Trading


Stock Watch: For You with Quick Trigger Fingers

This one is for you, everyone who's been just itching to send out a flurry of trade offers. Whether your team seems to be sinking fast or rising high (or doing something else cliché) you're wanting to get in there and make a deal. Okay--go for it.

A recent trend in fantasy trade advice is to buy high at this point in the season, and it's a sensible trend: buy high on a hot-starting player whose owner doesn't believe in him. The player keeps producing (even if not at the sky-high levels of the first week) and things work out for you and bad for your opponent. Everyone's happy. Well, you are.

But there are tons of players off to good starts--who to choose? Below are some players that I think can find the sweet spot between season-long production and low expectations from current owners.

Trade For

Melky Cabrera got written off as a PED product by most...but what if he's not? What if he can hit? If his current owner grabbed him as a late-round flier this could be a great buy-high opportunity. Of course, if the owner's been a true Melkman believer for years, it'll be a different story.

Adam LaRoche made his owners and the Nationals suffer through a horrific 2013. Well, a bad one, anyway. It's not like he went all Chone Figgins on us or anything. Regardless, he's hitting the ball now and has spent enough time as a good hitter to suggest it could continue. His owner probably drafted him without much in the way of expectations.

Aramis Ramirez is old and injury-prone...but he's hitting, and he's always hit. I believe in him more than most of his owners, and you should too.

Anthony Rendon sort of made us forget about him as a prospect last year, but he's starting to make up for it. It's not proof that he's ready to break out as an awesome 2B/3B option...but it's certainly not evidence against it.

Christian Yelich is another young guy off to a good start. That's a great sort of player to target at this stage, because you're taking the chance that they could be for real and making a stride that established players don't make. Wait too long, and the price goes way, way up.

Andrew Cashner is striking people out! That's all we had left to ask for. Snap him up.

Stephen Strasburg is also striking people out, despite being in the middle of getting clobbered by the powerhouse Marlins as I write this. His ERA ought to be nice and inflated, which is always good in trade negotiations with worried owners.

CC Sabathia is another guy with good strikeout numbers and an ugly ERA. It's better than the other way around, and it might mean good things for him as the year progresses. Take a chance, especially since his rate stats should have him priced to move.

Trade Away

Chase Utley is a guy I like, but his injury history sort of looms over everything. He's raking now, like crazy, so his trade value should be pretty high. Consider moving him if you have MI depth.

Charlie Blackmon is going nuts with batting average and high altitude. I don't buy it. He probably won't anchor a trade offer, but he's a good player to include to ostensibly sweeten a deal.

Adam Eaton is hitting but not giving us what he was really supposed to: steals. I don't want a speed guy who doesn't steal bases, so I'd deal him while everything else looks good in case there's a reason he isn't running.

Scott Kazmir is absolutely dealing so far. I'm a believer, but he can't keep it up. (No one can.) Because of his crazy story and former glory, he's the sort of guy that could fetch more in a trade than his draft slot would suggest.

Chris Tillman is putting up great rate stats...which probably won't last too long in the AL East. Another guy that makes a good deal "sweetener."

Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse are powering the Brew Crew to greatness and maybe they'll continue to do so, despite swapping strikeout rates. Actually, it is the whiffs that make me want to deal them. RotoGraphs gave us great evidence about why Gallardo's strikeout rate is staying down, and Lohse, well, Lohse probably hasn't magically turned into Nolan Ryan.

Pick Up

Jose Quintana (45% owned) is looking like a must-own. He was worthy last year....

Justin Morneau (44%) is hitting and plays for Colorado. What more could you possibly need?

Adam Dunn (34%) is not yet murdering batting averages. Cool. Also, his homers are still valuable. I especially love him as a head to head bench guy to play when you need the longballs and RBI.

Rajai Davis (32%) is smoking on the basepaths. Not quite Dee Buttersnaps Gordon-style, but good. Another tactical option for head-to-head benches.

Mike Moustakas (27%) is bad. But it's time to bench him, not give up entirely. That can wait another week or two. Also worth a chance if you were one of the many owners to lose their good 3B this week.

Devin Mesoraco (25%) is killing the ball like a non-catcher. Your team should be part of this.

Chris Owings (23%) is outproducing plenty of starting shortstops.

Mike Zunino (15%) and Tyler Flowers (14%) are also hitting, but more quietly than Mescoraco. Zunino's prospect pedigree makes him especially interesting.

Jason Kubel (13%) is hitting over .380 and is only one season removed from hitting 30 homers. He deserves more owners than this. Bold prediction: he keeps producing and tops the 80% owned mark by the end of the season.

 All right, good luck out there on the trade market. Now you just have to find other owners willing to pull that trigger....


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RotoAuthority Unscripted: Ow! Ow! Ow!

It's been a painful year so far. Not for me, and (hopefully) not for you either. But it sure has for baseball players. Maybe every year starts like this and we all just forget, but there do seem to be more injuries going around lately than in times of yore more or less recent memory. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so, since I've heard theories on the matter blaming everything from youth baseball leagues to the reduced use of PED's. Aside from the question of, "If the major effect of PED's is to reduce injuries, what is the rationale for banning them and punishing their users?" I'm inclined to think there isn't anything truly special going on: if injuries happen at random intervals, we should expect to eventually see years when more of them happen. It's the baseball season counterpart to Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable.

