Someone explain a strategy to me

PICTURED: Bryan “Empty Roster Spot” Shaw

Maybe this is calling out another manager, maybe it isn’t, whatever. I don’t care. Talking game theory is interesting and the offseason is slow because everyone wants to save room for Shohei Ohtani at auction, so we need stuff to talk about. And so when I read one of our recent trade reviews, and saw a comment left on it, I really wanted to explore what was going on.

So, the backstory:

Hustle Loyalty Respect and In Line 4 the Win made a trade. HLR sent a prospect, Logan Allen, to IL4W for $1. No big deal. I actually think buying prospects you really like for $1 is smart business, because you’re buying into so many cheap years of potential production from these guys and $1 doesn’t matter a ton. However, in reviewing his own trade, Hustle said this:

And then I happened to scroll down, and notice that IL4W fired back with this:

And so here we are.

I’m baffled by this. I’m not even necessarily trying to knock it, I just really, really want to understand what the strategy is behind simply not filling roster spots.

Our FAAB settings allow for $0 bids, so you can add as many players as you wish to fill empty roster spots at no cost. We don’t have penalties for dropping players. We don’t have seasonal or weekly add/drop limits. If one of your players gets hurt and you move him to the disabled list, thus freeing up a roster spot, there’s literally nothing preventing you from adding a player to that spot at no cost. Just pick your player, submit your bid for $0, and assuming no one else is in on that player, you get them. If they suck, you cut them. No harm, no foul.

On September 13 of last year, HLR added Logan Allen to his team from free agency. He was a readily available player. All you needed to procure him was… an available roster spot. Months later, on January 11, sitting with five of 20 minor league spots barren, IL4W spent $1 to slide Allen into one of those vacant spots. Does this not prove that carrying empty spots is not at all a beneficial strategy? Am I nuts? It proves the opposite, in fact. HLR turned a minor league spot — occupied by a human baseball player, an asset capable of gaining value over time — into $1. It’s not much, but $1 is better than nothing at all. IL4W, meanwhile, spent $1 of budget to fill a roster hole that could have cost nothing to fill in September. Not a FAAB buck, not an auction buck, not another player in trade. I submit that having that spot full resulted in profit for HLR, and having that spot empty resulted in needlessly flushing $1 for IL4W.

From HLR’s perspective, I’m sure he’s confident he can just pick up another Logan Allen for free off waivers once the season starts. So he basically got a $1 to flip a replaceable asset. Again… isn’t this exactly why you want all roster spots full? You want the chance to have something of value. An empty spot is worth… nothing. A dollar is pretty damn close to nothing, but it’s still something.

And what if Logan Allen had cracked a couple top-100 lists this offseason? I mean… every offseason, lists come out. We know this. Sometimes, the names on them surprise us. Maybe we don’t even recognize them. But when we see a name on a list, we suddenly value that player. So if Allen had randomly made Baseball America’s list at number 94 or something, he’s got value, yeah? And probably more than $1, right? These are lotto tickets — free lotto tickets, at that. Maybe Allen miraculously cracks the top 60 or 70 of a list, and suddenly he’s a guy you can trade for a cheap major leaguer that’ll help your team score points in 2018.

Look at it another way: you have an investment portfolio. For whatever reason, you’re allotted only 20 investments. You have 15 of those slots full with investments you’re happy with. Then I say, hey, here’s a list of all the companies you can invest in… pick five out to fill out your portfolio, and you get a share of each company… for free. These shares have the opportunity to grow and mature, to put cash in your pocket. But you decline. So instead of five free investment shares, you’ve just got nothing. That nothing, like a seed that does not exist, cannot be planted and blossom into something. For it is nothing. Maybe the five shares you choose will putter out. But hey, it was house money and you gave yourself a chance.

I just… I don’t get it. What am I missing?

I bring this up also because, frankly, we’ve had complaints dating back to last year about teams not fielding full rosters. So is this a strategy or a competitiveness problem? It seems totally asinine to me that we would tell grown adults who’ve paid money to play in a fantasy league that they have to carry a specific number of players, but I also don’t get the strategy of playing shorthanded, so I’ve always just assumed that went without saying and didn’t require policing. Sure, MLB requires teams carry a minimum of 24 players, but their maximum is 25. You’d never see the Reds roll up to the ballpark with 19 guys, or the Toledo Mud Hens take the field five players short.

