Trading strategy: Value

Sorry for not posting yesterday. Blame J.K. Rowling. Anyway, I thought we’d talk a little about trading strategy today.

The old strategy

Those who have read me from the beginning know that I am not big on drafting or trading for top notch closers in shallow and medium leagues. I prefer to get bargains in later rounds and keep a carousel going using the waiver wire. This year, I had recommended drafting guys like Takashi Saito, Jose Valverde and Octavio Dotel in late rounds and waiting for new closers to take jobs, which many did. Kevin Gregg, Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler, Jeremy Accardo, Matt Capps, Alan Embree and many more have given fantasy owners great production for very little cost.

A new strategy

At this point in the season, though, it could be time to forget my old mantra and take on a new strategy. The old strategy is one that I still support, but the dynamic of many leagues have changed by now and a change of course may be necessary. Every strategy has a place. The strategy of avoiding top notch closers belongs in the first half of the season. The strategy I am about to put forth belongs in the second half of the season.

As the season progresses, even if you used the old strategy, you may find yourself lacking points in the saves category (although if you drafted Valverde and made a couple of smart waiver wire pickups you’re not in this position). After closely examining your team, you decide that “saves” is the category that would be easiest to make up ground in with one simple acquisition—perhaps a guy like J.J. Putz or Francisco Rodriguez.

New strategy in action

Once your team has been examined and you decide where it will be easiest to improve, all the old rules go out the window. If you’re in second overall and are trailing saves by six points in a 12-team league, but have a nice lead in wins, ERA and WHIP, a trade of Kelvim Escobar for J.J. Putz—a trade I might have frowned upon in April—might now be a great move.

To take it a step further, let’s say that you decide Putz—by whatever logic—will be the best closer going forward, and you think he can launch you up a few places in saves. The problem is that his owner will only part with him for Jake Peavy. While Peavy’s market value is most likely higher than Putz’, his value to your team might be less than Putz’. You already have a hold on wins, ERA and WHIP with Johan Santana, Erik Bedard, Dan Haren, John Smoltz and Rich Hill on your team, so losing Peavy really shouldn’t affect your status there. But gaining Putz might jump your saves points up from six to nine.

If the absolute best deal you can get for Putz is Peavy (and there are no suitable replacement targets), then Peavy for Putz—despite looking lopsided out of context—actually makes a great deal of sense for your team. You stand to lose no points in wins, ERA and WHIP but stand to gain several in saves.

Theoretical explanation

In essence, you aren’t buying the player, you are buying the points. Early in the season, there are too many variables to even consider trying to do this. You should simply build a talented roster full of good value and let the chips fall as they may (of course always trying to improve, but never thinking that you can outright buy a category). Once the chips fall (as they are doing around now), you need to sort them out and figure out how best to proceed.

That’s what this article is about, and this strategy might be that best way to proceed. If you can make up the most points in saves, you aren’t really buying the closer. You’re buying the saves he will get you and the points your team will improve in the standings. At the beginning of the season, building the team is most important. Build a good one, and the points are likely to follow. At this point in the season, gaining points is most important. How you do it is irrelevant. Even if your team’s overall value decreases, if your points increase, that is all that matters.

Of course, while the saves category made the most sense to illustrate my point, this strategy can be applied to any other category. Hopefully, your awareness of this concept will help you to have achieved a nice level of success as your trading deadline passes. And remember, make your moves as soon as possible, while the market slumbers.

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