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: We Talk Fantasy Sports | Long Ball to LF

We Talk Fantasy Sports sends: 1B Chris Davis ($48)
Long Ball to LF sends: 1B/3B Travis Shaw ($5), SP Matt Moore ($11), 2017 1st Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†Long Ball to LF needed a 1B and got one of the better ones without giving up any significant pieces, so I definitely¬†like this deal for them. Chris Davis is one of the best power bats in the game and at $48, he’s priced¬†well.

On the WTFS side, I guess I get it here. They’re cutting costs and trying to find surplus value. On the cutting costs front, I’m just having a hard time figuring out who they’re chipping off value to keep. Like, with Hustle Loyalty Respect, he’s got a $49 Adam Wainwright and a $42 Garrett Richards that if he can finagle his budget enough, he might like to keep. They’re overpriced, but pitchers are valuable, whatever. With WTFS, I’m not sure if they’re hoping to have budget space for auction or positioning themselves to keep certain players.

I can’t really identify any players that make the latter seem¬†likely. Punting Davis in order to keep, like, $17 Elvis Andrus and $27 Colin McHugh, for instance, seems weird. I want¬†to imagine¬†they’re dumping to keep $38 Byron Buxton. Because that means he’s got to perform that much better not just to justify his own salary, but to justify the dumping of quality talent to keep him around. :buxton: If it’s the former, well, that’d be kind of a fun “zig while everyone else zags” strategy, since it seems like the consensus is that the auction won’t have a ton to offer.

I’m not a Matt Moore fan¬†because he’s HR-prone and that’s a dagger in this format, but pitching in San Francisco¬†helps suppress bombs and raises his floor quite a bit. He’s worth $11 either way, as most any competent pitcher is. And Travis Shaw is only $5, moves to a full time role in hitter-friendly Milwaukee, and has bonus 3B eligibility. Downgrading from Davis to Shaw is a massive drop-off though.

And the pick is whatever. It’s the ninth overall pick, so they’ll land a top-100 prospect there almost definitely.¬†Depending who they get and how well that player does through May or June, they could turn around and flip whoever they draft for profit.

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†I think the haul for Chris Davis here is a bit light. Not so much that you need to make a big fuss about it. I know that Davis was shopped around and if this was the most attractive package they could get, well that’s the market. Bravo to both teams.

Trade: Team Canada | Rocky Mtn Oysters

Team Canada sends: 2B Robinson Cano ($38)
Rocky Mtn Oysters send: SP Tyler Glasnow ($1; cost controlled)

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†This trade gives me lots of mixed feelings. I like it for both teams. Then I wait 30 seconds and feel like both teams sold low. Does that even make sense? This is a fascinating one.

If you buy into the theory that the auction is likely to be weak, as I think several owners do, then acquiring a player like Robinson Cano at just $38 fundamentally seems like a good strategy. He’s good, he’s reliable, he’s pretty cheap. Dusty was poised to start Josh Harrison, sans all the extra position eligibility that once made him valuable, at 2B, so this isn’t some marginal upgrade. This is a big deal. And to do it, all he had to do was give up a single cost controlled pitcher whose clock has already started. It feels cheap. But… it also feels kind of expensive. Again: how is this possible?

On the other hand, I’ve got Julio Urias, Blake Snell, and Sean Manaea. Like Tyler Glasnow, they’re $1 and cost controlled for many more seasons to come. And they’re pitchers. The first year of this league taught us that cost control players and pitchers, mutually exclusive of one another, are very valuable on the trade market. Together, they’re worth even more. I get asked about my three pitchers constantly. Granted, the three of them performed better than Glasnow in their first tastes of the majors. But they’re essentially the same guy as the Pirates’ young pitcher. I’m sure lots of teams would’ve loved to acquire Glasnow.

Getting Cano at a great price is a big get, but¬†I wouldn’t have sent one of my three starters for him, and I’m in need of a 2B. Of course, circumstances matter. Dusty has better pitching than I do, so he can afford the blow. He’s still got Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey anchoring his staff. But Dusty’s team, like mine, was bad¬†last year. My own reluctance to deal a cost controlled pitcher right now is that, if my team still sucks, I’ve punted one of my most valuable assets and haven’t improved my standing. To me, trading a Urias or a Snell, or a Glasnow in this case, makes a little more sense once the season begins and you get a feel for your team, unless your team is clearly awesome already. I admire Dusty’s boldness to strike and worry about the rest later though.

