So to recap ...
is isn't a Brave, but Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante are Tigers. Ichiro Suzuki is in pinstripes. Hanley Ramirez went west, young man, and Zack Greinke soon followed. Wandy Rodriguez be swabbin' the deck with the scalawags of Pittsburgh. Francisco Liriano just made Chris Sale's life in Chicago more complicated. Ryan Roberts got run out of Arizona only to see Chris Johnson take his place. And Marco Scutaro, back down to earth geographically, is set to follow suit statistically.
Yup, it's that time of year again.
If the July 31 trade deadline is upon us, then the Fantasy trade deadline is just around the corner, and that's when many owners catch their second wind. Lulled into their regular routine of starting and sitting, it's enough to shake them awake and remind them that, hey, they can actually do something about that gaping hole at second base. And this recent flurry of activity will only bolster that sentiment.
You want in on the action. Boy golly, do you. If each team benefits from a trade, which is the theory, anyway, then multiple trades by the same team improve that team several times over ... if done right, of course. I've known people to turn otherwise mediocre teams into powerhouses overnight simply by making the right series of trades.
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Is it unfair? Hey, as long as each individual trade makes sense for both sides, it's annoying only to the people who wish they had thought of it first.
So with the message boards soon to explode with activity as the spirit of wheeling and dealing grips us all, I thought I should lay out a few guidelines for how to make the most of this situation. I should warn you these are fairly open-ended. They won't tell you whether you should shop Allen Craig or how much you should expect to pay for Justin Upton. I can't break down every trade scenario for every team in every league -- not in this medium, anyway.
But hopefully, I can help point you in the right direction, instilling you with the confidence you need to take that first step into what figures to be a busy week. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter with any specific scenarios @CBSScottWhite.
B-E aggressive. Don't sit around waiting for offers, wasting precious hours that you could spend pursuing the next deal. Go get 'em. Cast a wide net, and be persistent with it. Instead of pinning all your hopes to one deal, jot down a list of comparable deals you could make with some of the league's other owners. Offer the first one, expect it to get turned down, and when it does, move on to the next one. If you don't hear back about an offer within 24 hours (or less), pull it back and move on. Above all, play Fantasy. Don't choose now to go on autopilot. Apart from draft time, this is the most active part of the Fantasy Baseball season, so treat it with the same intensity. Stay up a little later and grab a coffee on your way to work, or show up with a little stubble on your face. Cut back on your workout routine for a couple days. That flab will still be there when you get back. Skip your favorite TV show. Or DVR it, perhaps. Or just remind yourself that everything worth watching is in reruns during the summer anyway. This is elementary stuff, people. I'm moving on.
Trade from a position of strength.
Chances are you have something you don't need. You've been holding on to it because you know it has value, but it sits there on your bench, collecting dust week after week. Some trade offers take you through the agonizing process of weighing pros and cons, but not every one needs to be so difficult. If you have a trade chip, make the most of it. And I do mean the most of it. Someone might come to you with a lowball offer, saying, "Well, you don't really need another catcher," and he'd be right. But it's not like he caught you with your hand in the cookie jar. You shouldn't have to apologize for your surplus. A player's value is a player's value regardless of what else you have or don't have, and if he doesn't like it, he can take a hike. You'll find something better out there, and if not, you'll have a mighty fine backup. People can get so manipulative about trading, treating it as an emotional playground instead of a simple business transaction. Nobody is doing you a favor by taking your excess. If the trade is fair and helps you more than it hurts you, take it. If not, don't. Again, elementary stuff.
Target a weakness, and swoop in for the kill.
Of course, not everybody is as level-headed about the whole thing as you are, and while I don't suggest presenting potential trade partners with a sales pitch that would either annoy them with its banality or make them suspicious of your intentions, you obviously stand to benefit by offering your excess to the teams with the greatest need at the position. You don't need to start with an entirely fair-and-square offer unless it's just so perfect that you wouldn't want to risk losing it with your greediness, but you do need to keep the offer close enough that the other side is willing to extend negotiations. And if you enter negotiations, feel free to continue shopping the key player in the meantime. At worst, a little leverage couldn't hurt, and at best, another owner might just accept your first offer.
