Fantasy confessions: I traded Jesus

I traded Jesus.

Montero, that is. There. I said it. I have confessed my sin. I am prepared to repent. But not quite yet. There’s still seven weeks left in the baseball season.

Jesus Montero and I go way back. It was March of 2008. I had returned to fantasy baseball after a nearly two decades hiatus in which I wandered the wilderness, got married, had kids and worked like a dog. Invited by a colleague to join an American League-only roto league, one with keepers and a deep reserve list, I agreed, then spent the few weeks I had trying to make up for spending more time changing diapers than watching what makes a good change-up.

My cram skills, finely honed by 20 years of schooling, were badly rusted. So when I walked into the basement of Dan Grindstaff’s basement, which would soon be filled with pizza and beer, I sat down having done an admirable job studying the available major league talent. But the minor leagues — whoa Betsy — I came armed with nothing more than someone else’s ranking sheet and some vague notion that I would target catchers because they were so scarce (and so speedy to develop — not).

I braced myself for the ride that is an auction and survived with only one inexcusable blunder, out-bidding a smarter rival for Richie Sexton when I didn’t really need another first baseman (I guess that’s two blunders).

Then I turned my focus, or what remained of it, to the reserve draft, a snake draft with each team to have 17 picks. I began with minor leaguers closer to the the Show, but soon they were gone and I had crossed out most of the top-rated prospects. Not willing to simply give in to random guesses, I looked at what was left on my list and noticed something striking: There were a few guys with really strange names, at least in my part of the world.

Beau Mills. Got ‘im

Lars Anderson. Check.

And finally Jesus. No, not Jesus Rafael Montero, who has since batted 340 times and swatted one home run for the Cardinals organization — quick aside: If you can afford a dead roster spot next year nominate this Montero and see if anyone bites. No, I drafted the real deal, the one with no middle name, who had played all of 33 games the year before in rookie ball.

It was only later as the season would unfold that I had picked him a year or two early: While ours is a keeper league, we can only keep a player for three years at their auctioned or drafted price — or boost the salary by signing a long-term contract before the third year. I had the golden boy but it was too early, a case of premature anticipation, something I’m told is treatable.

So I dropped Montero by season’s end, then grimaced when the following season, he was taken in the reserve draft a few slots before my turn by a rival sipping tropical drinks drafting from a cruise ship via an Internet connection.

By July I had decided to trade for the following year, swinging deals for bargain-priced Sin-Soo Choo and Adam Lind. Then I turned my gaze toward Montero and pulled the trigger, giving up a moderately-priced Hideki Matsui along with Ronny Cedeno and Mike Moustakas.

Jesus had returned. I was saved. (Quite a feat as I’m Jewish.)

I kept Montero for this year, one of the building blocks for my dynasty along with Desmond Jennings, Justin Smoak and Brian Matusz. I began the year as a heavy favorite, confident because of what seemed an unparalleled keeper list. Over-confident, it turned out.

Lost to injuries for chunks of the season were Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Mike Cameron, Kelly Shoppach and Kendry Morales.

By the time Morales was carted off it was clear my dream of dominance was illusory. I turned to the one owner in the league whose circumstance seemed a perfect match for my own. His team appeared out of contention and he was openly talking to trade. He had a struggling and moderately-high priced Mark Teixeira and two studs in the last year of their contracts, Justin Verlander and Dustin Pedroia. I had Morales locked up for another year at a bargain basement price of $6. The proposal was straight forward: Teixeira would replace Morales and Pedroia would replace Cabrera in my lineup while Verlander would shore up a staff that was chronically short of wins. My rival would get the best-priced slugger for next year and, if that wasn’t enough, I’d add a prospect — I had half of the top 20 prospects in the league.

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What followed wasn’t negotiations. My rival was ambivalent. He didn’t have the time to do the research needed to come to a conclusion about what he wanted — he had just too much going on his life to slavishly devote himself, his pursuit of fantasy hobbled by more trivial things like work, family, friends and hobbies. Our non-talks stretched out weeks. Time was running out for me: One of my other rivals had quietly assembled a team that was starting to blow away everyone else. With a Internet-less trip looming to Italy, I stepped up the pressure, but there was to be no exchange of players or vows. I left the continent with the light of first place growing ever dimmer, my only solace weeks of wine, food, natural beauty and invigorating history.

