The FanGraphs Experts League has been a relatively slow moving league with regards to trades. I am told this is fairly common in experts leagues (my dubious standing as an expert makes it difficult for me to validate this on my own).
But in the last week, we have had a veritable flurry of trade activity, with not one, not two, but THREE TRADES going down in a 48 hour period.They are intriguing trades on their own, but also have some good lessons that I think can help all ottoneu players make final moves before the January 31 roster deadlines.
The Salary Dump
Prior to the auction, every team is sitting on talent that they know they cannot (or should not) keep, due to price. ottoneu teams, just like real teams, have different salary and roster situations, and it is not uncommon for one man’s very, very expensive piece of trash to be another’s relatively well priced treasure. Yahoo’s Andy Behrens strengthed his eponymous team by taking a $59 Troy Tulowitzki off the hands of Peter Schoenke and Jeff Erickson, co-owners of Team RotoWire. In exchange, the RotoWires acquired a $5 David Freese.
Now, no one is going to mistake Freese for Tulo (at least not from a production standpoint), but this deal actually makes a ton of sense for both teams. RotoWire is short on cap space (they currently have $435 in salary for 39 players) and had no way to keep Tulowitzki. Behrens has plenty of cap space ($330 and 30 players) – in fact, he has already suggested on Twitter that he would be happy to pick up MORE salary in the right deal.
The key here is that, if you are in the right place at the right time, you can really capitalize on another team’s salary dump. If Tulo puts up a healthy season, Behrens will be thrilled to have him, even at that price, and the loss of David Freese won’t be a major issue. If you have cap space, check the rosters in your league for teams that a) need to clear space and b) have high-but-reasonably-priced stars and make inquiries. You might be able to nab an anchor for your lineup (or rotation) before the auction.
The Trade from Strength
Behrens again took on salary in this deal, although the other owner (me) did not make this deal purely to clear cap room (although I am not complaining that I was able to do that). Instead, this was a case of an owner having a really bad team , but having one area of strength that could be used to strengthen the team. Despite my brutal finish last year, I entered 2013 with four viable catchers – Jesus Montero, J.P. Arencibia, Wilin Rosario, and Travis D’Arnaud. D’Arnaud may start in the minors, but even so, I didn’t need all those catchers and so I aggressively shopped them, hoping to keep JPA and Rosario (who cost $7 and $6 respectively) while solidifying weak areas with the $17 Montero. As it happened, Behrens was in the market for a catcher and had a couple pieces I needed.
In exchange for Montero, I picked up a $3 Jedd Gyorko and a $5 Sergio Santos. Gyorko was a value play for me – my MI is brutal and I have some prospects in the pipeline, but I need to have options to rebuild quickly, because I will likely have to overpay for MI talent in the auction this year. Santos, however, fills a key need. I struggle with saves in this 5×5 league (I play in few leagues that count saves but not holds) and was relying on a $6 Casey Janssen to reprise his closing role this year. But the Jays haven’t committed to him and Santos still appears to be the closer of the future north of the border. Now, I have Janssen’s handcuff (or do I have Santos and his handcuff?) giving me two strong relievers and a veritable lock on Blue Jay saves in 2013 (and hopefully beyond).
And I grabbed these pieces by moving a guy I would generally have kept, but didn’t need thanks to my depth. If you have depth at a position, start to shop that position. Keep in mind that other owners may recognize that you cannot keep all your depth, which may influence the return you can get – but that doesn’t mean you aren’t better off trading the extraneous piece rather than cutting it.
The Valuation Difference
In this case, I am actually just assuming the difference in opinion. I desperately need a 1B and noticed that ESPN’s James Quintong had $17 Freddie Freeman and $14 Ike Davis on his roster. As it happens, I love Davis. Love the guy. Huge fan. Did you know he hit 32 HR last year? Did you know he had 90 RBI? And, yeah, his AVG and Runs were not great, but he .246 BABIP. Do you know his lowest BABIP at any level in his pro career? .318 in Low-A in his first season. You know what he did in the second half last year? .255/.346/.542 and 20 HR in 75 games and he still only had a .260 BABIP.
So yeah, I am a big fan of Ike Davis. Well, Quintong didn’t need Davis AND Freeman and while I was fairly certain he wouldn’t move Freeman, he needed a 3B and I was fairly confident my $32 Pablo Sandoval would be intriguing. And While I assume Panda will hit for a higher average than Ike, I’m pretty confident Davis will hit more HR and post more RBI – enough so that for $18 less, I’ll gladly take the move down the defensive spectrum from a 3B to a 1B. Plus, because Davis’s street value is so much lower than were I value him, I was able to get an additional piece – $6 Ryan Madson – further securing my bullpen.
In this case the lesson is to know who you value and who you don’t. Basically, I would likely trade for Ike Davis in any league I play in, because the chances are the return asked of me would be find based on what I expect from Ike. Similarly, I don’t think there is any chance I will trade for Chase Headley because I just don’t believe in his 2012 power surge. If you own guys you know you like less than the market, start shopping them. If you know other owners have players you value more than the market, inquire on them.
So those are the three lessons – look for chances to benefit from a salary dump, trade from strength, trade guys you value less than the market/trade for guys you value more than the market. Following those rules won’t guarantee you are a winner, but they will help you find deals you are excited to make and that should improve your team.