Before this trade, Team Canada was at $683. Anyone buying Cano had significant leverage, because TC has to shed salary somewhere. They simply can’t afford to keep everyone. TC also doesn’t have any obvious cuts, at least not of the big salary variety. Sending a valuable asset like Glasnow seems like a last resort, and maybe many offers were exchanged, but Cano went from listed on the trade block to dealt before I even had a chance to get in an offer (21 hours, actually), so I can only guess that Dusty started high. And again: kudos on being bold. But TC’s trade block said he wanted two prospects and a first round pick (it’s not often teams publicize what they want with that much specificity), so that he didn’t wait and see if other teams would approach¬†that sticker price¬†should show just how valuable Glasnow is on the trade market.

But¬†it’s fine. Dusty’s got cap space, can burn some pitching, and just can’t go into the year with Harrison at 2B. And Glasnow may not even be good. For as valuable as he is on the trade market, it’s very conceivable that he’s at peak value right now and will only go downhill from here. So selling for a cheap productive Cano is a good cash out. And if his team sucks again mid-season, oh well, Cano should still be a valuable chip. For Team Canada, it’s a great swap¬†because he still can just play Trea Turner at 2B and has now cut costs while adding a premium pitching prospect. It might have made more sense to wait and see if he could get the three pieces he wanted, but if a Glasnow-type pitcher is what you covet, there’s no big incentive to wait when you’ve got what you want on the table.

Honestly, I feign interest in a lot of trades so these posts are a little more interesting to read, but this one’s a legitimately intriguing¬†trade with a lot of fun angles. In the end I like it for both teams, but if you check back in 30 seconds I might think otherwise.

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†I would prefer to have Robinson Cano and it is not even very close. Glasnow has issues with walking batters. He wasn’t ready last year, and there’s little reason to believe he’ll be ready going forward. He could even end up in the bullpen.

I think there’s definitely scenarios where Glasnow makes this trade look incredibly foolish. I think that happens with any pitcher. They find the thing that makes them tick. Then they break. Pitchers who figure it out are incredibly valuable. Pitchers who have broken or haven’t figured it out, are only as valuable as their potential to figure out their way.

Robinson Cano somewhat quietly hit 39 homers last year. He’s still pretty great. He’s got some room to give before he’s not valuable at the price tag. I would prefer to have this trade if only it gives me one good year of Robby Cano. If I get two or three decent Cano seasons, Glasnow really has to be great for a long time to make up that difference to me.

I’m always¬†willing to error on the side of the proven veteran, but here I don’t think its really close. I feel like Glasnow is less valuable now that he was a year ago, and Cano is probably more valuable.

Rule Change Voting 2016

After giving it some thought, we’ve decided that staggering rule change discussion and voting is likely to be the clearest, most efficient way of doing this. Dedicating a couple¬†days to discuss, debate, and then vote on each rule allows the league to stay focused on one thing at a time and not get sidetracked.

Rules to discuss and proposals to vote on are listed below.

Results will be published here as they are determined.

As a reminder, it is NOT majority vote. In order for a new rule to be voted into policy, it must receive at least 10 votes.

One vote per team.

Expand postseason championship bracket from four teams to six.

  • Goal: increases odds of teams to make playoffs, thus incentivizing buying, de-incentivizing selling, etc. More playoff spots also keeps teams in the playoff race longer, i.e. wildcard spots in real life.
  • Proposal: expand championship bracket to six teams, where the top two teams that qualified for the bracket based on W/L receive a bye.¬†
  • Follow up: Changes to payouts for post-season would be rewritten and voted upon.

RESULT: Vote passes. Championship bracket will be expanded to six teams.

Adjust payouts based on playoff expansion.

  • Because of the change of the playoffs, there needs to be a chance in payouts, two options came from the discussion.

RESULT: 

Regular Season:
Most Points Scored: $150
Best H2H Record: $150

Post Season:
1st $850
2nd $400
3rd $250
4th $175
5th $150
6th $150
7th $75

Push trade deadline to mid-week.

