What is Leuenberger worth?

Matthew Leuenberger player value: 647 points (pick 52)

(37% of career resources, 5 seasons left, 13 games per season, 108% Brownlow loading)

We’ve written before about free agency compensation, its impact on other club’s draft value, and on the argument for just ditching it altogether on the basis that if you’ve got a player leaving as a Free Agent you already have gotten good value out of them. The issue remains complex, though we do question if a secret formula tied to salary and draft pick is the best way to go about assigning such picks.

At any rate, today we have Matthew Leuenberger, a long-time promising ruckman with a long injury history, and who’s lately  been pushed out of the Lions plans by Stef Martin. He wants to go as a free agent to Essendon. Brisbane have discovered that based on the Essendon contract, they will get an end of second round pick, currently pick 39, as compensation, and are outraged at this.

It’s unclear whether things like match payments and incentive clauses, activated only if Leuenberger plays, form part of the calculation for compensation. It may be that a very low base salary with a high ceiling is compensated on the base salary. It could also be that Essendon just aren’t offering as much as was perhaps thought, and the compensation reflects that lower salary offer,

However we believe the outrage must be largely for effect, as part of Brisbane’s strategy for extracting a better trade deal. We value Leuenberger as being worth around pick 52 in terms of his expected output, ranging up to pick 34 (+30%) as still fair value.

Leuenberger is a decent ruckman who gets the occasional Brownlow vote. Ruck stocks this year are a sellers market so one can expect buyers to offer overs. However, he’s 27 years old and has averaged 13 games a season in recent years (his career average is 12).

Acknowledging that we as distant observers have no access to his medical records, there’s no evidence that he’s going to produce frequent full seasons, he’s produced three in his career (plus arguably 2015 came close) and has had several serious injuries reducing him to a handfull of games in other years. When he gets injured, he gets injured badly, it seems.

Past performance suggests that five seasons of 15 games (75 total) would be a good return from him, and that works out to a pick in the back half of the second round or early third round being equivalent value

Relying on him is the very definition of risk, and that risk has to hurt trade value even for a club as desperate for big men as Essendon. It has to hurt contract offers. We’ll be keen to see what Essendon (especially with Adrian Dodoro being uncharacteristically reasonable this year) do if Brisbane decide to match the contract because a player this risky suggests a wide variety of perceptions by different parties.

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