Regardless of the underlying reasons (or lackthereof) for all these injuries, they're a fact we've got to deal with and if you haven't got an injured guy on one of your fantasy teams, you don't have enough teams. (Or you get tomorrow's newspaper today....) It started before the draft, with something like half of the top pitchers getting little red crosses next to their names on my cheat sheet: Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Mike Minor, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mat Latos, Doug Fister...Darvish is the only one who's even back yet. The flood spread to super-utility post-hype sleeper Jurickson Profar, hit closers Aroldis Chapman, Casey Janssen, and Bobby Parnell (helpfully after you drafted him), prospect Taijuan Walker, and lights-out Walker replacement James Paxton. The injury wave hit Jose Reyes' always-hurt hamstring, Ryan Braun's thumb, Bryce Harper's face (and Omar Infante's too), Josh Hamilton's brain thumb and seemingly half of the quality third basemen: Adrian Beltre and Ryan Zimmerman. Matt Moore may be headed for Tommy John, and Avisail Garcia will miss the rest of the season.

And this isn't everybody! It's just a few names I cherry-picked while skimming CBS's "Injury Report." There are plenty more.

What is the point of brining up all these names and injuries? Is it to show off how many baseball players I can name? C'mon, I posted the player rankings--I think we both know I can list a lot of ballplayers.

No, my point is to show you just how widespread the injury phenomenon is. Your team is not the only one in your league splattered in red injury news marks. You're not the only owner in your league trying to decide whether to keep Carlos Quentin or Josh Johnson stashed on the DL to accommodate the injury to David Robertson and let you pick up Shawn Kelley. Almost everyone's team is playing through some sort of injury--just be glad you aren't A.J. Burnett and trying to play through something called an inguinal hernia. Yeah. Ow. See: managing your DL isn't so rough.

If this were a self-help site designed to help you cope with the psychological stresses of the fantasy season, this is where I'd offer you some friendly reassurance and perhaps a shoulder to cry on. I'd help you feel better by telling you how many teams I own Beltre on, or remind you that Alex Cobb should still be a good pitcher in six to eight weeks. But that is not our purpose here; our reason for writing is nobler, more ambitious: it is to help you win. (Unless you're my competitor in the RotoAuthority Silver League. If you are, quit reading and checking your team so I can cash in.)

There's an old saying in English that goes something like this: "The Japanese word for problem is the same as the word for opportunity." I have no idea if that's true in Japanese, but it's a cliché in English now--and for once it holds true. I mean, it helps that you may be working with someone else's problem right now, but still.

Take what's happened to me in one league: someone decided to release Ryan Zimmerman instead of DL stashing him. Maybe that's the right call for their team (I don't remember their DL/bench situation--maybe they're just too crowded) and maybe it's not. On my own team, I have three third basemen and room on my bench for an injured upgrade. Ideally, I'd trade Jedd Gyorko or Kyle Seager and snag Zim off the waiver wire. We'll see. But it's an opportunity.

What about when my own players are injured and I'm reduced to picking up Conor Gillaspie or Juan Uribe? For one thing, I can let that be a lesson in the strategic choice not to back up a position because my starter is too good to afford losing anyway--not a good call. (Hopefully I remember that one next year.) Also, I can trade the hurt guy.

This, too, is an opportunity. For one thing, you've got the chance to deal a player you can no longer use. It's tough, because most of your league doesn't want to be trading for an injured player...but it's doable because some dope (me, in the previous example) thinks they can get value later by trading for an injured guy now. Ideally, the player you trade is someone like Zimmerman or Josh Hamilton--someone who was playing well before he got hurt. It doesn't work so well if they looked really bad before going on the DL. Say you trade one of those guys for another player you can actually use for the next couple months--but one who's worth only about half to two-thirds their value--essentially a fair trade. Not only do you get the near-term production, you also mitigate your risk. Injured players don't always come back the same, and often have setbacks that delay their return to play. It is good to get rid of injured players. If you can get more than a fair trade (say, a player worth five months of Hamilton or Zimmerman's production) even better.

With the right construction of rosters, this is actually the sort of trade that can benefit both owners. Star players can be worth much, much more than the next best guys. That's why Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout cost over $60 in Yahoo! auctions and nobody else usually topped $50. If you've got a backup worth more than your league's replacement level, offering something decent but below-market for an injured star can pay big dividends later in the season. Of course, it adds to your team's floor, but it probably adds even more to its ceiling. In head-to-head formats with playoffs, this is strategy is exponentially more useful.

What about when your team sustains a major injury? There's nothing good to be had from losing Matt Moore for much or all of the season. True enough (apart from losing his contribution to your WHIP), but even bad injuries have one bit of opportunity: the replacement player. Now, in Moore's case, that player is Erik Bedard. He's been good before, so it's worth watching to see what he does. That's sort of a middle-of-the-road case. With Beltre, you want no part of what Josh Wilson does in the interim. But with Zimmerman, the upshot is that Danny Espinosa comes up to play second, while Anthony Rendon moves to third. Is that a slam-dunk pickup? Of course not. But is it a potential opportunity now available that wasn't there before? Yup. And you don't even have to lose Zimmerman to cash in on Espinosa.

Don't despair of your team's injuries--everyone else has them too, to one degree or another. Use the injuries and the opportunities they present as best as they can by being active in trade talks and on the waiver wire. Andrew Gephardt wrote yesterday that the best thing you can do in April is nothing at all, and he's right...until you develop a need or sense an opportunity.



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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RotoAuthority League Update: Roster Makeover

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.

Poker player Dutch Boyd once said, "Poker is like sex - everyone thinks they're the best, but most people don't have a clue what they're doing." Well, fantasy baseball is no different. I'd like to think I know a little about this game, but you only need to look at the standings in the RotoAuthority League to see that I'm far from an expert. 

