The Obvious Risk of Drafting to Trade (And Bold Pick #11)

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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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, and The Fake Baseball. He's also the lead MLB editor for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.


14 Responses to “The Obvious Risk of Drafting to Trade (And Bold Pick #11)”

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  1. Stormin' Norman says:

    Honestly, that math is why I don’t even care about the B-Ham critics.

    And the age-old, “but you’re relying on one guy for steals”, well, it’s YOUR draft, don’t do that. Have at least 2-3 guys that you could stash on the bench if you need reserve steals (Rajai isn’t going high in drafts, and neither is Ben Revere, which another writer said you should draft instead).

    As Razzball says, SAGNOF.

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  2. Twm says:

    That is bold.

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  3. Andrew says:

    Looking for a few managers to participate in a semi-competitive league (a few owners are reading this site, most are not). No cash involved, 7×7:

    R, RBI, Hits, HRs, Net Steals, OBP, SLG
    W, QS, HLD, SV, K, WHIP, ERA

    Draft is Sun Mar 23 2:30pm EDT.

    Drop me an email at mrthell on gmail if you’re interested.

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  4. Brad Johnson says:

    btw, between the time I finished this article and it went live, I had an owner in one of my leagues explain to me that it would be irresponsible for him to trade with me, even if the offer benefited his team. I think I’m teaching my leaguemates too well…

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    • SurprMan says:

      I had a similar situation recently where I was trying to trade some excess SP for Jose Abreu- Abreu’s owner had 5 other 1B-only players (!), and so I was reluctant to give up anything of much value because of how useless Abreu was to him. Eventually I caved, realizing that even though the other owner may benefit more than me, it would still make my team better, and I didn’t expect that owner to be competitive anyways (because he spent all his money on 1B’s and 3B’s).

      So, I think the moral I settled on is that IF the other team is going to suck regardless, it’s not necessarily irresponsible to trade value for their useless surplus. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

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    • Andrew A says:

      your posts come off as bragging more than providing actual advice or analysis

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        I’ll keep an eye on that, thanks. That’s probably solved by tweaking the perspective a bit.

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      • PBMax says:

        I didn’t think so. I’ve had the same problem in my long running keeper league. Sometimes, a lot of the time, its luck, but over the years patterns develop. Keep on keeping on Brad.

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  5. Cap'n Scrappy says:

    I like drafting to trade sometimes. On the comment re league mates not wanting to give good value because they know you have to trade, I like waiting until the season starts if that happens. After a little while, someone’s sleeper doesn’t pull through or they have an injury and they’ll come back. 60% of the time, it works every time.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      That’s pretty much the position I’m in right now. One league uses OPS instead of AVG and per my numbers, that distorts value a lot more than other managers seem to realize. I’ve gotten some very equitable offers for Stanton if it were a standard 5×5, but nobody is willing to accept my valuation. I’ve also heard “he’s injury prone” a billion times despite that almost every pitcher should be considered a similar or bigger injury risk. It looks like I’m waiting for Stanton to swat 5 HR in the first 10 games…

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      • Stormin' Norman says:

        Although, to be fair, I will try to discredit a player just a bit in order to put some doubt into the mind of the owner. Not to the point where I won’t make a decent offer, but enough to get a “yeah, maybe. . .”.

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  6. BJ says:

    I need help on my keepers: Trout, Tulo, Harper. Trout is a given, but between Tulo & Harper who else should I keep?

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      How many OF’s per team? How many teams? How many MI per team? Who will be best player available on draft day (roughly)? How long can you keep players (perpetuity)?

      Without any information, I would lean towards Harper for health reasons. Tulo might be better if it’s a one off (as in you have to cut either player next year) or OF is very shallow.

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  7. JohnnyComeLately says:

    “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.”

    This is gold Brad, GOLD!

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