Balancing Future and Present at the Deadline

The MLB Trade Deadline is coming up quickly, and fantasy deadlines will follow over the next few weeks. For dynasty owners, particularly those near the top of their standings, there is a big question of how you balance making a run in 2014 vs. staying in a good position for 2015.

I am in the midst of a marathon trade dialogue with fellow Rotographer Brad Johnson. Brad is sitting in fourth place, but has the 8th best offense and 4th best pitching staff and has determined that puts a top-three finish out of reach. And as he has shipped off one star after another (Miguel Cabrera, Craig Kimbrel, Adam Wainwright) he and I have repeatedly debated the merits of those stars and my young up-and-comers.

So far, we have yet to find a match. Part of this was Brad’s attempt to neuter my 2015 team (we are three years into this league and if I can move up from 2nd and win again this year, that will be 3-for-3 – he wants to preemptively cut off 4-for-4), and partially due to my unwillingness to match other team’s offers.

Realistically, I am going to need a bit of luck to break my way to pass the current league leader – I am short on games at MI and IP, and his offense is a bit better than mine on average thus far – unless I make a move. Brad’s last remaining over-priced players are Ben Zobrist ($40) and arguably David Wright ($28). Zobrist is the guy I want.

The problem is, I have so far been unwilling part with the guys he wants. He has been asking for Corey Dickerson, Chris Owings, Devin Mesoraco, and Josh Donaldson (not all together – he is not crazy). I have been offering Charlie Blackmon, Owings (but not in the packages he wants – as a lone return for Zobrist), Wilson Ramos, and Jedd Gyorko. The gap may not seem huge, but we are both pretty stubborn and, so far…no dice.

Which brings us to the question of balancing this year and next. Realistically, Zobrist has the potential to put me over the top this year. He’s also tossed out the possibility of a $12 Jon Lester with Zobrist (for a higher price), and that almost assuredly would do it.

Some of you, right now, are asking, why not just go for it? And that is a fair question. In fact, if I felt my team were less well positioned for the future, I might just do that – dump anyone he wants to get the two pieces I need. If I offered Donaldson, Dickerson and Owings for Lester, Wright and Zobrist, I am willing to be he says yes. But that is three guys I am counting on next year for two guys I likely cut (and Lester). And while I am short on innings, that is actually due to injuries, not depth – my rotation for 2015 looks better than my lineup.

Of course the other question you may ask is, why isn’t Brad just taking what he can get? And that, too, is a fair question. But the thing to keep in mind is that Brad, too, has to think about next year. And considering my history in this league, he likely sees me as his early competition (or at least some of it). Getting Dickerson instead of Blackmon (he has a pretty strong preference, I have a slight one, for Dickerson), both increases his return AND increases my “penalty” for winning this year.

With that as background, some quick pieces of advice:

1) If you are buying, think realistically about how good your 2015 roster is going to be. If you are about to start a full rebuild, then make your run now and don’t worry about who you hold.

2) If you are buying and think 2015 is a decent shot for you, be careful about how much you give up. Finishing 2nd this year and having another shot at 1st in ’15 may be better than finishing 1st this year (or missing that anyway) and being a bottom dweller next.

3) If you are buying but think your team will be even better next year, be REALLY cautious. Maybe you are expecting Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez, Noah Syndergaard and others to join your 2015 roster. Why destroy that opportunity for a shot at first if you can get just as good a shot next year?

4) If you are selling, don’t just settle for the best offer you get – make sure you know the impact of both what you are getting and what the other team is giving up. You are trying to maximize your chances to win in 2015, and your opponents are part of that picture.

5) For sellers, time is on your side – as you hold out, your buyers will get more desperate. For buyers, the sooner you buy, the better – two months of Cabrera or Wainwright is a lot more valuable (twice, in fact) as one month.

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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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Great advice, particularly your second point. I’m in a 12 team league that pays out to the top 5 at the end of the year. The team in first has a big lead, but there are about 5 of us battling it out for the next few spots. I just swapped $7 Dom Brown and $4 Baez for $12 Puig to help me out down the stretch, but also because Puig’s price won’t rule him out for me in 2015 and beyond.