Build the hype.
Speaking of leverage, there are ways of manufacturing it even if it doesn't, in the strictest sense, exist. OK, so maybe that's a little manipulative, but not in a way that leads to hurt feelings or widespread distrust. Let's say, for instance, you're in deep negotiatons with an owner over a player you've been openly shopping. You don't exactly like his offer, but he's not so far off that a deal seems unthinkable. You could simply say, "I'm currently wading through trade possibilities, and I'm not jumping at this one." See there? You are shopping him, so you do you have several trade possibilities in mind or perhaps even on the table, but the way you worded makes him think something could be imminent. And if he thinks you're about to take what he wants elsewhere, he might just step up his offer. Slip in a casual, "If you swapped out Player X for Player Y ..." and he may go for it. Or if you haven't gotten anywhere with one-on-one negotiations, you could simply log onto the message board, say, "I hope to trade Player A by midnight. Best offer wins," and see what happens. If you don't end up trading the player by midnight, it's not exactly a liar-liar-pants-on-fire situation. Maybe you got tied up in negotiations that forced you to extend the deadline. Maybe you changed your mind altogether. No one would hold it against you. And yet, by using an artificial deadline to create a sense of urgency, you might get some offers that you otherwise wouldn't.
(Obviously, the artificial deadline is more of a last resort. The more often you use it, the less effective it becomes, especially if you don't follow through on it.)
No matter what you hear, not everybody's doing it.
It's what they tell you in health class, and it's just as applicable here. Trading is great if done right, but if you play with enough hard-headed people, it might ultimately result in you shooting yourself in the foot. Just because you see a couple other people make trades doesn't mean you have to do the same. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make. Yes, be aggressive. Yes, be persistent. But don't get so caught up in deadline dealings that you do something crazy.
In the now ... A look at how recent events have impacted certain players' Fantasy value
Homer Bailey, SP, Reds: Getting behind Bailey was a tough thing to do three starts ago when he had an ERA over 4.00. Yes, he showed flashes of potential, but he remained susceptible to the occasional blowout. He relies heavily on the curveball, and while that's not inherently bad, it does come with its share of side effects -- specifically, home runs. When the curveball doesn't curve properly, it hangs, and when it hangs, it gets clobbered. In a ballpark as small as the Reds', seemingly anything that gets clobbered goes out. Fittingly, Bailey had a 5.86 ERA at home compared to 2.93 on the road three starts ago. But take a look at his last three: home against St. Louis, home against Milwaukee and at Houston, another small park. Between them, he gave up a combined two earned runs and only one home run. In fact, his two starts at home were among his finest all season. If he's learned to survive in those environments, the blowouts will be few enough and far enough between that you won't even mind so much when they happen.
Kyle Seager, 2B/3B, Mariners: Back on June 6, Seager was hitting .274 with seven home runs, five stolen bases and a .798 OPS. With his eligibility at second base, he was a gift to all who claimed him off the waiver wire, joining Jason Kipnis as one of this season's biggest breakouts at the position. Of course, at that point, the Mariners had played only 22 of their 59 games at home, where Seager is batting .186 with a .566 OPS compared to .294 and .848 on the road. Not surprisingly, his numbers have evened out along with the schedule. Since June 6, he's batting .210 with a .623 OPS, putting him in about the same class as the Trojan Horse as far as gifts go. Though Seager has potential, if he's less than competent in the place where he plays half his games, he's less than competent overall. Until he gets traded or the Mariners bring in the fences, he'll be waiver fodder in mixed leagues.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics: Nobody questioned Cespedes' skill set coming out of Cuba, but at the same time, he wouldn't be the first defector to struggle in his first look against major-league pitching. Well, it took a while thanks to an early onslaught of injuries, but finally now we have reason to believe he's as polished as he needs to be. Cespedes has established himself as the most important player in a lineup so surprisingly good that it suddenly has the Athletics in contention. He's batting .443 with five home runs, two steals and a 1.272 OPS in his last 15 games, ranking him first among outfielders in Head-to-Head leagues during that stretch. He's undeterred by same-handed pitchers (.927 OPS), unaffected by a massive home ballpark (.998 OPS) and not nearly the free-swinger so many made him out to be. He's a stud -- the kind you're going to want to start whenever he's healthy and the kind well worth waiting for when he's not. He's like what Nelson Cruz used to be.