  • Goal: Having the trade deadline on a Sunday kinda sucks, because people have shit to do and aren‚Äôt necessarily around on the weekend.
  • Proposal:¬†Instead of the end of Week 17 (Sunday), move the deadline up to Thursday of Week 17 at 11:59 PM/EST.

RESULT: Vote passes. The trade deadline will be moved to Thursday of Week 17 at 11:59 PM/EST.

Enforce a minimum number of starts per week.

  • Goal: We had a couple instances where teams only used four or five of seven starts, but ideally teams are using all or almost all of their allotment to compete.
  • Proposal: Minimum of six (6) starts per week, with a -15 applied to each start that goes unusued below that number. Setting it to six sets a baseline for competitiveness but also frees managers up to ‚Äúprotect‚ÄĚ big leads over the weekend by not risking using a seventh start that could go haywire.

RESULT: Vote cancelled. No start minimums will be enforced at this time.

Simultaneous Schedule

  • Goal: Create a balanced schedule atmosphere and further removing variance of luck involved in a week to week world.
  • Proposal: Creating a schedule where each roster faces off vs three other teams in the league per week. Each team would play each other team four times in a season. Each team would only manage the one lineup.

RESULT: Vote cancelled/proposal retracted.

Replace free agency with FAAB.

  • Goal: Make it tougher to stream players, add strategy, eliminate the first come/first serve aspect.
  • Proposal: Each team gets $150 worth of free agent budget. This is separate from a team‚Äôs auction budget. Use a blind bid system where highest bid wins. You pay what you bid (not $1 more than next highest bid). Minimum bid is $0. Winning bid does not become salary (you may keep a player you add next year for $5, plus they are eligible for greed — same FA system as 2016). Tie bids will be broken based on current standings. Bids process daily at 11 AM/EST (a single processing time makes it so that owners cannot simply wait for lineups, then poach available players who are playing that day). FAAB budget is not available for trade.

RESULT: Vote passes. A FAAB waiver system will used beginning with the 2017 season.

Prohibit adding free agents directly to the disabled list.

  • Goal: It is conceivable that a valuable player is unowned, gets added to their MLB team‚Äôs disabled list, then picked up by a team and immediately placed to the DL without a corresponding drop/penalty. Probably doesn‚Äôt matter but can‚Äôt hurt to vote on.

RESULT: Vote cancelled. No one seemed to care about this. There’s an easy option in Fantrax that prevents it, so we may just flip it on.¬†

Draft order decided by consolation playoff outcome.

  • Goal: To make the playoffs have meaning for more teams, to encourage year long roster management, to disincentivize bottoming out for a better pick.
  • Proposal: TBD pending possible playoff format change

RESULT: Vote cancelled. There was not enough support to move forward to a vote.

Lift the rule prohibiting minor leaguers (green flags) from being held on the 30-man major league roster.

  • Fantrax does not have anything built in that will police prospects being on the major league roster as “invalid roster.” Last year, we manually enforced a rule by spot checking rosters for prospects that had been held up for a week (one week was treated as a buffer for when a player gets unexpectedly sent down by his MLB team).¬†

RESULT: Vote does not pass. The manually enforced rule lives on.

Trade: Preseason Double Stuffs | Team Hydra

Preseason Double Stuffs sends: SP Sonny Gray ($47), 2017 4th Round Pick
Team Hydra sends: 3B/SS Ryan Mountcastle (minors), 2018 2nd Round Pick

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†There are¬†two clearly different schools of thought circulating around. Either you believe there is some small value in cutting a player, or you believe you get nothing when releasing a player at the end of a season. I think both camps are ultimately right. However, I believe this deal¬†is about getting whatever you can get for a player who has already given you nothing.

Sonny Gray, as you’ll read soon by Andrew, has done poorly. Ryan Mountcastle has done alright for a 19-year-old in A-ball. I’m not impressed with this return for a pitcher who at any point could return to glory. Sure, the draft pick bump counts, but not a lot. You’re now possibly stuck keeping a 19-year-old who is not on any kind of pace to see the Major Leagues prior to age 21 for three or four seasons. By the time keeping these kinds of long shots makes sense, you’re hoping Mountcastle is ready. We shall see.

