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: Long Ball to LF | Senior Squids

Long Ball to LF sends: SP Daniel Norris ($14)
Senior Squids sends: 2018 1st Round Pick

 

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†Without any context, I’d rather have Daniel Norris than a generic first round pick. I inquired about Norris a few times, actually. The pick is just a prospect, which Norris was as recently as a couple years ago. He was Baseball America’s 18th-ranked prospect in 2014. By buying him now, you get the same type of prospect pedigree as you’d get in the draft, but with 200 innings of work under his belt. He will also score you points today; that pick will score you points way later.

But there’s context too.

Long Ball has a bunch of pitchers, several similar to Norris, so he was expendable. Meanwhile, if the season ended today, Squids would be in the bottom-4 bracket and likely have the strongest team there, meaning the best chance of winning that bracket and the top overall pick. Worst case, as of today, it’s the 4th overall pick. So you’re in effect trading a guy like Luis Robert, Hunter Greene, Royce Lewis, Brendan McKay, etc for Norris. Still, not too bad, particularly if you need the points now. But…

I feel like more could have been milked for a pick that currently projects high, or maybe a guy or two could’ve been paired with it to get an even better pitcher. Picks are coveted in this league and an as-of-today top-4 pick didn’t really even seem to be publicly shopped. The last time I looked a couple weeks back, a league average start was around 21 points. Norris is the 73rd overall SP in total points and is averaging 19.83 points a start, so slightly below average. So I also wonder if a second round pick doesn’t buy you a comparable thrower.

Hustle’s thoughts: I disagree with Andrew here.¬†I personally rather have the pick, but not by much. ¬†I’ve never been a Daniel Norris fan. He’s a pretty average pitcher overall and maybe slightly below in a fantasy context here. ¬†He’s averaging 19 points a game here, which is a low end starter unless you expect him to pick it up (which is possible).

I get that a first round pick is years away from contributing, but currently Squids has a ticket to the 2018 Iosim Bowl so this was potentially moving the first overall pick. ¬†Even in a weak draft, I’ll take the lotto ticket and either trade the pick closer to the draft for something better or improve the farm.

At 4-6 Squids definitely has a shot to get back in this and make playoffs, but I don’t think it’s going to be on the back of Daniel Norris. If it is, I’ll have to re-evaluate this. Daniel Norris as an above average pitcher at less than $20 to keep is a good asset.

 

 

Trade: TBD | In Shorter Line 4 the Win

TBD sends: 3B Yoan Moncada ($1), SP Michael Kopech (minors), SP Cal Quantrill (minors), two 2018 1st Round Picks
In Shorter Line 4 the Win sends: SP Noah Syndergaard ($82)

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†This trade occurred on April 26 and¬†immediately became a disaster for TBD.

Syndergaard was supposed to take the mound on the day this trade was processed, but that start got pushed to the next day. On the 27th, he was scratched from a start due to “biceps tendinitis.” Then, he started on Sunday, April 30. In that start, he promptly got knocked around by the Nationals — five hits and two walks in 1.1 IP — before injuring himself on a pitch to Bryce Harper. He came out of the game having scored -4.5 fantasy points. Turns out,¬†he has a partial tear in his lat. He’ll be on the shelf for three months or so.¬†Just horrible, horrible luck for TBD. Like… if Syndergaard misses the year, which seems well within the range of possible outcomes here, how do you keep him at $82 next year? Or if he comes back but is rusty and struggles, or re-injures himself, or displays any sign of long-term volatility, how do you not send him back to auction? It’s totally possible that TBD spent three very good prospects and two premium draft picks to get -4.5 fantasy points.

Hindsight here is 20/20 but man, this just sucks for TBD. Ultimately, because they dealt picks and prospects, their already very good team is mostly unaffected. But they’re now down a lot of trade chips.

Before¬†the injury though, I thought this swap was¬†okay for both squads. I would rather have healthy Syndergaard than all the stuff IL4W got, but I understand why, if your team isn’t scoring points and is sitting at the bottom of the standings, you’d do this. Pitchers are time bombs. Obviously. So Aaron and his cohorts at IL4W mitigated some risk, took on a bunch of young, cheap talent with upside, and gave themselves a few more paths to being good down the road. Even if only two of the five pieces they got become useful, they’ll be useful and cheap. But pitchers are also a big part of winning games in this league (especially in 2017 when all the pitchers stink) and Syndergaard has essentially been Clayton Kershaw Lite since last year. To me, Kershaw is the type of talent you empty the chambers for. Syndergaard is that same type of talent.