So please, someone explain this to me. Show me what I am missing.

Trade: Long Ball to LF | Hustle Loyalty Respect

Long Ball to LF sends: $5 auction budget
Hustle Loyalty Respect sends: SP Daniel Mengden ($5)

Andrew’s thoughts: These two teams have conducted a nice, fair trade here. Long Ball to LF has basically invested $10 to take a ride on the Daniel Mengden express, hoping that in 2017 he will discover the fast track to pitching stardom. HLR, meanwhile, probably saw Mengden as the caboose of his current pitching rotation — a back-end piece that was likely to just get left at the station, but maybe, possibly, could have have stuck. I would probably rather just have the $5 personally, but I find this trade difficult to truly rail against.

Trade: Night King’s Undead Army | TBD

TBD sends: CF/RF Max Kepler ($15), 2018 4th Round Pick
Night King’s Undead Army sends: 2018 2nd Round Pick

 

Andrew’s Thoughts: Well, Night King’s Undead Army gets the centerfielder that Jordan coveted.

I’m a big Max Kepler fan. I went to a Twins game in Minnesota last year and took pictures of him, and of stuff with him on it. It was creepy. Having said that, I’m torn on him as a $15 option. I do think there’s pretty solid upside in him — when he’s hot, he’s quite good, so consistency as he matures will help — but, I don’t know. I guess for the cost of moving back two rounds, it’s fine. I think if sent back to auction, Kepler probably takes a slight pay cut. But I also like getting my guys before auction and not having to roll those dice, so.

For TBD, seems good. Another salary dump of an obvious cut in exchange for what might be an okay prospect. TBD’s farm system continues to stockpile without really spending resources that matter to them, so that seems fun.

Hustle’s toxic $0.02: Joe turning another cuttable asset for something in return is always going to be a good move, so I like this for TBD. He’s also been arguably the best at extracting value from picks and minor leaguers, so this is another asset for him.  This also saves Jordan at least one awkward DM to me during the minor league draft asking if drafting player X is a good choice.

$15 for Max Kepler seems steep for a somewhat averaging scoring outfielder.  He does have CF eligibility which is nice. Jordan has Josh Reddick at 9, but maybe he doesn’t feel comfortable there. Either way, I think Jordan losing a 2nd round pick doesn’t mean a lot for his team and adding a hitter who can play at RF. CF or UTIL certainly will add value and flexibility to his roster. That being said I always think back to Bailey’s cheap outfielders from last year like Span and Markakis… I was able to add Avisail Garcia and Robbie Grossman.  Does Kepler have significantly more upside than Kepler to justify 3 times the salary and a 2nd round pick? He might, but he might not. Maybe Span and Markakis don’t have the year like they did last year, but I think there will be comparable unsexy outfielders available in the auction or for cheap once the  season starts. If you acquire that type of player during the season, I’m sure a 2nd rounder is close to what gets it done, and you probably save the $15, and that’s under the premise you didn’t lock one up for under $5 at auction or pick one up for free. If you think Kepler has significant upside, I can see the justification here.

Trade: Evil Otters | TBD

TBD sends: C Brian McCann
Evil Otters sends: SP Joey Wentz (minors)

Andrew’s Thoughts: This makes sense for both teams.

Brian McCann is a solid catcher that I think is worth $15 for the reliability alone. Catcher is a fickle position. I tend to value guys that you can simply trust to not suck. McCann is one of those guys. At this price though, I assume TBD saw him as an insignificant piece in the grand scheme of things and a way to shave $15 off their budget. Seems fine to me. This Joey Wentz guy is a 20-year-old, back-end of top-100 lists pitcher with 131 innings at Single-A. He’s whatever. If you’re getting him for a guy you didn’t want to keep, I think that’s fine. Maybe he shoots up lists a tad between now and June, and TBD flips him for profit.

