Trade Analysis: Eaton for Boyd

On Monday, I made my third trade of the delayed season in one of my ottoneu 4×4 roto leagues (ottoneu 4×4 leagues use OBP, SLG, HR, and R for bats; K, ERA, WHIP, and HR/9 for arms). Freeport Pretzels is my team.

Trade Details - $15 Adam Eaton and $15 loan for $8 Matt Boyd

For those new to ottoneu, teams have a $400 salary cap with 40 man rosters, so these salaries are pretty middle of the pack overall, though the loan changes that a bit (more on that later). Eaton’s average salary across all 4×4 ottoneu leagues is $12.29 ranging from $7-$19, and he is rostered in 96% of leagues. Boyd is rostered in 92% of leagues with an average salary of $6.65 and a range of $3-$25. So both of these guys are paid a bit above their average salaries.

Of course, what a player is paid and what that player produces are different. According to Depth Charts projections on FanGraphs, Eaton projects for a .364 OBP and .425 SLG with 5 HR and 30 R in the shortened season. Boyd is pegged for 4.34 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 1.52 HR/9 and 74 K. For comparison, in the league where I made this trade, the third best team OBP last year .348 and SLG was .503. ERA, WHIP and HR/9 were 3.73, 1.18 and 1.21. Boyd is a nice strike out boost for a rotation and Eaton helps with runs while not providing much pop. According to Justin Vibber’s Surplus Calculator, which uses Depth Charts to create default player values, Eaton is an $11 player and Boyd a $7 player.

On the surface, Eaton vs. Boyd at those prices is pretty even. As you can see in the range of salaries, there is a wider distribution of expectations around Boyd, which I think reflects two key things:

  1. Boyd’s Depth Chart projections are better than his past performance. His career FIP is 4.66 and he posted a career-best 4.32 in 2019, but the projection for 2020 is 4.22. There are going to be leagues where Boyd was kept inexpensively from last year or where there are enough skeptics that his price stays down.
  2. Boyd had a breakout last year (career best 30.2K% last year, after striking out 19.9% of batters in his career up to that point) and, as the projections show, there is potential for even more. All it takes is two owners to salivate at the potential (what if he combines last years K% and BB%, while giving up less hard contact and a lower HR/FB%, as he did earlier in his career?) to drive up the bidding.

And, to be honest, I am high on Boyd. I just traded for him in this league in the off-season and I see the upside. Moving him in this deal was not an easy choice. So why do it?

First, I needed OF help. I typically like to roster 6-7 OF + a couple guys who primarily play other spots but have OF eligibility giving me enough depth to fill out a lineup daily. Prior to this trade, my OF in this league was not nearly deep enough. I had three everyday OF (Juan Soto, Michael Conforto, and Justin Upton), two more guys I like a lot but expect to platoon (Jesse Winker and David Peralta), a player I am very high on but who has no obvious role for his team (Dominic Smith), and a guy who really is only a backup MI for me (Scott Kingery). I also have Austin Meadows, but he had a positive COVID-19 test, so he is on the IL for the time-being. I didn’t feel good about going into the season in that situation.

Second, my team lacked OBP. Prior to this trade, I projected my team in first place in this league, thanks to balance (second best offense and tied for second best pitching), but my offense ranked 1st in HR, 2nd in SLG, 4th in R, but only 6th in OBP. It’s always easier to make up points in categories were you are stuck in the middle. In this case, I projected to a .3439 OBP, with the four teams ahead of me at .3442, .3443, .3454, and .3462 In R, I was projecting to 405 runs, with another team (the one trading me Eaton, as it happens), at 406. Enter high on-base Adam Eaton, expected to hit near the top of a strong lineup.

With Eaton, my OBP jumps to .3470, passing all three of those teams and increasing my OBP points from 7 to 11. I also added a run, just enough to bump me up a point there, and did so without moving down in SLG or HR. I did, of course, lose ground in pitching. I now have the best offense in the league, but only the 4th best pitching. The tradeoff, though, was a two point increase in my total points, and an extension of my lead.

Third, I needed a little cash and this deal offered it. Loans in ottoneu are basically moving cap space from one team to another. The $15 loan I received here takes my salary cap from $400 to $415 and my trade partner’s from $400 to $385. As a result, I added $8 in cap space ($15 in increased cap + $8 in cap cleared by moving Boyd – $15 in cap used by acquiring Eaton). In a year where I expect rosters to be fluid and depth to be key, having cap space to maneuver around injuries is going to be key.

The big loss for me here, other than the immediate impact on my pitching, as noted above, is the long-term potential for Boyd. If he does have that secondary breakout and goes from a $7 SP to a $20 SP, I have taken a big hit in 2021 and beyond. Eaton isn’t going to make a leap – he is what he is (and what he is is really good and often overlooked, in my opinion) and so I am giving up the potential for production.

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