Thursday, May 1, 2008

Trading Strategies for the Beginning of the Season

Strategy Session
Trading Strategies for the Beginning of the Season
By: Evan Rosen

One month into the season and I’m guessing you’re already dying to make a trade. After all, now that the draft is over, you need something to keep you off the streets and occupy your mind. Crafting deals and swindling opponents is half the fun of fantasy baseball. There is nothing better than addressing your team’s weakness through a well-timed trade. But when should you start trading? How should you go about it? I answer those questions and more in this week’s Strategy Session.

When to Start Trading
In last week’s article I stated that stats do not begin to matter until the first week of June. Therefore, as a general rule, I do not like making trades until June because it is difficult to truly evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses until then. For instance, if your team relies solely on Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes for steals, you’re probably at the bottom of the pack right now in that category. Does that mean you should trade for steals now? Hell no! With Rollins and Reyes on your team you’ll eventually be fine in steals.

But every general rule has its exceptions, and that applies here too. There are certain instances where trading, even as early as May 1, makes good sense. For example, if you know you are going to be weak in a category you should address it as soon as possible. If you have no closers (or backup closers) on your roster consider trading for one. It’s not like waiting until June is going to somehow magically transform a 1 in saves to a 6 or 7. Each day you wait allows your competitors to increase their lead in the category. Likewise, if you have a team full of power hitters and the only thing any of your players has stolen in the past 5 years was the heart of some unfortunate baseball groupie, you may want to trade for steals.

Know your team, address strengths and weaknesses, but do so with an eye toward how you expect your players to perform by seasons end – not how they are performing as of May 1. In other words, don’t do anything rash that you may regret later.

Buy Low, Sell High
The old adage about the stock market also applies to fantasy baseball. Take advantage of the skewed stats that appear in April. If you have Ryan Theriot, and can afford to give up his steals, now is a perfect time to trade him. He’s hitting .340, but last season his batting average was only .266. It is highly unlikely that he’ll finish the year at .290, let alone .340. Likewise, Ryan Dempster has 4 wins and a 3.16 ERA, but hasn’t had an ERA under 4.94 as a starting pitchers since the year 2000. You can capitalize on Theriot and Dempster’s great start by trading them now before their stats return to career norms.

Sometimes you don’t even need to wait for a few weeks accumulation of stats. Depending on the sophistication of your league members, if a player has one good game you can try trading him immediately. For example, in the early 1990’s, Lloyd McClendon was called up from the minors to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and immediately hit a grand slam. I picked up McClendon, talked up his grand slam and his impressive minor league history (before the internet so my opponent could not verify) and traded him for Brett Butler, the early 90’s version of Juan Pierre. Similarly, if someone hits for the cycle, pitches a no-hitter, or hits three or more homers in a game, you may be able to parlay that one day of performance into a better player.

Addressing Strengths & Weaknesses
One theme of my forthcoming articles on trades will be to not only analyze what your team needs, but to also determine in what categories your potential trading partners are weak. This may sound obvious, but too many fantasy baseball owners fail to take their opponent’s weaknesses into account when crafting trades. Instead, they’ll offer Chone Figgins for Aramis Ramirez and justify it by saying, “it’s a fair trade.” But if the team you’re offering Figgins to already has Michael Bourne, Jose Reyes, and Brian Roberts, he won’t need Figgins’ steals.

The better approach is to find a team who needs help in a category in which your team is strong. In return, you should seek players that will address your weaknesses. If you are strong in homers and saves, but weak in wins and steals, you should look for a trading partner with the inverse of your own strengths and weaknesses. Trade your homers and saves to a team that needs help in those categories, and in return get wins and steals to address your areas of concern.

How to offer a trade
Many fantasy baseball owners make official trade offers on their league’s home page and wait to see if the other owner accepts it. No offense, but this is a terrible idea. What if you forget you have an official trade offer outstanding and a player’s status changes during that time? In other words, what if you made an offer for Rafael Soriano before he got injured and forgot to rescind the offer? The other team would be within his or her rights to accept the deal – especially since you offered it. You’d end up with a player who is on the disabled list! Likewise, Brian Fuentes was recently named the closer for the Rockies. If you offered Brian Fuentes to someone last week and did not rescind it quick enough, you’d be out a closer.

The better technique is to e-mail your fellow owners with proposals. Then, after they’ve agreed in principle to the deal, you officially propose it on the league website. This avoids the problem outlined above. It also gives you a chance to explain the trade, which is imperative.
Whenever making a deal be sure to provide a concise, bullet point, explanation highlighting the benefits for the owner. For example, let’s assume you’re offering Nate McLouth for Chipper Jones. You might say something like this:

“This deal will help both our teams. Even though McLouth is not as big a name as Chipper, he’ll end up helping you more from a fantasy perspective. Here’s why:

1. McLouth is a 5 category player – he’ll get you 20+ homers and 20+ steals.
2. In limited playing time last season (only 329 at-bats) McLouth hit 13 homers.
3. McLouth was a top prospect and dominated the minors. (30+ steals with developing power from 2003 - 2005)
4. Already this year, McLouth is off to a great start – .330-7-25-2
5. Chipper is a great player, but you need steals which he won’t provide. Plus, he gets injured every season and hasn’t reached 600 at-bats since 1998.
6. I hate giving up McClouth, especially for an injury prone player, but I need a third-basemen and have xyz outfielder on my bench to replace McLouth.”

This explanation increases the odds that the deal will get done. First, it highlights McLouth’s value, making the other owner more likely to want him. Second, it knocks Chipper’s value. It raises a chief concern inherent in owning Chipper – that he may get injured. Third, it explains why you are willing to do the deal. A normal person would say, if you think McLouth is so valuable and Chipper’s such a risk, why are you willing to do the deal? What trick do you have up your sleeve? Don’t wait for these questions – address them in your initial e-mail. Of course, the way McLouth is going he really could have a better season than Chipper!

Use these tips and you’ll improve your team in no time.

1 comment:

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Well it deppends of a lot of things but you can expect to sell something for a higger price that you buy it.
Good luck.