Why I am telling you this? Well, there's nothing more annoying than hearing someone talk about his or her fantasy team, but you'll have to excuse me this week, readers. With all due respect to the other owners in the league, I'm going to be selfish this week and focus on my squad, A Century of Misery. As I mentioned last week, I've been very active this month in shaking up my roster. All told, I've made five trades over the past three weeks. At the risk of self-indulgence, let's see what I had in mind with each of these deals.

07/13 - A Century of Misery trades Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara to UP for Michael Cuddyer and Carl Crawford

After analyzing the standings a couple weeks ago, I made the choice to punt HR going forward due to a sizeable gap in the category. Accordingly, sluggers like Napoli hve no place on my roster. Uehara has been excellent this season, but I chose to mitigate the slight chance that Boston trades for a closer before Wednesday's deadline. In exchange, Cuddyer is having a career year and should continue to provide production across the board. Finally, Crawford has once again had his share of bumps and bruises, but I have to take some gambles if I'm going to get my squad out of the bottom four. 

07/14 - A Century of Misery trades J.P. Arencibia to Men With Wood for Salvador Perez

After trading Napoli, I had an empty roster slot at catcher, so I quickly grabbed Arencibia off the waiver wire. I made this pickup despite the fact that JP is precisely the type of hitter that doesn't belong on my squad since I'm punting HR. However, I'm not the only one in the league punting a category, as Men With Wood has given up on AVG. As such, I offered up Arencibia for Perez, a player who's far less valuable to an owner who doesn't care about AVG. Men With Wood quickly accepted, and this trade is a classic example of putting yourself in your leaguemate's shoes before making an offer.

07/18 - A Century of Misery trades Chase Headley and Jhonny Peralta to Forty 2 Twenty 4 for J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis

Like Napoli, Peralta has been one of the luckiest hitters this season, so I wanted to cash in on him, especially given that he's been linked to Biogenesis. Meanwhile, I don't see Headley turning his season around anytime soon, so I was content to move him. In return, I picked up a pair of productive Orioles in Markakis and Hardy. A multi-categorical contributor, Markakis fits well with my strategy going forward. I actually had no interest in acquiring Hardy, as his power is useless to me; however, I was relatively confident that I could flip him, given his solid season. 

07/21 - A Century of Misery trades Albert Pujols and Yoervis Medina to Yu at the Animal Zoo for Anibal Sanchez, Leonys Martin, Mitch Moreland, and Jarrod Dyson

After foolishly selecting Pujols over CarGo in the first round, I've tried to be patient with the Angels first baseman all season long, but I just couldn't hold out any longer. In choosing to punt HR, Pujols had no place on my squad, as he's simply no longer an elite hitter in AVG. Based on the news yesterday, I may have traded him just in time. Medina was simply a throw-in whom Yu at the Animal Zoo dropped immediately after the trade. I've been light on innings all season, so I needed to add another arm in Sanchez. He's displayed stellar skills this year, and I'm bullish on him down the stretch as he'll pitch mostly against weak AL Central opponents. For me, Martin was the highlight of the deal, though. Todd Zola is one of the best minds in this game, and he recently ranked Martin as a top 40 player overall. Moreland has decent pop, and I may be able to flip him for help elsewhere. Finally, Dyson doesn't play everyday; when he does, however, he's one of the top speedsters in the game. Unfortunately, I got roster-crunched over the weekend and had to let go of him.

07/25 - A Century of Misery trades J.J. Hardy to E-Z Sliders for Mark Melancon

It took a week, but I was indeed able to flip Hardy for Melancon. At the time of the deal, news on the severity of Jason Grilli's injury had yet to be released, so I was gambling a tad here. Still, the skills that Melancon has displayed this season have been too good to pass up the chance to acquire him. As long as he has the job, Melancon is easily a top ten closer. Following this deal, I now have six closers. More importantly, entering play Sunday, just 16 saves separated 4th place from my current position of 9th place in the category, so there are certainly points to be had.

OK, no more posts written solely about my squad, I promise...



Stock Watch: All-Stargazing

Each year in the middle of July, the fantasy community lets out a collective groan. Like any other game-addicts, we're loathe to experience even a single day without our fix. Three in a row...ouch. Not only that, but our schedules are distorted, truncated or elongated according to our commissioners' caprices. It makes for a weird week, to say the least.

That said, I've always loved the All-Star game. Maybe because my longest-running league always holds a party at which trades flow even more freely than the beer. Sometimes the best players to trade are the ones in the game: after all, what adds to a player's trade value like seeing him dominate the best players in baseball. And Jhonny Peralta. In this spirit, let's take a look at a few selected All-Star participants and speculate on what kind of investments they are going forward.

J.J. Hardy
All-Star or not, Hardy is the homers and nothing else guy that he's essentially always been. If you need power desperately, trade for him, but if you've got someone else competent at short, this might be a great time to deal him away. Yes, the homers are great, but everything else is not. His low triple-slash stats will keep his Runs and RBI's down, even in that potent Orioles lineup, and his .253 BABIP is an exact match for his 2012 mark.

David Ortiz
The ageless Ortiz is killing the world in just about every way (save steals, obviously). If your leaguemates are into giving DH or age related discounts, he's a great trade for candidate, as I see little reason for his production to drop appreciably.

Hisashi Iwakuma
The wheels have been coming off for Iwakuma in the last few weeks, a storyline which may or may not get coverage during the All-Star broadcast. I'd trade him away before problems get worse. He may right the ship at any moment...or he may fall to drop status. Either way, it's doubtful that he belongs among the best pitchers in baseball.

Justin Masterson
The Indians' ace has finally harnessed the strikeout stuff he'd flashed throughout his career and it's got him an All-Star slot. His ERA isn't great (3.78), but his FIP and xFIP are both a bit better (3.42/3.40). Whoever drafted him probably wasn't expecting the strikeouts to be this good and maybe waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you need whiffs, definitely try to trade for him. If you're good in that category, I'd stay away, because, while he doesn't hurt you in the other categories, he isn't really an asset.

