Fantasy Fox: Trade rules of engagement for first-place owners
MAY 08, 2014 3:16p ET
The following six tenets comprise a set of general rules for handling trade talks in 12- and 14-team fantasy baseball leagues -- from the first-place owner's perspective.
Of course, these rules are applicable to the other pennant contenders, but the exercise specifically gets inside the heads of penthouse GMs, empathizing with their unquenchable thirst for significant roster upgrades in the coming weeks.
1. Don't sugarcoat your roster weaknesses
Being in first place on May 8 has all the cachet of a sub-.500 NBA team winning six straight games in February. It's a nice accomplishment but really has no bearing on how things will shake out by season's end.
So, it's important to stay aggressive throughout the pennant drive, executing modest swaps of outfielders and corner infielders in free agency, or using a pitcher's last three or four starts as the impetus for mixing and matching the final spots of a starting staff.
But the real growth comes in the form of an honest audit of your roster, while asking some hard questions:
1. Do I have enough offense to take honors in at least three categories?
2. Will I finish no worse than middle-of-the-pack in all offensive categories?
3. Will there be any lost-cause categories come July or August? If so, is it worth getting better today or cutting my losses?
4. On the pitching end, do I have enough closers to guarantee a fifth-or-higher finish in saves?
5. Is it worth my time to own more than two primary closers? Would that roster spot be better served with a starting pitcher?
2. One-for-one trades involving same-position players are usually a waste of time
Unless two assets of comparable value bring completely different elements (category-wise) to the table, there's no reason to jump the gun on a trade before Memorial Day.
If you crave positional versatility and higher batting average, perhaps it's worth owning 1B/OF Brandon Moss (5 HRs, 25 RBI, 14 RBI, .261 batting) over first baseman Ryan Howard (20-homer threat). Generally, though, when considering similar players with similar skill sets ... just move on.
The lesson here: First-place owners hold all the cards. They can afford to aggressively wait for a better offer.
3. Admirable bench depth should be compromised when going all-in on a trade
Last-place teams in early May are more victims of circumstance than wayward drafting.
Show me a bottom-feeder club ... and I'll show you someone who over-drafted injured stars Mat Latos (Reds pitcher) and Josh Hamilton (Angels outfielder -- before he foolishly broke his thumb in April) or someone who neglected the power aspect of corner-infield talent after snagging Chris Davis with a high pick in Round 1, thinking the Orioles slugger (53 homers last year; just two in 2014) would carry the freight for the 1B/3B slots.
In other words, last-place owners need productive bodies more than one great player to spark a turnaround.
So, if you had the uncanny foresight to draft Charlie Blackmon, Dee Gordon, Jose Abreu, Brian Dozier, Brandon Belt, Jonathan Villar, Anthony Rendon or Torii Hunter (four homers, 20 RBI, 15 runs, .321 batting) -- all charter members of the "Round 11-and-Beyond All-Star Team" -- don't be afraid to use 'em in bulk to execute a 2-for-1 or 3-for-2 trade ... or even a 4-for-1 blockbuster.
Reward yourself for preparing like a fiend on draft day.
4. Don't be afraid to sell high on red-hot assets with short track records
There are things to love about the Dodgers' Dee Gordon, like the MLB-best 20 steals in his first 32 games. But there is no reason to believe the batting average will remain anything close to .340 for the season -- let alone another month.
That's not to say Gordon doesn't have decent fantasy value, especially with leagues that require a third middle infielder. Just know that he likely won't be a viable candidate for 90 runs or even 10 triples by season's end.
Bottom line: Spray hitters always come back to earth.
In fact, I'll wager anything that, if healthy, Reds rookie Billy Hamilton (13 runs, 11 steals, .242 batting, .277 OBP) ends up with more runs and steals than Gordon by late September. Within that realm, why not offer Gordon to Hamilton's owner now, while demaning a quality No. 2 or 3 starting pitcher to seal the stealth 1-for-2 trade?
Jose Abreu took the fantasy world by storm in April, racking up 10 homers and 32 RBI in his debut month. But it's not like opposing pitchers have a thick book on the Cuban-born Abreu, whose raw power and run-scoring upside make him extremely attractive in trade circles.
On the flip side, it's in a White Sox first baseman's nature to start fast. From 2007-13, Paul Konerko was a lock for seven homers and 19 RBI every April ... before battling inconsistency in subsequent months.
Finally, we have the interesting case of Charlie Blackmon (seven HRs, 25 RBI, 30 runs, eight steals, .396 OBP through May 7), who has been a true fantasy dynamo in the first six weeks, batting well above .350 and flirting with a four-digit OPS.
For good measure, Blackmon is on pace for a 30/30 season.
But ay the rub: Yes, Blackmon has the luxury of playing 81 games at Coors Field, while also hitting in the wake of Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (nine homers, .414 batting) -- the early favorite for NL MVP. But it's absurd to think a 27-year-old asset, with no more than 82 seasonal games in the majors, can maintain this otherworldly pace.
Sell high on Blackmon. Reach for the stars ... and expect the moon in return.
5. Don't be afraid to cut obnoxious owners out of the loop
The rule of thumb: Upon receiving three lopsided offers from a stranger owner in a relatively short period of time (none in your favor), secretly bar him/her from all future deals.
Being disrespected by another GM is a big no-no in fantasy ... and a white-collar crime worthy of incommunicable banishment (or something like that).
6. Make the bottom-feeder owners (pleasantly) sing for their supper
One of the great joys of not obsessing about your league in late April comes in late May when a fellow owner sends an out-of-character blockbuster offer.
A quick look at the standings reveals everything you need to know: Owner B's monster offer is a desperate ruse to revive a moribund roster that's going nowhere fast.
Obviously, if the offer benefits your team from all angles, accept it right away and happily proceed with other moves. But if the proposal has the appearance of a bailout measure for Owner B and his/her poorly conceived roster, then you also have the right to exploit their desperation.
Get exactly what you want from a swap. Be militant. Be respectful. Don't say it explicitly, but Owner B needs to learn they're in no position to dictate terms on a landmark deal.
Jay Clemons can be reached, day or night, via Twitter at @FOX_JayClemons.