Welcome to Round 3 of Fantasy University. Hopefully thus far you’ve found my nonsense entertaining enough to keep clicking. If not, I’m not losing sleep over it. But seriously, please like me. Today’s topic revolves around the world is unbalanced (Imbalanced? Unbalanced occurring in a state of imbalance?) trades. 2-for-1, 3-for-1, 3-for-2, so on and so forth. Extremely common in the realm of fantasy baseball, but not always necessarily entirely understood. There is a general consensus that if you are receiving the latter of a 2-for-1 trade, that 1) you necessarily must get the best player in the deal, and 2) it is almost always a good deal for you if you are getting the best player in the deal, and you should pull the trigger. I see these sentiments all the time in the Draft, Trade, Keeper and Waivers Questions forum. Now, while the previously mentioned notions are frequently the case, they are not always. You don’t necessarily need to get the best player in a 2-for-1 trade for it to be the right trade for your team; and furthermore, it’s not always the best deal for your team even if you are getting the best player in the deal.
If you take nothing away from this, please consider the following: you are never just trading two of your players for one of your competition’s players. Never. Ever. This is a poor oversimplification and fails to recognize the scarce resource that is a roster slot, and its value to your team. Let’s take a look at an example, so I can fully explain my ramblings. Let’s say you trade your Dallas Keuchel and Kyle Seager to a competitor in return for his or her Johnny Cueto. Many would immediately consider this a win, as you’re coming away with what most would argue is the best player in the deal in Cueto (backed up by his being drafted 2 to 3 rounds ahead of Seager in most leagues). I’m not going to refute that. Cueto is likely the most valuable player in this deal. Your starting pitching took a solid bump from Keuchel to Cueto, but at the expense of Seager, who projects to be a productive fantasy hot corner member this season. This is where some would argue to not pull the trigger here. Seager is one of the top seven or eight 3B off the draft board for a reason. He’s entering his age 27 season, has upped his HR total in each of the past three season, including 25 in 2014, and is one of the few players who will not hurt you in any standard 5×5 category. Now, some would argue that you’re just giving up too much here to get Cueto. In simple Algebraic terms, (Keuchel + Seager) > Cueto. It’s not that simple, though.
You’re not just trading Keuchel and Seager for Cueto. You’re trading Keuchel and Seager for Cueto plus whoever you fill your empty roster spot with from Free Agency, and that’s the rub. That is the definitive piece that determines whether this trade is good or poor value for you. This unknown player has to be somebody you specifically have in mind when executing this trade, so that you can sit back and think, “Okay, I am trading Keuchel and Seager for Cueto and (Insert Free Agent Here)”. It’s not a 2-for-1. It’s a 2-for-2, with Free Agency providing the final piece. We all know it is not a rare occurrence for us to see a player in Free Agency that we would really love to add, but simply not have a player we are willing to drop for said Free Agent. That’s the importance of the scarcity of roster spots, and speaks to my previous piece on properly Utilizing the DL Slot. So, for the sake of weighing the same positions against one another, in the name of simplicity, let’s say that the Free Agent that you’ve deemed worthy in the above scenario is Pedro Alvarez, who currently sits on a great many Waiver Wires as Opening Day looms. Let’s now look at what our net gain or loss is.
From Keuchel to Cueto, you can reasonably expect to gain half a run in ERA, over the course of 200+ innings, which is a huge gain. If your entire staff throws 1000 IP, the difference between Keuchel and Cueto could amount to 0.125 difference in your ERA for the season. Look at your standings from 2014, and see how many points you would’ve net, had your ERA been 0.125 better, or conversely, lost if you were 0.125 worse. Consider the same bump to your WHIP, where you can reasonably expect Cueto to best Keuchel by somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.10 to 0.20, with the potential to drive your season long WHIP down 0.02 to 0.04. That’s substantial. Now stack Cueto’s potential to Win a half-dozen or more games than Keuchel, and the potential 100 additional strikeouts, and you can see that this is a massive upgrade in potential production out of your starting pitchers. But at what cost? Even though many of Seager’s projections anticipate some regression, he is still a guy who bat .268 with 25 HR, 96 RBI and 71 Runs Scored a season ago. Even if you tick some of those downward, and project something like .262, 22 HR, 85 RBI, and 65 R, that’s still solid production from the hot corner. So, are the pitching gains enough to stomach the loss of this type of offensive production?
When you consider the net loss against the Free Agent add of Pedro Alvarez, it becomes a lot easier. Alvarez is going to hurt your average. He should bat, with reasonable expectation, 30 points lower than Seager. However, with nine starting batters, this would only represent a rough approximate loss of .0033 in batting average. Now, if Alvarez has another stinker of a year like he did in 2014, you’re also potentially losing 15 R and RBI apiece. Were you expecting those numbers to be higher? Don’t let Alvarez’s 2014 totals fool you; he only played in 122 games. His prior two seasons he jacked 36 and 30 HR, respectively, playing in 149 and 152 Games. If healthy, Alvarez has the potential to best Seager in HR, R, RBI, and even possibly SB, where he grabbed 8 a year ago. Suddenly now you’re talking about a massive increase in production from your SP slot, with the possibility of not losing anything out of your 3B, offensively. Even if Alvarez plays another 122 games, you still get to slot another 3B in for the remaining 40 games. How much production will you reasonably expect to lose? That is what you should be considering when analyzing possible trades.
Forget the names. They’re meaningless. It’s about amassing numbers. What combination will give you the numbers you need to win. It’s not always cut and dry, at first glance. Look at what you expect from each player, in each category, and see how it affects your team. If you stand to gain ground, pull the trigger. If you don’t, don’t, even if it means turning down the ‘best’ player in a deal. It may not be the best player for your roster; often times it isn’t, but we are blinded by the name, or bulky numbers in an area where we don’t really need them.
As the season is in its very early stages, keep this idea in mind, as offers start rolling in, and you yourself send some out, because you just can’t stop the urge to tweak the team you drafted a week and a half ago. Fun, ain’t it? As always, let me know what you think of this, by posting in the Fantasy University Discussion Thread, and let me know any topics you’d like discussed in the future. You can catch up with me on the Fantasy Baseball Cafe Forums at bigh0rt. Dismissed.