Adam Treloar and the pain of the Total Player Payments cap

During every season list managers and club staff have to work out their wants against their needs when it comes to players. This happens not only to external players and potential draftees, but also internally.

Clubs might organise their list on a whiteboard or computer into a few columns, shifting players through the season. A great game late in the year might push a guy from the maybe into the must column; likewise a run of poor form may allow their names to come up more strongly in trade negotiations.

Usually there’s consensus on a number, and a bit of disagreement around the edges. Where things get really complicated is where salaries come into the equation.

The AFL has two core equalisation methods to make sure that the bottom of the competition remains somewhat competitive, and is never too far away from contending. The first, the draft, attempts to distribute players somewhat evenly through the competition, with the best young players going to the worst clubs.

The second is the Total Player Payments cap, and associated player movement mechanisms. If a team somehow is able to attract a team full of players worth a bit of coin, the intention is that market forces will push some of those players to other clubs.

This season, it appears that the talent that Collingwood has accumulated over the last half decade has pushed some valuable players out the door.

Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips were reputed to be on above average salaries, and were pushed out the door by a Pies side who had to get under the cap. Neither player attracted a fair expected return for their level of talent, giving a pretty strong indication that the Pies were motivated sellers.

This time, the Western Bulldogs have chimed in, nabbing Treloar in a late trade, reading correctly that Collingwood had little choice but to yield.

Adam Treloar is really good. He’s a damaging midfielder who can win his own ball and break into space with a burst of speed. Collingwood originally gave first round picks to GWS for him expecting to get a decade of star level output.

As it turns out they got half that.

According to the HPN Salary Prediction, the best of Adam Treloar is likely worth what he was alleged to be paid at the top end of his current deal. All player payment rumours should be taken with a grain of salt, but when Treloar signed his deal he was looking like a good bet to roughly meet that level of production going forward. Collingwood may have also factored in a rise in the TPP cap after the Collective Bargaining Agreement was due to be renegotiated for the 2023 season.

However, Treloar suffered from soft tissues injuries in 2020, and Collingwood’s ball movement and ability to put points on the board was average at best this year. Their defence meant that they could stop most opposition sides from scoring; but they were left unable to score themselves.

As a result, Treloar’s value on the open market is likely as low as it has been since he entered the league. If the simple maxim is buy low, sell high, then the Pies were doing the opposite.

Analysing how the Bulldogs might use Treloar is nearly superfluous. They have a lot of gun midfielders and a really creative coach, they’ll find a way.

This trade makes for ugly reading for Collingwood fans.

The value lost by Collingwood in this swap is roughly equivalent to pick 14, meaning that pick alone might have been a fair swap in friendlier circumstances.

For the Bulldogs, there is a second goal achieved here. They were always going to look to trade pick 14 for later selections worth more AFL Draft Value Index points in order to match a bid at 1 or 2 for Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. In this swap they have virtually done that conversion for free while getting Treloar thrown in as a bonus.

To be clear: without Treloar, this pick swap would still have been plausible for the Dogs to take with their bid-matching situation – a roughly 50% increase in DVI points this year, while giving up a bit over the odds in a future second next year.

Verdict: Unfair trade to end an ugly trade period for Collingwood.

Note: This post is part of a series of posts using a valuation method called Player Approximate Value (PAV) to evaluate trades for fairness and balance. Readers can explore these values with tools such as 5-year player value projection charts and a Salary Prediction tool as well as the HPN Trade Calculator to evaluate potential trades.

Elsewhere, read much more about the method and theory behind PAVExpressing the value of players and picks in terms of expected future PAV provides a common currency for comparing them in trades and other movements. Players are projected using PAPLEY, a method to derive expected future PAVs.

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