I think the better strategy for our Oreo squad here, is to hold Gray until the bitter end. If you end up cutting him, great. If he finishes strong, $49 isn’t really that unrealistic. Maybe he regains trade value in the off-season. Maybe not, and you’re out a long shot and a pick upgrade.

Andrew’s thoughts: I realize Sonny Gray has been a disaster¬†this year and could very well just be permanently broken, but I’d rather gamble that he finds himself the rest of this season and makes keeping him a possibility and then just cut him if he doesn’t than punt him for a second round pick two drafts away.

Gray’s¬†xFIP is only up by 0.41 and his HR/FB is more than double what it’s been in any other season, so there are some indicators that he’s just been getting the worst possible bounces. His .321 BABIP this year is .043 above his career average. His batted ball profile was always super lucky, so maybe that luck has just run out and he’s garbage now.

But let’s just say he turns a corner the rest of the year. Let’s say he starts 10 more games and averages 30+ points per start over that stretch. I’m not saying that locks him into being a keeper — he’s been so bad, it may not even move the needle — but at least you have the option. Finishing that strong could also make him worth something in trade again this off-season. I don’t necessarily think any of that is likely, but I’d rather gamble on those possibilities than on a draft pick in 2018 and a¬†prospect three years (at least, probably) away from the big leagues who probably has a dozen or so comps sitting in free agency.

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | We Talk Fantasy Sports

Rocky Mtn Oysters sends: SP Max Scherzer ($86), SP Rookie Davis (minors)
We Talk Fantasy Sports sends: SP Tyler Glasnow (minors), CF Manuel Margot (minors), SP Robert Stephenson (minors), SP Lucas Sims (minors), 2017 2nd Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†This is a really interesting deal. I think for both sides, it works out well.

For We Talk Fantasy Sports, this has been a unique season. They are 9-6 and in prime spot to challenge for the final playoff spite despite being objectively bad. They are 15th in total points which, since we’re mid-week, is a little finicky because some teams have used more starts than others. Still, an extra start or two isn’t going to make much difference. My stinky team is 14th in points and has a 324.3 point edge over WTFS. To say that WTFS, who has had the fewest points scored on them by a margin of 527.95 points over the next team, has been lucky is just a massive understatement.

But whatever! I think in some ways, simply being so lucky and being in this spot is all the reason you need to push in some chips. It could be ill advised and screw future seasons, but I would hope everyone’s goal is to win championships, not just out-kick your coverage and finish seventh (their current place in the standings). It’s almost August, they’re in playoff contention, so why not go for it (especially as it looks like all the other teams are content standing pat)?

Max Scherzer is a difference maker. He instantly becomes WTFS’s¬†best pitcher and it isn’t really even close. Their second best starter is Michael Pineda, who is just around league average. Of course, the price to take on the league’s sixth-highest paid player is a big one. Tyler Glasnow was a top-5 overall pick, Manuel Margot is a prized outfield prospect (I’m not super high on him for fantasy purposes), Robert¬†Stephenson is a regular on top-100 lists (he’s another guy I don’t like because he can’t stop serving up homers and will get to pitch his home games in Coors Lite), and Dusty’s team stinks, so that pick (his own pick, which he’d previously dealt) will probably be top-20. Given all the context — that WTFS has been far more lucky than good — I assume they’re making this move with the intent of keeping Scherzer beyond this year, which seems reasonable. While I like that they aren’t taking their fortune for granted, I’m not sure they swing this move for a rental knowing that they still have tons of ground to cover, even with Scherzer on board. It’s really just your run of the mill high risk, high reward move for WTFS. I respect their aggressiveness.

For Dusty, the truth is, there was never really a good reason to ignore (and in some cases dismantle)¬†his offense in favor of his nasty pitching staff (formerly Scherzer, plus Jake Arrieta, Zach Greinke, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey). Instead of a balanced team, he punted offense and went all-in on arms which is probably the biggest reason he’s at the bottom of the standings. By swinging this deal, he doesn’t do much to fix his offense. Margot pretty much has to be a stud from day one to be a marked upgrade over Brett Gardner in center. To be clear, if Margot produces exactly like Gardner, that’s great, because Gardner is good and Margot would cost nothing. I think too often people get tantalized by “upside” and ignore that players can be really valuable just simply by being good. It’s just that, adding a single good hitter¬†won’t magically propel an offense. Anyway, he does free up $88 headed into next year, which gives him better odds of keeping the rest of those pitchers if he wants.

