Fantasy Trades That Were
This will be the first of a two-part series where I’ll go through and explain my thought process behind trades and non-trades. I figured with the major league baseball trade deadline being today and fantasy deadlines fast approaching, this would be as good a time as any for this type of analysis.
As a fantasy owner, you should always be on the look out for a deal that will improve your team. Don’t ever tell yourself you’re set with your team, because it can always be improved. If another owner is desperate for some pitching and you’ve got a surplus, it’s possible you can extract more value from the other owner than you give up. Don’t make a trade just for trading’s sake, but be constantly aware of other owner’s rosters and needs. It’ll give you a step up in negotiations if you’re familiar with that.
I’ve made only four trades this season, so Part 1 is going to be considerably shorter than Part 2. Rarely do I complete a first offer trade, and three of these deals took considerable work and bargaining to make them happen.
April 28: Traded SP Barry Zito for 1B Todd Helton
Barry Zito got off to a fantastic start for me, going 3-0 in four starts with four quality starts. I traded him after his 8-inning, 10 strikeout performance against the Cardinals. I had drafted Zito very late in the draft (18th round) and envisioned him as more of a back end of the rotation kind of guy, rather than the ace he pitched like for the season’s first month. So I sold high.
I didn’t bring back a great return, only getting the shell of Todd Helton, but I knew another owner was interested in Todd Helton, so I made a better offer than him, with my sights set on flipping Helton to him for a player I had interest in.
I’d rate this trade as a PUSH for me and a win for my partner. Zito has provided his new owner with about league average performance, going 4-6 with about a 4.30 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. Certainly not awful numbers, but more along the lines of what I had expected him to be, rather than the 1.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP I got out of him in April. Helton didn’t start one game for me, but served as an important piece in my next trade.
May 8: Traded 1B Todd Helton, OF Ryan Sweeney and SP Chris Volstad for OF Denard Span and RP Tyler Clippard
Just over a week later, I agreed to trade Helton in a package to the owner that originally wanted him. My original team possessed only one stolen base threat in Nyjer Morgan, who got off to a pathetically slow start (pun intended). By adding Span I began building a more well-rounded team.
With Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Swisher and Gaby Sanchez, I had no room for Todd Helton and selling him off made perfect sense, as I would have dropped him otherwise. Getting value for a player that has no value to your team is always the smart move. If you’re planning on dropping a player, trying to get some value for him is smart. Making a 1-for-1 deal with that player rarely works, but the success rate goes up if you expand a deal and include him as a piece in a package, as I did.
Helton was expendable for me, so what I had to gamble on was if Span could replace Ryan Sweeney’s production in the outfield for me, and if I could find another starter on the waiver wire. Sweeney hit .306 with 1 home run and 25 RBIs for me before the trade, and hit .275 with no homers and 11 RBI after the trade, before landing on the DL with a season-ending knee injury.
I picked up Washington starter Scott Olsen to replace Volstad which has more or less been a wash. Volstad has spent the time since the trade shuttling back and forth between the majors and minors while Olsen has spent a majority of the time on the DL.
I’d rate this trade as a definite WIN for me and a LOSS for my trade partner. Span has been a good fit for me, and he’s been better after the trade than he was before. Nothing special, but a solid contributor in all stat categories. I got decent contributions from Clippard—3 wins, a save and decent ERA, WHIP and strikeout totals—before I replaced him with a starting pitcher.
As for what I gave up, Helton and Sweeney are both currently on the DL, with Sweeney out for the season. Volstad has had some decent starts since I traded him, but I haven’t had a day where I wished I had him back.
June 2: Traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez and 2B/3B Alberto Callaspo for 2B/SS/OF Ben Zobrist and RP Neftali Feliz
The manager I teamed up with here had just lost slugging 1B Kendry Morales for the season in that freak celebration injury. With my surplus of 1B I was open to trading any of them. I led with an offer centered around Nick Swisher, but he wanted the moon. So I figured I’d just go ahead and give it to him, so long as I got a decent planet or two back for it.
We moved to Adrian Gonzalez and none of his players was worth Gonzalez one-for-one straight up, so we worked to expand the deal.
In my mind, I felt I could take the hit in home runs that Gonzalez provided if I could get back a guy that matched his average and OBP, while upgraded my runs and stolen bases. I began targeting Ben Zobrist, who fit my description of what I wanted, and provided it all with incredible positional versatility. I’m able to slot him in at second, short and in the outfield, which allows me to play matchups on a daily basis.
While trying to figure out another piece to bring back in this trade, I focused on his surplus of relief pitchers. Sure, I already had two closers, but neither Ryan Franklin or David Aardsma were seeing very many save opportunities. Franklin because the Cardinals were winning big and Aardsma because the Mariners weren’t winning at all. So I ended up with Feliz, who has been incredible this season as Texas’ closer.
From my side of things, Zobrist would be replacing Callaspo and Nick Swisher would take Gonzalez’s place. My surplus of outfielders was due in part to me having to use Swisher in the outfield with Gonzalez at first. Moving Gonzalez enabled me to shift Swisher to first and cleared up the logjam in my outfield. Feliz would replace anybody, I’d just add his power arm to my stable of pitchers.
This is a pretty good example of a WIN-WIN trade. Both sides got what they were looking for and improved their teams. I was happy with this deal, and still am today. I’ve missed the home runs and RBI from Gonzalez, but Swisher has been excellent and Gaby Sanchez’s emergence as a quality hitter has softened that blow. And Feliz has carried my saves since the trade.
July 8: Traded SP Matt Garza for 2B Dan Uggla
After the Gonzalez trade, I thought I was done dealing, but as I mentioned at the top of this post, I’m always open to dealing whenever it improves my team. During Week 14 I was matched against an opponent who was stacked offensively, but needed some pitching help. Well, I had pitching and decided to move.
He had two excellent second basemen in Dan Uggla and Brandon Phillips and I targeted Uggla and his consistent power. At the time I had six starting pitchers and knew trading one away would put me in a numbers crunch when I went up against teams that had eight or nine starters. But like how I felt trading Zito and Volstad, I felt Uggla plus a replacement pitcher was worth more than Garza alone.
So I offered my lowest rated pitcher for Dan Uggla and was pleasantly surprised when it was accepted immediately. No arguing over value, no haggling for more players. It was a sweet and easy deal that came together very quickly. I ended up replacing Garza with Jake Westbrook and also scooped up Arizona’s Barry Enright. I also have Scott Olsen coming back from the DL and can activate him if he looks good.
Another WIN-WIN deal. Uggla has been a monster for me offensively, hitting six home runs, scoring 14 runs and driving in 15 over the 18 games I’ve had him. And as you may have heard, Matt Garza threw a no-hitter for the Rays in his second start after this trade. Both teams dealt from positions of strength to improve a weaker part of the team.
Look for Part 2: Fantasy Trades That Weren’t some time in the next few days.