To Trade, or Not to Trade, that is the Question

This is a bit lengthy, but I wanted to share my thought process for why I chose to make win-now trades even though my chances of winning my league are less than ideal for 2020. For context, this is a highly competitive Ottoneu points league with very competent managers. At the beginning of 2019, I took over a team that was in full rebuild mode (it had over 15 prospects). I spent all of 2019 flipping some of the prospects to other rebuilding teams and trading away anyone I was not planning to roster in 2020. After all this work and the 2020 auction draft, I had a top three team according to projections on Fangraphs and Justin Vibber’s Surplus Calculator. So, I was feeling good about my team and expecting to compete for first place in 2020.

I started the season with one of the best pitching squads that included Justin Verlander, Shohei Ohtani, Jack Flaherty, Walker Buehler, Tyler Glasnow, and Lance McCullers Jr. Therefore, I wanted to bolster my offense before the season started. On July 7, I traded $7 Kyle Tucker for $50 Giancarlo Stanton and $33 Manny Machado. All seemed well until Christian Yelich started off very slow and Verlander went on IL after his first game on July 24. Therefore, I made a decision to make another early trade to replace Verlander. On July 28, I traded $4 Tim Anderson, $2 Tarik Skubal, and $2 Jasson Dominguez for $68 Bryce Harper and $24 Zack Greinke. However, even with the additional firepower, after his second subpar game on August 2, Shohei Ohtani was shut down as a pitcher for the rest of 2020. Further, after a promising start (7.01 P/G), Stanton went to the IL on August 8. And to add further stress to my team, Trea Turner and Francisco Lindor, among others, were underperforming. This left me with a difficult decision, do I pack it in or make some additional trades to keep my season going?

So, I was already at a crossroad, just three to four weeks into the shortened season. Did I want to risk the rest of my future talent for a shot to win with only seven weeks left? I did an in-depth review of my team and the league standings. I had the highest P/G in the league (5.60) for batters and only the SS and MI positions were projected to be slightly over the max allowed. And, with several of my individual batters still having lower than expected projected points, there was still hope for improved P/G.  Next, I looked at the top ranked team’s P/G. Although I was only leading him by 0.20 P/G, there was still opportunity to improve on that with my remaining stud lineup — Keston Hiura, Machado, Trea Turner, Yelich, Harper, Lindor, Matt Chapman, and Ohtani (Util only). Another plus was that the top team had already played more games at several positions and was projected to be over the max for C, 1B, SS, 3B, OF, and Util well before I would be. Based on this information, there was a slim but potentially larger advantage for me regarding our positional players.

Next, I looked at pitching. Some of my SPs were pitching well (Flaherty and Greinke were both above 6.00 P/IP), but others were not: Buehler (2.59 P/IP) and Glasnow (3.68 P/IP). All of these guys were capable of being ace-caliber pitchers, so there seemed to hope I could improve on my unsightly 2.86 P/IP for combined SPs. Something else in my favor was that my top RPs were producing a stellar 9.39 P/IP: Kenly Jansen, Giovanny Gallegos, Sergio Romo, Mark MelanconKwang-Hyun Kim, and Aaron Bummer. Another positive was that I was trailing the top team in total innings pitched (220 vs 130). Therefore, I still had a chance to improve on my overall 4.50 P/IP while making up those 90 innings. If I could improve to 5.00 IP, that could net me 450 points to help me close the gap of 700 points. Even though I was in sixth place, all the teams above me had at least 30 more innings pitched and some had already traded away several of their best players for future value and/or were dealing with their own injured players. So, there was some room to close the gap. With this information, I decided to go for it and made some win-now trades, even though the odds of catching first place was not great.

I first traded $36 Lindor and $14 Matt Chapman for $15 Patrick Corbin and $36 Anthony Rendon. I am one of Lindor’s biggest fans and I certainly expect him to compete for MVPs during his career, but he was not meeting his lofty projections this year (3.23 P/G in 2020 compared to 6.41+ P/G over the past three years). Also, I was not sure I would keep him next year since he was already $36 and I still had two very good and slightly cheaper SS options on my roster: Trea Turner ($30) and Machado ($33). Trading Chapman was difficult because he was only $14 and had close to 6.00 P/G, which is in line with prior seasons. And, although he is now 27 years old, it seems like his best years are still to come. He possesses a very desirable profile, especially for Points leagues . According to BaseballSavant, in addition to good xwOBA (72), Chapman has great EV (95), Hard Hit % (83), xSLG (91), and Barrel % (97).  So, yeah, it definitely hurts to lose Chapman, but I still have Machado, who has 3B eligibility and I gained Rendon, who is a 3B. Therefore, I now actually had additional roster flexibility.  Rendon might be a “rental” player and/or someone I will be forced to trade/cut in the offseason, but he has been great in 2020 and there is no reason for decline since he is still only 30 years old. If Rendon’s current 7.14 P/G is his floor, and he continues to edge closer to the 8.06 P/G he had in 2019, the swap of 3B players will be a big win for this year.

