I didn’t have Trout in any league. I acquired Trout. I gave up Trout. All of this happened in the span of less than two years. So what happened with my team, and where did I end up as a result? Let’s dive in.
This is a 15-team 5×5 league with 4 MLB keepers and 3 minors slots. The managers are competitive every year, though some teams opt to sell early in the season in an effort to rebuild for next year.
The Glorious Acquisition
I gave what was considered at the time an arm and a leg to acquire Trout during the 2012-2013 offseason: I traded the overrated Votto (in my view no loss there for 5×5 — and in hindsight it looks even better) and my 1st and 2nd round picks (setting me back for the year and almost ceding the next season). However, I played well and managed to go from the bottom quarter to the middle ground, ending up in 6th place. Having Trout was a joy to watch every week as he piled up the stats.
I had big plans for 2014, and I entered the season with what I thought were decent keepers. Trout was a beast. Price was my ace and the anchor to my always-great pitching staff. Pedroia is someone I’ve never liked, but I finally decided a strong MI guy was important in 4 keepers, and he was the best I could get. Then I gambled on youth upside with my 4th keeper, taking Wil Myers.
Well, as we now know, two of my four keepers were busts in 2014. Myers got hurt for half of the season, and Pedroia continued his fade from being a consistent top-3 second baseman. This isn’t the first time I’ve finally bought into a player only to have him decline on me. In Pedroia’s case, I knew the warning signs were there, but I’d suffered with weak MI for the last 2-3 seasons because they’re hoarded in a 4-keeper league, and so I ignored my gut.
Despite the keeper struggles, I started off 2014 hot because of good draft picks like Josh Donaldson (my 1st round pick), Porcello, and 3 closers who stayed healthy and held the role all year (Chapman, Street, Cishek). I was in the top-3 in standings every week. However, by mid-June one team was getting practically career years from every player, and he was 20 points ahead of me as I got stuck in 2nd place. I was competing very well in most everything except SB and K, and my HR and BA could use a boost, too. I decided that if I was going to make a run for the championship, I’d have to do something I hated: give up my prized Trout for a lot of “win now” power.
The Painful Parting of Ways
No one came close to offering me a good deal for Trout until a last-minute package: Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, Alexei Ramirez, and Gerrit Cole. I wasn’t super high on Braun, but I did expect a decent season, and despite Jones’ inability to walk, I’ve always been a fan of him for 5×5 leagues. Alexei had a hot start, and I knew he’d fade, but I needed SB because my only other big SB source was Alcides Escobar, so I could put Alexei at one of my two DH spots. Cole was a good gamble, but my pitching staff was already tops, so he wasn’t needed. However, I then traded Price and Kole Calhoun for Edwin Encarnacion and Vogelsong. I needed a 1B after Belt went down and never recovered. I figured EE, Braun, and Jones were good power sources for my team, and if Alexei kept running like he did in the first half, I wouldn’t miss Trout’s stats that much. Also, I now bitterly hoped that Trout wouldn’t perform as well in the second half, because I reasoned (channeling Ron Shandler) that no one could keep up his early-career production forever.
Alexei had more than half his yearly SB by the time I’d traded for him. He went cold in BA and only netted me 10 SB. Braun has injuries that likely affect his ability to produce, and he’s clearly had a disappointing year even though I wasn’t expecting a top-10 player. Jones struggled with BA after I acquired him, but other than that he did what was expected. Encarnacion had an insane May, which I missed out on, and then he rather sucked for a few months until a solid September.
Trout did fade in the second half with a poor BA (and dropping contact rate and BB%), as well as fewer SB because the team is simply running with him less often. The power was still legit, though, and his R and RBI were very solid thanks to LA’s top offense. In hindsight, given Braun’s risk factor and EE’s poor second half, I’d rather have Trout back. But of course, that decision is affected by the outcome of the season…
I figured my haul for Trout could never be matched, until and unless Trout was traded again. As it turns out, the team I was trying to catch decided to do the same type of deal. He traded Yasiel Puig and got just as good a haul. What’s more, though some of his acquired players dipped a bit in the second half as well, he managed to gain much-needed pitching points through Kimbrel and Cueto, which meant all my efforts went to waste. I am now in 4th place with a shot at 3rd at the season’s end.
I learned a few lessons about acquiring and trading the top player. The year I gave up my top two picks, I may have had a shot at the title because the rest of my team was solid enough to bounce back, and if I’d had access to guys who went in the first two rounds, I feel I could have reached the top-3, though winning is always up in the air. However, I do believe that you have to like your players and enjoy watching them (or the stats on sites) to really get the full value out of fantasy baseball. If you don’t have one or two personal favorite players to cheer for on your team, it can get a bit dull, especially if you aren’t at the top. Within reason, I’ll give up a bit more to acquire someone I personally like.
When it comes to having a top talent like Trout or Miggy, I therefore feel that they’re impossible to replace. Sure, I took a shot at the league crown by moving Trout… But my efforts were essentially neutralized when my opponent did the same type of blockbuster. Now I’ve lost a guy I could’ve kept for 15 years, and though I really like Adam Jones, it’s certainly not the same feeling to watch him play and think about the future of my team, compared to Trout’s potential Pujols-like effect on fantasy leagues. When you’ve got a young superstar, I say you hold onto him and simply enjoy the results. Titles are nice, but blockbuster trades won’t always work, and you’ll be left poorer for losing your elite guy. I’ve always traded up in the past, never selling, and now I’ll continue to do so in the future.