The problem is, I’d actually looked at his team recently and thought it looked fairly simple to keep all those pitchers in tact, which would then clearly outline an offseason gameplan where you need to address only hitters. I mean,¬†you can just¬†cut Jason Heyward ($50 in 2017)¬†and¬†Mike Fiers ($13) and then apply the $20 auction cash you have sitting in till to keep Scherzer. That covers him almost completely. $16 Blake Swihart looks like an easy cut, $9 Hyun-Jin Ryu probably should be dumped unless his arm regenerates itself, $18 Neil Walker doesn’t strike me as a keepable investment, paying Josh Harrison, who looks like he’ll only qualify at 2B next year, $15 seems pointless. Keeping Scherzer was certainly a realistic option. I love Glasnow’s talent though (I almost took him third overall) and if you think he hits his ceiling, he’s certainly a better value than Scherzer at over $80. Plus you get Margot, Stephenson, a Lucas Sims lotto ticket, and that pick. But if I can afford to keep my studs, I’d rather do that, I think. I’m a Scherzer fan, so I’m likely harboring some bias toward him.

That all probably sounds like I don’t like it for Dusty, but I do. Bottom line is he didn’t need all the pitchers he amassed, and this way he distributes his talent a little better and frees up significant budget space. The trade is done so I don’t think it matters now, but I had very loosely pursued Scherzer and just didn’t want to part with the prospect package Dusty wanted, and I didn’t think Dusty would find anyone who would. The package he ended up getting is lighter, I think, but it’s close. Like I said, I think both sides come out clean on this one. There’s risk — there always is — but sometimes you have to just push down on the gas and see what happens.

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†It’s really boring to just say that I agree with Andrew on all points, because I do. I love this deal for Dusty. Yes, Max is very keepable. Yes, its not a bad strategy to keep Max. Yes, there is reason to not sell off despite being “out of it.” But, Dusty’s trading one major asset for a bunch of interesting ones. Some more than others obviously.

Dusty still has a formidable staff and gets to punt on Max who has shown signs of shakiness (oh wait, that’s all pitchers in 2016, the worst year of baseball since 1994) at times. The flexibility he adds in four decent minor leaguers has its¬†perks.

I love this trade even more for We Talk Fantasy Sports. Honestly, who gives two shits about prospects when you have a legit shot at a championship? I don’t. You shouldn’t. Max in this kind of a formatted league offers a huge upgrade. Late August/early September, Max will be throwing against tired and expanded rosters. Probably toss a couple of 50 spots in playoff weeks. If you get a 2-start week in the playoffs from Max, hot dog, you nailed the jackpot. Sure, any of the prospects could be hard to lose, but at this point for WTFS you’re playing for now and winning today is more important than having a chance at some serious talent in two or three seasons.

Trade: The Foundation | Capital City Ironmen

The Foundation sends: SP Brandon McCarthy ($3), RP Trevor May ($2), 2017 1st Round Pick, 2018 1st Round Pick
Capital City Ironmen sends: SP James Shields ($28), 2017 2nd Round Pick, 2018 2nd Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†This was always kind of the point of getting James Shields back in my Johnny Cueto trade: to flip him later for a little something extra.

It’s easy to say now that the White Sox have acquired him, but I really wanted to deal Shields before he got traded in real life. The Chicago rumors made me nervous. That ballpark plus the DH does not seem like a great recipe for one of baseball’s most HR prone pitchers dating back to the start of 2015. Among qualified starters, Shields is seventh-worst in HR/9 at 1.40 over that time period and in terms of total homers allowed, he’s surrendered 42; only Max Scherzer and Hector Santiago have allowed more.

EDIT: ZiPS just got updated and Shields’ FIP went from projected 3.73 rest of season to 3.98 with the move to Chicago.