If I’m TBD, I pull this trigger too. Not now, of course. But at the time they did it. Clearly¬†they couldn’t have predicted the injury. And yeah, they surrendered Corey Kluber and Dellin Bettances in the midst of a pennant race just last year for Moncada alone. But trade markets aren’t static and, again, that was a late season deal. You pay more earlier. Go look at last year’s trade log, you’ll see. I don’t have a huge problem with the seemingly faulty logic of trading an ace for a prospect, then later on trading that prospect plus a bunch of other prospects for a different ace. Stuff changes. I also think if you get the opportunity to land a transcendent talent¬†and really want to take it, well, take it, even if it means forking over a bunch of your best lottery tickets.

As arguably the best team in the league with or without Syndergaard, I really like the killer instinct and the aggressiveness it takes to get a deal like this done. And hey, it’s conceivable that TBD gets Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner back in time for the playoffs. I’d argue the potential of that is worth the same, if not more, than the potential that Moncada becomes¬†a dirt cheap version of 2016 Jonathan Villar*.

* So… we realize Moncada’s clock started last year and so he’s in his $1 season, in which IL4W seems unlikely to compete, right? Next year he’s $3 minimum, more if his projections are good. Three bucks is nothing if he becomes 2016 Villar or even Anthony Rendon or whoever. But the point is, the two most valuable years of a player’s cost control status are the year they’re first promoted¬†($0) and their sophomore season ($1). IL4W is effectively getting zero tangible benefit from those two years from Moncada. If Moncada kills it for them in his $1 season, that’s cool and all, but IL4W still probably isn’t making headway as a team and the better his stats are this year, the better his projections will be next year, and the higher that salary will jump. This certainly isn’t a huge knock to Moncada’s future value, but is something to keep in mind, I think.

Speaking to Moncada specifically though, I do wonder just how amazing he can be here. He strikes out a ton, which I don’t think will matter, because when he makes contact it’s really, really good contact. But the stolen bases aren’t big factors in our scoring like they are in a 5×5¬†and if he’s whiffing more than 30% of the time against Triple-A pitchers, what happens when he steps into an American League with Sale, Verlander, Carrasco, Kluber, Darvish, Keuchel, etc? It’s not like he’ll get to tee off against Mike Fiers every day, y’know?

For IL4W though, I can speak from experience that the decision to start selling sucks. It means your team is poop emoji. But aside from the super lucky timing, I like that they recognized not just a poor win/loss record, but also a deep deficit in points, and went ahead and made that call early. By doing so, they didn’t have to compete with any other teams, could set their own market, and could come away with the assets they wanted. And I actually think they still have a decent roster and can win some weeks this year, even if their playoff odds aren’t particularly good.

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | The Wilfred Brimley Diabeetuses

Rocky Mtn Oysters sends: SP Jake Arrieta ($86)
The Wilfred Brimley Fightin’ Diabeetuses¬†sends:¬†CF¬†Kevin Kiermaier ($7), 1B/2B/3B/SS Jedd Gyorko ($6)

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†I love, love, love this for WBFD. For two depth pieces, WBFD landed one of the game’s top starting pitchers. He’s expensive, but so what? If pitching is as volatile this year as it was last year, then it probably pays to splurge on reliable guys.

For Dusty, how’s this math: since December 30, he’s acquired Hunter Pence, Lance McCullers, Wei-Yin Chen, Yordano Ventura, and now Kiermaier¬†and Gyorko. You know the return for the last two. For the other four, he gave up basically nothing, dispersing middling draft picks, an auction buck or two, and some prospects and guys that he was probably cutting to teams that were over budget and just wanted to dump. That’s fine. Pence was the first guy added there and I’d argue he was the least superfluous, safest of the group. He’s done it longer. Let’s omit him. The salary of all the other guys combined? $85.