Torii Hunter
I do not know why Hunter is an All-Star. (Particularly with Raul Ibanez not getting the honor.) Hope for him to hit a home run, and then immediately trade him to anyone in your league that you happen to know likes to drink while watching the All-Star games. Those in anonymous online leagues may have difficulty, but check over the league's message board and you might find some suitable takers. 

Bryce Harper, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Gonzalez
These All-Stars are all great hitters having great seasons. They're exciting players and they often get hurt. Wait, that last thing isn't good? In fact, it makes them good players to trade away if as they all carry significant injury risk and all play well enough to anchor a serious trade. Note that this is only a good idea if your team is good and you need to lower your risk. If you're sitting in the bottom half or third of your league, this is the type of player to trade for.

Brandon Phillips
The Cincinnati second-sacker's season has thus far featured a 2% drop in his walk rate and a total disappearance in his stolen-base ability. Name recognition and a dearth of other good second basemen has him starting in the All-Star game, and now is as good a time as any to hope those same qualities will be enough for you to turn him into a more productive player. Trade him.

Jose Fernandez
The Marlins' phenom was a high-upside, high-risk play when Miami called him up early in the season. It's paid off and I have nothing bad to say about his production. (Because I don't believe in lying in this space.) That said, the Marlins would be foolish not to limit his innings somehow this season. They are foolish, but they'll probably still find a way to keep him from pitching in September. Outside of Roto formats, trade him away.

Patrick Corbin
Raise your hand if you really believe that this is Corbin's real talent level. No? I can't believe it. But I would trade for Corbin, because chances are his owners don't believe it either. Hopefully he allows a three-run home run in the game and nets you a discount. He's not an ace, but his 3.28 FIP tells me that he's a very useful pitcher anyway.

Jeff Locke and Travis Wood
Neither of these pitchers' results match their peripherals. Wood's 3.56 FIP makes him look average, and his 4.36 xFIP makes him look even worse than that. Locke's 3.82 FIP and 4.27 xFIP do the same. Trade these guys away.

Michael Cuddyer
Cuddyer has been pretty quiet about putting together a great year. Of course, it's buoyed by a .373 BABIP and home games at Coors Field. That said, he's been plenty good on the road, and he hasn't drawn huge attention to himself. While you should expect his BABIP to slip during the second half, he's still a pretty good trade target, as his owners are as likely as anyone else to expect a decline in his production.

Allen Craig
Craig has certainly been a power disappointment, and for that reason I was surprised to see him on the All-Star team, and fairly sure that I'd recommend dealing him. But, actually, no. Though his BABIP is high (.374), he's shown himself to be a high-BABIP/high-average hitter, and I'd trade for him confidently if I were in need of batting average.

Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz, Everth Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta
All of the above are implicated in scandal and all may end up serving significant suspensions this season. Peralta should be traded regardless, but your strategy with the other three depends largely on how much risk you want to take on. Cruz has surged back from a lousy 2012, Colon is having maybe the best season of his career (and he's a Cy Young winner), and Cabrera is baseball's best base-stealer. If you need to take on risk and upside, trade for these guys and hope for light punishments, long appeals processes, or innocent verdicts. Because he steals so much, Cabrera is particularly worth trading for in Roto formats, as even a month of his production will help you in the category. Of course, if you're sitting at the top of your league, you should deal them away and let someone else absorb the risk.



Closer Updates: Riding the Trade Winds

Rumors continue to swirl around baseball this time of year, and no position receives more attention than relief pitchers. Why? Even the best are expendable on a bad team, and even pitchers of marginal greatness are assets on contenders. Everyone who spent the last two decades watching playoff baseball knows how important strong bullpens are for the October teams. For fantasy owners, this can be a mix of good and bad news. How your team fares is all about how prepared you are for the upcoming month. After all, a fantasy team doesn't need to be on the top of the standings to need more saves...or on the bottom to profit from trading away relievers.

Mid-season trades can create quite a lot of upheaval, often leaving two teams with new closers. Whenever a closer is traded away (except for other closers, hypothetically) a new one is created to fill the void he left and everyone scrambles to the waiver wire to get him. Better yet, stay on top of the rumors and try owning a new closer before he gets the job. The downside of this is that the best trade candidates don't usually have great backups.

The other trade fallout happens on the team that acquires the new closer: either that team's old closer is deposed (bad news for his owners), or the new pitcher is suddenly the setup man (bad news for his owners. Most often, good teams have an established closer by this point in the season, and they're looking to use bad teams' stoppers to shore up their 'pen. Yes, you should trade away any closers at risk for this situation.

At-Risk Closers

Keep in mind that trade rumors can change quickly and that not all of these closers will get dealt into setup situations. Why do you think we link to MLB Trade Rumors right at the top of the page? Here are just a few of the storylines circulating as I write this: Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn are drawing interest for the Marlins, who don't want to deal themthe Yankees are pushing to deal Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughesthe Mets probably want to keep Bobby Parnell and are releasing setup man Brandon Lyonthe Phillies would rather buy than sell Jonathan Papelbon; and all the Brewers' relievers are drawing interest. So, seriously, refresh MLBTR all day long and a couple times during the night just in case, because all these could have changed by the time you read this.

Steve Cishek and his setup man Mike Dunn could get dealt, but odds are they won't both be traded away. And since Cishek is under team control until 2017, the lowly Marlins could rationally think of him a piece on future good teams. He's one that I'd take a risk and trade for at low cost. His value won't be that high, as the Marlins don't do much winning, but it's looking pretty unlikely that he gets traded away. That's good, because he wouldn't be closing anywhere else (except maybe Detroit).