For the Evil Otters, I also like this move. As you can tell, I don’t think Wentz is particularly special. He’s exactly the type of prospect I’d punt to improve my team now. McCann gives the Otters a reliable starting backstop, and this team should have a ton of budget to spend, so yeah, I’d rather have the boring old vet that’ll help now. Tacking on the $15 is nothing. Also, the Otters farm system is in complete disarray. All first and second round picks for the next three years are gone and Wentz was essentially the only prospect in this system that you’ll see on a list as we head into the new season. Ryan Howard is in the minors for this team. It’s dark. And so from that lens, Wentz or not, this wasn’t a strong system. And remember, this roster lucked into a first place record last year. So from that perspective, I think it makes sense to spend whatever little prospect currency you’ve got, try to gear up for the start of the season, and if things putter out early, well, then maybe you consider trying to rebuild the farm a bit.

Hustle’s toxic $.02: There isn’t to much to say that Bailey already didn’t. I think $15 is probably pushing it in terms of value out of Mccann. That being said $17 for a combined C platoon with Barnes seems reasonable.  Also, there’s a lot of money available for Evil Otters to be spending, so if McCann is slightly overpaid, it’s probably not  a big deal.

Hustle Media likes Joey Wentz was a prospect, but an A ball pitcher has a long way to go in terms of risky and development.  It’s hard to hate trading one away. TBD currently doesn’t have a catcher on their roster outside of Nick Hundley, so unless they make another trade, they’re likely to be looking at a few guys in the auction.

Seems like a fine trade for both teams.

Rule Change Voting 2017

Yay, rule changes have been discussed in our league Slack, expertly written to appease even the harshest critics, voted on, and now, finally, decided upon. We can officially move on to the fun parts of the offseason.

Below are the rule proposals and final verdicts. For transparency, you may click here to see the results spreadsheet with public ballots.

To reiterate: a rule change requires 10 votes, not a simple majority, as stated on our league setup page. Ideally you already know this because you keep a printed copy on the nightstand by your bed, which you read each night to lull yourself into a deep sleep.

Also, please be reminded that we voted and passed a new rule midseason that all pitchers will be subject to the same scoring system, beginning with the 2018 season.

Removing top 30 exemption for GREED

Currently the top 30 highest salaried players at the time of GREED allocation are exempted from being allocated any GREED dollars.

If passed, the top 30 salaried exemption is no longer. This will go into effect at the end of the 2018 season.

RESULT: Vote does not pass. The 30 highest salaried, rostered players will remain immune to greed.

Increase GREED allocation

Currently every team awards every opposing team $1 to any GREED eligible player.

If passed, every team now awards $2 of GREED to every opposing team. A player can only be given $1 of GREED per team.

This will go into effect at the end of the 2018 season

RESULT: Vote does not pass. Teams will continue to have only $1 of greed to allocate to opponent rosters.

Limit FAAB

Currently each team has a $150 FAAB budget and can bid $0 in FAAB auctions. FAAB is not a tradable commodity.

If passed, the FAAB budget will be raised to $250, but require a minimum $1 bid.  FAAB will also continue to not be a tradable commodity.

This will go into effect for the 2018 season.

RESULT: Vote does not pass. The FAAB system will remain unchanged. 

Exempt September call ups from starting control clock.

Currently all $0 players cost control clock begins at their first PA or pitch thrown. The following year they become a $1 cost controlled keeper, the year after 20% of the calculator, and so on.

If passed, the cost control clock does not begin if the player has his first AB or pitch thrown on September 1st or later.

This will go into effect for the 2018 season.

RESULT: Vote does not pass. Prospects who debut September 1 or later will continue to have their cost control clocks started.

Trade: Hustle Loyalty Respect | We Talk Fantasy Sports

Hustle Loyalty Respect sends: SP Dillon Peters ($5)
We Talk Fantasy Sports sends: 2018 3rd Round Pick, $2 2018 Auction Budget

Andrew’s Thoughts: The real winner of this trade is me, for I will theoretically never again be offered Dillon Peters by Hustle Loyalty Respect.

EDIT: Seriously, this is whatever. To my surprise, Dillon Peters’ Steamer and ZiPS projections are in the realm of decent. He had six starts last year and four went for 20+ points. He’s only 25 and probably locked into the rotation. So it’s like a $7 gamble for WTFS that he’s useful. If he’s not, oh well, cut him and move forward.

Trade: Hustle Loyalty Respect | Capital City Ironmen

Hustle Loyalty Respect sends: C Tyler Flowers ($5)
Capital City Ironmen sends: LF/CF/RF DJ Peters (minors)

Andrew’s Thoughts: What an exhilarating first trade of the offseason.

