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Stock Watch: Last Chance to Make a Deal

I just pulled the trigger on a trade, so I'll lead with it. Because you all care a lot about what happens to my fantasy teams, I know. 

I swapped Patrick Corbin for Allen Craig. To me, these players are very similar: legitimately good (Corbin has a 3.12 FIP and a 3.33 K/BB, while Craig has a .367 OBP and 22 doubles) and decidedly lucky (Corbin has 12 wins and Craig has a .362 BABIP). Both players should be quite good for the rest of the year, but both have generated value over their true talent levels. (Though I'm definitely hoping Craig is a true-talent high-BABIP guy.) 

The point of using this trade as an illustration is that I probably didn't maximize my value for Corbin. I could have checked around the league and maybe gotten a slightly higher offer. Or I could have brought back one of those extra players I like to sneak into deals. I didn't. Why?

There is no time.

If you're offered a deal that helps your team (mine was running Brett Wallace and Adam LaRoche out there at first after Albert Pujols got hurt), go for it. When you send out trade offers, you might as well make you initial offer pretty fair, because we've only got two days left in most leagues to finish the deal. No more of this week long negotiating on whether or not the other owner will include Garret Jones as a throw-in, and no more trying to sell off all your scrubs for Troy Tulowitzki. If you've gotta make a deal, make the deal.

So, if we're trading to fill needs, who are good targets? I'll go position by position this time, with plausible targets for low, middle, and high players. If you've got the talent budget to trade, consider the high guys. If you can only afford incremental changes, aim low. 

Fair warning, this week's article is a long one, so if you have no time, feel free to skip to whichever position you're in need of.

Catcher

Low: Miguel Montero is having an awful season (and might be on your waiver wire), but he's got a history of success that makes his longshot upside quite good. And hey...you are targeting a "low" guy. Who'd you expect, John Buck?

Medium: J.P. Arencibia has an abysmal batting average but leads all catchers with 18 homers. Players with strong strengths and strong weaknesses make excellent trade targets, as owners might need to improve on the categories this type of player hurts in.

High: Of the high-level catchers, Jonathan Lucroy has a BABIP (.282) that exactly matches his average and a name that doesn't carry brand-related prices. Target him over Joe Mauer, who's got a .380 BABIP and iconic status.

First Base

Low: Options like the steady, low-upside Garrett Jones and Yonder Alonso are good ideas for teams needing to protect a high place in the standings. For those hoping against hope for a big rise (or a dominant September from a low-seed team) should consider the likes of Ike Davis, Chris Carter, and the potential return of Lance Berkman. Even Albert Pujols could help teams in that position.

Medium:  Consider Justin Smoak, Eric Hosmer, and yes, even Brandon Belt, as all three are showing signs of living up to their promise, but have season stat lines weighed down by abysmal starts. And yeah, first base is so rough lately that these guys count as medium. Nobody expects anything out of James Loney anymore, so he could be quite affordable.

High: Adrian Gonzalez has quietly returned to the top echelon of first basemen. Even if that reflects the position's hard times, his high-average medium-power game is better than it looks.

Second Base

Low: Marco Scutaro has no power and no speed, and he still manages not to be bad. His position flexibility is great too.

Medium: Ben Zobrist has ugly season-level numbers, but has played much better lately. Don't expect all the power to come back on, but he can still provide value. His flexibility is a great asset in leagues with short benches.

High: Aaron Hill has spent time injured, and he's been up and down when healthy. That said, he's got the skills to put up an elite final month and a half and shouldn't carry the same price tag as Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis, or Dustin Pedroia. If you really want to make a big splash, though, don't be afraid to pay superstar prices for Cano, as he's an elite 1B/OF bat playing at second.

Third Base

Low: Mike Moustakas might be on the upswing, and that might is all you need to make a low-level trade. Mark Reynolds might get playing time with the Yankees, but that might, might not make him worth trading for or picking up.

Medium: Pedro Alvarez has a familiar cycle of boom and bust production. I mentioned last week, but I'll say again: trade for him while he's busting, because a boom is never far behind. Josh Donaldson has come pretty much out of nowhere to be a top third baseman. Any owner who has him probably has another 3B-eligible player (the one they actually drafted), so they may be more open to a trade than others.