Jose Veras is a pretty good reliever. Not amazing, so if he gets traded, don't expect him to take over the ninth inning reins. In head-to-head leagues, I'd trade him away, but hold onto him in Roto-style. Wesley Wright might get the save opps if Veras is dealt, but there's no need to pick him up until that happens. Frankly, it'd probably be an open audition anyway.

Francisco Rodriguez has had a resurgent closing experience with Milwaukee. As a guy with playoff-tested moxie and at least some leftover brand name, I'll make the bold prediction that he gets traded to Detroit and closes for them. He's on the fringe of being good enough (in reality and appearance) to close on other contending teams in the event of a trade, so I'd hold on him. If he is traded, expect Jim Henderson to get his closing gig back.

Like Rodriguez, Glen Perkins has a good chance of beating out incumbent closers for the ninth inning. He's even less likely to be traded in the first place, so hold him if you got him. Your risk is relatively low if you trade for him, but it isn't nonexistent.

It almost seem taken for granted that Kevin Gregg will be dealt, and that Blake Parker, James Russell or Pedro Strop will take over the ninth. Maybe, maybe not. Gregg might close for the Tigers, but I don't think any other contender will let him close unless someone gets injured. If you can get any return for him trade him away, in head-to-head formats, and probably in Roto too.

Bobby Parnell's trade rumors might say he's staying now, but the Mets don't have any real need for a competent closer, and you have to think they'd move him for a decent prospect. Parnell doesn't have the raw saves totals or the history of closing to push other closers out of a job; for that reason I'd trade him away.

The Mariners don't look likely to find a partner willing to overpay for Tom Wilhelmsen, so he may stay with the club and close for the rest of the year. Or he might continue his periodic implosions. If you find a fellow owner willing to value him like Seattle does, trade him away. Most of us, however, will just have to hold on. If he's dealt or demoted...we'll, we've examined this mess before.

With the Blue Jays presumably expecting to have a better 2014 than this year, they probably don't want to deal Casey Janssen. If the tea leaves swirl in a new direction, I still wouldn't be worried, as Janssen is good enough to continue closing for several contenders. Unless he starts getting connected with teams like the Yankees and Rangers who have well-established closers, I would hold, or even trade for him. If he is dealt, perhaps final All-Star balloter Steve Delabar would take over.

Jonathan Papelbon seems less and less likely to get dealt in real life. I suggest you trade for him while the rumors are still lingering, and he's still got a low saves total, and the stigma of his blown saves is still recent. On the off chance that he's dealt, Antonio Bastardo is a good pitcher to own.

Greg Holland hasn't seen his name come up in the rumors, but the Royals are always in danger of seeing their season fall apart. You can safely hold him for now, but keep an eye on the news. Kansas City actually has several capable relievers, so it's hard to know who to pick up.

Potential Buyers

Everyone knows the Tigers are buyers. Joaquin Benoit may be on the final All-Star ballot, but that might not be enough to convince the team that he's their stopper. Obviously, keep Benoit around, but be ready for him to be replaced before the first of August.

With the struggles that Jim Johnson has had, I wonder if the Orioles will be in the relief market this month. There hasn't been much noise about that, but maybe they're just playing it quietly. Johnson would probably have to struggle after a trade is made to lose his job, but he's used a lot of a long leash this season.

The Red Sox may have two of the best Japanese relievers in the world in Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, and an ex-closer in Andrew Bailey, but that might not stop them from loading on more arms for the pennant race. If they add someone with more closing clout than Uehara, don't expect them to hesitate to make (another) change.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again (all month long, probably), but the best way to come out of the trade crucible ahead is to keep up with the rumors on MLBTR and to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Not Exactly the Best

If you don't own a Diamondbacks closer, it's probably been a pretty quiet week for you. Given that, we'll take a quick look at some closers who may have seen changes in their value, and examine the situation in Arizona, before tackling the most exciting possible post-July-4th topic: disappointing closers. A couple weeks ago, we looked at the best* closers around baseball and determined whether or not we would want each one on our teams going forward. Back then, we promised to follow up with the rest of baseball's stoppers, so here we are.

*Note: actually, we looked at those closers who had saved the most games thus far. Some (**cough, cough**, Tom Wilhelmsen) were not even arguably among "the best."

Diamondbacks

J.J. Putz just hasn't been a good investment this year. Bad pitching, seven weeks of injury, and now he blows the save and loses his job in his first outing back. I guess there's a reason most teams ease returned stoppers back into the ninth. For now, Putz will work to build himself up and Heath Bell has un-lost the closing gig. Hold on to both for now, keeping Bell until Putz shows a strong hold on the job, and not dropping Putz unless he scuffles in middle relief for an extended period. The whole situation makes this Bell owner pretty happy his father beat him to snagging Putz off the waiver wire....

Mariners

The aforementioned (and afore-maligned) Tom Wilhelmsen locked down his 17th save Wednesday, and looks to be getting future chances. If he got dropped (I dropped him) in your league, pick him back up if you need saves. 

Cubs

Sure, Kevin Gregg blew his first save, but he came back with another winner for the Cubs. The chance that he gets traded to a contender to set up is pretty high, but in case he doesn't, he could be a good trade target, as this article suggests a solid reason for his much-improved control.

Brewers

Francisco Rodriguez nailed down another save Wednesday. He's gotten a lot more chances than Jim Henderson lately, and it may be proper to consider him the real closer in Milwaukee. Trade for him with care, however, as he's a good candidate for a real-life trade into the 7th or 8th inning.