In addition to Rendon, I also received a SP to fill some the innings I lost when Verlander and Ohtani were shut down. Although Corbin has been pitching in the majors for eight years, he is still only 31 years old and had above 5.04 P/IP the past two years, which is pretty good for an SP. And, prior to his last game versus the 12-8 Orioles (still makes me chuckle that the Orioles are a .600 team in 2020), Corbin had 5.80 P/IP through 17.3 innings to start the 2020 season. However, he did not have his “A game” versus the Orioles and his P/IP fell to 4.59, which is still above average for SPs nowadays. I do not know how I feel about this trade overall, but it was something I felt was needed since I needed a good SP and received a replacement 3B in return. I definitely needed a 3B (or an MI eligible player) in return for Chapman because Machado would be in the MI spot most days.  This trade also opened up the gridlock I had at Util. Because MLB teams are playing nearly every day in this shortened season, I had been forced to bench either Lindor, Trea Turner, Machado, or Ohtani most days. So, overall, I tend to view this trade a win.

I still wanted another elite SP though, so I traded $16 Glasnow and $1 Deivi Garcia for $45 Jacob DeGrom. If you read my previous post, I had a bold prediction that Glasnow would be the AL MVP in 2020. Based on the early stats, that is not going to happen . As noted above, Glasnow has been less than stellar this year; for example, his P/IP decreased from 6.69 he had in 2019 to 3.68. Further, in addition to Glasnow not looking that good this year, the Rays still have to play many of their remaining games in HR friendly parks, against division foes who tend to hit many HRs.  And, as anyone in a Points league knows, HRA will make you have a bad day.  Although I have not heard any recent news of an injury or residual effects from Glasnow’s prior injury, I need reliable pitchers more than anything else this year. Even though DeGrom was scratched from his last start due to neck tightness, it does not appear serious and he has been as reliable as a pitcher can be. His current price tag of $45 is very reasonable for an elite pitcher who pitches deep into games, which generates a ton of fantasy points.  In fact, DeGrom had 1,472 points with a 6.79 P/IP over 217 innings in 2018 and 1,232 points with 6.84 P/IP over 204 innings in 2019. Although slightly below those numbers, DeGrom has a stellar 6.25 P/IP over 22 innings in 2020.  I like this trade a lot.

I still had to make another trade to replace Stanton, who went on IL. So, I traded $2 Joey Bart for $59 J.D. Martinez. Martinez is clearly a rental at $59, but Bart was not doing anything for me except taking up a roster spot. Martinez is also clearly in a slump with his 4.79 P/G on the year. But, he is still one of my favorite players, and there does not appear to be anything to prevent him from returning to at least his floor of 7.41 P/G over the past four seasons. I also view this trade as a win because it only required a prospect catcher who was taking up a roster spot.

I still have some ammo to fire off one or two more trades, but for now, I am going to see what happens with these new additions. I also am going to see how the new FA work out.  I won recent auctions for several free agents with the extra cap space I recouped from the Verlander ($22) and Stanton ($50) cuts. My free agent acquisitions include Robbie Grossman (OF), Pedro Severino (C), James McCann (C), Kolby Allard (SP), Justus Sheffield (SP), Randy Dobnak, Zach Davies (SP), Tony Gonsolin (SP), and Jonathan Hernandez (RP). There is no telling if any will continue their early success, but I definitely view them as upgrades over injured players and others I had rostered who never materialized. I like several of these guys who are considered prospects/post-hype players (i.e., Sheffield, Allard, Gonsolin), but that is a discussion for another article. And, if other free agents start to surge or a stud is dumped for cap relief, I still have an additional $35 in cap space to bid, which is second most in the league.

Here is the overall breakdown of all transactions:

Additions: $36 Anthony Rendon, $33 Manny Machado, $59 JD Martinez, $68 Bryce Harper, $50 Giancarlo Stanton (cut), $45 Jacob DeGrom, $15 Patrick Corbin, and $24 Zack Greinke

Subtractions: $36 Francisco Lindor, $14 Matt Chapman, $4 Tim Anderson, $2 Joey Bart, $7 Kyle Tucker, $16 Tyler Glasnow, $2 Tarik Skubal, $1 Deivi Garcia, $2 Jasson Dominguez, and $22 Justin Verlander (cut)

Although I gave up some definite keepers (Chapman, Anderson, Tucker, Glasnow, Dominguez, and Skubal), I received players I plan to keep next year (DeGrom, Corbin, Machado, and possibly Rendon). Therefore, even though my goal was to improve my team for 2020, I did not squander all future surplus/value for rental players only. Now I just need most of my players to stay healthy and meet or exceed their projections.

In closing, it is too early to know if my team will improve enough to challenge for the top spot(s), but for better or worse, there is no looking back now. Regardless of where my team finishes the year, the required thought for these trades and impromptu roster building will certainly provide me with more experience and knowledge required to crack Ottoneu’s steep learning curve. One thing for sure, even though this is my fourth year of Ottoneu baseball, I know there is still much more to uncover. As always, I hope you enjoyed my analysis and here is my current roster to view if interested.

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