The halfway point of the 2013 fantasy baseball season is upon us at last. Now, more than ever, is the time to take off the blinders that bind us to our drafted players. There is value to be had on the trade market and in Rotisserie leagues there are strategies that can be employed to not only improve our own team, but to weaken the standing of our competitors.
The first question we must ask ourselves before attempting to improve our team is; â€œWhat is our goal?â€ Are we going for the gold and are satisfied with nothing but first place? Or are we in a league with many excellent competitors and thus looking to just lock in a third place finish or better?
Once we have answered that question, we must calculate the sequences of events that can lead us to our goal. If we are in second place and behind nine roto standings points in letâ€™s say a 12-team mixed league, what are the various scenarios that may arise that allow us to decrease that gap? Ideally, we hope the team in front of us is filled with over-performers, and that regression to the mean will do the work for us. A second ideal scenario is that the entire league is active and we can create high demand for any number of given excess commodities we may have.
Take for example this scenario; the all too familiar situation of punting saves at the draft table. This team drafted some highly skilled middle relievers likely to win the closer job eventually, spent a few dollars of FAAB (Free Agent Auction Bidding) money on the hottest new closer candidates as they emerged throughout the season and is now hopelessly far behind in the saves category.
This team has Kenley Jansen, a potential top-five closer, especially if the Dodgers can get healthy in the second half. This team has only two saves points, but despite that, is still in second place overall. The goal is to get as much value as possible for Jansen. To do so leverage is needed. Thankfully, there happens to be an extremely close race for the middle of the saves pack that goes as follows:
3rd place: 60
4th place: 57
5th place: 57
6th place: 56
7th place: 53
8th place: 48
9th place: 47
10th place: 46
Our team 16
The ideal target here is the team in seventh place in the saves category with 53. He stands to gain and potentially lose the most points in the category. He can easily be overtaken by all of the teams behind him should one of his closers get hurt or if they fall into slumps. Similarly, with the addition of a top notch closer, the owner in seventh place in the saves race can easily overtake the four other teams ahead of him. Saves is an easy counting stat from which to use leverage. Even if any of the owners mired in the middle of this saves battle are not really interested in adding a closer, the threat of such an elite one being traded to any of their competitors in that race, forces them to use their listening ears.
In a perfect world, this team also has Joaquin Benoit who should now be traded separately, but not before sending an email to all other owners involved in the saves race that the team in the middle of the race has just bolstered their roster with Kenley Jansen. It just so happens that in this scenario, the team in third place in the saves race (and more importantly slightly ahead of the big pack in the middle), happens to be in fifth place in the overall standings. Right behind him in the overall standings is none other than the team that just acquired Kenley Jansen. Now the power of leverage is maximized, and fear has been created in our newly targeted owner that his place in the standings is in jeopardy. Should he lose his lead in saves, he will fall further out of contention. Fifth and sixth place teams are perfect trade targets because they are close enough to believe they still have an outside chance at winning, and far enough behind to try a desperation move that would catapult them back into the hunt.
Other than using the competitiveness of certain categorical races as leverage, the most important aspect of mid-season Rotisserie league trading is this: realizing that value does not mean â€œprojected Rotisserie dollar earnings from this point forwardâ€. Â Itâ€™s not about winning and losing a trade, itâ€™s about focusing on how each trade helps the team. It may be advantageous, in some instances, to intentionally give yourself the worse end of a trade (value in a vacuum-wise) in order to help our trading partner pass our first place rival in a particular category.
For example, this team has plenty of speed and a good reserve outfielder on our bench who should improve in the second half â€“ for example, letâ€™s say Denard Span. Among many of the speed sources on this team is steals league leader Jacoby Ellsbury. In this scenario, the trading partner is in sixth place in steals, closely behind the fifth, fourth and third place teams in the category. Each of those teams happens to be first, third and fourth in the overall standings. Trading Jacoby Ellsbury to the team that can pass all of them gives us three marginal roto points ourselves by removing a point from each owner that he passes in the stolen base category. The trading partner has some depth at third base, a position this team could use an improvement in. The trade should be Jacoby Ellsbury for Ryan Zimmerman, a clear win for him. Both players have injury risk and Ellsbury has the much higher upside, but this hypothetical team has gotten closer to our goal of winning, despite our roster strength taking a hit.
Trading is an art form in Rotisserie leagues. Pitting owners against one another for a valuable commodity by creating leverage is an incredibly important tactic in our pursuit of value maximization. By the same token however, value maximization isnâ€™t always a necessary endeavor. Sometimes fantasy GMs must settle on an offer because it may be the only gambit they have in their arsenal. In competitive leagues, a top three finish can be satisfying enough, especially if there is money to be had for more than just the winner.
In most leagues however, itâ€™s all about first place. Risk taking at this point in the season is how titles can be won and lost. Embrace the risk, embrace the advanced trading strategies, but most importantly, embrace the reality of the situation. Donâ€™t overlook potential regression candidates. Creating a contingency plan for a red-hot pitcher like Patrick Corbin can save a championship. Pretending like heâ€™s become the next Cliff Lee and isnâ€™t a candidate for regression would be the proverbial shooting oneself in the foot.