In this series I will talk trades. Fantasy baseball is the ideal fantasy platform for making trades. The season is long; there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to injuries and prospects. When playing in keeper and dynasty formats there are many unique strategies owners can take for building their teams. In Episode One I talk a little about my basic thoughts on trading, offer a couple of stats to consider and highlight a few offseason deals I made before 2014. In future episodes we will dive into some new metrics to think about, players to target and dissect deals that have been made. Be sure to comment with details of deals you have made.
The MLB 2014 season began around 4AM on March 22 when the Dodgers and Diamondbacks took the field half a world away in Australia. Your draft is probably over and you have had some time to reflect on your team. Maybe you think your team is the shoo-in to win, or maybe you think this will be another year to tank and get a good draft pick. Most owners tend to fall somewhere in the middle. You like your team and with a little luck (and avoiding the injury bug) you might actually have a chance to compete, but leagues are not won in the draft room. They are often won on the deals made during the season (and through the waiver wire).
Hopefully you paid attention to your fellow owners during the draft, and maybe know a little bit about their tendencies. Sometimes a simple comment made in the draft room can lead to a great in-season deal. Knowing that one of the owners in your league has a man-crush on a particular player can often bring you a great return. Be sure to take notes when comments are made, they can often be used to help you out in a deal.
My usual strategy is to avoid making any large trades in the first month of the season. I never want to sell too low or buy too high on early season performances. However, there are instances when making a deal early is your only chance to land a particular player or to land a particular player at a great price.
All owners have access to an astonishing amount of data on fantasy baseball players. Injury updates quickly flood the internet and minor league call-ups are broadcast ahead of the actual call. With all this information available to everyone who has the time to take it in, how can you differentiate your data intake from every other owner in your league? Simple, look at some advanced statistical metrics that have not yet taken over the mainstream. Here are a few of the statistics I pay close attention to.
K/9: In leagues that award points for each strikeout a pitcher records and in roto leagues where you have an innings cap, K/9 is a differentiating statistic. Using this stat can allow you to find some great deals not just in the draft, but also during the season. A few SP arms that I like to select a round or two earlier but still rather late in the draft include AJ Burnett and Bud Norris.
Save Opportunities: I like to look at the teams that have had the most Save Opportunities over the past several seasons. I find this to be a great differentiator when comparing 2 or 3 closers, as well as for adding relief pitchers that could be in line for holds, saves and even wins (many points leagues give points for holds and some leagues use Saves+Holds as a category). Since 2010, 5 teams have been in the top 5 for Save Opportunities more than once. The Washington Nationals lead with 3 appearances and the Giants, Royals, Orioles and Braves have all finished top 5 twice.
While I have not crunched all the numbers, I took a look at the top 5 teams last year and how Save Opportunities led to wins by relief pitchers. The Washington Nationals had 2 RP with at least 6 wins in Craig Stammen (7) and Tyler Clippard (6). The Kansas City Royals pen had 3 pitchers with 5 wins: Aaron Crow (7), Herrera (5) and Hochevar (5). Vin Mazzaro (8) and Justin Wilson (6) were also nice sources of wins coming out of the Pirates pen. These are all guys to keep in mind, especially guys like Clippard who could be in line for a few saves along the way as well.
Doubles: It is easy to check who hit the most HR last year or which players are projected to hit the most HR, but what about doubles? I hear it and read it from scouts all the time “his gap power will develop as he matures” so you should aim for players that exhibit doubles-power because those doubles could translate into HR in a couple of years. It is easy to look at Manny Machado or Matt Carpenter, but they are both coming off the boards pretty early and in keeper leagues Machado is certainly going to cost you.
So, while there is not a direct correlation between doubles and future power, I did look at a few interesting cases from 2012 and how they fared in 2013. Alex Gordon hit 51 doubles in 2012 to go along with 14 HR. In 2013 he hit 27 doubles but moved his home run total up to 20. Paul Goldschmidt hit 43 doubles to supplement 20 HR in 2012. In 2013, Goldy burst out with 36 HR and 36 doubles. Norichika Aoki hit 37 doubles in 2012 along with 10 HR. He was somewhat disappointing in 2013 as he only hit 8 HR and saw a decrease in doubles (20) as well.
There are some players I like for 2014 when you consider their 2013 doubles totals. Anthony Rizzo hit 40 doubles in 2013 while hitting 23 HR. He could certainly approach 30 HR in 2013. Brandon Belt seems to be everyone’s favorite breakout candidate when it comes to power. Belt hit 39 doubles in 2013 with 17 HR. This follows a 2012 season where he hit 7 HR and 27 doubles. Certainly seems 20+ HR are in his very near future. And Starlin Castro disappointed many fantasy owners in 2013, however, he still hit 34 doubles and 10 HR. Assuming he continues to get consistent playing time in the Windy City 15 HR are well within reach, and from a young SS those are numbers worth taking a chance on.
Additionally, it is always important to keep your league settings in mind when making deals. In a yearly draft league you may as well go for broke to win it since there are no keepers and no fear of losing a prospect. In a keeper league you need to keep in mind how many keepers you have and how many keepers your trade partner has.
I traded away an injured Matt Kemp last season for Wade Miley because I was making a playoff run and already had a full complement of keeper OF (Puig, Harper, Justin Upton), while my trade partner was struggling to find enough keepers and clearly looking towards 2014.
In a dynasty league, you have to consider where your team is now and where it will be in a couple of years.
In our salary cap dynasty league my co-owner and I just traded away Edwin Encarnacion (at $23 for 2014, $24 for 2015 with a $260 cap) and Josh Bell (Pirates OF prospect) for Jose Iglesias ($1 in 2014, $2 in 2015) and Byron Buxton. The league has very favorable rookie contracts, so we are looking ahead while still hoping to compete this year and have money to spend next season.
Besides the dynasty league deal, I have only made 1 deal this offseason. In my 14-team keeper league (each team gets 12 keepers and has 4 minor league slots), I traded away David Wright, Jason Kipnis, Justin Upton and the #1 pick (who turned out to be Jose Abreu) for Mike Trout and Jason Heyward. A high price tag for sure, but Trout (along with Miguel Cabrera) is far and away the best hitter in the league. It will be interesting to see how this deal turns out for this year and beyond.
Please comment on deals you have made already this year.