Buy, Sell, or Stand – The Plight of a Team (Maybe) on the Verge

In the FanGraphs Experts League (most recently discussed here), my team (Amateur Hour) has been in a free fall, sinking from first all the way to 8th and 15 points out of the top three.

But I am thinking of acquiring at least one rental, if not two or three, to try to make a push this year. Before doing so, I want to lay out my case here and explore why a team in the bottom half of the standings might decide the time is right to make a run.

It starts with innings pitched. My rotation has suffered some unfortunate injuries – Michael Pineda, Cory Luebke, and Shaun Marcum are all out as we speak; Ryan Dempster is just back – and I had to wait on a couple of my guys to get called up, resulting in the fewest innings pitched in the league, by a long shot. As a result, I am dead last in Wins and K’s (a healthy pen has kept me 3rd in Saves), despite being first in ERA and WHIP. Just catching up in IP by the end of the year (which likely requires me to add a SP) would earn me at least one point in strikeouts and closer to 4 or 5 in Wins. And that is assuming the addition of my top prospect (Trevor Bauer), the return of Marcum and Dempster, and the addition of whatever pitcher I trade for don’t help me up my K-rate or Win-rate.

On offense, I am again a study in extremes, with a #2 ranking in HR, and a #12 ranking in SB. All told, I am top three in four categories and bottom three in six, with only RBI (at 6th) sitting in the middle. At just over half-way through the season, though, a couple changes could go a long way.

Replacing Nick Swisher, likely my weakest OF, with Justin Upton (overpriced and on Eno Sarris’s struggling team) would net me nine SB, 10 runs, and 25 points of batting average, while leaving me neutral in HR and -1 in RBI, based on ZiPS rest-of-season projections. Injury returns from Matt Joyce and Dee Gordon will also help in certain categories, particularly Gordon’s steals, which were really my only source of speed when he went down. Add in a solid second half average from Howie Kendrick…and who knows?

The problem of course, is that I am still 15 points out of third and 25 points out of first.

All of which brings me to this. I have a rough offer on the table to give up a $2 Will Middlebrooks for a $54 Justin Upton and a $12 JJ Putz. If I am competing for this year, this is almost a no-brainer for me. Middlebrooks is in a four player platoon (Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Pablo Sandoval, and Middlebrooks) at three positions (1B, 3B, and Util), and that mix will get even more crowded when Matt Joyce pushes someone out of my OF. 10 extra SB from Upton would put me in the mix for a bunch of extra points, particularly if Gordon comes back healthy and adds a few of his own. But Upton isn’t enough. Making a move like that more or less commits me to going all out and trying to push myself over the top. It probably means shopping Nolan Arenado, as well, and perhaps Julio Teheran, maybe one of my injured pitchers, and some other young talent to try to add at least one more high-average, high-speed bat and at least one more SP. It means depleting a farm system I have spent two years building and that could be on the edge of something big.

After hemming and hawing and refusing to commit, I told Eno I was crowd-sourcing this trade decision. So, faithful readers, what say you? Is the right move to look at the potential my team has for a big second half, bolster my areas of needs and try to make a run from the back? Or do I give Teheran, Bauer, Starling Marte, Domonic Brown, Travis D’Arnaud and the rest of my prospects another year to develop and set my sights on 2013?

We are reaching the point of the season when decisions have to be made – so what is mine?

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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.

9 Responses to “Buy, Sell, or Stand – The Plight of a Team (Maybe) on the Verge”

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  1. Theonewhoknocks says:

    Go for it. The trade deadline is over a month away and there will still be deals to be made if over the next month everything goes wrong for you. You can go down 2 paths right now and only 1 is irreversible. Go for the glory

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  2. Chicago Mark says:

    I like your thinking TOW… BUT, if finishing second or third is all you think you can do then punt now and go for total glory next year and beyond. I hate having to say it….. But flags fly forever. Second or third doesn’t do t for me. Punt!