In this one, the Defending Points and League Champion 🏆 adds an okay catcher with a cheap salary whose downside is that he doesn’t start every day. But maybe that’s not so terrible! Across the last two seasons, of catchers with a minimum of 650 plate appearances, only three catchers have a better wOBA than Tyler Flowers: Gary Sanchez, Willson Contreras, and Buster Posey. Elite company! Also, while Flowers notoriously demolishes left handed pitching, last year he had a .356 wOBA against righties. Yay!

I didn’t want to trade away DJ Peters, because all of the scouting reports about him draw comparisons to Jayson Werth — and I love Jayson Werth. But when you have a chance to trade away “possible Jayson Werth” for “basically Buster Posey,” well, you just have to do it.

I doubt Hustle was keeping Flowers even as a cheap back-up. That’s fine. Maybe I won’t even end up keeping him. It’s November. Who knows? So getting a prospect that he likes for a guy he probably wasn’t keeping seems like good maneuvering to me.

But mainly we just wanted to do a trade because we’re bored (fantasy football is not fun) and we wanted to light a fire under everyone else.

Hustle’s Thoughts:  I put a cheap useful player on the block, and surprisingly only Bailey showed interest. It was the same level of surprise to discover we had a champions page on dynastygrinders.com only after Bailey won a championship, but I digress.

Tyler Flowers was pretty damn good last year and only cost $5. Problem for me is I almost always started Realmuto over him, and there were plenty of days when they shared days off. Kurt Suzuki got a lot of playing time down the stretch and I see this as a time share.  With a healthy Realmuto, the best case for me is starting Flowers on Realmuto rest days or days Realmuto is facing Kershaw, Strasburg, or someone elite.  For me, that’s replaceable.  The worst case is he’s not as good and he coincidentally isn’t in those lineups those days. Maybe I will have trouble finding a 2nd catcher next year, but it seems not too hard to find a decent guy as the season moves along. Flowers, Hicks, Avila, and Pina were just some of the useful bums at catcher that could have been free last year and I imagine some new ones will be on the street come April.

I rather take a shot on a back end top 100 guy on some lists, and a guy I particularly liked… even if it’s mostly because he homered twice of Bumgarner in one inning

Also, I really just need a prospect from Bailey to hold on to on the hope that I recoup some of that Dinelson Lamet debacle. Ugh.

#NovemberFantasyBaseballTrades

From worst to first

Per Dan Beachler’s request, here is a “how I went from worst to first” post. I suppose technically I wasn’t worst last year, and by head-to-head record I wasn’t first in 2017 either. (I was first in points!) But hey, here we are.

I should preface this by pointing out what should already be obvious: there’s a ton of luck involved in fantasy sports. Even if you talk fantasy sports a lot, for example, you’re going to find that you won’t uncover all the answers.

I thought the team I assembled in 2016 would compete. Then, Miguel Cabrera (.340 wOBA in April/May) and Joey Votto (.276 wOBA in April/May) started painfully slow. They were supposed to be my offensive anchors. Tyson Ross, a 32.52 points per game starter in 2015, got hurt in his first start and missed the season. Carlos Carrasco, my best pitcher, missed all of May. Sonny Gray turned into a pumpkin. Alex Rodriguez had a .293 wOBA in April/May. Of the first seven guys I won at our inaugural auction, only Johnny Cueto was good or even useful through the season’s first six weeks or so.

All of that is blind, dumb luck. I don’t control injuries. I don’t control Votto, one of the best hitters of our generation, hitting like Jose Peraza for over a month.

I certainly left money on the table that first auction and probably relied too heavily on boring, useful bench types as starters. I legitimately thought a cheap Trevor Plouffe was an acceptable starting 3B option. I thought I could platoon the White Sox catchers last year, an idea that played out so poorly I may as well have just played the year without a catcher slot. But mostly, my team went bust in 2016 because of random stuff that could happen to anybody. Even if they’d all stayed healthy and produced early, I probably wouldn’t have been a great team. But because that stuff did happen, I decided in May to start reworking my team by trading Cabrera and Gray for picks and prospects. That was the first step in climbing out of the cellar and to the top…

Step 1: The Miguel Cabrera/Sonny Gray trade

Sending Miggy and Gray to the Preseason Double Stuffs for Cody Bellinger, Ian Happ, Brett Phillips, Jorge Soler, and draft capitol is really what ignited my team into 2017. Bellinger, as a rookie, hit at a 1.737 points per plate appearance clip for me at a $0 cost. That’s elite production. Again, I can’t control that Bellinger hit. But he did and it helped.

