Balancing Future and Present at the Deadline

The MLB Trade Deadline is coming up quickly, and fantasy deadlines will follow over the next few weeks. For dynasty owners, particularly those near the top of their standings, there is a big question of how you balance making a run in 2014 vs. staying in a good position for 2015.

I am in the midst of a marathon trade dialogue with fellow Rotographer Brad Johnson. Brad is sitting in fourth place, but has the 8th best offense and 4th best pitching staff and has determined that puts a top-three finish out of reach. And as he has shipped off one star after another (Miguel Cabrera, Craig Kimbrel, Adam Wainwright) he and I have repeatedly debated the merits of those stars and my young up-and-comers.

So far, we have yet to find a match. Part of this was Brad’s attempt to neuter my 2015 team (we are three years into this league and if I can move up from 2nd and win again this year, that will be 3-for-3 – he wants to preemptively cut off 4-for-4), and partially due to my unwillingness to match other team’s offers.

Realistically, I am going to need a bit of luck to break my way to pass the current league leader – I am short on games at MI and IP, and his offense is a bit better than mine on average thus far – unless I make a move. Brad’s last remaining over-priced players are Ben Zobrist ($40) and arguably David Wright ($28). Zobrist is the guy I want.

The problem is, I have so far been unwilling part with the guys he wants. He has been asking for Corey Dickerson, Chris Owings, Devin Mesoraco, and Josh Donaldson (not all together – he is not crazy). I have been offering Charlie Blackmon, Owings (but not in the packages he wants – as a lone return for Zobrist), Wilson Ramos, and Jedd Gyorko. The gap may not seem huge, but we are both pretty stubborn and, so far…no dice.

Which brings us to the question of balancing this year and next. Realistically, Zobrist has the potential to put me over the top this year. He’s also tossed out the possibility of a $12 Jon Lester with Zobrist (for a higher price), and that almost assuredly would do it.

Some of you, right now, are asking, why not just go for it? And that is a fair question. In fact, if I felt my team were less well positioned for the future, I might just do that – dump anyone he wants to get the two pieces I need. If I offered Donaldson, Dickerson and Owings for Lester, Wright and Zobrist, I am willing to be he says yes. But that is three guys I am counting on next year for two guys I likely cut (and Lester). And while I am short on innings, that is actually due to injuries, not depth – my rotation for 2015 looks better than my lineup.

Of course the other question you may ask is, why isn’t Brad just taking what he can get? And that, too, is a fair question. But the thing to keep in mind is that Brad, too, has to think about next year. And considering my history in this league, he likely sees me as his early competition (or at least some of it). Getting Dickerson instead of Blackmon (he has a pretty strong preference, I have a slight one, for Dickerson), both increases his return AND increases my “penalty” for winning this year.

With that as background, some quick pieces of advice:

1) If you are buying, think realistically about how good your 2015 roster is going to be. If you are about to start a full rebuild, then make your run now and don’t worry about who you hold.

2) If you are buying and think 2015 is a decent shot for you, be careful about how much you give up. Finishing 2nd this year and having another shot at 1st in ’15 may be better than finishing 1st this year (or missing that anyway) and being a bottom dweller next.

3) If you are buying but think your team will be even better next year, be REALLY cautious. Maybe you are expecting Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez, Noah Syndergaard and others to join your 2015 roster. Why destroy that opportunity for a shot at first if you can get just as good a shot next year?

4) If you are selling, don’t just settle for the best offer you get – make sure you know the impact of both what you are getting and what the other team is giving up. You are trying to maximize your chances to win in 2015, and your opponents are part of that picture.

5) For sellers, time is on your side – as you hold out, your buyers will get more desperate. For buyers, the sooner you buy, the better – two months of Cabrera or Wainwright is a lot more valuable (twice, in fact) as one month.

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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

12 Responses to “Balancing Future and Present at the Deadline”

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  1. Kris says:

    Great advice, particularly your second point. I’m in a 12 team league that pays out to the top 5 at the end of the year. The team in first has a big lead, but there are about 5 of us battling it out for the next few spots. I just swapped $7 Dom Brown and $4 Baez for $12 Puig to help me out down the stretch, but also because Puig’s price won’t rule him out for me in 2015 and beyond.

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  2. Brad says:

    I’m curious why you think zobrist will put you over the top?