Less than the Best

It's worth noting (briefly) that I'm not including closers who've bounced in and out of the job, those who've spent significant time injured, or who just got the job. Those guys get plenty of face time in this space anyway.

Can't Complain--or Shouldn't, at Least

Ernesto Frieri, 21 SV

Frieri is what he is and does what he does. Specifically, he strikes tons of people out, and walks tons of people. He's like the old Armando Benitez, a good Carlos Marmol, or Aroldis Chapman-lite. It seems to work, and the Angels are more likely to reload for next year than try to rebuild.

Glen Perkins, 20 SV

Perkins has been a boss, but you should trade him away. Why? Because the Twins are awful and he could fetch a serious return on the real-life trade market. Deal him first, just in case, because most of the closers he'd replace don't pitch for the teams that will be buyers at the deadline. (Except the Tigers, but an in-division trade is a bit much to hope for.)

Grant Balfour, 20 SV

The world's most appropriately named person (seriously, I bet his parents were Nolan Ryan fans and hoped he'd grow up to be the all-time leader in walks issued) has given owners none of the stress they (we) received last year. Luckily for his owners, the A's are firmly in contention and won't be dealing him away. He's a great trade target if you can pry him away from his owners.

It's Been an Interesting Ride, Hasn't it?

Greg Holland, 18 SV

Quick: who's got the second best K/9% among closers. Yup, it's Holland, who's only a little behind Chapman and nearly a full point ahead of third-place Jason Grilli. Holland's owners should hope Kansas City can retain delusions hopes of contention, because he could make a great trade piece. He's been so good that I'd gamble on him until and unless trade rumors heat up about him.

Casey Janssen, 17 SV

This guy has quietly pitched very well up North. The Blue Jays may not be contending this year, but the team they built in the offseason wasn't built for this year only. Unless the rumor mill says otherwise, expect Janssen to keep the job. He's a good one to deal for, if worried owners predict a real life trade.

Jose Veras, 17 SV

Veras went practically undrafted in many leagues this year, as the hapless Astros weren't expected to offer enough save chances for him to be relevant. Well, he is. He's worth targeting, especially as a throw-in for a larger fantasy trade. Unfortunately, Veras is very vulnerable to leaving the Astros for the middle of a contender's bullpen.

Fernando Rodney, 17 SV

I'm pretty sure fantasy owners who drafted Rodney early didn't expect Jose Veras to have matched his save total at this point in the season. Here we are, though. It's clear that Rodney isn't the guy he looked like last year (surprise), but he isn't as bad as he once was, either. Expect him to close all year on the contending Rays team; he's a good one to target in trade, as his owner is likely still disappointed in his production.

There's Always Next Year the Second Half

Steve Cishek, 16 SV

Cishek might get the award for Most Likely to Be Traded, as the Marlins are going nowhere and have a compulsive desire to trade anyone making more than half a million dollars every deadline. If you can get any value for him, I'd cut bait on this Fish. Unfortunately, you probably can't, so your best option is just to ride it out and enjoy the few saves while you can.

Jonathan Papelbon, 16 SV

Papelbon is probably the best trade target out there right now. He's just gone through a pretty rough stretch, which might lower his value just a bit. More importantly, he's the only closer that might be on the market that will close just about anywhere he gets traded. Even if the Phillies don't improve in the second half, it's very likely that he gets (and converts) plenty more save chances. 

Huston Street, 15 SV

Street has already spent injured time, depressing his save total. While he could be traded, San Diego isn't out of it just yet and might not be hoping to sell. Of course, Street has been horrid this year, with a 4.94 K/9 and an eye-popping 7.59 FIP. The good news is that his xFIP is only 4.90. If you can find a buyer, deal him away. 

Bobby Parnell, 14 SV

Parnell has shown great control and hasn't let a single ball out of the yard. Pretty impressive, but not good enough to net him the lowest save total for anyone who's kept the job all year. At least he isn't under the shadow of Frank Francisco anymore. There haven't been any trade rumors about Parnell yet, but the Mets aren't exactly playing for the 2013 Series. Like Papelbon, he's likely to receive more save chances in the second half.

Rafael Betancourt, 14 SV

Betancourt has been his usual fragile-but-good self this year. With Colorado just 2.5 games back, don't expect the Rockies to try dealing him away just yet. That makes him a better trade candidate than most of the pitchers on this list.



Stock Watch: Trade Your Prospects

Real-life Major League teams are getting more and more sensible these days, holding onto prospects like a miser with a bag of pennies. Sure, sometimes they still trade away next year's top shortstop for a mid-season rental, but those Jean Segura warning stories just seem to make most teams all the more protective of their best prospects. 

You, on the other hand, should do no such thing. There's no next year in fantasy (unless you play in a keeper league, in which case this advice has little to do with your situation), so deal away. Because it makes a much easier transition, let's shake things up and start off with some great prospects to trade away....

Trade Away (All Your Favorite Prospects)

I suggested nabbing Zack Wheeler last week--and I spent nearly half my yearly FAAB budget to get him on one team--so why am I telling you to deal him away now? I mean, he hasn't even gotten to pitch yet! The reason is that now could very well be the peak of his value. For every Shelby Miller, there are several Kevin Gausman's (Gausmen?). If Wheeler pitches poorly in his first start, his value drops by a lot, but right now he's still got that new-car smell, that untainted, sky's-the-limit, prospect essence. If you sell now for a proven commodity, there is a real chance that you undersell his value. And a real chance that you win the deal big. What you can get, though, is the safety of acquiring the kind of proven player that can't be found on the waiver wire. 

