If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’ve conducted a few odd drafts in recent weeks. In one league, I have a big surplus of outfielders, big enough that some teams have been forced to roster part time players while I sit on nine regulars and a top prospect. In another league, which I wrote about yesterday, I have a glut of corner infielders in a format where it’s almost impossible to create true scarcity.
Generally speaking, it’s my belief that an owner should take the best available player, subject to position scarcity. Obviously, there are scenarios where drafting a certain player can only be seen as negligence, even if he’s the best player on the board. The point is that I’m comfortable creating a roster logjam in early March if it’s the best way to accrue talent on my roster.
The two rosters that I mentioned in the intro now depend on me to make a few trades. In the one, I have a shortage of starting pitching and I would love to add a third elite reliever to my staff. The other league could benefit from a more reliable center fielder than Curtis Granderson and I wouldn’t mind moving Allen Craig to a reserve role if I can find a better left fielder. It’s all well and good to identify those target areas, but now I need to find a trading partner.
That’s easier said than done. Both of the leagues in question are long running keeper leagues. In one, I’ve made a habit of fleecing my rivals via trade – actually I usually let them fleece themselves, but nobody recognizes this distinction. I don’t think I’ve fleeced anyone in the other league, but a high replacement level makes it hard to move mid-roster players, while the top talent is locked into keeper mode and thus difficult to pry away. It doesn’t help that my own policy is to ignore a player’s possible keeper value unless he’s on my roster (in which case it’s still heavily discounted).
Pretty much everyone feels good about their roster in March (barring injury) because they picked players the like or believe have good value. I can point out as many issues and problems as I’d like, but until they feel pain, they’re going to go on liking their babies.
My rivals also have an incentive to twiddle their thumbs and draw out negotiations. It’s kind of obvious that I have to do something if I want to compete. It doesn’t matter if I win the five hitting categories by 10 percent or more if I bomb pitching. Building a roto roster is all about finding that happy medium. In a points-based setting, I have to extract every marginal point possible out of each active roster spot if I’m to take home the gold. By sticking me with an inefficient roster, my rivals are preventing me from fielding my best team. And because any “fair” trade will necessarily benefit my roster more than theirs, there is extra friction to striking a deal.
At the end of the day, this post is about a simple point. Even in a league that historically features a lot of trades, it’s dangerous to pin your hopes on executing a fair trade. In a competitive league, the more problems your roster shows, the harder it will be to find that fair offer. The best case scenario is for a rival to match your wants and needs. For example, I have outfielders and need pitching and they need outfielders and have pitching. In that case we can reach a mutually beneficial agreement and be about our business. Most owners are going to draft a balanced roster because it’s safer, and with a balanced roster comes the option of “do nothing.” If they’re smart, they’ll ask you to help them as much as they help you, which probably means you’re about to get the raw end of a deal.
Bold Pick #11: Billy Hamilton will steal 90 bases in the majors
When I posted my 10 bold picks on Tuesday, my #8 was chastised as not bold enough. I sort of agree, in that I think there is about a 40 percent chance that Justin Verlander will be the best starter in Detroit. It was my perception that the market was much more pessimistic about a full rebound and/or expects a big repeat from Max Scherzer. So let’s add to the boldness.
After reading my colleagues’ picks, it seems that the consensus is that Billy Hamilton won’t get a full season of playing time. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets at least 600 plate appearances with health. Let’s call that a 30 percent chance. If he gets 600 plate appearances, he should reach base at least 150 times. In that case, I’ll guestimate that he attempts about 100 steals. He’ll need a 90 percent success rate to hit my prediction. Granted, there is upside for more plate appearances, and he could also reach base at better than a .250 OBP. Both scenarios would lower his success rate requirements to more reasonable levels assuming he attempts more steals.
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