I don’t know if there was some grand plan, but what’s happened here, essentially, is Arrieta’s exact dollars (plus those prospects, the 3rd round pick or whatever it was, negligible stuff, etc) have been swapped out for McCullers, Chen, Ventura, white Denard Span, and Gyorko. Dusty’s eggs have been distributed across many baskets.

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s good or bad. There’s an opportunity cost associated with locking up four extra roster spots. But depth is good. Kiermaier is an instant starter for him at CF. Dusty had tons of cash to spend before this trade barrage and should still have money to spend. He’s probably cutting $50 Heyward and $30 Shields, plus all the injured guys he picked up throughout the season, plus others. A $13 Jesse Hahn? There’s a bunch of budget space here. He’s not hurting for room, which brings me to this…

As a standalone, this trade baffles me. Is Kiermaier that much different than Carlos Gomez, who will be at auction? Or Heyward, who will probably be? Is Gyorko that much different a Swiss army knife than Sean Rodriguez?

Like, if you’re way over budget, I get selling off Arrieta and maybe you have to sell low, because this time of year there aren’t a ton of teams swimming in budget space. I don’t really get selling him off for pieces that have reasonable comps already guaranteed to be at auction, plus whoever else ends up getting dropped. It’s nice to secure those players and not risk the auction, where you’ll have to outbid others, but the cost to do that here is really high. I mean, yeah, I’d rather trade a fringe keeper or comparable player for Kiermaier now than risk having to win either Gomez or Heyward at auction to fill my CF slot. But Arrieta doesn’t strike me as the chip you use simply to hedge.

I also don’t get doing it when you can afford to keep him. And I don’t get doing it at this time of year when, as I just said, there are only a few teams with budget space. The market for Arrieta is so, so small right now just by virtue of teams not having budget room, that I think it’s really tough to get an optimal return. Budget flexibility is great and all but talent and points-scoring trumps that. Arrieta could’ve been held until 30 seconds after auction, at which time anyone can go over the $500 budget and suddenly there are 15 suitors for his services.

I think, if I was Dusty and didn’t like Arrieta at $86 — which isn’t unreasonable, pitchers are combustible parts — I would have just cut him and tried winning him back cheaper at auction. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. I¬†just might rather gamble on that scenario than on Kiermaier and Gyorko, who I like but I think are better rostered as depth.

As I said, I love it for WBFD. Great, great swap. He turned guys who were firmly backups on his roster into a difference making, top-10 starting pitcher.

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†If Dusty doesn’t get the cure for diabetes in this deal, I think he went and fucked up. I think Dusty would have gotten more for just taking $1 for Arrieta.

On top of that fact: why, if you’re Dusty, would you sell this kind of a player to a team who doesn’t have to even bother cutting anyone off their roster to keep said player. I know there’s people who aren’t hyper concerned with their competition’s situation, and that’s fine. But, there should be other teams who take Arrieta for some auction budget cash or a 1st round draft pick. Most of them would have to cut a few mildly interesting players that might be useful.

WBFD last year during¬†the draft must have been in what only can be described as a diabetic coma and he left significant money on the table. Couple that with the tragedy of Jose Fernandez. He’s basically swimming in available budget even if he decides to keep the overpaid youngsters he’s invested into.

All that being said, I’m not all that upset over this trade, it happens. Dusty probably did shop around Arrieta to a dozen teams and got what he wanted and moved on. Classic Dusty.

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: Team Hydra | TBD

Team Hydra sends: 2B Yoan Moncada (minors)
TBD sends: SP Corey Kluber ($82), RP Dellin Bettances ($14)

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†What a disaster. I get it. You have lots of aces. But, any veteran of fantasy baseball should be well aware, that come fantasy playoff time, pitching rotations change. Two-start weeks start to disappear. That’s why you want seven good and reliable starters, because when it counts (unlike MLB where you can get away with just 3), you need 6 (if you’re lucky) or 7 starters.

Yoan is an impressive prospect, I get it. He probably will see playing time next season. That’s not very helpful now. I don’t see the value in this trade even if TBD was not in the playoff hunt. Trading two real assets for one 21-year-old who is doing quite well in AA seems foolish. Sure, if Moncada comes up and is a top-5 2B, great, you’re sitting on a fat pile of value for a few seasons. However, sitting on players who have great value doesn’t guarantee a future dynasty. Far from it.