Admittedly, the return was¬†lighter than I would have hoped. I would’ve liked to get back one more piece, preferably a cheap major leaguer, but I just couldn’t find a piece that fit and, frankly, the market for Shields’ services was not very robust.

What makes Shields valuable is that he throws a ton of innings, thus recording a lot of outs and points. He got totally blasted in his last start and was pulled after 2.2 innings, but that’s the exception. Usually even if he’s off, his manager will leave him out there for six or seven innings. In fact, he’d gone six or more innings in his first 10 starts before that last stinker. He scored 25 or more fantasy points in eight of those starts. He’s also thrown 200+ innings in nine straight seasons and is on pace to make that 10 in a row. His floor is quite high.

Brandon McCarthy is mostly just a flier, but I should note that for their careers, McCarthy and Shields have comparable¬†FIP, xFIP, BB/9, and HR/9 rates. Over their last 30 or so starts, McCarthy’s numbers have actually been better across the board. Shields still projects better though, given how he hogs innings and McCarthy likely won’t pitch deep into games coming off injury (which is a whole separate risk component altogether). I’m just hoping McCarthy spends the rest of 2016 recovering and is in a spot to contribute in 2017 at a much cheaper salary than Shields.

With Trevor May, I’m just hoping something changes and the Twins convert him back into a starter. That seems unlikely though. He’s currently sporting a 13.67 K/9, so if not a starter, he could be a cheap RP option that strikes a ton of guys out. The price to find out what his future holds costs nothing but a RP spot, which I’d been mostly funneling guys in and out of anyway.

The main thing was getting the picks. Once my team decided to suck this year and I embarked on rebuilding, part of my strategy was to stock up on the highest picks possible. I tend to think picks are valuable but likely overrated, especially in baseball. This isn’t football where your rookie running back will start and make an impact from Week One. In baseball, prospects take time. But I’d rather have superior draft assets than not, and with my fifteen minors spots mostly accounted for, accruing picks is my only real means of adding cost controlled talent in the future.

For Jordan, the cost to add a stabilizing starting pitcher really wasn’t too much. To date, his team has lost the second-most points to HR allowed (interestingly, first place Team Canada has been stung the most), so Shields doesn’t necessarily fix that. But there’s a ton of positive regression due for the rest of his staff, so what Shields will really be doing is cutting down on having to use dice roll starts. That means not being backed into a corner where Aaron Blair, James Paxton, or Mat Latos has to be deployed.

The one scenario I can think of where acquiring Byron Buxton at $32 makes sense…

Byron Buxton ($32) was traded the other day and I hated it. For the days following the trade, my coffee tasted burnt and even the roses in our garden smelled like poo. It was a very bad trade.

Just to reiterate what I wrote in my review of the trade: I don’t dislike Buxton necessarily, nor am I oblivious to his potential. I just don’t like that you’re paying $32 for potential when prospects in our league have cost control status, effectively mitigating the risk, or when there are so many inexpensive centerfielders that are currently producing at high rates. I also didn’t like that the player traded for Buxton is super good and super valuable.

Anyway…

I thought of one scenario where trading for Buxton at $32 today makes sense. Here goes:

Let’s say you want Buxton and his immense potential. But you also do not want to pay him $32 — well, really, $34 into 2017, plus whatever greed allocation he may get hit with (and he’s a big fat target for it!). Well, the only way for you to have Buxton at less than that price¬†is for him to be cut at season’s end and go back to auction.

At that point, who knows what’ll happen? He could get bid up to $50 (lol). Hell, you could execute the trade today, then he could be promoted tomorrow and hit like a monster through the end of the year, at which point $32 isn’t looking so bad. But let’s focus on the here and now, the fact that he’s all potential and no production, and that he costs $32 but you want him for less because there’s just way too much risk and likely not enough reward at that price point.

If Buxton, even at $32, is on any other team, you have no control over whether or not he makes it back to auction. If he’s on your roster, you can guarantee that he’ll be cut, at which point you’ll have¬†the opportunity to win him back at a lower rate.

There are two points to make here.