I returned resigned to second only to realize even that consolation prize was slipping from my grip. Dumping season had begun, a few rivals had strengthened their squads, and then my bad luck with injuries tag-teamed with a nasty and unexpected turn of events at the trade deadline: Ron Gardenhire decided John Rauch, my second closer, wasn’t mediocre enough, and traded for Matt Capps.

There weren’t a lot of dance partners left: Most teams were still in contention to finish in the money. I didn’t have excess to trade except prospects. I sent out offers to two team owners I thought had given up the current season, one a blockbuster that was lost in email — he traded instead with a rival. A second owner was slow to get back. I sat by the computer, awaiting a response. It was my high school prom all over again.

Then, just to stir the pot and vent, I placed all my studs for next year on the trading block. At long last the second owner replied. Over the course of a day we hammered out a deal: I traded away Lonnie Chisenhall and Tanner Scheppers for two months of Josh Beckett, injury risk and all.

Later I was to swing a deal with the rival that leads the field by 30 points, trading Max Scherzer and Jemile Weeks for Colby Lewis, Alexei Ramirez (who is in the last year of his contract) and Mitch Moreland.

Neither trade upset me: I don’t think Chisenhall or Scheppers will contribute too much next year, Lewis and Scherzer are a wash and I really like Moreland’s chances to surprise as a poor man’s Billy Butler.

But between those trades I pulled another. With Rauch out as closer I needed another and I still had to make up ground in wins, batting average and steals just to hold on to second place.. I called the only owner in our league who seems always cool, and said Hey Jude (he gets that a lot), let’s deal. He asked me who I wanted. Brian Fuentes, Brett Cecil, Nick Markakis and Jacoby Ellsbury, all either in the last year of their contracts or over-priced. Now who would I give back, he asked. Marco Scutaro, I said, J.D. Drew. And then the words came tumbling from my mouth like a Mookie Wilson ground ball slipping through the wickets of Bill Buckner.

Jesus Montero.

In the back of my mind I was already rationalizing the move: He was entering his third year next season and probably would begin in the minors, he still couldn’t catch all that well, first base wasn’t an option and the Yankees seemed intent on trading him. He had only been hitting well for a couple of weeks. I already had Matt Weiters on my squad and could get by without a second stud catcher. I liked Eric Hosmer, only in his first year of a contract, even more.

But for the second time in two years I had lost Montero and it still feels like a kick in the gut, a self-inflicted one at that, no small feat when you consider my lack of flexibility. Ellsbury going down for likely the rest of the year, a risk I knowingly assumed, makes it even worse.

Which brings me to this: In your time playing fantasy baseball, which one move caused you the most anguish? And for those whose wound is not so fresh, what, if anything, have you learned?


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Brad Johnson
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Brad Johnson
I have a pretty fresh wound of my own. As we’ve talked via email, my league is a 12 team auction with unlimited keepers at a cost of draft price +$7. I drafted Stephen Strasburg for $8. It was the coup of the draft (although I also snagged Liriano for $4 and Carlos Santana for $1). Strasburg would anchor my rotation for the next 4 years at a considerable surplus value. I would only consider trading him for Pujols, Hanley, Braun, Heyward, Lincecum, and real cash. And then, disaster. Or rather the worst 15 day injury plague I’ve ever suffered.… Read more »
Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher
Brad – I hope a first-place finish will soften the blow; it’s hard to give up a guy whose talent you were the first (in your league) to identify. I’ll have to settle for second-place — at best — and that may be a struggle. I recently lost ARod who the Yanks will be in no hurry to bring back and Conor Jackson, who was supposed to be part of my health insurance policy. I’m curious what was available in your free agent market as a 12-team mixed league should leave some talent. My 12-team A.L-only league leaves almost nothing of… Read more »
Brad Johnson
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Brad Johnson
The trade was made 2 days before he came off the DL the first time. I was mainly targeting R, SB, and OPS. I led RBI by a fair margin (20 at time of trade, 40 now) and was locked into 2nd place in homers with the closest team 10 behind me and the team ahead leading by 25. In R I was 7th but only 20 back from the leader. That has shrunk to 10 and I’m in 3rd now. SB I was looking to gain 1 point in (which I’ve since gotten with Reyes and Ichiro) and OPS… Read more »
Brad Johnson
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Brad Johnson

And yes, if I win, the extra $70 will be well worth losing Strasburg. I may even manage to reacquire him as I’ll be looking to do a lot of keeper swapping in the offseason.