Like Wheeler, it would have been a safe (and usually advisable) play to deal Gerrit Cole before his first start: though Cole is a higher-level prospect, uncertainty still remains with any pitcher in their situation. Owners are obviously glad they didn't trade him, as his value has gone up. Now he's proven to be able to handle big league hitters. I bet there are plenty of leagues in which you can get a star caliber return for Cole right away. Most of you probably already know which owner to offer the trade to....

Yasiel Puig is another prospect like Cole, who might be able to fetch a serious return. His early success really might carry into continued great hitting...or it might not, or he might slump just in time to get squeezed out of the outfield when the better-paid Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford return from the DL. Sell him while you can!

Jurickson Profar is another sell-high candidate another prospect worth trading. I actually released him in one league the week before Ian Kinsler got injured. I'm not exactly kicking myself for that decision, though I certainly did at first. Profar may or may not be "ready" for the Majors, but he hasn't hit like it, and certainly not well enough to push Kinsler to the outfield. While Texas hasn't said what they'll do when their second baseman is back from the DL, don't be shocked if Profar wanders back to AAA. Fortunately, his name value alone might be enough for you to get a usable fringe starter in a trade.

I mentioned above that you don't want to make trades like these in keeper leagues, but you also shouldn't make them in another situation: last place. If you're at or near the top of your league, then it makes sense to deal upside for likelihood of usefulness. Even when you're in the thick of the pack, that strategy makes sense (though you might want to hold out for better return). But when you're at or near the bottom, you need upside. If you get offered one of these players, or most other prospects, in a deal (except Profar) try to swing a trade, and remember that teams higher in the standings can still benefit from low-upside returns.

Trade Away (BABIP Heroes)

Two players stuck out to me as BABIP-induced sell-high's. Sometimes when a player's high BABIP is inflating their numbers, you know that everyone knows it's a big fluke. Seriously, nobody's going to give you anything good for Jhonny Peralta. (But take it if they do!) Instead, high-expectation players with high-BABIP's look much better when dangled in trade. If I told you Joe Mauer would have a high batting average, and derive most of his value from it, would you be surprised? Of course not. But that doesn't mean you should expect him to keep the .410 BABIP that has led to his .332 AVG. Similarly, Freddie Freeman entered the year with high expectations. He's only hit six homers, but his .314 AVG mitigates the sting of lost power somewhat. Unfortunately, a .314 AVG isn't that high when you consider that Freeman's BABIP is .381. Deal both of these guys, while their averages make them look elite. 

Trade For

Troy Tulowitzki is making his annual trip to the DL, this time for 4-6 weeks with a broken rib. If you've got depth at short and Tulo's owner is reeling, regretting using a second-round pick on a player who's always getting hurt, try sneaking him onto your roster--even discounting the injured time, there's still every reason to think the slugger will remain the top at his position when the year is out. Another injured shortstop, Jose Reyes, is beginning his rehab. This seems like a good time to swing a deal for him--though be aware he may be slowed by his injury after his return.

Anthony Rizzo started the year slowly, then hit like crazy, and now he's been slumping again for a while. It's early in his career to call him "streaky," but if he is, a low point in the boom and bust cycle is the right time to make a move for him. Not only that, but a .269 BABIP is suppressing his numbers at least a little.

Manny Machado should be traded for if you play in a points league. Owners might be mystified why a player with a BABIP-inflated .316 AVG, and just five homers and five steals is among the league's best. They might anticipate a drop in his overall production. They might not know that he's got 30 doubles already. That's a crazy amount, putting him on pace for 72 two-sackers, breaking the all-time record, and netting you a ton of points. Even in standard leagues, it's a sign that his runs and RBI's are more solid than they first appear--though owners in these leagues will be hurt more by any drop in his BABIP.

Pick Up

Brandon Beachy is a pretty obvious add, as his rehab stint is nearly done and even the small chance that he can return immediately to his former glory is worth FAAB money, waiver claims, and whatever else it might take to get him on your team. Another obvious choice is Seattle catching prospect Mike Zunino. While Zunino might be with the big club for only a little while, expect him to stay if he hits at all well. If he's good enough for your fantasy team, he'll be good enough for the Mariners.

Josh Rutledge is the beneficiary of Tulowitzki's injury. Sent down after getting his shot earlier in the season, he's been slugging in AAA (which is sort of a given in Colorado Springs) and will have another month or more to prove himself against Major League pitching. Middle infielders with any chance for power are rare enough that he deserves immediate attention.

Remember Rick Porcello? Well, he's pitched rather well well in four games in a row, and six of the last seven, and is worth claiming for your team. If he's ever going to turn his talent into results, that time might be now. Hector Santiago was an add last month, then a drop, and now he's an add again. The strikeouts he generates are worth the lousy WHIP he'll probably give you. Finally, Erasmo Ramirez might be the next pitching prospect up to the big leagues with Seattle, and could be worth stashing. And maybe dealing when he does hit the Majors....



RotoAuthority League Update: Recent Trades

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.

It's been awhile since we examined some of the trades in the RotoAuthority League, so let's take a look at some of the recent action.

05/21 - A Century of Misery trades Matt Wieters to Yu at the Animal Zoo for Victor Martinez, Andrew Bailey, and Junichi Tazawa

Our first trade today is the only one involving my squad. I've been playing from behind all season long in the saves category after leaving the draft with just one closer, so my main objective in accepting this offer was to acquire the highly skilled yet often hurt Andrew Bailey. While Victor Martinez has struggled this season, he only sits during interleague road games for the Tigers. He's begun to heat up recently, so perhaps he can begin to turn around this disappointing season. Oddly enough, I actually view Matt Wieters as a nice Buy Low target, but I desperately needed the saves. Overall then, I was willing to downgrade at catcher in order to address a need. 