The first is that because we have no in-season salary cap, acquiring a player that you plan to cut doesn’t necessarily harm your team long-term. Adding a bad player with a $32 salary is prohibitive in 2016 to the extent that it takes up a roster spot, and that’s it. As of this posting, Buxton is minor league eligible, so he wouldn’t even rob you of a point scoring spot. Generally speaking, it may not be a bad idea to acquire expensive players that you’d prefer to have at lower salaries, if only because you’d then control whether or not they reach auction.

The second key is determining what the value of guaranteeing a player hits auction is. And I’m not sure it’s a lot. It definitely isn’t $18 Kyle Hendricks.

In order for it to be feasible, I think, you need to bake Buxton into a larger deal. He needs to just be a piece of a bigger puzzle, not the primary return, because there’s a very real chance that even if Buxton gets to auction, you won’t win him (though if you’ve gone through all this trouble to give yourself the chance, your odds may be better than others due to sheer will). Of course, you could also ship someone something negligible, like a 3rd round pick, and make it work that way if you can’t do a package deal.

Ultimately, I’m still not fond of taking on a player like Buxton at his price if your intent is to build around him for years to come. Using my own team as an example again: Denard Span is 32-years-old, costs $4, and is quite productive. He’s probably got two or three more years of solid production left. Does he have Buxton’s “upside”? No. But given the salary difference, a guy like Buxton has to not just match what Span is doing and should do in the next few years, he needs to far surpass it. Otherwise you’re wasting resources and effectively paying a player for being younger.

In short: the option of what to do with a player is worth something, and adding an expensive guy that you know you’ll cut with the sole purpose of maybe getting them back cheaper is also worth something. It’s an interesting strategy. Feel free to poke holes in it!

 

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | Preseason Double Stuffs

Rocky Mtn Oysters send: OF Bryce Harper ($109)
Preseason Double Stuffs send: SP Max Scherzer ($86)

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†This is almost too surprising to wrap my head around, but I think my knee-jerk reaction is that I don’t love it for either squad but I prefer it from the Double Stuffs’ end.

Ferns and Chris still have a formidable rotation with Chris Archer at the top, and now they’ve got a transcendent hitter to plug into their lineup and slug¬†from Day 1. Their offense went from a bunch of question marks to a bunch of question marks surrounded by a stud. Any time you can flip a player that cost $23 less than another player at auction before any games have been played,¬†you’re probably feeling good.

Of course, Bryce is super expensive. If you’re the Oreos, $109 is a lot. It won’t matter in 2016, but I can see future seasons having to make some serious cuts to accommodate keeping this one guy. That’s the problem paying young guys tons and tons of budget. You feel some sense of obligation to keep them long term, but it’ll hurt your roster elsewhere.

For Dusty’s Oysters, I don’t get it at all. Why swing deals to get extra budget cash, splurge on the highest paid hitter, then trade him? The benefit of those previous deals is now eroded. Given that there’s no in-season budget, he effectively spent $109 on Scherzer which, if the strategy all along was to buy a hitter to flip for a pitcher, why not just pony up for Clayton Kershaw at auction? I love Max Scherzer, so getting him for¬†the top of your rotation is awesome. But I don’t think I’m trading Bryce straight up for any player not named Clayton Kershaw or Mike Trout (and you guys know I heart pitchers), so I can’t help but feel like simply waiting instead of rushing to make a splash may have paid off better.

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†Holy Cow! The first giant and meaningful trade of Dynasty Grinders is a big one. My favorite non-Mariner for an awesome pitcher. This has many implications, but this appears to be a classic case of I drafted a lot of this, you drafted a lot of this, we both need the other thing, lets switch. Bryce comes with crazy potential, but his keeper value is diminished at over 20% of your normal budget. Scherzer is under that 20% mark, but not by much. Enough of that, how did that change their teams now in the pre-season.

I have my handy dandy team projection calculator using FanGraphs’s Depth Charts Projections. Prior to this trade The Oysters were ranked 8th which a projected score of roughly 576 fantasy points per week. The Double Stuffs were considerably behind scoring 563 fantasy points per week, ranked 14th of 16 Dynasty Grinders clubs. Let’s calculate the difference!

