Keeper League Stretch Run Strategy
If you have played in any leagues with me, have talked to me about fantasy or read this blog for the last few years, you would know I advocate an aggressive strategy with a copious amount of trades and waiver wire pickups. The reason is simple: baseball and sports in general rarely remain static, and neither do player values and movements. Justin Verlander, Clay Buchholz, Shin Soo Choo, Allen Craig are a few of the litany of players you would have been delighted to own in the middle of the 2013 season, about a calendar year ago. All of the above players are in their late twenties or early thirties, seemingly in the fabled baseball athletic prime of years 27-32. However, if you own all of those players plus Matt Kemp, Eric Hosmer, etc, a team that looked like a stalwart in 2013 is probably floundering at best right now.
Here are a few maneuvers or tactics I recommend unfurling for the last few days before the MLB trade deadline and beyond (most fantasy leagues also employ a trade deadline corresponding with the real baseball deadline; mine is no different, we stop trading on August 2nd this season)
1. Be pragmatic about your chances this season: There are a few kind of owners I abhor in fantasy leagues: the ghost owner, the screw deal owner, the horseshoe up the ass owner, and the cliche owner. We will discuss the cliche owner for this tactic.
The cliche owner foists every kind of platitude he/she can muster at you when you inquire about a deal.
Me: “Hey man, you look like you are in trouble this season. Maybe you should keep an eye towards the future? You are 16 games back with 24 games left to go, the chances of a postseason run look quite bleak, as bleak as Theon Greyjoy’s outlook of being normal again”
Cliche owner: “Well, that’s why we play the games. I am still in it, I have rock solid players like Allen Craig, Bryce Harper, Joe Nathan, they all can catch fire at the right moment and carry me home.”
The cliche owner continues to add veterans like Coco Crisp, Lucas Duda, and two start scrubs like Zach McAllister and Shane Greene, when he should be looking to make plays for players mired in convalescence like Miguel Sano and Prince Fielder. These owners also need to assess their keeper situation and look to consolidate their players; useful players like Jimmy Rollins, Torii Hunter, John Lackey need to be jettisoned because they can fetch picks or prospects or injured stars in return.
Don’t be in denial! Sure, you may sneak into the playoffs, but not likely to dethrone or usurp a loaded team. A good fantasy owner manipulates the odds in his favor and sets himself up for the best chances to succeed during crunch time. On the other hand, a mediocre owner believes it’s mostly luck and hopes to get lucky.
2. Don’t buy low…or sell high: I cringe when I see “fantasy experts” proclaiming this stiff or that stiff is a “sell high” First of all, who is going to give you anything of tangible value for Chris Colabello or Stephen Vogt this year? Second, let’s say you do find a “sucker” willing to give you a good return on a seemingly overachieving player, how would trading Michael Brantley or Corey Kluber look right now? In the last few years, Jose Bautista, Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Koji Uehara, Fernando Rodney, and innumerable others all had scintillating seasons that many thought were unsustainable throughout their respective seasons and “sold high” Most of those owners went from elation and serendipity to chiding themselves for being non-believers and lack of patience.
a. Instead, why not play it out? These players are riding monster seasons all the way up to the deadline, so with a palpable sample size, you should be able to receive a substantial return anyway. No, you won’t reap the benefits of first round value befitting players producing at an elite level, but if they had a significant track record of top notch production, why would you part with them anyway. Be happy with a solid return of future draft picks or near ready prospects like Andrew Heaney if you are out of contention and don’t believe you will keep a player seemingly having a career year. 2014 examples of players having sublime seasons who may or may not extend it into 2015 and beyond: Brandon Moss, JD Martinez, Brian Dozier, are the first names that spring to mind.
3. Be perceptive and proactive: When Huston Street was dealt to the Angels two weeks ago, I sprinted to the waiver wire to add Joaquin Benoit, the new closer for the Padres. I am loathe to add mediocre closers like Hector Rondon or Zach Putnam, and frankly, probably won’t play Benoit because the Padres own such a porous offense. That said, no way do I allow my competition to add a free, established closer. I am a firm believer of “better on my bench than in your lineup against me”
I had been eyeing Benoit for a couple of weeks with the rumors of a looming Street deal, but wasn’t impelled to cut anyone useful to add him. Lucky for me, I freed up a roster spot by dealing Desmond Jennings and Gallardo for Choo. I put in a Benoit claim for $6 but was paranoid it was a little low, but I only had $19 left out of $100 budget. My fears were allayed because of the late night nature of the Angels deal when most of my league mates were asleep and those fears were eradicated when my claim was successful. However, I could have saved money and been ahead of the curve if I was less tentative with roster management. I ended up dropping Danny Santana a few days later so he could have been cut.
Sure, no one could have seen today’s deals with Cespedes going for Lester and Gomes, but Lackey to a contender was more predictable and that’s a move that an aggressive and prescient owner would make. A deal in my league was consummated involving Lackey two days ago: Lackey and Napoli and a sixth round pick next year for a second round pick next year. Had Gabe waited to trade for Lackey, the price hike would have been indubitable. Kudos for being aggressive and thinking ahead.