“Which Side?” A Look at Trade Advice

We see so many tweets asking about “which side” of a trade do you want the rest of the season. If you answer the question in the vacuum of which it is asked, you are merely voting on who received the better players.  Of course in some circumstances, you’d want the better players, but there is much more to analyzing a trade and determining who benefited from it and ideally it’s both teams.

When making a trade, what is your objective?  To me the only reason you do so is to move up in the standings.  Constructing a trade in a Roto league is not as easy as it seems.  In a H2H, it is a little easier to make a deal as you can pile on certain categories and “dump” others in order to try to win the week.  Even easier in leagues who give you a win for the week rather than a categorical 5-4 record.  In a Roto league, you must attempt to figure out how many spots you will gain and lose based on the trade for each category effected.  It is sometimes better to “lose” the trade based upon player ability, but it can end up being a “win” based upon the standings.  This is why there is no way for anyone to be able to tell you which side of a trade is better if there is no access to the standings in this type of league.

I posted a poll last week and simply asked “who wins this trade?”  The trade was Edwin Diaz for Andrew McCutchen.  (Of course Cutch’s season ending ACL tear was after the poll and after this piece was written, so please bear with it as the point I’m making can be with similar players). Nearly 75% chose the Diaz side.  My take on this is simple.  It is impossible to determine who won it without knowing what type of league this was for (Roto vs. H2H) and what the standings were at the time.  The person getting Diaz is perceived to be getting the superior player (of course his implosion against the Dodgers came after the poll was posted).  I gathered this example from my TGFBI league and although 1. Trading isn’t allowed and 2. There would be no reason for this trade to be made, I chose this example based upon what it illustrated from a standings point of view.  The team receiving Diaz was in second place in saves and the team trading him was in 3rd.

By getting one of the better closers in the league, this team can only move up 1 spot in the standings.  Is it worth it?  It may be, especially if there is enough offensive excess that the trading of McCutchen wouldn’t lead to a drop in the offensive categories.  This wasn’t the case though.  That team had no one on the bench who could come close to replacing McCutchen’s runs.  The team appeared to be at risk of losing 3-5 points in the run category.

I know this is a theoretical trade, and would be unlikely to happen, but it helps illustrate the deep dive you must take to evaluate what effect a trade will have on your standings.  Let’s look at it another way.  If the team trading Diaz had also drafted Corey Knebel and Hunter Strickland and therefore had lost 2 of 3 its closers early in the season. Now the only closer they have is Diaz and are in 11th out of 12th place in saves.  Trading Diaz makes much more sense if there is a way to get a player who will improve your team in several categories such as Wins and Ks or SBs and Runs.  A closer is a valuable trading chip and the points you may lose can be less than the points you can climb by obtaining a “lesser” piece.

Another way to move up with a trade is to target who you trade with.  A close look may reveal a scenario where trading a hitter to boost those below you in the standings, can lead to a gain in the standings for your team.  How? By helping that team move past those ahead of you in the standings in a category or two. Not only do you gain a few points in the standings via the player(s) you received, but those ahead of you fall a few spots in a category or two.

As you play this game, you will encounter those who spend time constructing a trade to benefit both teams.  You will also have the most ridiculous trade offers sent your way and wonder what was that person thinking?  No matter what the trade offer is, in order to truly evaluate the merits of it, you have to project how it will effect the standings. Nothing else matters.  Trading a home run hitter for a singles hitter isn’t very sexy, but when that singles hitter raises your batting average, increases your runs scored, and steals a few bases you will be heading higher in the standings.

So when you’re on twitter or in a chat room with your favorite analyst, the context of asking whether you “won” a trade or which side would you “want” rest of the season should include the type of league you’re in and what the ramifications are of the trade. Be specific. Asking who to target in a trade to gain in a specific category may be the better question rather than “which side?”.


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Andy Spiteri

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Playing fantasy sports since 1991 when you got your stats in the mail on Thursdays...Husband and father of two. I put people to sleep for a living. Mets, NY Rangers and Eagles/Jets (a product of being born in NYC but living in Bucks County PA for 20 years) fan. Home league baseball auction is top 5 day of the year!