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    • Chad Young says:

      1) My pitching has been best in the league all year, and that was despite injuries. As guys come back and I am forced to catch up on innings, it is bringing down my overall pitching stats, but I just added Darvish. I believe I can do what’s needed to fill out my innings and I am confident that my rotation and pen can keep me atop the standings in pitching.

      2) My offense has sat 2nd or 3rd most of the season, but has actually passed the leader this week. I’ve added JD Martinez, have a healthy Wilson Ramos (for now) contributing behind Mesoraco, and expect better things from Jon Singleton, Nick Castellanos (who is only a reserve anyway) and Josh Donaldson (at least better than the last 30-45 days) in the second have.

      3) That said, I have hit only 85 games at MI, largely due to injury (Owings and Gyorko) and platooning (Gennett). Poor performance (Brad Miller) has not helped. Basically, my MI has been an anchor all year and yet I am still leading in pts/G, less than 300 points from first, and just 80 AB behind the team ahead of me. To make up about 14 games at MI (99 games played is a 162 pace at this point), I basically cannot afford to ever leave the spot empty. I also cannot afford to have it be a wasted spot (playing some terrible scrub…though that is better than nothing). My biggest risk, I think, is that I fail to fill out my innings and/or games played, and MI is (I think) my biggest risk in that regard. Zobrist not only gives me MI games, but potentially elite MI games.

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  3. LarryA says:

    Some people including me, think that a full rebuild especially in otto in never needed. I agree with selling in july if you are out of it, but only non keepers. Lester at 14 next year is a great keeper. Why would the other guy want to deal him. Just fact that you won 2 or 3 years in a row prooves that you never need to rebuild for longer than a half season. My league is in the 3rd year too. The top teams are the same year to year, despite huge roster changeover.

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    • Chad Young says:

      It’s all about value. I’d love to add Lester, but I am unwilling to include my $11 Donaldson to get it done. He wants better keepers than I am offering, and one way to change that is to offer up a keeper he likes less than the guys I am offering, but fits a need for me this year without leaving the cupboard barren for next year.

      In another league I am in, I have a $12 Max Scherzer who I am shopping (or was, pre-neck thing). I like my young rotation in that league and it’s a format that makes pitching easier to come by. If I can land a great keeper bat (my OF for 2015 is thin in that one), I am willing to shop a truly elite keeper to get that done.

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  4. steve says:

    I have a question based on this comment:

    “For sellers, time is on your side – as you hold out, your buyers will get more desperate.”

    In years I have decided to sell (this year, unfortunately) I have tended to be highly aggressive early, given that leagues (mine is a keep 10, salary, NL only) only have a few elite value players per year (limited more by those who are actually buying).

    My thinking is that if I hold out longer, yes I may get a “better” deal relative to what I give up, but I run the risk of having those elite values ($1 Puig, for instance) get shipped off to other teams.

    So by moving early and “overpaying” in short term players, I am able to collect all (or most) 3-5 elite values for the year or years going forward.


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    • jdbolick says:

      I agree with you, in my experience you’re best off taking a good deal as soon as you can find one. One major problem is that the more time goes by, the fewer teams remain willing to trade future value for present value as their probability of moving up the standings declines. Sometimes a team gets desperate to counter the moves of their competition, but generally speaking the number of buyers decreases during a season and the number of sellers increases.

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    • Chad Young says:

      I think, realistically, there is a pendulum effect here. If you are ready to sell in May or even June, the best keeper values, elite prospects, etc. are likely still available. And you are selling nearly a full season of your elite player, so the willingness to pay for that player is at its peak.

      As we move into July and early August, you likely already lost your shot at elite guys. And the best keepers still on competing teams are still there for a reason – that team has not been willing to part with them. So you can take their next tier keepers now, or you can hold out and see what happens. Maybe they sustain an injury. Or a rough patch sets them back from 3rd to 4th and they panic. Who knows. But I think sellers have are in a rough market right now – they missed the best window to move guys and should wait for the next one to open.

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    • BigCat says:

      agreed. If waiting is bad for buyers because they only get 4 weeks of production rather than 8, then it’s also bad for sellers to wait because buyers should be willing to give up less for half the production

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  5. jdbolick says:

    Ultimately the problem with trades is that you’re dealing with human beings. Not only do you have to deal with differences in perceived value, but if you’re lucky enough to have a plethora of keepers and prospects then potential trading partners typically ask much more of you than they do someone with less to offer.

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  6. Greg Leatherman says:

    I think trading Mesoraco right now is selling high. Owings is interesting for next year, but not irreplaceable, IMHO.

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