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
Interesting article, but one question—why trade Max Scherzer and Jemile Weeks for Colby Lewis, Alexei Ramirez and Mitch Moreland? Personally, I feel that Scherzer has much more talent and upside than Lewis (who I love, mind you), but let’s pretend that part of the trade is a wash. Why give up Weeks though? If Ramirez wasn’t at the end of his contract for your league, I could understand that, but Ramirez for the rest of the year+mitch moreland (who doesnt deserve to clean Chris Davis’ sneakers) seems unnecessary give Weeks’ upside. I’d rather have Scherzer+the risk of Weeks, personally. Perhaps… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
In terms of moves which have caused me the most anguish, I cite two I made this season: -In need of WHIP and Ks and with Kendry Morales (before injury), Prince Fielder and Joey Votto, I traded Joey Votto for Dan Haren in May. Haren, for me, has a 4.72 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 4 W and a mere 100 K in 122 IP.. Meanwhile, for the other guy, Votto is hitting .335 with 21 HR, 63 R, 60 RBI and 6 SB. Talk about a buy low move gone awry. -Two months ago, I also traded Ricky Nolasco, Buster Posey… Read more »
Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher
Jeffrey – Scherzer clearly has more upside but I also considered the following: (1) Scherzer is more of an injury risk, though this year has been by far his healthiest. (2) Scherzer will be entering his third year of a contract in our league next year so he must have his salary bumped to keep longer—either $7 for each of the next two years of $12 for each of the next three. Lewis will be entering his second year and will cost me $4 next year, after which I can keep him at that price for another year or long-term… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
Thanks for the full response Jonathan. Perhaps I am too far down on Moreland and too reliant on MLS’ MLE Calc, but his minor league numbers do not particularly inspire me. In the PCL, he was only hitting an .855 OPS clip, which the MLS MLE pegs as worth a .242/.312/.390 (702 OPS) triple slash. His current numbers (at least from when I covered him for my AL WW piece this week) arent much better: .270/.325/.324 (649 OPS). He’s not going to slot in the top 6 spots of the lineup, and while playing 7-9 in the Rangers lineup is… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
Also, Re: Votto, I agree with you. I was convinced Votto was a top 3 1B entering the season (behind Cabrera and Pujols, ahead of Fielder), but with Fielder struggling and in need of SP, I figured Votto was my best chip (especially with Ichiro allegedly anchoring my BA/R). Oh woe is my team. I was in first in all 3 of my money leagues by a large margin entering August and I’d been there all season. Since, I’ve dived hard to third in one league, second in another. My third league I stand to lose 3-4 points in W/Ks… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
Though I basically covered what I said about him in my column, here is what I exactly wrote about Moreland (it’s more organized in thought): Mitch Moreland | Texas | 1B | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership YTD: .267/.377/.422 MLE: .242/.312/.390 Who is Mitch Moreland? He’s another first baseman in the “guys who aren’t Chris Davis and play first base for the Rangers” bloodline. Moreland was posting solid numbers in Triple-A (.289/.371/.484, .316 BABIP) before getting called up to the show, but Minor League Splits is less than bullish on his major league equivalent production. Per MLS’s manual MLE calculator, Moreland’s… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

Sorry to make yet another comment, but I misspoke about Moreland’s current production. His YTD line is actually .291/.400/.491 (.361 BABIP, 29.1% K%). I accidentally cited Jorge Cantu’s numbers on the Rangers in my previous comment.

