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Silver League Update: Trader Jack Would Be Proud

A week of baseball is behind us, and I'm already having to remind myself that early-season trends don't hold up forever. Sometimes the Royals win six games in a row; sometimes Tuffy Rhodes hits three homers in the first game. And, as usual, my fantasy team starts out in the gutter. Statistics suggest that about a quarter of us are already at or near the bottom of our leagues' standings and half of us are losing our head-to-head matchups, so I'll tell everyone what I'm telling myself: Don't panic! It's the first week, and weird things happen. I've just got to promise myself not to drop Carlos Marmol until the Cubs do ...

Mirroring my place in Silver League standings is the Spirit of St. Louis, buoyed by David Wright (a steal in the sixth round!), Yoenis Cespedes (it looks like he can hit Major League pitching, after all), and some speculative saves from temporary closers, St. Louis is off to a fantastic start. 

The new baseball season is still too young to reveal its real trends, or which players are taking real steps forward or back, but that hasn't stopped us from making three trades and hoards of waiver wire claims. I don't normally advocate early-season (let alone preseason) trades, but every rule has its exceptions. The first of our trades came right on the heels of the draft, with the JamesRiverTrophyCarp sending Adam Wainwright to the Spirit of St. Louis for Mariano Rivera. Nothing against Rivera (no, don't panic after his blown save), but I like this trade for St. Louis for the exact reason he made it: a quality starter is always more valuable than a reliever because you can always find more saves. Case in point, Henry Rodriguez and Fernando Rodney have already saved more games for St. Louis than Rivera would have. If you can get a top starter or position player for a closer, do it and take advantage of unsettled closer situations in Washington, Tampa Bay, and Chicago, or gamble that Chris Perez loses his job or Javy Guerra keeps his.

The trades got somewhat, ah, bigger after that. Not every league has an owner that always seems to want to make a deal, but every league should. Ours is McRuder, and he's completed two massive trades. I don't know if he's got anyone from the draft left on his team. The biggest blockbuster was between McRuder and Busey's Bandits, and it involved a swap of first-round picks. McRuder sent Joey Votto, Ryan Zimmerman, Allen Craig, Jeremy Hellickson, and Justin Masterson to Busey's for Robinson Cano, Jon Lester, and Jason Heyward. McRuder freed up logjams at first and third in the trade, but both sides seem to have come away well enough. If Votto and Cano are more or less even, the trade is Lester and Heyward for Zimmerman, Craig, Hellickson, and Masterson--not a bad haul for the bandits, but a lot depends on Heyward and Zimmerman. It'll be a while before we know this trade's winner.

McRuder didn't stop there, and after a week or so of offering trades back and forth, he pried Dan Haren from me. Haren's bad start notwithstanding, I'm still not sure I haven't made a mistake. There's an old rule about whoever got the best player won the trade, and I'd much rather be on the quality side of a quantity for quality deal. Every player's got his price, I guess, and Haren's was Max Scherzer, Sean Marshall, Mike Minor, and Heyward. "You gotta go bold," I said to myself as I pressed the accept button, telling myself that I was upgrading three roster spots while hurting just one.

The problem with a trade like this is that, while Haren is almost certainly going to be excellent this year, all of the players I got are question marks. Sure, Heyward might build on his rookie year and be great. Maybe Marshall will hold the closer's job all year and Minor will deliver on the promise he flashed, well, in the minors. Maybe Scherzer will turn those strikeouts into good ERAs and WHIPs. Or maybe they'll all be bad. If everything goes right, maybe I helped my team a lot, but McRuder doesn't have nearly as many question marks as I do. 

If someone is offering you quantity-for-quality trades, hold out as long as you can, unless you're facing serious holes in several positions. Roster slots are valuable commodities, especially in the beginning of the season when we still don't know which players will break out and which players will crater. By the same token, value is value, and if you can improve your team by moving a first or second-round pick, do it.

Not every league is as active as the Silver League has been, but usually the beginning of the season is when casual owners are most engaged -- and most susceptible to panicky mistakes. If you can profit from someone else's desperation -- or just trade quantity for quality, go for it. Otherwise, trust the work you did for your draft, and watch the waiver wire for opportunities. It's a long season, and nobody's won or lost yet.


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