StrategyJuly 21, 2011


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Flags Fly Forever: Trading for a Title

By Brandon Gray

Everyone reading this article shares one common goal, to win their fantasy league.  At this point in the season, everyone in a keeper/dynasty league should be able to classify their team in one these categories:

- Title Contender
- Potential Title Contender
- Rebuilding for the Future

If you aren’t sure which category your team falls under, you’re in trouble.  I’m guessing if you don’t know which category labels your team, you’re likely caught between being a potential title contender and rebuilding for the future.  If you are, you should work on joining one of these categories before you join the “Got too hesitant to make a move and didn’t improve my team, and now I’m heading into next year with kinda crappy keepers” category.

Any team without a chance to win it all, with movable assets, needs to get active.  It’s boneheaded to sit on your rump and not try to improve your keepers.   Same thing can be said to the contenders.  As the article title reads, flags fly forever.  Maybe your rookie prospect will be good in 2-3 years, but you never know.  Take the sure thing for the remainder of the year and win a title.  You may never make it back to being this close.

For those of you committed to the direction of your team for the final 10 weeks, I offer some trades below to improve your chances at a championship banner, or for next year’s league.

C – Carlos Santana for Brian McCann
I’d say there is close to a 50% chance Carlos Santana is the best hitting catcher in baseball next year, and a 75% chance he holds that title in 2-3 years.  With no offense to Buster Posey owners, Santana is the best young catcher in baseball.  Brian McCann owners should see a similar hitter in a poorer lineup who hits for a lower average.  If your league uses OPS, trade for the guy close to .900, Brian McCann.  The 70 point upgrade in AVG is another nice plus.

1B – Eric Hosmer for Paul Konerko
You’ll hear comparisons for Eric Hosmer to Joey Votto, which makes any owner excited about the future.  As for the rest of 2011 though, Hosmer will likely fall in the 8-12 range for first basemen.  But if you have the chance to trade him for a top-six first basemen — one who will hit 35 homers, drive in 115 batters, and hit well over .300 — you jump at the chance.  The success of 2010 and 2011 Paul Konerko has been remarkable.  Consider it grateful that he doesn’t have a cool name like Ryan Howard that increases the cost on exaggerated production.

2B – Dustin Ackley for Michael Young
Much like Harold Baines, Michael Young is a professional hitter.  With that lineup and ballpark, Young is going to drive in tons of runs.  He is tops in AVG and RBI among second basemen.  Plus he comes with the luxury of multiple position eligibility.  Ackley is a great talent, but comes with the joys of playing in Seattle.  His seasons may come with low run and RBI numbers because of lineup alone.

3B – Mike Moustakas for Mark Reynolds
I’m not on the Moustakas bandwagon, as I don’t see him ever being more than a .270 hitter with holes in his swing and a poor eye.  Mark Reynolds has quietly had a very productive season, mashing 20 home runs and approaching 50 runs and 50 RBI.  If you can afford the batting average blow, which you likely can if you play Moustakas, why not upgrade for a more powerful hitter in a better lineup?  Reynolds’ strikeout rate is the lowest of his career, while his walk rate is at a career high.

SS – Starlin Castro for Jhonny Peralta
At only 21 years old, Castro has the bat control of a savvy veteran.  He has shown he has the ability to string together many years of .300 hitting.  The immediate downside for Castro is the power.  He’s only hit three home runs this year.  His 25 doubles are a nice contribution, and maybe some will turn to home runs as he matures, but for now he is a major drainage to your team in power production.  Jhonny Peralta is the complete opposite.  He is on pace to eclipse his career high of 24 home runs.  He’s bringing the same batting average contribution as Castro this year with more RBI potential.

OF – Jason Heyward for Carlos Beltran
In the spring of 2010, Heyward was all but crowned the savior for baseball.  The next Ken Griffey Jr.  It looks like the Junior injuries may have come along too.  He was ranked No. 1 on Keith Law’s 2010 prospect list.  He has the skills and talent to be an All-Star for years to come.  His patience at the plate will produce a .400 OBP for many seasons and the power potential of 30-35 home runs is exciting.  Carlos Beltran has put together a fabulous 2011 season.  The oft-injured outfielder has stayed on the field all year and produced like he is capable of.  He doesn’t steal nearly as often as he used to, but the bat is still there.  Beltran is also a candidate to be traded to a contender and likely a better lineup (please Boston, please!).  Neither owner can complain injury prone since they mirror each other there.

