Adu for Guevara trade (because Guevara would certainly want to stay in MLS and play for DC United, everyone knows we get all the calls) we can still think rationally about what possibilities exist in terms of who might be shopped, who might not be, and what to look for. We can figure out the areas where deals might, or should, take place. When a deal does take place, we'll have decent tools for evaluating it.

The basic rule is one that was articulated succinctly over at Capitol Punishment: Deal Strength for Weakness. This is such a fundamental concept I think it's easy to lose sight over. We constantly think merely in terms of "would a deal be an upgrade at the position" rather than "does this deal make sense in terms of the entire roster." In short, I'm willing to give away a good offensive player if I'm deep offensively in return for a good defensive player if I'm relative shallow there. Very simple. I like it.

So, in order to evaluate any deals that might, or might not, be made, let's identify strengths and weaknesses.

  • Possession Midfield
  • Defensive Midfield
  • Withdrawn Attackers
  • Wing Attacking Play
  • Overall team consistency
  • Defense, especially on wings.
  • Finishing in final third
  • Set Piece conversion
Could Use Improvement:
  • Goal-keeping
  • Aerial Play
  • Set Piece Defending
If you agree with that, then we have established a basic framework for examining future moves. What does this mean? Players that address your weaknesses are unlikely to be dealt for other areas that aren't as weak. You don't trade Brandon Prideaux for Chris Rolfe unless you have a damn good plan as to what you're going to do for an even more depleted back line. In short, we have a good basis for figuring out who's safe. And who is most likely not going to be in an offseason deal? Here's my list:
  1. Jamie Moreno: Take away the PKs and you still have a guy who can finish. Also, while he may not yet be at Etch status in terms of being a DCU icon, he's pretty damn close, and trading him (again) would play poorly.
  2. Bobby Boswell: He may develop into a player that helps a great deal with the defensive equation, and his height is one of the few pluses for DCU in terms of set pieces and aerial challenges. If you lose him, your weaknesses seem a lot worse.
  3. Brain Carroll: Seems to have more upside, and while his distribution seems to be from the dollar store, his defense in terms of marking people off the ball is one of the best things DC has right now.
  4. Christian Gomez: Yes, he's a strength. But he's also pretty much the franchise player. If you deal him, you've got an awful lot to make up.
  5. Alecko Eskandarian: When he's on, as he was in 2004, he finishes better than anyone else in the roster. Trading him now looks classless, but perhaps more importantly, few teams would be willing to take a chance (See the third fallacy above).
That all. And yes, that means I think we should consider trading Freddy for the right package. I think pretty much everyone else could be part of a deal once GMs started talking. Still, it's worth looking at who could be moving up, over, or out.

Part 2 of this series will deal with developing players from the reserves.
Part 3 will examine who on our team might be attractive to other teams.

There will be no identifying of targets, other than saying what type of player you might want to get. After all, once we start dealing in specifics, we'll almost certainly be wrong.


At 03 November, 2005 12:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote: "Look at all the people who said that DCU would have to find a replacement for Ryan Nelsen last season. And yet it never happened."

What do you call Erpen?

At 03 November, 2005 13:47, Blogger D said...

Other than the fact that both were backs, I don't see Erpen as having been acquired as a "here's our new Ryan Nelsen." This is for a number of reasons.

1) Erpen was only available at around the midseason point, which would mean that if the front office was intending him to be Nelsen's replacement, they only intended it for half a season.

2) The acquisition to get Erpen was the deal to move Petke. That deal happened after the season started, so it seems like there was at least a period where the FO was evaluating the status of things, with every intention of not making a major deal to pick up a Nelsen replacement.

So what do I call Erpen? An allocation used to add depth to a defense, but not to provide a new defensive leader and rock in the style of Ryan Nelsen.

I think it would be unfair to Erpen to view him as Nelsen's heir and replacement. That isn't, I think, what he was inteded for. If it was, I think then that it was a miscalculation on the part of the DCU FO.


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