Trading for the Final Month

We’re heading toward the end of August, which means there’s only about a month remaining in the regular season. Though I’m sure many of your league’s trade deadlines have already passed, I’m quite confident that a lot of yours have not, but are certainly coming up soon.

For the first two months or so of the season, I’m all about trading for value. That is, my preseason dollar values guide my trade offers and responses. It’s far too early to determine what my team’s strengths and weaknesses are at that point, so I just want to accumulate as much value as possible.

But those dollar values do eventually go out the window, kind of. Though we still want to make sure we’re acquiring a player that results in a net gain in standings points considering the player(s) we traded away (and that we’re getting the most in return that we can possibly get), context becomes king at this juncture. So while overall value still does matter a bit (don’t trade Miguel Cabrera for Ben Revere straight up), it’s not nearly as important as your place in the various categorical standings.

There are complex and simple methods to determine what type of player is best for you to acquire and trade away. I opt for the simple method because we’re dealing with such uncertainty when projecting performance over just one month to begin with, it’s silly to perform any kind of pace analysis as if our teams are going to continue to post identical stats the rest of the way as they have so far.

The first thing I do is click on my league’s standings page and then open Excel. I then type the stat categories and conservatively estimate how many points I could possibly expect to gain or lose at best in each. Your spreadsheet should look something like this:

Standings worksheet

In column D, you would add the points to gain and the absolute value of the points to lose columns. This number tells you how important that category is since you want to gain points while also avoiding any losses. The higher the number, the more a priority that category is for you to bulk up on. For my local league team, I should be focusing on adding home run power, while dangling speed.

Now of course, the next question is how exactly to go about estimating these potential gains and losses. We could perform that pace analysis I mentioned earlier, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort. Since this exercise really comes down to RoS projections for just about a month, it’s best to just guess.

Keep in mind that the ratio categories are going to be difficult to move in. You could check your current team totals in both at-bats and innings pitched and make a bunch of calculations to see what batting average, ERA and WHIP you would need to post the rest of the way to get to a target rate. Of course, your competitors will also be potentially improving or losing ground, so there will remain lots of guesswork here as well.

Once I have a good idea of what categories I should target and which I would be okay trading away, I analyze my offense. I list all my hitters, including my bench bats, and the stat categories on the first row. I then place a +, – or nothing for each hitter in each category based on my expectations of their contributions.

If a hitter should be expected to produce positive value in a category, he gets a +. Earning positive value is accomplished by exceeding a replacement level in the category. When valuing players in the preseason, if you figured the top free agent first baseman should hit 19 home runs, then the first baseman you own that you think is a 26 homer guy would get a + in home runs. Anything around the 19 mark, perhaps a range of 17-21, would get nothing, reflecting a neutral contribution. Below 17 would receive a -. The worksheet should look something like this:

Hitters worksheet

You might choose to copy each hitter’s stats and paste them onto your worksheet to make it easier to determine who receives a + or -. Perhaps even extrapolate their current stats to a full season to get a better idea of what each is on pace for. There is no need to perform this exercise for pitchers, since it’s simply a matter of determining whether you could afford to trade pitching or must acquire one or two to improve your ratios.

This is actually a great exercise to perform throughout the season, not just this late into it. Personally, I would recommend starting your first analysis sometime around the all-star break. Earlier than that and you might be making trades simply as a result of hot or cold starts from your players that are unlikely to last.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Excellent article. I do something very similarly in Excel, but adding the team analysis is something I’ll add. Thank you