There has been a lot of analysis about the Liam Stocker trade, much of it unfavourable for Carlton and positive for Adelaide.
As a reminder, Carlton traded its 2019 first round pick, likely to be No. 1, for Adelaide’s 2019 first round pick, likely to be in the mid-teens, plus 2018’s Pick 19, which Carlton used to select Liam Stocker.
Most have suggested this is an obvious win for Adelaide. I think it’s worth questioning this. There’s a good chance Carlton wins its next premiership before Adelaide, in part because of the trade.
There are a few things to consider when assessing who will win or lose this trade. What is the value of the No. 1 pick? Is Carlton actually giving up the No. 1 pick? What type of career will Stocker have? What is the value of the additional pick Carlton will receive? Finally, what constitutes success in this trade?
First, the value of the No. 1 pick. Carlton has had five No. 1 picks in recent history: Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Matthew Kreuzer, Jacob Weitering and Sam Walsh. All have been or are likely to be very good players. Leaving Walsh aside, as his career is so young, it is worth noting that none have won a premiership or are considered the best in their draft cohort.
Other clubs have arguably had less success than Carlton with their No. 1 picks. After Kreuzer in 2008 the No. 1 picks have been Jack Watts, Tom Scully, Andrew Swallow, Jonathon Patton, Lachlan Whitfield, Tom Boyd, Patrick McCartin, Jacob Weitering, Andrew McGrath, Cameron Rayner and Sam Walsh.
Some have had issues with injury and form. Some are too early to judge. Some are stars of the competition. It is a mixed bag. The No. 1 pick is a lot to give up, but history suggests it is not a definite superstar.
It is arguable Carlton is giving up a slightly higher pick. If it can win three or four more games, which appears possible after its win on the weekend against Brisbane, there is a chance Carlton is giving up only Pick 3 to Pick 5. Regardless, it is still a lot to give up.
But what is Carlton getting in return? The first half is Liam Stocker, who was Pick 19 last year.
Stocker has played five games and looked solid playing in defence. He has averaged slightly more than eight kicks and five handballs per game, plus about 2.5 marks and two tackles. It is very early in his career but he looks composed and comfortable in the AFL. Certainly he is on track for a 19-year-old.
Everyone apart from Patrick Cripps in Carlton’s midfield is developing but Stocker looks like he’ll add some much-needed grunt. If he can be an inside midfielder supporting Cripps, he will complement the class of Sam Petrevski-Seton, the pace of Paddy Dow and Zac Fisher and the run of Walsh and Lochie O’Brien.
It is difficult to project this early into Stocker’s career, but based on what he’s done so far he should one day fill a need in Carlton’s midfield. He is unlikely to be as good as a No. 1 pick, but it is likely he will be a solid Carlton player.
The second half of the trade Carlton will receive is Adelaide’s first-round pick, which could be in the mid-teens.
Some of the best players in the competition, such as Patrick Dangerfield, Dustin Martin, Marcus Bontompelli, Scott Pendlebury and Scott Selwood, were top-ten picks. Some, like Nat Fyfe, Alex Rance, Jack Riewoldt and Carlton’s best player Cripps were taken in the teens.
It is possible Carlton will recruit someone as good as this year’s No. 1 with the pick it will receive from Adelaide, although it’s unlikely. There is a good chance a mid-teens pick will be a solid player for Carlton though. At this stage it is theoretical of course.
Some will measure the success of the trade on premierships. If Adelaide wins one with the pick Carlton gives it, Adelaide wins. If Carlton wins a premiership with Stocker and another decent player, Carlton wins. Premierships are what trades are designed to achieve, so it’s not unreasonable to look at it this way.
Based on the list Carlton has as a whole, it has at least as good a chance as Adelaide of winning a premiership during Stocker’s career. In Weitering, Harry McKay and Ed Curnow it has some quality talls, and the midfield described earlier has a lot of young talent.
Adelaide is in a different age bracket and has potentially a premiership-winning list already. It would want to win one in the next few years, though, before its most talented players begin to decline. If it does not win one soon, Carlton will quickly be in pole position to be the first of the two to add to its premiership list.
A final factor that is beneficial for Carlton from this trade is that every loss has really hurt the club this year. In past years being bottom has been tempered by the fact a No. 1 pick was coming. This year there is no perverse motivation to lose. Unfortunately the demand to win has not resulted in results, but the desire to win is being ingrained into the club, which can only be beneficial for culture long term.
The lazy analysis that Adelaide will clearly win the trade is worth questioning. Stocker has started his career well and, combined with whoever Carlton picks up this year with the selection it receives from Adelaide, he could be part of Carlton’s next premiership.