2022 AFL Trade Period – Day 5 featuring the free agency roundup and Geelong doing things

HPN will attack this AFL Trade Period in one post a day. Check back here each day to get our take on the “action”.

Free Agency Roundup

Five players found new homes under the first iteration of free agency in 2022, with restricted and unrestricted free agency closing today. Later in the period, delisted players will be able to move as free agents, but not until after trades are finished.

The highest value player to move by free agency this year, both according to HPN projections and AFL compensation based on contracts, was Karl Amon who shapes as a useful outside player to bolster the Hawks.

Daniel McStay netted the same band of compensation for Brisbane, but shapes as perhaps a less sure thing at Collingwood in terms of the level of output he might provide. Collingwood don’t have a traditional focal key forward, and McStay will have to adapt to operating in a very mobile, almost positionless forward setup where he’s one of the few big guys among hybrids, mediums and smalls, instead of acting as a support player to multiple genuine key targets.

That’s even if he plays up forward – there have been whispers that the Pies targeted him for his abilities in defence. McStay played a lot of his junior footy down back, and he’s shown flashes when thrown down back by the Lions. Given the lack of size down back at Collingwood, McStay could shape as a genuine swing player for the black and white.

Liam Jones comes in off an anti-vaccination retirement and has a very low projection due to lack of games played recently and being thirty years old. However, the compensation and common sense suggests that he is more useful than that. His counting numbers at Carlton were very solid during his stay there – but their overall defence was pretty haphazard and improved without him this year. The Bulldogs biggest weakness was defence inside defensive 50 and needed at least key defender. Jones is certainly one of those.

Jones notionally fills the list spot of Zaine Cordy, who made the call to head across to St Kilda. Despite playing in the 2016 Premiership winning team for the Dogs, Cordy is still just 25 years old at the time of writing. Cordy fills a similar need of being a readymade key position defender as Jones, and does a bunch of stuff (like defend contested 1v1s) at about league average levels. He lacks a little size, but next to Dougal Howard that should be less of an issue than at the Dogs. He could see a bit of a bump in his individual numbers at the Saints compared with the Dogs, and could be a shrewd move.

Finally, former Demons speedster Jayden Hunt made the move west to link up with the Eagles who are desperate for several things, not least ball movement speed and small/mid sized defenders. Hunt has been used in a variety of roles, and could be deployed as a roughly AFL level talent in several spots on the ground. That’s exactly what the Eagles need right now. Hunt’s best footy is very good, and he is best with ball in hand and nothing but grass in front of him.

Free agency winners and losers

The most obvious winners of Free Agency are those who gain players. They get the player they want for their immediate list needs.

The second group who win are those who gain draft picks. HPN has analysed the generosity of compensation selections before, such as last year for the ABC, showing that generally the compensation picks are ending up more valuable than the free agency when analysed in hindsight. Illustrative cases like James Fawley being turned into Angus Brayshaw, Ty Vickery netting Richmond Shai Bolton and Dale Thomas becoming Dom Sheed are pretty regular.

The clubs who lose free agency, beyond those aggrieved at losing a departing player even with compensation, are the bystander club whose draft hands are pushed down the order. This impact was lower than in years gone by, because like last year, compensation maxed out in the second round. Geelong and Gold Coast lost the most value to their hands, though as we will see with Geelong’s trades today, that won’t particularly concern the Cats.

As opposed to seasons like 2013, 2017 or 2020 where multiple free agency compensation picks fell inside the top 20, this year the level of impact was more restrained.

Tanner Bruhn

In a relatively unsurpising move for who saw his image on draft night, Tanner Bruhn has hit the end of his draftee contract and requested a trade to Geelong – where he’s from. Bruhn was pick 12 for GWS in 2020 and served his time as an ostensible midfielder thrown into different roles. Like many young players this included an initial stint as small forward, before evolving to some time attending centre bounces in 2022. It’s safe to say he’s still fairly unproven and hasn’t cemented himself in any particular role, but he did play the bulk of games this year for GWS. The Giants have a glut of guys who can readily be considered as “midfielders” in the modern game, and Bruhn was on the outer of that group.

It’s hard to see how Bruhn necessarily has an easier time nabbing a permanent spot at the Cats. He’ll be competing be for spots with the likes of Brandon Parfitt, Mark O’Connor, Sam Menegola and (possibly) Jack Bowes as some older players depart over the next couple of years. There looks likely to be only one spot immediately emerging from the Cats side from last year, with Holmes to come back in. Bruhn will be in the mix, which is fine for a player only entering their third season with time on his side.

For the Giants, these go home departures are seemingly inevitable but the test is whether they keep who they prioritise. Bruhn is one of a number of midfield prospects at GWS, and this probably just simplifies some of their list management calls. Compared to other young Giants, like Green or Callaghan, Bruhn is probably slightly less exciting.

The trade is simple and fair, with Bruhn a former pick 12 who’s shown some promise but doesn’t look a sure thing, now having roughly the same historically-derived future projection as a freshly minted pick 18. The risks and upside on each side are nicely balanced.

Verdict: Fair trade.

Geelong hand over 5 picks for pick 25

While the headline story is the Lions continuing their quest for draft points and a Dunkley trade, the most interesting part of this swap is Geelong giving up so much of their draft hand for a single second round selection.

The Cats are reportedly planning an on-trade of the pick they gained, essentially showing that they do not value this draft pool at all – at least compared to the player (presumably Ollie Henry) they hope to get with this single pick.

It appears that consensus has emerged where (at least) the back half of this year’s draft pool isn’t as appealing as in some years past. Perhaps due to the impacts of Covid on development and scouting, or a general sign of contentment in their list, later picks are seen to have little real value. Perhaps this is more that recruiters are struggling to differentiate gaps between players similar to what is normally experience in the very late picks and rookie drafts.

Alternatively, this could potentially be a pretty short draft.

It’s seen a couple of clubs do pretty lopsided trades handing over later selections to clubs who need them. Brisbane and Port have so far been the only serious buyer of picks, and it’s letting them dictate the terms on such swaps.

Melbourne (with Port) and Gold Coast (in the Berry trade) have made swaps of this nature, and now Geelong is the latest example of this, with a pretty egregious example that sees them give up AFL draft points value at a rate of 2:1 and expected pick output value of about 3:1.

Let’s hypothetically examine this as a swap where the recipient of the later picks intended to use the picks as actual draft selections. What this means is if the Lions’ gains were to be used live, it would represent something like a 3 for 1 trade down the draft order. The three highest picks here are three pretty usable picks in the late second and third rounds.

That’s a swap that might perhaps appeal to a recruiting team without early selections, who saw an even talent pool after the top end, and figured their speculative selections would still be available.

But of course the goal here for the Lions is to maximise the bid matching points value and this does that in two ways, one perhaps slightly less obvious. First, it obviously directly increases their points hand for 2022 by 218 DVI points, about a one-third increase.

Second, however, the future picks also open up options to make live trades on draft night. Brisbane will be limited in how many selections they can enter the draft with, but nothing stops them swapping for more picks as soon as proceedings commence. Extra future selections are the currency to let them do that.

Verdict: By any measure, Brisbane are favoured in this swap.

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 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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