The one thing I will say is, I targeted prospects that I thought would debut in 2017. Because (a) my team sucked in 2016, so if they debut and their clock starts, that’s a ding in value; and (b) points now are better than points later. I’m not super interested in an 18-year-old prospect in Single A when there’s a comparable 22-year-old prospect on the cusp of the majors. In the case of this specific trade, the Double Stuffs happened to have a few near-MLB guys that fit the bill. And I love Ian Happ, so. Obviously, there’s no science involved. The Cubs could’ve promoted Happ last year. The Dodgers could’ve called Bellinger up in September. I can’t control that stuff either. But I do think it’s possible to hedge within reason and if your goal is to get better quickly, you won’t do it with teenagers unless you’re using them exclusively as trade currency.

Happ, Soler, and the draft pick acquired from the Double Stuffs — which I assumed would suck but became the second overall pick — didn’t score me a ton, really. I did have Happ in my lineup 25 times at 5.76 points per game, so that’s pretty good. But 25 starts isn’t swinging things much one way or another. But these pieces ended up helping later on.

My other big trade was swapping Cueto for JP Crawford, Aaron Judge, and a first round pick. More on Judge in the step below. But also, damn, I had and traded Judge. Frowny face.

I should note here also that not going full scale blow-up mode helped. Hanging onto Votto and Carrasco is as big a reason as any that my team got good. The offers I got for these players were, frankly, pitiful, so that made things easy. But I could have very easily dumped them for picks and lukewarm prospects and gone into auction with $350 or whatever. I’m glad I didn’t.

Step 2: Acquiring good veterans from over-budget teams for picks and prospects at below market rates

I think this was more impactful to my team than Bellinger. Because I “tanked” the season, I was able to build up a solid minor league system and a nice cache of draft picks. But picks and prospects rarely score points. So in the off-season, when teams way over budget shopped quality veteran players, I cashed out some of those assets and bought. And because I’d sucked so badly that I had loaded up on picks and prospects, selling some didn’t mean leaving the cupboard bare.

I acquired a way overpriced Andrew McCutchen for Soler, Travis d’Arnaud, Billy Hamilton, and I think a second round pick. Cutch mostly bounced back in 2017 (1.438 PT/PA), thankfully. I couldn’t have controlled that either, but I’m comfortable betting on a player with an elite track record. It paid off. I think that’s the key to a quick rebuild. If you’ve got budget space, use it ahead of auction and buy low to lock in a guy you think can bounce back. I think budget space is worth much more pre-auction than during auction, when you’re left picking through the risky players no one wanted. I also think if your team sucks like mine did but you want to quickly improve, you need to gamble. You need to overpay a guy or two and hope for a return to form. Also, you won’t likely have an opportunity to buy a recently elite talent at auction. And if you do, there may only be one or two of those guys, so you’ll have competition.

I also bought Russell Martin for a second round pick. Martin’s another efficient, boring veteran player. But my catcher position was the worst in the league in 2016. Martin helped fixed that.

One other trade was working a three-way swap with The Foundation and Hustle Loyalty Respect that effectively landed me Neil Walker and the 16th overall pick for the 4th overall pick. HLR used the pick to take Blake Rutherford, who I think got hurt. I took Franklin Perez with the 16th pick. Today, I think Perez is more valuable than Rutherford, though to be fair, Rutherford got hurt. Even if Rutherford’s more valuable, they’re both top-100 guys. To me, any difference is negligible. But even if Rutherford hadn’t gotten hurt, there’s no chance he (or whichever other available prospect) was scoring at a 1.338 PT/PA clip like Walker did, and doing so right now. Points now > points later, and prospects are fickle, so the guy who goes 4th and the guy who goes 16th could very easily switch fortunes over a single season. At the time, I just felt like I was slightly downgrading a prospect in exchange for making a big upgrade to my current 2B spot, which was a big weakness in 2016.