05/27 - Yu at the Animal Zoo trades Felix Hernandez, Starling Marte, Justin Morneau, Gerardo Parra, Marco Scutaro, and Brandon McCarthy to Forty 2 Twenty 4 for Edwin Encarnacion, Norichika Aoki, and Ben Zobrist

As you'll see shortly, Yu at the Animal Zoo has been very active over the past few weeks. In this particular trade, this owner sought to consolidate some pieces on his second-place roster. Given that Yu at the Animal Zoo currently leads every pitching category except saves, he can certainly accommodate the pitching needs of Forty 2 Twenty 4. If we try to break down this colossal deal, Felix Hernandez and Starling Marte for Edwin Encarnacion and Norichika Aoki seems pretty fair. I actually prefer Edwin to King Felix by a hair, but the added power-speed production from Marte over Aoki offsets that edge. One can make the case that the remaining pieces that Forty 2 Twenty 4 received are all replacement level to slightly above so in 12-team mixed leagues. If you don't own Ben Zobrist, you might assume that he's in the middle of another solid fantasy season. In reality, however, he enters today with just 4 HR and 4 SB; this is a player who seems to have more name value than actual value at this point. In summary, Forty 2 Twenty 4 improved his staff while Yu at the Animal Zoo beefed up in power. 

05/29 - Say it Ain't So Cano trades Angel Pagan to Philly Cheez for Rafael Betancourt

Sometimes both teams improve in a trade; at other times, there is a clear winner. Still other times, though, neither owner improves his roster as a result of a deal. At least to this point, this trade falls into that last category. After all, both players have gone on the DL since the transaction. I actually liked the trade at the time for Say It Ain't So. While Angel Pagan is undervalued just about every year, there are outfielders on the waiver wire who can contributely reasonably close to the production that he provides. Rafael Betancourt is nothing special among closers, but acquiring a closer for a low-end outfielder is more often than not a good move. Ultimately, though, any analysis of this deal is incomplete until we know when each player returns from the DL. One thing that Philly Cheez may have had in mind is that Betancourt is a free agent at season's end, so he seem very likely to be dealt at the deadline. Rex Brothers may very well hold that job all season long.

06/06 - Smell the Glove trades Steve Cishek and Josh Johnson to Forty 2 Twenty 4 for Brett Lawrie

The league's current leader, Tim Dierkes's Smell the Glove, recently got roster-crunched and made this trade to acquire an injured player instead of being forced to drop either Steve Cishek or Josh Johnson. For Forty 2 Twenty 4, this trade make sense, too. While the Marlins are certainly miserable, Cishek does still seem to be the go-to guy for saves, so adding another closer never hurts. Johnson, meanwhile, is exactly the type of high-variance player that owners near the bottom of the standings should seek to acquire at this point. Along those same lines, it's worth pointing out that Dierkes wisely chose to make a deal with an owner who's currently not a direct competitor in the standings. Moreover, Forty 2 Twenty 4 may be able to pass up second-place Yu at the Animal Zoo in the saves category, so there's an added benefit here for Smell the Glove. This is an often neglected element in the game theory behind fantasy baseball.

06/07 - Yu at the Animal Zoo trades Heath Bell and Adam Dunn to Men With Wood for Sergio Romo

Here's a trade in which we have one owner clearly putting his money on sabermetrics with another content to simply acquire the best player in the deal. Over the past several seasons of competing against Men With Wood, it's been easy to see that this owner appreciates the advanced metrics. Here's yet another example. Adam Dunn enters today with the lowest BABIP among all qualified hitters in baseball. Now we should never expect Dunn to post a league-average BABIP given his propensity to hit the ball in the air. Even so, we should anticipate that he'll receive better fortune going forward. Heath Bell, meanwhile, may be one of the top closers to target via trade at this point. The old veteran seems to still have the perception of the poor reliever that he was for the past couple seasons. In reality, though, the skills are stellar this season. In fact, there's very little difference in his peripherals and those of Sergio Romo this season. Another factor to consider in this trade is that Men With Wood is already in last place in AVG, so perhaps this is the first step in a strategy to punt the category. 

06/08 - Yu at the Animal Zoo trades Michael Morse and Jarrod Parker to Brewsterville Bruins for Jim Johnson

Here's yet another trade for the hyperactive Yu at the Animal Zoo. Just like in the previous deal, he acquired a closer. In this deal, though, he didn't give one up in return. After a hot first week of the season, Mike Morse has cooled down considerably. Quite the contrary for Jarrod Parker, who was rocked the first month of the season but has slowly begun to turn around his season. Jim Johnson is a player whom the fantasy community has maligned so much so that it may have gone too far. Say what you will about his strikeout rate, but he keeps the ball in the yard. More importantly, with full support behind Manager Buck Showalter, Johnson has one of the longest leashes among closers, in spite of his mediocre skills. That being said, the Bruins could certainly afford to move the closer, as this squad leads the saves category. Overall then, this trade appears to have bolstered both rosters.

06/08 - Smell the Glove trades Michael Pineda to Philly Cheez for Chris Perez

Just yesterday, it appears Dierkes landed a closer on the cheap. Both Michael Pineda and Chris Perez are expected to be back some time around the end of this month. In the case of Pineda, however, he's coming off very serious shoulder surgery, so there could always be a setback. One would expect Perez to resume closing duties soon after he returns from the DL. He was the one and only closer for Philly Cheez, so at this point this owner is clearly punting the category. Given that Philly Cheez resides near the bottom of the standings, there's some incentive to try to catch lightning in a bottle with a player like Pineda. Still, kudos to Dierkes for actively seeking out a trade and acquiring a closer at a very reasonable price.



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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