OF – Mike Trout for Lance Berkman
Mike Trout was the No. 1 prospect on Keith Law’s 2011 list, ahead of Bryce Harper.  I’ve warned some member on the boards that much of Trout’s value lies in defense and baserunning ability.  That said, the kid can still rake.  Lance Berkman has put together a fabulous bounce-back season for the Cards.  In a lineup containing Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, Berkman is often in the position to drive in runs.  His current .995 OPS is his highest since 2006 when he finish third in the NL MVP voting.  He currently leads the NL in HR, SLG, OPS, and OPS+.

OF – Domonic Brown for Carlos Quentin
Domonic Brown hasn’t hit all that well since being called up to the majors, but his minor league stats justify his blue chip status.  Brown combined power and speed and could be a future 25/25 ball player.  Carlos Quentin’s power has returned to his 2008 form when he mashed 36 and drove in 100.  He is on a similar pace this year but with a lower batting average and OPS.

Util – Freddie Freeman for Adam Lind
Freddie Freeman has surprised a lot of fantasy owners the past two months.  While struggling in April to a .217 batting average, he has recovered nicely and has hit nine home runs since June 1st.  Never really a power prospect, the hard-hitting 1B has owners excited.  Adam Lind is showing his 2010 year was more of a fluke than 2009.  The powerful lefty has mashed 17 home runs to go along with his .297 batting average.  Finishing with 35 bombs as he did in 2009 is a reality once again.  One odd stat from Lind: he only has nine doubles after hitting 78 combined over the last two years.

SP – Stephen Strasburg for James Shields
This may be controversial to those in a H2H playoff league after hearing news that Strasburg could pitch a handful of games this year and that he registered at 95 mph on the gun earlier this week.  Still, there is no guarantee that he pitches.  If he does, at any slight concern, he will be shut down immediately.  Anybody owning Strasburg this year was already looking into the future in March, but maybe now it’s time to make a move to get that championship.  James Shields, aka Complete Game James, — not Big Game James since his post season stats are mediocre at best — has had a complete resurgence in 2011.  He leads the league with seven complete games, and is fifth in the American League with a 2.60 ERA.  He is also striking out a career high 8.78 batters per nine.

SP – Michael Pineda for Josh Beckett
Michael Pineda has been a gem for Seattle this year.  His pairing with Felix Hernandez forms one of the best 1-2 punches in the majors.  The future is bright for this kid.  His current rate of 8.97 K/9 leads the American League.  Similar to James Shields, Josh Beckett is back to his old self this year.  Actually, he’s better than his usual regular season self; he’s putting up numbers we’d expect from him in the post season.  If you league still uses wins (eww), he’s on the best offensive team in baseball.  And if it doesn’t, his 2.12 ERA and 0.89 WHIP (yes, both are better than Justin Verlander) should entice you.

SP – Jeremy Hellickson for Matt Cain
Hellboy has had a great first full year for the Rays.  If he can learn to miss more bats, he will be a fantasy stud for sure.  Right now his 6.10 K/9 is less than what you would want out of your ace.  His FIP and xFIP (4.27/4.36) suggest he is overachieving a bit with his 3.17 ERA.  Still, he’s got some nasty stuff and pitches in the best division in baseball.  Statistically, I think his career could mirror that of Matt Cain, who has been under-appreciated his entire fantasy career mainly due to losses and not being an elite strikeout pitcher.  Since 2009, all this guy has done is crank out ERAs in the 3.00 range and WHIPs in the 1.15 range.  He’s in his seventh year and still doesn’t get the love he deserves.  That’s probably why you’ll avoid him and seek Yovani Gallardo.

SP – Jordan Zimmermann for Jaime Garcia
As detailed in last week’s column, Zimmermann is going to face a hard cap soon.  The talent has been on display all year and there’s good reason to believe he’s the real deal heading into 2012.  For 2011 however, Jaime Garcia is going to provide more value the rest of the way.  Garcia is also very young and on a good baseball team.  His strikeouts are up and walks down this year, leading to a 3.31 K/BB.  Garcia is a great guy to hold down the fort in ERA and WHIP.  He’s only had two sub-par outings this year, one of which was an abomination at Coors Field.

Feel free to propose some of your own future for championship trades in the comments.

 
Brandon can be found at home being a dad and novice landscaper, in the corporate office being a hamster, on the diamond being a softball coach, or at Fenway Park enjoying a frank. You can follow Brandon on Twitter (@bginda2g).
 
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