It has been a great run for Carlos Gonzalez during his 7 years at mile high, but now seems to be the most opportune time for the Rockies to trade him to jumpstart the rebuild. Cargo is in the midst of a nice comeback year which might warrant a return worthy of trading him, but his subpar 2014 along with his injury history make things tricky. As I did previously with Wilin Rosario and John Axford link here I am going to calculate Cargo’s trade value to see what type of return the Rockies could expect if they were to move on from Cargo. For more information on our methodology and how we calculate surplus value or negative surplus value, please refer to this prior piece.
To begin the process I needed to project out Carlos Gonzalez‘ WAR (wins above replacement) for the remainder of his contract. To do this I used a combination of player comparisons and Cargo’s past WAR. For the Cole Hamels competition I did back in March I calculated his WAR for this year to be 4.14 and he is on pace for 4.1 so while this process may seem wonky, stick with me and it should make sense.
Baseball Reference has player comparisons for each player on their page and 4 of the top comparisons for Cargo were Larry Walker, Tim Salmon, Magglio Ordonez, and Brad Hawpe. These players range significantly but by having all 4 they start to account for each and come close to what Cargo is as we can both agree he’s no Walker but also is better that Hawpe.
This chart shows the weighted average, the orange bars, of each of the 4 player comparisons and projects out a WAR for Cargo moving forward. These player comps help to take into account decline due to age and injuries that these players faced as they moved out of their prime. In 2016, Carlos Gonzalez will have a weighted average WAR 3.6 and then 2.825 in 2017. However, the weighted average only is 60% of the equation in determining his future WAR.
The other 40% of the equation comes from the past 3 years of production that Cargo has put up. The year most previous is weighted at 50% and 30% the year before that (2013) and then 20% for the year before that (2012 in this case). This 5/3/2 methodology helps to factor in solely the player and goes over the past 3 seasons to balance out an outlier season such as 2014 for Cargo. Carlos Gonzalez in on pace for a 1.7 WAR season this year and when using that number moving forward he projects to be a 1.62 and then 1.18 WAR player when using the 5/3/2 calculation.
The final step in determining his WAR is taking 60% of the weighted average and 40% of the 5/3/2 average. This gives us a WAR of 2.808 in 2016 and then 2.167 in 2017. These projections suggest this recent hot streak to continue into the next 2 seasons and with Cargo only 29 currently he is just now in his prime. I will use these 2 numbers for his WAR moving forward in this article to calculate his trade surplus value to see what the Rockies could bring back in return for him.
Cargo is the 43rd highest player in the MLB and 5th highest amongst right fielders. However this year, he is the 17th best right fielder according to WAR, thus helping to explain why nobody has been chomping at the bit to acquire Cargo. To determine his surplus value (trade value) I took his expected value – his projected WAR times the value of a win above replacement, 7 million – and subtracted his contract. This gave me a surplus value that was approximately negative $1.4 million.
Because CarGo has a negative surplus it is going to be very difficult to find a team that will give up a significant return that would entice the Rockies to sell. However, just because his surplus is negative doesn’t mean he isn’t an effective player, just an overpaid one. While a deal isn’t likely to get done there are three factors that might shift his value to get a deal done.
1. A team projects Cargo to have a higher WAR than I pegged him at. 2.808 and 2.167. This seems unlikely because Cargo is on pace for a 1.7 WAR this season so even the jump to 2.808 seems somewhat unlikely but very doable given his history. However, this history dates back two years now so I doubt a team will be dying to acquire Cargo at that valuation.
2. A team gets desperate for outfield help and values a win above replacement higher than the $7 million that most across MLB set it at. I find this doubtful as well due to the amount of Outfielders currently on the market, with most if not all on cheaper contracts than Cargo. Some of the other outfield options include Justin Upton, Jay Bruce, Gerardo Parra, Ben Revere, Carlos Gomez, Yoenis Cespedes, Cameron Maybin, Marlon Byrd and our own Charlie Blackmon.
3. The Rockies eat some of Cargo’s contract or are satisfied with trading him away for a very very limited return just to dump his salary. I think eating some of his contract say $15 million of the $46 million still owed would be the best option for the Rockies to go as they would be able to bring back a B level prospect to continue the rebuild and would still be saving roughly $30 million over the next 2 and a half years.
If any of these 3 factors change for whatever reason three teams would come to the top of the list calling for Cargo due to their dire need of help in the outfield to push them over the top for the playoff push.
1. Orioles: They have given 5 different players a shot in right field, with Travis Snider garnering the bulk of the time but he has just been a 0.5 WAR player this year and is more suited as a 4th outfielder. The Orioles however are not known as big spenders so the Rockies would most likely have to eat a good amount of the contract owed to Cargo to get the deal done. If the Rockies were to eat roughly the $15 million as I stated earlier they would then have a surplus value of around $13.5 million which would net them a fairly nice return. Zach Davies is a RHP in AAA currently and the Orioles #4 prospect. The Orioles have floated the idea of trading their young starting pitcher Kevin Gausman, but he is far more valuable than Cargo so if the Rockies were set on acquiring him they would need to eat some money and part with another player, perhaps John Axford. The Orioles top 3 prospects in the minors are too valuable for Cargo but a guy like Davies and perhaps a lower level C- type should get the deal done if the Rockies are willing to eat some money.
2. Mets: They have Curtis Granderson in right field currently who has been having a nice season but they are completely void of a left fielder. Michael Cuddyer has been out in left most of the year and has just been a 0.1 WAR player, making the Rockies decision to let him walk for a compensation pick look amazing. Granderson could shift over to left allowing Cargo to come into right field and he would instantly become one of the biggest threats in that very weak lineup. The Mets are a bat away from being very serious contenders with their pitching staff so they are a team that might overvalue Cargo or be willing to pay above the $7 million per win above replacement if it means reaching the playoffs. They also could go the same route as the Orioles by having the Rockies pay down some money. If they went that way a prospect such as Marcos Molina a 20 year old RHP would be a great return for the Rockies. Otherwise if the Rockies didnt want to pay any of the contract the Mets seem to be a logical landing spot for Cargo as they have the money to overpay or just take on the contract and the negative surplus. This route would net the Rockies a limited return, most likely just a fringe C level prospect.
3. Angels: They are another team that would desperately benefit from adding a bat such as Cargo but already have a very good right fielder in Kole Calhoun so he or Cargo would shift to left. Matt Joyce has been playing the most in left for the Angels and has been a -1.1 WAR player making a Cargo essentially a 2.1 WAR player for the remainder of the season for them as he would replace Joyce. The Angels like the Mets have some money to spend so they could go either of the routes discussed for the Mets. If they ate the entire contract they would maybe give up a C- level prospect such as Kyle Mcgowin. The Angels also could make an interesting move and trade C.J. Wilson to the Rockies or a third team as he also has close to a negative surplus value. A Cargo for CJ swap would benefit both teams greatly but the Rockies may be looking for more of a rebuild thus the need for a third team. If the Rockies decided to pay some of the contract the return again would skyrocket to a B level prospect like Christopher Ellis, a RHP who has been very good in AA this year.
While Cargo has been a mainstay for the Rockies and is on a nice hot streak of late I think now is the time to move on and get whatever return we can, with paying down some of his salary the best route as that will yield the best return. However, I don’t see the Rockies willing to pay part of his salary to go play elsewhere. Due to his negative surplus value I don’t see it likely that Cargo moves at the trade deadline, but if he continues this hot streak through the remainder of the season look for him to be moved in the offseason to make room for David Dahl and Raimel Tapia.