Then I acquired Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre, who presumably had affordable prices because of their age and their team’s budget situation. Again, if you’ve got budget space, attacking the trade market is worth it. Beltre cost me Amed Rosario, an elite prospect, but that’s really where stacking prospects in 2016 helped. Having JP Crawford meant feeling more comfortable shipping out Rosario.

Of course, both those old dudes could’ve fallen apart. But my team was garbage in 2016. If they did fall apart, oh well, I’m in the cellar again in 2017 and then I just cut those guys and have the cap space back. But there weren’t hitters this good in the auction (granted at the time of the trades, the auction pool was a mystery), or at least players less risky. The highest paid hitters at auction were Adam Jones, Adrian Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Lorenzo Cain. There’s some hindsight present, of course, but I’m not sure pre-auction anyone would’ve honestly felt like any of those guys were better, more efficient hitters than Cruz or Beltre. If you’re cool with a multi-year rebuild, by all means, ignore trading for old dudes like this. But I think it’s prudent to do it if you want to try winning money instead of just sinking money into a multi-year plan.

I also traded Judge for Matt Holliday, and that proved very stupid. In Holliday, I saw a one-year rental with a Giancarlo Stanton-esque batted ball profile and a cheap ($10) salary. I ended up starting Holliday 57 times for 5.9 points per game, so while he didn’t go bonkers like Judge did, he did help the cause. And with regards to Judge, his 2017 season was something I don’t think anyone saw coming. I offered him to several teams and no one bit. I had to include Grant Holmes along with Judge to secure Holliday. So yeah, sometimes trading prospects for vets will backfire, but in general I think it’s a solid, less risky strategy. I’d be curious what Dan thought he was getting with Judge when he made this trade, especially since I know he’s an old guy lover as well.

One thing I’m curious to see this off-season is if over budget teams continue selling their guys short to “get something instead of nothing,” or if teams feel more comfortable dumping to auction. Cruz was had for Dan Vogelbach and a first round pick. I liked Vogelbach as a prospect and obviously Team Hydra did too, but in retrospect, might those guys have figured out a way to keep Cruz’s bat? Or might they have been better sending him to auction and seeing if maybe they could buy him back cheaper? I’m not convinced giving teams discounts on good players is effective, even if the alternative is cutting and “getting nothing.”

Step 3: Not screwing up the auction

I notoriously left like $21 on the table at our first auction. But I also made some awful bids. Buying into A-Rod’s resurgence was dumb. I came away from auction with two 1B’s and  UT player, effectively destroying all my lineup flexibility.

I did a lot better, I think, with my buys in 2017, adding Jaime Garcia, Francisco Cervelli, Lucas Duda, Chris Owings, Ryan Zimmerman, and Charlie Morton.

Once again, luck played a role here. I didn’t expect almost 900 points from a $1 Zimmerman. I liked his batted ball profile, but come on. I also didn’t think Morton would be more than a back-end starter, and he ended up being my most consistent pitcher and a solid SP2. I didn’t even want him. It just ended up being the end of the auction, he was the last starting pitcher available, and I wasn’t leaving money on the table again. Owings filled multiple crucial positions for only $8. I overpaid for Cervelli at $17, but he was a nice compliment to Martin because, again, my catcher spot needed help.

The thing about the auction is, all the players are supremely risky. Teams will find ways to keep or trade “sure things.” And so if you rely too heavily on auction, you’re lending yourself to luck. If Morton and Garcia don’t give me quality starts, my auction stinks and my team suffers. But I started Morton 21 times at 30.43 points per start and Garcia 14 times at 24.04.

But hey, guess what? Matt Harvey, Drew Smyly, Jordan Zimmermann, Collin McHugh, Carlos Rodon, Felix Hernandez, Garrett Richards, Francisco Liriano, and Shelby Miller were all in the same auction. At the time, not sure how any of those guys were too different from Morton and Garcia. I got lucky the guys I won didn’t injure their arms. I got lucky my darts landed where they did. I mean, I wanted Liriano really bad and just screwed up my bid on auction day. Bullet dodged. Blind, dumb luck.

The lesson here, maybe, is to just give yourself fewer dart throws to botch. Acquire talent you have conviction about pre-auction rather than finding yourself in a spot where your money is going to Shelby Miller or Francisco Liriano, and you’re totally uninspired either way. Your mileage may vary, of course. Having a bunch of money at auction is fun, if nothing else.

