Selling With Confidence

On Monday Chad wrote out a piece about a trade he’d made for Clayton Kershaw. I’m the team he traded with and thought it might be useful to see both sides of that negotiation. 

BACKGROUND: Like Chad, I came into this league over the offseason to help manage a previously owned team. The Overlord squad was in rough shape, so the goal heading into the draft was to rebuild the squad into a 2021 contender. I had a significant amount of cap space to spend and looked to buy the best available players in hopes of flipping them in season. Now fast forward through an abbreviated spring training, a pandemic shut down, and the tumultuous start of a season. Numerous questions hang over every potential move. Wary buyers make it difficult for sellers.

TRADE STRATEGY: Clayton Kershaw was one of those “best available player” draft buys I mentioned. He, along with a $60 Bryce Harper, were purchased to sell in the effort to rebuild a squad that needed a big infusion of youthful surplus. We’re a couple weeks in and we have an idea of who will be competitive. Kershaw and Harper are on the block and I started kicking the tires with various owners. With assets in hand my goals were to:

  1. Increase the number of keepable assets on my roster.
  2. Build for 2021 – and not farther.
  3. Acquire both offense and pitching.

I’d shopped Kershaw a bit and the best offer I had was an $8 Michael Kopech. I like Kopech, but I don’t like his risk profile. Other offers never really progressed.

Trading is the easiest when the two teams involved are trying to accomplish something different. In Chad’s team I’d found that exact circumstance. He’s in a tight race for first and I am clearly building for 2021. Going into most trade negotiations I piece out a list of guys I’m willing to sell and guys I’m willing to acquire. I went through Chad’s team and developed this wish list: Corey Seager ($24), Joey Gallo ($14), Nick Castellanos ($12), Ketel Marte ($10), Nick Senzel ($6), Ramon Laureano ($5), Nolan Jones ($3), Dylan Carlson ($3), Zack Wheeler ($9), Jesus Luzardo ($5), Brandon Woodruff ($4), Spencer Howard ($2), Tyler Mahle ($2).

Given Chad’s place in the contention cycle I knew I could reasonably cross Gallo, Castellanos, K. Marte, and Woodruff off that list. They’re studs that are performing right now. There’s no easy way for Chad to upgrade those spots. It’s important to understand both your dreams and your reality.  That left me with a shopping list of Seager, Senzel, Laureano, Jones, Carlson, Wheeler, Luzardo, Howard, and Mahle. My goal was to walk away with a bat and an arm.

THE DEAL: My $36 Clayton Kershaw and $3 Domingo Santana for his $6 Nick Senzel and $6 Mike Soroka. No loan.

THE PLAYERS: If you take anything away from this, let it be the Nick Senzel hype. Senzel was my primary target on the bat side of things. He’s a talented #2 overall draft pick who should hit at or near the top of the order. He’s made a marked improvement in his batting eye, improving his out of zone swing percentage from 31.3% to 24.3%. It’s a small sample, but swing rates are measured on a per pitch basis, so the useful sample size is a bit smaller than your normal batted ball data.  But, with that caveat, the batted ball data looks super nice as well. To wit:

Now I’m a Reds homer, but the pedigree, park, and underlying numbers are all pointing in the right direction. There’s 6 PPG hiding in this bat with a chance for more. He’s oft injured and plays at a position of depth for Chad, so this seemed like the easy part of the deal.

Chad and I weren’t able to see eye to eye on the prospect side of things. I initially asked for Dylan Carlson and Spencer Howard. Minor leaguers are tough in Ottoneu. Prospects are more likely to be immediately impactful now than they were even a few years ago, but they’re still a risk. For every high end hit there are three high end busts. On a rebuild I’m happier to roster this kind of risk than I would be on a contender. I was hoping Chad’s depth of keepable outfield talent (Yelich, Gallo, Castellanos, Meadows, & Laureano are probably his top five) would make Carlson easier to part with. I was wrong. I can understand not wanting to mortgage too much of your team’s future given the current environment. High end prospects and the thought of what they can become are damn fun to own.

On the pitching side I’d have loved to ply away Luzardo, but there are some elite underlying skills there and I get wanting to hold. When I go into trade negotiations I generally try to have a counter move or three planned out and we had to go to that here. With Luzardo off the table I moved to players with promise, but who aren’t strong current contributors. Wheeler has shown his potential before and can again if he straightens out his pitch mix. Mahle’s skills are tantalizing, but it seems he just lost his rotation spot (again). Still, Chad understandably didn’t want to give up too many innings in an already challenging year.  So that moved us to Soroka. 

Soroka was not on my initial shopping list. I skipped right over him when I put together my list of wants. His injury clouds his future, but after being rebuffed on my initial asks I had to pivot. Reports indicate surgery was successful and the recovery window should have him back early next year. He’s not a great Fangraphs Points pitcher, but he’s a very good one when it comes to limiting walks and managing quality of contact (and thus, relevant to the format, limiting home runs). I expect a point per game output in the 4.7-4.9 range with room for improvement. He wasn’t helping Chad this year, so he had no problem parting with him.

THE (LACK OF) LOAN: Chad had $71 of cap space headed into this deal and I had banked $18. The lack of loan bumped me up to $45 in available cap. While $18 is nothing to sneeze at, having the additional space allows me to be a heavy bidder for any useful players that pop up over the course of the season. It is much easier to rebuild your squad via trade and FA acquisition than it is in draft. I always want to go into a draft needing as little as possible.

WRAPPING UP: It hurts to part with Kershaw, but a deal like this is easier to stomach when you’re (1) out of contention and (2) selling a non keeper. I’d achieved my goal of acquiring multiple keepable assets, who should help me in 2021, while deepening my offense and pitching. When you’re looking to deal in Ottoneu you need to be friendly, patient, and persistent. Identify your goals and maximize your outcome, but don’t be afraid of helping the other side. Chad and I brought all these traits and ideas to the table here and we were able to get a deal done.

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