High: Evan Longoria's up and down season and low batting average make him an interesting trade option. At his best, he's better than David Wright. Miguel Cabrera is probably untouchable, but Adrian Beltre is a first-round producer in four categories himself. He may carry only a second round price.

Shortstop

Low: Jed Lowrie has a decent average and a few home runs. That sets him apart from competitors like Yunel Escobar and Stephen Drew who have bad averages, and Erick Aybar, who has less than half as many homers.

Medium: Starlin Castro has been as big a disappointment as they come for many this year. He hasn't played like a starter, let alone a star. Still, he's young and talented. How surprised would you really be if this guy put up one great month this season? J.J. Hardy's good-power-and-nothing-else might wear on some owners, but trade for him if you could use power. We can always upgrade at short....

High: Ian Desmond is having a good season...in all five categories. His lack of greatness at anything keeps him from being indispensible to an opponent's roster. You may not get a great deal for him, but you might actually get him, unlike other top shortstops. Otherwise, Troy Tulowitzki is a player I'd roll out the red carpet to get.

Outfield 

Low: While Carlos Quentin is on the DL again, and he got deservedly bad press for the Zack Greinke incident, he's put together a very good season. The recently returned Josh Willingham is worth a flyer. Norichika Aoki does a little of everything (and I do mean a little), but he won't hurt in any category, except maybe homers.

Medium: Matt Holliday's un-flashy year probably hasn't excited owners, but that's all the more reason to slot him into your outfield. Dexter Fowler and Carlos Beltran are flying a little under the radar, as are surprisingly good seasons from Alfonso Soriano and Hunter Pence. (Did you know they're even stealing bases again? I didn't, and Sori's on my team.)

High: Michael Cuddyer has been a beast this season. When healthy, this guy can really hit, and he's been healthy all year. With only a month and a half to go, his health risk isn't so much higher than anyone else's. His low draft slot will keep his cost down too. Shin-Soo Choo has more name value than Cuddyer, but his little-bit-of-everything style makes him an easier player to trade away, just as it does for Ian Desmond. If you want power, go for Giancarlo Stanton, whatever the price. If you need speed, do the same for Jacoby Ellsbury.

Starting Pitcher

Low: Some of the best bargains can be found here, particularly in roto leagues where some teams are trying to shed all but their best pitchers. Consider pitchers with big differences between their ERA's and their FIP's, xFIP's, SIERA's and such. Edwin Jackson, Rick Porcello, Jeremy Hellickson, and Andy Pettitte have all gotten cursed by the luck fairy...but could easily see a change in their fortunes. Ian Kennedy hasn't gotten much help from his new environment, but it's a good bet that he will.

Medium: Tim Lincecum is a name I've mentioned before, but I'll say it again: go after him. Jeff Samardzija has pitched badly of late, but his upside is with the top 25 starters in the game. CC Sabathia still has plenty more talent than what he's shown this season. Justin Masterson and Lance Lynn make interesting trade targets as well.

High: A.J. Burnett's age, injury history, and bad years in New York keep him from carrying an elite name, but he's given elite performance. Cole Hamels continues to ratchet his strikeout rate back up and close the gap between his ERA and FIP. Chris Sale is an ace with a losing record, one of the best kind of guys to trade for. Mike Minor looks a bit lucky, but he's also very, very good.

Relief Pitcher

Low: Guys with temporary or uncertain jobs like Mark Melancon, LaTroy Hawkins, Brad Ziegler, and your choice of Rex Brothers and Rafael Betancourt. Basically anyone Luckey Helms wrote about in Closer Updates.

Medium: For mid-tier guys, look for high strikeout rates with low saves totals, bad teams, or recently anointed closers. Danny Farquhar can check all three of those boxes, but consider also Kenley Jansen, Koji Uehara, and Joaquin Benoit. Fernando Rodney had so many struggles and such a high price tag early in the season that he's still an interesting trade target.

High: Mariano Rivera has blown three consecutive save chances, so this might be the best time in his career to trade for him. He'll have all the leash in the world in his final season, and he's been mostly lights out all year long. Mostly, though, high-end closers are rarely worth the price it takes to get them. Over a season, the differences in skill and opportunity manifest in value, but in less than two months, there's no telling who the most useful closers will be. So go cheap.

Good luck trading, everyone. I know I'm off to send out a last flurry of deadline deals....



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