Championships require a good roster, great value, but most of all luck. Even if Moncada is a monster and a top 15 MLB fantasy hitter, you still need the other 29 spots on your roster to work out in any given season. And you took a great roster that has a real chance to win it all this season and bruised it hard.

Hydra gets way better here. I love this move for them. They probably can figure out how to keep both players, and they’ll provide more value in the next three or four years than Moncada. Easy move. EVEN IF THEY DON’T keep either player, their shot of winning the whole league just went up because they took from the team they’re tied with and added to their own. Brilliant.

If TBD wins it all anyway, great. “Better lucky than good” is something I hear all too often.

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†Maybe I’m just jealous because I tried to get Moncada and failed, but as soon as this trade popped up in my e-mail, the instinctual feeling I got was “man, prospects are way too valuable.”

I hate this move for TBD and love it for Team Hydra. Respectively, they are the third and fourth place team. They are clinging to the last two playoff spots. I realize TBD can simply fall back on Madison Bumgarner,¬†Jacob deGrom, Tanner Roark, et al now. But I just don’t love¬†punting an indisputable ace and the top overall relief pitcher at this juncture of the season. Granted, RPs aren’t super valuable, but still.

I get the logic. They rode Kluber long enough to get to this point¬†and¬†are in great postseason position with the most points in the league, thus giving them the tie-breaker should they finish with the same record as another team. They are now handing the keys to luck and in turn, getting arguably the best prospect in baseball. But I’m not sure they got enough for handing a direct postseason competitor two players of this caliber.

Oh well!

One other thing: I had forgotten what the original deal TBD made to get Kluber was and when I went back and looked… my god.¬†This trade somehow manages to make that one look even worse. And from TBD’s perspective, you could argue that since they got Kluber for essentially nothing¬†to begin with, he was just house money anyway. Their low initial investment in Kluber does make me like this move a little more for them.

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: Team Canada | Capital City Ironmen

Team Canada sends: SP James Shields ($28), SS J.P. Crawford (minors), RF Aaron Judge (minors), 2017 1st Round pick
Capital City Ironmen send: SP Johnny Cueto ($60), RF Michael Reed (minors), 2017 3rd Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts:¬†Reviewing my own trade again!

First things first: after dealing away Miguel Cabrera and Sonny Gray, I was content to sit back for a while and hold my pieces for a bit. But Team Canada and I had sent a few offers back and forth for Cueto, and then a deal very similar was proposed to me that made me change my mind.

I’ll keep this succinct because I write about my team plenty: I love Cueto. He’s a top-10 starting pitcher and at $60, he’s one of the best values n the entire league. He pitches in arguably the most favorable park in baseball and in a league where half the league is rebuilding. He’s awesome.

But I viewed this deal as essentially saying this: the difference between Cueto and Shields is $32, two top-25 prospects (Crawford was taken 6th and Judge 27th overall in our inaugural minor league draft), and a first round pick (likely late, because Team Canada is really good). To me, the gap isn’t nearly that big, so the deal just made too much sense.

In Shields, I get a pitcher that chews up innings and keeps my team competitive in the short term. Even at $30 next year, he’s worth keeping. He’s also worth something in trade, so Cueto could keep giving in that regard too.

Michael Reed is an interesting prospect for Team Canada to get back, but I had picked him up from free agency not too long ago, so it’s not as if he was highly valued within our league.

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†This is why we’re in a dynasty style league. Given the format, which it likely to be under discussion next year, it is not hard to understand the pressure to sell here. Bailey was looking at 1 win and 5 losses before coming back and winning in week 6. Even with the week 6 win, he stood a extreme long shot to get into the top 4. When you’re left with two options, spend to attempt to give yourself some better sliver of a chance, or sell to setup for 2017, I think he makes a reasonable call.

Standing pat for Bailey, who before both of his trades stood with the “5th” best projected line up, really was not an option. It was already under performing, he lost two pitchers to injury, and its still only 5th best. Just four make the playoffs. Bailey got back four huge assets for Cueto. Judge and Crawford may or may not make an impact in 2017. The chance that either do is enticing. The first round pick here does not project terribly well, but it has some value.

