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It’s never easy to start a new job. You have to learn where the water cooler and the restrooms are, study the subtle corporate values embedded into each group of working teammates, figure out when you can get away with wearing jeans. You have to learn new software, make new contacts. You have to memorize people’s names. You have to study their foibles, learn the archetypes, figure out which person is the rat and which is the scapegoat. You have to figure out how often and when people leave early, so that you’re not staying later and showing them up or going earlier and looking lazy. Then you have to embark on your new commute, testing various side streets and shortcuts to see where, if possible, you can shave off half a minute.

As baseball journalism has shifted ever so slightly away from the team’s perspective, and toward the player’s, there’s been more of a study on the effect of baseball trades on the people behind the names being traded. Eno Sarris and David Laurila of FanGraphs recently interviewed players to obtain their perspective. The verdict: Understandably, players generally don’t like being traded much. While these trades sometimes offer the thrill of a pennant chase, or an opportunity for playing time, the logistics of being relocated to a new city, sometimes thousands of miles away, on mere hours notice can wreak havoc on a player’s private life. Luggage must be assembled, apartments sub-let, wives and children left behind to continue their schooling. Beyond the actual task of immersing one’s self into a new clubhouse, making new friends, it’s no easy thing to ask a player to do. The only insulation they have is the bus-life of the minor leaguer to inure them from the stress.

There are also external pressures: the difficulty of playing for a new fanbase during high-leverage September baseball, the knowledge of how much future the team gave up in prospects, the pressure to succeed in a relatively short window of time. My favorite player, Rickey Henderson, was dealt in two July deals: from the Athletics to the Blue Jays in 1993, as Oakland’s Bash Brothers dynasty was heading into decline, and from the Padres to the Angels in 1997 under somewhat less memorable circumstances. Those two stints of substitute stardom were perhaps the lowest points in his pre-twilight career, as he posted True Averages of .255 and .236, respectively. Part of the disappointment was BABIP-fueled, but Henderson admitted that the pressure to be Rickey was enough to cause him to press.

In light of all these factors, perhaps we should re-evaluate how we evaluate trades, especially those taking place midseason. Even in this enlightened, empathetic age, trades have a way of turning us all into accountants, balancing out present and future value, heralding winners and losers, via double-entry. But how much does the human element of relocation play into the wins we assign each team? When a team acquires a player at the deadline, are they receiving the full value of that player, or is there a slight, invisible freight “tax” in transferring over?

In an attempt to answer these questions, I pulled a sample of every player traded in the month of July between 2006 and 2015, having at least 50 plate appearances or 20 innings both before and after the deadline. Some 110 position players and 116 pitchers qualified under these restrictions. For each player, I took their True Average (if a hitter) or True Average Against (if a pitcher) before and after the trade, both weighted by plate appearances and unweighted. The results were surprising:

Hitters

Before Trade

After Trade

PA

34788

20372

TAv (average)

0.263

0.263

TAv (weighted)

0.266

0.267

Pitchers

Before Trade

After Trade

IP

8994

5542

TAv (average)

0.254

0.249

TAv (weighted)

0.255

0.249

Sixty out of 106 batters performed worse after the trade than they did before (with four performing identically in both halves). Yet the extreme right end of the graph pulled the mean back to almost exactly zero. There’s no correlation between prior performance and amount of improvement, meaning that we can’t chalk things up to simple regression, nor are there any obvious player traits that come to mind: 2007 Scott Hairston’s league-best .137 gain in 2007 was more than enough to nullify his 2009 loss of .094 with the Athletics. Indeed, the reason you see a scant amount of improvement when weighting the numbers by plate appearances is self-selection; players who hit particularly poorly after being traded were more likely to see their playing time reduced. Cristian Guzman, who ended his career on a sad .152/.204/.174 run with the 2010 Rangers, is a prime example of this.

For visual aid, a histogram of both hitters and pitchers (remember that the right-hand side reflects improvement for hitters, while the left-hand side reflects improvement for pitchers):

With pitchers, the split was 65 improving and 50 diminishing, with an average improvement of .006 True Average Against. Their collective ERA also dropped from 3.90 to 3.67. This, despite the fact that the six worst busts—all relief pitchers—were worse than any one player’s improvement (Drew Smyly in 2014, 0.094). It should be no surprise that relief pitchers dominated the ends of the spectrum; the lower innings counts would lead to greater variance. But the average totals proved more illuminating.

In fact, dividing the pitchers into starters and relievers uncovered a massive divide: Starters actually grew markedly worse after being traded, while relievers on the whole proved a massive, if individually unreliable, bargain:

Starters

Before Trade

After Trade

IP

5039

2832

TAv (average)

0.259

0.256

TAv (weighted)

0.258

0.252

Relievers

Before Trade

After Trade

IP

3955

2710

TAv (average)

0.247

0.241

TAv (weighted)

0.246

0.24

This study is by no means conclusive; it does little to quantify any of the underlying effects on performance, and there are a hundred conflicting factors involved. But at a glance, it appears that despite the very real elements of life as a baseball player, there’s little to no “trade tax” paid by teams in terms of performance. As an introvert, the idea of having to build new relationships and develop new trust, while heading into a new position at full speed, sounds horrific. But the fact of the matter is that by the time they’re getting traded for prospects, such examples of canis ex machina are old news for ballplayers.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care about the human factor in trades; to the contrary, the fact that they have no effect on on-field performance makes it easier to care about them, because there’s no conflict of interest for the fan. If anything it shows how unflappable the average professional athlete truly is.