Oysters -> 565.7 Points Per Week | Net -11.3 Rank 12
Stuffs -> 564.6 Points Per Week | Net +1.6 Rank 14

Wow. How does that work? Well…

Oysters replace Bryce with George Springer just fine. But George Springer who was filling the utility spot is now replaced by Danny Espinosa, James McCann, and there’s still 300 or so replacement at bats. Dusty had a glut at right field, but doesn’t currently have the utility depth.

On the pitching side he adds 34 Max Scherzer starts to replace Luis Severino and Jake Peavy starts. Severino and Peavy are not all-stars, but they were no slouches at a projected 26 points per start each. Max’s 37 points per start is nice, but not at this cost.

I’m sorry Dusty, I don’t like this move.

For the Stuffs, they insert Harper into the CF/RF slot which essentially moves Carlos Gomez to the 4th OF and Utility role. This is a huge improvement for a variety of reasons. They took utility at bats away from Yasmany Tomas, Eduardo Escobar and Cesar Hernandez. Awesome.

On the pitching side, they lose Max, and replace him with Ian Kennedy and Jerad Eickhoff. They turned from a 37 point per game starter and handed those starts to two guys who are below average at 22 and 23 points per game projected. Ouch!

For the Double Stuffs I don’t hate the move, but I don’t love it either. I love depth as much as anyone and they both sold off on it for a marginal gain and a potential huge loss. Count me out.

2016 Auction Review – Who’s your Haddy?

Who’s your Haddy?

wyh

Looking up and down, yep! Yet another¬†stars and scrubs strategy with some interesting middle men tossed in. I love Mike Trout‘s value, the best player in baseball got paid the 3rd most auction budget by¬†some margin. A few things went really right here, and a few look really concerning. Let’s dive in!

Hitters – Great

The starting line up is really fricking good. I don’t know that there¬†is truly¬†a hole in the 1-10 spots. Salvador Perez plays everyday and scores points, Carlos Santana and Adrian¬†Gonzalez for under $60 combined is a steal. Jason Kipnis and Todd Frazier are guys who can finish top 5 at their positions and Haddy didn’t pay to see it. Ben Zobrist was a steal at $14. Trout is Trout. There’s no clear number two utility hitter here, which hurts the overall rating a smidgen. Also I do¬†not¬†love the dollar value that Mookie Betts sold for. Jung-ho Kang is curious. Run 1000 simulations and how many times does Kang for $33 outscore Asdrubal Cabrera for $3? Yikes.

Pitchers – Alright

Jacob deGrom seems poised to have a stellar season. There’s no question about his star value. Michael Wacha is good, but there seems to be looming questions about his pitch arsenal. Is Justin Verlander a legit 3? The back end of this rotation has potential, but they’ll be asked to perform probably before Haddy would like to rely on them. The relievers are nothing to sniff at, maybe they’re okay, maybe they’re not. They will get holds you can assume. The back end of starters is iffy. I’m not high on Trevor Bauer or Ervin Santana, is there a fifth starter in the Matt Wisler, Drew Hutchinson, Jeff Locke, Robert Erlin, Shane Greene group? Eeeshh

Depth – Not quite

Now, Haddy’s starters have positional flexibility which saves this team from being in the uh-oh category. The pitchers are¬†not likely¬†holding anything together here. Haddy should be able to swing some positions here and there to keep a good line up going daily, but there is a player¬†or two missing here.

Why 2016 would be bad…¬†

Mike Trout and/or Jacob deGrom gets hurt. The hill just gets so much higher after that. Kang being bad isn’t enough to sink it, but his weight will be pulling on the team down on the daily. Maybe Mookie Betts ends up just being good instead of great, Todd Frazier doesn’t adjust to the American League, Kipnis, Santana, and A-Gone begin their decline. Maybe the season goes south if Jacob deGrom buzzes his hair. Who knows.

Why 2016 would be¬†good…¬†

This team starts shining bright when one of those starting pitchers that Haddy bought for under ten dollars turns into a star. Or just if Jung-Ho Kang is a earning his salary. Honestly Haddy’s hitters plus deGrom will carry him to victories this year. It is not hard to see how this roster goes from pretty close to good to great. Perhaps Pedro Alvarez ends up being a legit DH in the American League? Hell Mike Trout‘s probably good enough to carry.