As a general rule, if my fantasy baseball team is looking good, I don’t see much of a purpose to big trades. Similarly, if I’m cruising down a wide open freeway, I don’t pull off and take the surface streets when I’m 10 miles away from my destination. No point in shaking things up that are going fine, right?
Still, no team is perfect. So, there is definitely some reason to make a trade, even if things are going well. So let’s say that you’re in that boat. Your team is going along really well, but you need one final move to help lock up that title. This is the basic rule that I follow in that kind of fantasy baseball trading:
Do me a favor. Go to your wallet and grab five $1 bills. Once you do that, go up to the first person that you see and offer them the five ones for one $5 bill. In the economics world, it’s a lateral move. You can get the same haul at any store with the five ones than you could with the one five. But if you see yourself as a good team looking to make that one move, you need to get yourself in the mindset that the one big piece is better than the five small ones.
Nash went over specific per player goals a few weeks back but for those of you who don’t remember what he said, this is the average that we’re looking at for hitters. For the sake of argument, let’s say that it’s a 12-hitter league and your guys average 550 at-bats. If that’s not quite accurate, you can adjust the figures pretty easily.
Hitting Goals, 12-Hitter League
|Per Player Need||154/550||80||20||75||15||.280|
Remember, an average doesn’t mean that literally everyone needs to do that. Just that in the end, that has to be your lump sum.
Now, you have a chance to go for someone like Miguel Cabrera. Have a look at what his 2011-2013 season averages would have done for our goals.
Hitting Goals, 12-Hitter League w/Miguel Cabrera
|Total Per Player Need||154/550||80||20||75||15||.280|
|Remaining Per Player Needs||150/547||77||18||70||16||.274|
That may not seem like a huge per-player average drop, but remember that those numbers are pretty well skewed by 2011’s comparatively tame power totals (30 HR/105 RBI). Also, keep in mind that if we’re talking about trading for a Miguel Cabrera, that probably means that you’ve got another guy or two to bump those totals up. I mean, I hope that before trading for an elite bat like Miggy that your best bat wasn’t an 80-20-75-15-.280 guy. If it was and you’re still contending, I’ve got to see the pitching staff that you have.
Acquiring a guy like a Miggy in addition to your other top guys will allow you to go for guys like Everth Cabrera, Jonathan Villar, and Eric Young Jr. to pick up the stolen base slack, and their lack of overall offensive prowess wouldn’t bring your team down.
Also, one star like Miguel Cabrera is far more likely to play to his expectations than two or three guys from the next few tiers are to play to theirs, even if Miggy’s expectations are quite a bit higher. One great player is more likely to reach great totals than three above average guys are to reach average totals. Fewer players means fewer chances for disappointment and better players are generally a lot more reliable.
Now, are there exceptions to this practice? Yes.
- Replacing an injured player. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to just get completely desperate if one of your guys goes down. But if one of your big names goes down and there’s not a suitable replacement in free agency or another player on your team who may have eligibility at his position, you can’t be as picky. In that case, you may have to bend some rules to keep your team moving in the right direction.
- Pitchers are not the same as hitters. Because they don’t play as often, the impact of a Clayton Kershaw over a good pitcher a few rungs down, let’s say Mat Latos, is not quite as significant as the gap between two guys like Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Zimmerman is. Also, since you use many pitchers, you probably are better off going for a package of guys like Madison Bumgarner, Anibal Sanchez, and James Shields than you are in going for one stud in Kershaw. They’re also a lot more likely to spend some time on the DL than hitters, so you won’t want to rely too much on one. In real baseball, you want a guy like Kershaw starting a playoff series off for you. In fantasy, he’s not quite as valuable.
- If you are so dominant or locked into totals in a few stats, it might be okay to deal one stud for a few guys who can help you elsewhere. This doesn’t apply in weekly head-to-head leagues and probably doesn’t apply now because you don’t know where things stand before the seasons starts. But if you’re so dominant in the stats that someone like Paul Goldschmidt excels at but need to get some stolen base help late in the year, it may be a good idea to deal one of those guys for multiple guys that aren’t bad hitters, but excel in hitting. Don’t ever trade a Goldschmidt straight up for an Alex Rios unless you want your league to riot (if you’ve played enough fantasy baseball, you know that’s not even hyperbole), but a Goldschmidt for a Rios and another guy or two like him? In the right situation towards the end of the year, I could defend that.
That’s really about it. If you have a really good team and are looking for one thing to put you over the edge, think about giving up some of your depth for a lump-sum hitter. Obviously, you have to give a lot to get a lot but going back to the example above, if you have a $5 bill on your team, it’s easier to round out the rest of the team than it will be with five $1 bills.