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Silver League Update: All Star Trading

In leagues all across the country, the All-Star break is a prime time for fantasy owners to get together, perhaps watch the Midsummer Classic, and toss trade offers around with a few beers. More for your competitors being the usual strategy. OK, so this isn't exactly the 90s, but the All-Star break still affords a great chance to shoot a few emails or Yahoo! messages around the league and see what happens. I was pleased -- as a writer -- to see that two trades went down in the Silver League around the break. I wasn't as pleased as an owner, since I wasn't a part of either. 

The Great Badbonis were the busy team, active in both trades. Sitting in third place, but closer to first than fourth, the pressure is on the Badbonis to turn it up over the second "half" of the season. To put their position a little more specifically, they're doing well in average (nine points out of 12) and steals (11), but getting hit pretty hard in runs, RBIs and homers. On the pitching side, they're scoring nine or 10 in all categories but wins -- they could use a little quantity. Their first trade, with seventh-place McRuder, is an attempt to address just that need, and it's a trade I can understand from both perspectives.

McRuder Gets                Badbonis Get

R.A. Dickey                            Chris Sale
Trevor Bauer 

There aren't many times to trade quality for quantity, but there's more to this trade than that. Dickey and Sale were both All-Stars, but both come with question marks. For Dickey it's pretty simple: can the 37-year-old knuckleballer keep pitching like he has? For those who haven't been paying attention, he's got a 2.66 ERA and a 9.14 K/9. Despite throwing the knuckler, it looks like more than smoke, mirrors, and luck: his FIP is 2.77 and his xFIP is 2.95. For the moment, he's for real. For the moment, doesn't necessarily mean more than that though. Such is the nature of the knuckleball. Bauer, the uber-prospect is a similar case in risk/upside. In three starts he's struck people out but issued too many free passes. Predictable enough results, but a greater cause for concern is that he had a 4.43 BB/9 in Triple-A. Of course, he had a strikeout rate of 11.28, but the point is he isn't a slam-dunk prospect like Stephen Strasburg was a couple years ago.

What makes this trade reasonable for a team like the Badbonis, who -- I assume -- aim to increase their wins without hurting their other excellent numbers is that Sale comes with his own risks. Before the season, I decided to stay away from Sale, along with Neftali Feliz and Daniel Bard as simply too unpredictable, making the transition from reliever to starter. If it weren't for Sale, I'd feel pretty smart, because he's been completely dominant, to the tune of a 2.19 ERA. His FIP isn't as good, but it's still a shiny 2.58. The xFIP is closer to worrying, at 3.25, but I'd have drafted Sale if I thought he'd be even that good. Some regression is probable, as it is for Dickey, for no reason other than that most pitchers don't stay that good for very long. Those that do go to the Hall of Fame. But regression isn't the real reason I'd trade Sale -- it's that he's supposed to have an innings limit, perhaps around 170, which would be 30 innings past his previous high. Those should be 70 very good innings ... but he's still the sort of pitcher to trade when you're in contention. All the more so when you're doing well in the rate categories.

This trade makes sense to me for both teams; they have different needs, different pitching categories to shore up. Moreover, their places in the standings mean that they need to take different kinds of risks.

The second trade is still a Badboni trade, but this one ... well, you'll see. When The Playmakers shopped Jose Bautista to me a little while back, he said he was looking for something like Prince Fielder and then some. I made a comment about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic and had to decline. To be fair, Bautista has been a lot better than the powerless Prince, and so has the guy The Playmakers ultimately did trade for.

Playmakers Get                Badbonis Get

Mike Trout                              Jose Bautista

Above, I noted that the Badbonis were doing very well in average and steals and in dire need of some home runs, so this is exactly the trade to make. Bautista's 27 homers will fit in nicely, but Trout's 30 steals and .348 average won't be missed like they would on most teams. My gut reaction to this was that The Playmakers got robbed, but Trout has been really, really good, belting 12 homers to go with the steals and average. I can see the allure. The stat need was there too. I checked and, sure enough, the sixth place Playmakers have ten points in homers, but only three in batting average and five in steals. Bautista's .242 average might have something to do with that.

Still, it would make me very nervous to trade my first-round pick for a rookie. Especially when that rookie is sporting a .401 BABIP. I'm not saying Trout isn't a great talent, having a great season, or going to compete with Bryce Harper for best player in baseball for years to come in the manner of Ted Williams and Stan Musial. OK, maybe they won't be that good. But, Trout will have to be to keep up a .401 BABIP. Maybe the hits will keep dropping in all season long, but maybe that BABIP normalizes at a still-high .330. His number on the season will still be great, but there's a decent chance they won't be superstar awesome for the next two and a half months. The most important thing is that they don't have to get very much worse at all to not be worth giving up Joey Batts to get. With a .213 BABIP, there's every reason to think Bautista's average will improve. If it doesn't the Badbonis will just have to enjoy that .292 isolated power.

This trade isn't the steal I first thought it was, but it does seem like The Playmakers could have gotten more for their marquee player. Or they could have gotten their average and steals from a less exciting source. I mean, I would have taken a lot less for Juan Pierre ... Still, sixth place calls for bold moves, and this one sure is bold. After this weekend though, I'd be looking over my shoulder at the Great Badbonis with a little more nervousness if I owned the E-Z Sliders or the Spirit of St. Louis.  


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