Step 4: I love you, Giancarlo Stanton

As part of that Cabrera/Gray trade, I secured the second overall pick in last year’s draft. I took Nick Senzel. I like him a whole lot. But I love Giancarlo Stanton and his moonshot home runs. And so in mid-May, I landed Big G for Senzel, Blake Snell, and a future first round pick.

From May 11 forward, Stanton was the third-highest scoring hitter behind Votto and Charlie Blackmon. As much as I like Senzel, you simply have to trade guys like him for elite production now. It helps that Stanton finally stayed healthy, but even if he hadn’t, we all know what he does when he is. In our format, he is an elite fantasy producer on a rate basis. It was a no-brainer for me.

As for Snell, well, I like him still, but if I wanted to win this year I knew I couldn’t sit around waiting and hoping that he learns how to throw strikes and pitch deep into games. The downside to young pitchers is they sometimes are slow to put everything together. If next year Snell’s awesome and cheap, oh well. I’ll still be happy with several mammoth months of Giancarlo.

Step 5: Keep on buying stuff that helps

During the course of the season, once I saw that my team was pretty good, I just kept trying to add. In a series of deals, I sent prospects Corey Ray, Albert Abreu, Julio Urias, Happ, and Jake Faria off for the likes of Max Scherzer, Miggy, JA Happ, Jason Vargas, and Danny Salazar. All those moves did not pan out.

Reunited on my team, I slotted Miggy into my lineup 31 times and he scored at a 2.61 point per game rate. That’s abysmal. Despite his highest hard hit rate since 2014 and the best line drive rate of his career, Miggy gave me nothing. He performed worse than any random bench player I already had, in fact. In Urias, I paid little. But I felt like I had to take the gamble. I expect Miggy to get his back right this off-season and return to an elite level in 2018. He reminds me a whole heck of a lot like McCutchen last year. His price seems way too high (he’ll get a raise to $75), but how can you easily bet against one of the best hitters the game has seen in the last decade plus? Like, would you really rather two $35 lottery tickets at auction (in the 2017 auction, Adrian Gonzalez + Carlos Rodon = $76) than one player a single injury-hampered season removed from being an elite hitter?

Meanwhile, Happ was a fantastic addition for me, scoring 28.04 points a game in 14 starts. I started Salazar seven times for more than 30 points per start. Scherzer didn’t do much for me in the playoffs, but in total, he logged six starts at 32.67 a pop. Net total, these were good, albeit short-term, trades for my team. Corey Ray wasn’t scoring me 392.5 points like Happ did. Albert Abreu didn’t drop a 65 point start on my roster like Salazar.

Again though, these trades could look brutal in just a few months. What if Scherzer gets hurt? What if Urias overcomes his injury? What if Ray ascends and JA Happ grows old quick? I don’t know. But I think if you’re in a spot to seize a chance to win now, you need to be okay with these types of calculated risks.

The other thing to note is that the in-season trades didn’t necessarily have a ton to do with going worst to first. The Stanton trade, sure. The other trades just bolstered a team that had been mostly assembled in the off-season.

In closing…

I think the biggest reason my team got it’s shit together so quickly was simply putting in the work to do it. When a good player became available, I asked for a price tag. When I saw a team was way over their budget, I inquired about expensive players with good track records. I wasn’t too worried about riskiness because well, my team was a dumpster fire. Getting worse than bad isn’t much of a risk. Staying worse, and paying into a league to not even try to fight for wins now, seems way riskier to me. I placed the highest value on today and worried less about if the prospect I’m sending away will be a fantasy monster in 2021 (or in Judge’s case, 2017) or if all the old guys will decide to retire simultaneously.

Clearly, there’s a strategy to this game. If there wasn’t, we probably wouldn’t play. What’d be the point?

But ultimately you only control so much. I think the only way to really approach things is to give yourself the best hand possible and hope for the best. In hold ’em poker, a 2/7 will beat a K/K, for example, some of the time. But the odds say more often than not, the stronger hand will prevail. So I just tried to do stuff that I thought made my hand stronger, then accepted all the luck I could get.