I really like that Bailey got back Shields here. Shields the last two years has floundered some, but this season Shields has regained some promise as a reliable starter. This means Bailey got back someone he can keep for a reasonable price, or sell yet again. Fun stuff.

For Team Canada, they paid one hell of a price for Cueto. Canada is in the drivers seat to get into the Championship Bracket and added a big piece to that ride. Cueto will certainly be a big help, but this price that Canada paid is extremely aggressive. You have to like it for them, the prospects can be replaced.

After five weeks, a reflection on the projections

What the hell are projections good for anyway? Every year before the season starts, for a few baseball fans words like ZiPS and STEAMER and PECOTA among others become very popular. And then April happens and we forget all about them.

Before the season started I created a document using the Depth Charts Projections from FanGraphs. This document took the best possible line ups based on those projections for each team and spit out a best case scenario of what teams could expect to end up finishing. I used this for my post-draft analysis.

We are now five weeks finished, 25% of the of the regular season done. How have those projections done?

Projected Finish Team After 5 Weeks
9th TC  1st
5th TL 2nd
2nd BB 3rd
13th IL4W 4th
6th HLR 5th
1st FND 6th
10th HYDRA 7th
15th LB 8th
16th TBD 9th
8th RMO 10th
12th WBFD 11th
4th HADDY 12th
7th WTFS 13th
14th PRE 14th
11th SQUIDS 15th
3rd CAP 16th

Most notable takeaways: Capital City has had some awful luck with Carlos Carrasco and Tyson Ross going down. Haddy’s team is awfully under performing, Team Canada has a lot of things going right, and despite not winning any weeks, In Line 4 the Win has been way better than advertised.

It’s been five weeks, projections tend to be what they are, but it is pretty interesting. It doesn’t really mean anything, we play in a head to head weekly league so results vary even more. But, I think its important to note that in just five weeks the best looking teams can get ugly and vice versa.

So FanGraphs depth charts projections do daily Rest of Season updates. This is awesome. Using the same tool as I did at the beginning of the year, here’s where teams line up going forward:

1 – Trumpa Loompas (3-2)
2 – Team Canada (5-0)
3 – Beach Bum (3-2)
4 – The Foundation (3-2)
5 – Capital City Ironmen (1-4)
6 – Rocky Mtn Oysters (2-3)
7 – Team Hydra (2-3)
8 – Longball to LF (2-3)
9 – Who’s Your Haddy? (1-4)
10 – In Line 4 the Win (1-4)
11 – We Talk Fantasy Sports (3-2)
12 – TBD (3-2)
13 – Hustle Loyalty Resepect (4-1)
14 – Senior Squids (1-4)
15 – Preseason Double Stuffs (2-3)
16 – The Wilfred Brimley Fighting Diabeetuses (3-2)

I think what we can take from this is that we’re so far from started, not near being over. The question has come up: when will the first team bail? I think in another five weeks, the standings could be a bigger mess. I would stick it out.

Trade: Rocky Mountain Oysters | Preseason Double Stuffs

Preseason Double Stuffs sends: 2B/3B/SS Cesar Hernandez ($3), 1B/OF Ben Paulsen ($3)
Rocky Mountain Oysters sends: SS Brandon Crawford ($14)

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†Well when you get Francisco Lindor, clearly you don’t need Brandon Crawford anymore. So you give him away. Hernandez has some value from being a strong backup at three positions. Do not confuse him with actually being good. Paulsen is fine, he hits in Coors.

Double Stuff win themselves a likely top ten short stop candidate, even in a field that has risen to the occasion. If Crawford ends up just being top 16, they ended up paying two bench pieces for a starting player. It’s a winning deal. I doubt any of these players have any long term value.

Andrew’s thoughts: I like this one for the Double Stuffs. As Jordan said above, two utility bench players is worth it for a starter. I don’t like Crawford much at all, but for $14, he’s more valuable to a roster than Hernandez or Paulsen.

This is sort of a weird follow up to Dusty’s other deal. He basically bought someone here (Paulsen) who plays the same spots as Hanley Ramirez but not nearly as well, so he acquired someone his previous deal made superfluous, and downgraded his back-up to Francisco Lindor from Crawford to Hernandez.