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RotoAuthority League Update: First Trade

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 3 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

This past week we had our first trade of the season take place in the RotoAuthority League. 

The Brewsterville Bruins agreed to trade Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey to UP for Adam Jones.

In my initial analysis of the league rosters, I identified pitching as not only the weakness of the Bruins but also the strength of UP. And yet, the Bruins were the ones shipping last year's NL Cy Young Award winner out of town. The Bruins seem to be content with a staff led by Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright, and frankly I don't blame them. Meanwhile, UP now boasts a ridiculously talented trio of Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, and Dickey to go along with struggling former aces Roy Halladay and Dan Haren.

Dickey pitched poorly in each of his first two outings as a member of the Bruins; however, he bounced back on Saturday night in his first start for UP, yielding just one run against the Royals over six-plus innings. Did the Bruins panic over just a couple of poor outings from Dickey? 

While it remains to be seen whether Dickey will be a fantasy ace again in the AL East, the interesting aspect of this deal for me is the exchange of outfielders. In the fantasy industry we still have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to forecasting playing time. It's a daunting task to predict injuries, so the best predictor of future injury is likely still previous injury history.

While Beltran put together a stellar fantasy campaign in 2012, he had averaged just 96 games played the previous three seasons. Jones, on the other hand, has been very durable, averaging 154 games over that same time span. Now health is a skill, so it stands to reason that Jones would be regarded more highly in the fantasy community. Given that Beltran was able to play 151 games last season, though, we can't just assume he'll suffer an injury this year.

Oddly enough, on a per-game basis there isn't as much difference between this pair as one might expect. Since Opening Day 2010 Adam Jones has 77 HR and 36 SB in 474 games played. Beltran, meanwhile, has accumulated 62 HR and 20 SB over 369 games. If we break things down by 162-game averages, however, Jones finishes at 26 HR and 12 SB while Beltran ends up with 27 HR and 9 SB. Upon closer examination then, this duo really is quite similar. Now it's worth mentioning that in the BA category Jones does have a relatively sizeable lead of .287 to .270 since 2010. The fact remains, though, that these stud outfielders are basically interchangeable commodities in power and speed.

Strictly from a projections standpoint then, Adam Jones is probably worth more than the combination of R.A. Dickey and Carlos Beltran. After all, most projection systems will only pencil in Beltran for roughly 450 at-bats, so Jones naturally has a significant edge in the counting categories. This is a reminder of the greatest shortcoming to projection systems; they oversimplify one factor that tremendously influences player values: playing time.

We don't really draft players in the game; we draft roster slots. Carlos Beltran plus 100 to 150 at-bats of a replacement-level outfielder is still quite a valuable roster slot. Due to the fact that the RotoAuthority League allows for both lineup changes and transactions on a daily basis, the consequence of an injury is also less disastrous. If Beltran gets hurt, UP still can still plug in a capable outfielder from the available player pool of a mixed league. 

Overall then, I'm risk-averse by nature, so I favor this trade for the Bruins in acquiring the reliable multi-category production of Jones. At the same time, this deal is a classic example of gambling on playing time, one of the more overlooked elements to this game we play.

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