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Silver League Update: Trading Up

Looking at the week's transaction list, you'd think May 9 was the Silver League's trading deadline. One busy team pulled off three deals at once, swapping 16 different players -- two of them twice. It was certainly bold, and maybe desperate, but for a McRuder team mired in last place (and far from 11th, sad to say) bold and desperate are totally called for. There's no way to know yet if these moves will turn out to be good ones for McRuder, but we'll take a look and see how these moves might turn a profit, and how moves like them might help your fantasy team, wherever you are in the standings.

Trade 1: McRuder and Spirit of St. Louis, May 8 11:24am

Spirit gets: Carlos Gonzalez OF and Andrew Cashner RP

McRuder gets: Matt Cain SP, Johan Santana SP, Bryce Harper OF, Chase Utley 2B/DL, and Rafael Soriano RP

Normally, I think the rule of whoever gets the top player in the deal should be considered the winner, but this time, I'm actually pretty impressed by the collection of players McRuder got for CarGo. Between Street (supposedly) returning soon and the fact that McRuder already has David Robertson, I'd say Cashner and Soriano at least even out, leaving Cain, Santana, Harper, and Utley as the return for a true early-second-round pick. If Cain isn't quite to rotation-anchor status, he's close, and Santana is striking out over a batter per inning in his comeback season. Harper and Utley, I'm not so sure about, but they're exactly the sort of players that a last-place team should take chances on ... and a first-division team like Spirit of St. Louis should leverage for steadier production.

I like this one for both teams, but I really appreciate the way this trade improves a lot of places by moving (essentially) one player.

Trade 2: McRuder and Busey's Bandits, May 8 11:50am 

Busey's gets: Billy Butler 1B, Joel Hanrahan RP, Jon Lester SP

McRuder gets: Joey Votto 1B, Allen Craig 1B/2B/OF, Jeremy Hellickson SP

Here, McRuder get's a bona fide stud in Votto, and trading for a scuffling superstar is almost never a bad idea (except for any time you traded for Hanley Ramirez last year). Craig isn't young, but he's off to a good start and had decent pop in 200 ABs last year and in the minors before that; he's a decent risk to take. Hellickson has me wondering when he'll officially be considered a failed prospect. I know his surface stats were good last year and have been so far this year, but his K/9 rate of about 6.1 isn't going to let him keep it up.

For this group, he gave up Butler -- who's 1B/CI eligible in this league, unlike many -- Lester, and Hanrahan. Butler's better in real life than fantasy, thanks to all those doubles, but he's still a pretty solid member of the "good non-stars" tier of first basemen. Lester hasn't been very consistent, but he hasn't been so bad that it looks like he's turned a negative corner; this seems like a low place to sell him. Hanrahan's easier to sell once you have Robertson and Soriano, but they're still just one closer in two roster spots. I like the variance this one adds, but I feel like the price was a little too high.

Trade 3: McRuder and JamesRiverTrophyCarp, May 9 5:48am

TrophyCarp gets: Santana SP, Hellickson SP

McRuder gets: Zack Cozart SS, Stephen Strasburg SP

This trade, I love for McRuder. I also love that it's relatively simple to evaluate. I've already admitted pessimism about Hellickson; I wouldn't pick him up off the waiver wire. I do believe in the Santana comeback machine, but Strasburg is still a significant upgrade: he's got a K/9 over 10.0, to got with an ERA under 2.00 and a WHIP under 1.00. The impressive thing isn't so much those numbers, it's that he's so good that they can't be a surprise to anybody. I know he'll be limited in innings, but they should be very, very good. Cozart isn't exactly a necessity, but he's certainly a useful part.

How do they all stack up?

McRuder added:

Votto 1B
Utley 2B/DL
Craig 1B/2B/OF
Cozart SS
Harper OF
Strasburg SP
Cain SP
Soriano RP 

and gave up:

Butler 1B
Gonzalez OF
Lester SP
Hanrahan RP
Cashner RP

Let's see, the SP upgrade is obvious--Lester for Strasburg and Cain. Hut he traded a closer and a half for half a closer. Granted, having Soriano and Robertson in the same 'pen means he'll have the Yankees' saves for sure, which isn't a bad place to be.

The hitting is a little more complicated, as Gonzalez is a star and Butler is useful. It's tempting to think of Votto and CarGo as balancing each other out, but Gonzalez is doing better and adds steals. Still, McRuder can reasonably hope the difference will be close by the end of the season.

In a vacuum, I don't know if I would trade Butler for the entire pile of Craig, Harper, Utley, and Cozart ... but I would if I were in last place and needed a Hail Mary. If all four tank and Butler just keeps doing what he does, well it's like Branch Rickey told Ralph Kiner: "We finished last with you, and we could've finished last without you." Risk avoidance just doesn't make sense when you're in last place.

What can we learn from this? Well, I think McRuder is making the moves he should, that anyone in his place should contemplate. Take on whatever upside you can, and don't worry about the risk. It's one thing if you're in a close last place, but when you're already far out, the best thing seems to do is to gravitate towards two things: trading your top quality to fill multiple needs, and to grab as much upside as you can.

Other teams, especially those in the league's top half ought to do just the opposite. Trading quantity -- especially when resources overlap or you start building huge leads in a single category -- for a single star can net you that player, plus whoever you want to take a chance on/stream with from the waiver wire. Of course, the higher you are in the standings, the more you have to lose; risky players like rookies and injury comebacks are just the sort of commodities it makes sense to swap for reliable "just good" players. It's a simple enough idea, but it's a good recipe for trades that make sense for both partners.

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