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | Preseason Double Stuffs

Preseason Double Stuffs sends: 2B Rougned Odor ($29)
Rocky Mtn Oysters send: LF/CF/RF Taylor Trammell

Andrew’s Thoughts: I’m still not a Rougned Odor fan. Too much variance. He seems to either make an out, usually by strike out, or hit a home run, which is a little more appealing in a 5×5 roto league than a H2H league. Worse, Odor has one of the most punchable faces in all of baseball. I’m firmly #TeamBautista. Still, this makes sense for Dusty, who gave up a prospect that’s like 2-3 years from scoring him points for a bench guy that he can just as easily cut in the offseason when he costs $31 (or more if someone slaps greed on him). I mean, yeah, Odor never walks so he has no real floor, but you could do way worse than a 30+ HR threat as a back-up.

For the Double Stuffs, this could be seen as flipping a $15 DJ LeMahieu for a toolsy outfield prospect that has just now started to sneak onto top-100 lists but, again, is a ways off. Looking at it that way is probably demoralizing though. Instead, just look at this transaction by itself and it’s fine. Because again, I’m cutting a $30+ Odor after the season. I imagine PDS was too. Odor has upside but that cost offsets pretty much all of it.

As for Trammell, well, I’m pretty sure I was baffled when Dusty paid budget money to move up and take him in our minor league draft. But I stand corrected. He is now a guy whose name appears on lists. And guess what? Getting your name on lists means you have trade value. I can’t find record of ever doubting Trammell here on the Dynasty Grinders dot com, but I remember doing so somewhere. And so this is me, taking responsibility for the things that I have said, and admitting that I was wrong some months back about the acquisition cost of this particular prospect.

Anyway, I’m pretty clearly okay in general with good teams acquiring bad salaries as bench or depth pieces and bad teams getting back reputable prospects for them instead of waiting around to cut.

Hustle’s Toxic $.02: Both these owners and teams should be commended for making this trade. They both wanted to make their teams better (I hope) and managed to find the courage to agree on terms despite a potential trade review looming.

PDS obviously sees Schoop as their 2b of the future and at $12 and almost averaging 7 ppg, Schoop is easily the better player and value going forward. Schoop has really cut down his Ks and while his BABIP is high, it’s not crazy high. It makes sense for PDS to get rid of Odor for a prospect they like. If Trammel is their guy, so be it, I’m not sure what their other options were. It was not that long ago when PDS traded DJ Lemeihu for Odor, so Odor’s stench on PDS has been quickly removed. That being said, with their cap space, they were probably better off with DJ and Schoop. Odor was one of the few players I pegged PDS to keep. With one less guy, I’d expect to see a lot of new faces on their team next season, I hope they enjoy the turnover.

 

For Dusty, he trades a borderline top 100 prospect for even more 2b depth. He has Cano at 2b, so Odor is pretty much looking at playing time on his team at Utility. With Taylor, Spangeberg, Priela, and Sogard… Odor might be just another guy on his team. That being said Odor does have some nice power potential and could be big down the stretch if he gets hot on the first place Oysters. It’s a low cost risk for a currently hot swinging Odor.

Trade: Hustle Loyalty Respect | Trumpa Loompas

Hustle Loyalty Respect sends: SS Andres Gimenez
Trumpa Loompas send: RF Carlos Gonzalez ($37)

Andrew’s Thoughts: Carlos Gonzalez has been terrible this year and is almost assuredly a cut at $39 minimum next year. Trumpa Loompas’ season is over anyway, so may as well dump him for a solid prospect now and call it a day.

I like this Andres Gimenez guy. He’s only 18 and is forever away, but at two rookie ball stops last year, he had a 14.9% walk rate to just a 9.2% K rate, then a 18.7% walk rate versus a 6.7% strikeout rate. That’s crazy for an 18-year-old. Like, who knew millennials were capable of that kind of patience? Impressive! His walk/K ratio isn’t faring as well this year in Single-A, but again, he’s 18. If I’m salary dumping anyway, I’ll take Gimenez and run.

As for Hustle, this is just a reasonably priced gamble. Gimenez isn’t impacting the rest of 2017 or likely 2018-19, but with so many injuries including to regular RF George Springer, Hustle just needs points. Our minors aren’t deep enough yet to where he can’t just turn around and add a guy comparable to Gimenez for free, all while adding Car-Go to his bench. Again, Gonzalez has stunk. But he’s had superstar seasons in the not too distant past and has the theoretical floor of Coors Field going for him.