struggler
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struggler
I dig the Buyer’s Remorse topic of the article. I can only contribute remorseful droppings from this year but they evoke a similar feeling. I drafted Hart in the 16th round since I felt he was extremely undervalued as a possible 20/20 guy. I dropped him early on when he was losing PT to Jim Edmonds. I grabbed Floyd off of waivers from an impatient owner.  I was extremely happy until he blew up vs the Indians and followed that up by throwing a gem vs. Tampa while on my bench. I have no patience for that kind of erratic… Read more »
Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher
Jeffrey – I’m less inclined to use MLE of Moreland’s AAA stat line since Moreland zipped through two levels last year (A+ and AA) and struggled some in April—after which his OPS would have been closer to .900. That may be cherry-picking on my part but Moreland moved up through the system very quickly. His play so far can be discounted because of sample size but he has hit well and that has put him in better stead to start next year. He’s batted 6th three times in the last week or so and that bodes well too – Washington… Read more »
Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher
struggler – Buyer’s remorse is so much easier when you’re in first – those bad moves must be in the minority. I say that as the owner of a team in second and at risk of slipping further. My auction league tends to discourage impulsive moves; We have monthly free agents auction but hat’s it—no way to add a player mid-month. We also have a 17-man reserve so guys in slumps can be benched without being kicked to the curb. My draft league, a first for me, is another matter—daily moves with a much smaller bench of five. I’ve dropped… Read more »
Brad Johnson
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Brad Johnson

I’ve made a league high 96 moves in my 5 bench slot league. The deep rosters require much more tinkering and manipulation via the waiver wire. The 2nd place team has 80 moves, 3rd – 74, and 4th – 79. The next highest is 41.

I actually was legitimately using churn and burn with pitchers early in the season before people realized I was getting very good production from free players and started mimicking me a little.

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
Jonathan— I do not disagree and I understand you are looking more short term, where riding out a “hot bat” makes more sense (though I wonder if “hot bats” are a real thing for players not named Luke Scott/Alfonso Soriano/Jose Guillen…), but a long term deal like this could put you in a true hole down the line. I assume you play AL-only based on the players listed. In a world where Orlando Hudson is the second best hitting 2B in the league, 2B is clearly a shallow position. Weeks has good AVG/OBP upside (though his power is somewhat weak)… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

Also, to go one step further with Davis, I punched his numbers into the MLE calc. In a translation from the PCL to the Arlington, Davis would be hitting .283/.332/.439 per MLS. I think that SLG is a bit low, given what Davis has shown in 2008-2009, but I think the BA/OBP is legitimate (given Davis’ strong LD% and low BB%).

Personally, I peg Davis as a (rounded) .280/.335/.485 hitter with plenty of ISO upside. .485 might even be selling Davis low in my eyes.

Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher
Brad – That is a lot of moves and it’s clearly worked for you. Just to be clear, how many active spots do you have on your roster? In my draft league there is a limit to churning and burning pitchers since there is a 1,250 inning cap—after that pitching stats don’t count. Foolish me, I didn’t realize that at first and I was pacing well above that; in recent weeks I’ve benched good pitchers in tougher ballparks/matchups so I can make each start count. Thankfully, most of my co-owners are up against the same cap and aren’t adjusting so… Read more »
Brad Johnson
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Brad Johnson

We have 2C, 1b, 2b, 3b, SS, MI, CI, 5OF, UTIL, 9P, and 5 BN (3 DL). There is a 1450 IP innings cap. After a preseason trade, I ended up with Wainwright, Liriano, Gallardo, and Johan Santana along with 5-6 RP at a given time. So I needed to churn about 50-60 IP while I waited on Strasburg and Volquez to play.

Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher

Brad—That’s a standard roto setup; that’s what we have to in my auction league plus a 17-man reserve. Which pitchers have you been churning? I’m curious who has been available.

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

All very true. I feel this short term-long term back and forth is lost in the comments, but I think it’s very insightful stuff.

Re: Davis, I wish the Cubs could pry him (and either Kila or Gordon) from his disapproving team. These are the opportunities which make profit great and I feel like teams are letting the Rangers’ and Royals’ distrust go to exploitative waste.

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