It's no secret, least of all to the Oakland Athletics, that the "market inefficiencies" Billy Beane successfully arbitraged during the Moneyball period in early 2000s have dried up. Teams have gotten wise, especially teams with big payrolls. Ever since, there's been rumblings about the "new market inefficiency" - efforts to identify player qualities that may be undervalued. A whole range of characteristics, on field and off, have been floated as possible savings opportunities for small budget teams: from players' supposed fear of playing in big media markets to "being a basketball player."
Are there any Next Wave Moneyball players currently on the Reds? Maybe. With sabermetric stats gone mainstream, it's hard to say what arcane aspects of player performance are truly off the radar of most major league clubs. I don't have my own proprietary hit f/x database to get precise data on fielding - nor do I know of anything definite that would keep big-budget clubs from paying a market rate would bear for any of these players if they felt like it. But I suspect there could be something about the following Reds that makes the undervalued and therefore more affordable. Or perhaps just underappreciated.
Possible inefficiencies: Age/wisdom curve, defense, versatility
No one expects improvement from a journeyman utility player in his Age 36 season - which is what Miguel Cairo was when he made the team out of camp last season. Historically, there's no reason to expect it either. But there may be a quality about a favored few mid-30s veterans who have stuck around in the league for a long time that enables them to continue being productive. And in some cases, enjoy a renaissance. I'm just not sure whether it can be identified by conventional means. Maybe it has something to do with spending time in both leagues, especially in the AL East (as Cairo has).
Miggy's sweetspot may be around 200-350 PAs and 35-45 starts per season, but teams need versatile utility players who can step in and make some starts during injury spells and off-days. The versatility aids roster and lineup construction, while allowing teams the option of delaying their call-ups from AAA if an injury forces the issue (not always a good thing). Cairo's defense, while probably not great at SS, I think has unheralded value at 2B and 3B.
Possible inefficiencies: Innings-eating, Spot-starting, platoon-splits
LeCure gets a decent amount of attention on the blogosphere for his engagement on Twitter and mustache cred, but to any outside observer he's just another serviceable long/middle reliever. Fan bias aside, that prosaic description understates his case. He's a highly versatile pitcher to have on staff, with the stamina of a long reliever, capable of throwing 150 inning (he threw 146 across AAA and the majors last year) and making a few spot starts (4 starts this season, with decent results - relatively speaking). His platoon splits allow him to face both righties and lefties with equal confidence. He can also put out some fires in middle and late relief, with a 2.16 ERA in 25 innings pitched between the 7th and 9th. The value of eating innings to a pitching staff, the value of "leverage" in a bullpen and the effect of versatility on assigning other bullpen pitchers to more appropriate game situations ("chaining") is not known. But I can't help but think there's some hidden value in Mr. LeCure, even without an eye-catching ERA.
Possible inefficiencies: Baserunning, defense, league-average on-base capability
I hesitated strongly on including Stubbs. SPEED is traditionally an overvalued ability. Drew hasn't had a good season at the plate, it's true. And he's probably overvalued by more than a few members of Red Reporter (myself included). But the one point I wanted to make on Stubbs is that his nearly-200 Ks in 2011 have the potential to overshadow, even in the major league market, what he does well. There's plenty of debate about his defense, but I'm confident he's at least a cut above league-average in CF. His range is evident any time he turns on the "closing speed" to catch a fly ball and it may be even more valuable to a team with a bigger outfield footprint. He's closing in on 40 SBs and, by FanGraphs' baserunning metric, adds the most value through base-running of any member of the Reds. While his slash line is looking uglier by the day, a smaller market team that needs a league-average CF.could benefit by teams over-emphasis on his historical SOs this season.