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  3. LuckyStrikes says:

    I’m now in my second year of Ottoneu and also came in 2nd place last season. I’m fighting for 1st this season, but I’ve leveraged a lot of prospects to get to the top, which means this is probably my last stand, and next season will be a full rebuild. It’s really not worth coming in 2nd or 3rd place…if you think Justin Upton gets you to 1st place, go for it, but looking at your roster, I think it’s clear it will take a lot more. With that said, I’d go the opposite direction…leverage your MLB components into some deals for the 4 or 5 teams fighting it out at the top of the standings and add some more qualified parts to your team for 2013. Your prospects are solid and most should contribute in 2013. More than anything, I would look to deal some key pieces to Scouting the Sally, and for two reasons: 1) He’s right on the verge of taking over 1st place and is probably motivated to win, and 2) he is loaded with young, cheap talent and could dominate your league for the next 3+ years if you don’t try to break it apart somehow. I’d look to move guys like Brown, Utley, Pineda, Myers, Nathan, and maybe even Teheran if you can find someone who still believes in him. 2013 is clearly your window…one year from now I would expect to see this post be about jumping one or two teams in the standings instead of 7…

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    • JimLahey says:

      Agree with this comment 100%. Also to add to the sell list: Capps. Maybe Fowler or Rasmus could get you a nice return this season due to their hot hitting?

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  4. Ian says:

    Your prospects aren’t good enough to justify hanging on at the expense of a potential title. Many prospects miss, and most take time to develop at the Major League level. Win now: players like Middlebrooks aren’t prospect keepers when they’re in the minors, but always emerge in season. You can replace him with whoever next year’s Middlebrooks is. Likewise with Brown and Marte. They may never make it or they may take years to adjust. As for the others….pitchers and catchers aren’t prospects, no matter how good they are. I say go for it.

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  5. supershredder says:

    No way, man. You’re too far back – making up that kind of ground is ridiculous. Unless you’re in a H2H. You have some decent prospects. I would actually try to swing a trade for next season. See if you can coax a top prospect from the 2nd, 3rd or 4th place guys.

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  6. rotofan says:

    At the start of the season you projected the final standings:

    Your projections have largely been turned on their heads; many of the teams you projected at or near the bottom are at or near the top.

    I raised that point not to be unduly critical — projections at the start of a season can be perilous and I am sometimes quite surprised by which teams do well and poorly.

    I raise the issue instead as a wary reminder that your projections for the remainder of the season may be just as suspect as those from the start. This is especially true since some teams ahead of you in the standings will surely make trades too and yet you haven’t factored in at all the relative movement in various categories. That is an especially important issue in your league because your trade deadline is so late (Aug. 31). If you make moves now and start moving up the standings, won’t teams in the top 6 or so make trades to stay ahead? While the trades you are considering would surely improve your standing, they may very well fall short of even the top 4.

    You’ve also failed to note your vulnerabilities. While you are first in WHIP now there are three teams on your heels and adding a SP, while it would mean wins, could means a loss in WHIP points.

    None of that is to say you shouldn’t trade for this year. Your farm system is tilted towards pitching and I tend to be more skeptical of young arms than of young hitters due to the injury factor. So it’s not as if you are close to having a certain dynasty.

    But on balance I would say there is more risk the reward.

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  7. gonetilnovember says:

    I’m in a similar situation, but not nearly the young guys you have (small bench); mine include Moustakas ($2), DesJennings ($2) and a $1 JMontero… I’m going to see what my team can do through August and then decide before our Mid-August trade deadline. Its a tough decision, but I’m leaning towards selling this year versus buying.

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  8. Scott says:

    Dude, go for it. Your prospects (Teheran, Bauer, Starling Marte, Domonic Brown, Travis D’Arnaud), will pan out in a spotty fashion next year, meaning your road to glory runs either through 2012, or 2014…possibly.

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