Vance Worley, SP, Phillies: Doctors said Worley would be able to pitch through the bone chips in his elbow, and he has. But unlike some of the others who've done so in the past, Worley's performance has suffered. His velocity is down ever so slightly. His location is down ever so slightly. Together, the two have contributed to a 1.48 WHIP in 10 starts since his diagnosis, which has contributed to a 4.50 ERA. He's also averaging 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings since the diagnosis compared to 9.2 per nine before it. He has become one of the more hittable pitchers in baseball, and quite frankly, he doesn't have the pedigree to get away with it. He's not a disaster, but he's not doing any good for your Fantasy team either. We won't know whether it's a direct result of the elbow injury until next season, but in the meantime, why waste your time on a pitcher with so little track record? Pitchers like Justin Masterson, Jeff Samardzija and even Mike Leake deserve more loyalty than Fantasy owners have shown Worley.
Ben Sheets, SP, Braves: So ... you convinced yet? Sheets has allowed exactly one earned run in 18 innings over his three starts, proving to be more Andy Pettitte than Roy Oswalt, as reincarnated aces go. His signing in early July came with widespread skepticism, but he was only coming back from Tommy John surgery -- nothing too unprecedented. And yeah, his stint in Oakland didn't go so well after a previous elbow injury, but he wasn't nearly as healthy then as he is now, after two years away from the game. At age 34, his velocity is down a couple miles per hour, but he was never all about velocity anyway. His command of the strike zone keeps his WHIP down and allows him to pitch deep into games, and that's not changing even if he no longer strikes out a batter per inning. Given his history, no one can say for sure that Sheets will stay healthy for the entire second half, but in the meantime, he's given you every reason to believe you want him on your team.
Down the line ... A brief update on some of the minor-leaguers who have caught the attention of Fantasy owners
Jean Segura, SS, Brewers: You'd think that by jumping from the Angels to the Brewers, Segura's Fantasy value would improve. After all, he was on the Angels bench at the time of the Zack Greinke deal. A non-contender would want its highest-upside players to get the most at-bats. Unfortunately, in Segura's case, those at-bats will come at Double-A. He was only up with the Angels as an emergency option with Erick Aybar nursing a foot injury. His numbers have actually taken a step back with his rise to Double-A a couple years ago, so his return to the minors is probably for the best. He still has the makings of a Jose Vidro or perhaps even Jason Kipnis type, but at age 22, he's still a work in progress. The Brewers, as non-contenders, have no reason to rush him.
Jedd Gyorko, 3B, Padres: Given his .313 batting average and .913 OPS in 403 at-bats between Double- and Triple-A, you can understand why Fantasy owners are clamoring for Gyorko's promotion. And if reports of Chase Headley's availability are true, they may soon get their wish. But as long as PETCO Park has its current dimensions, every Padres hitting prospect deserves a degree of skepticism. Gyorko's minor-league numbers have mostly come in hitter-friendly environments, including the California and Pacific Coast Leagues. What he'll face in the majors couldn't be any more different. We all saw what happened to Anthony Rizzo when he got the call last year, and we all see how differently it's going for him now in Chicago. Until we know whether Gyorko will go the Rizzo or Yasmani Grandal route, he's only worth stashing in NL-only leagues.
Robert Stephenson, SP, Reds: Years from now, draft pundits may look back at Stephenson and wonder how he lasted until the 27th overall pick in 2011. On the one hand, yeah, that's still a first-rounder, but on the other hand, if his first eight minor-league starts are any indication, Stephenson has the makings of another Justin Verlander. He touched 101 miles per hour with his fastball in his first start for Class A Dayton on Friday after recording 37 strikeouts compared to only eight walks in seven Rookie league starts. At age 19, you'd think he still has several years of development ahead of him, but he was especially polished coming out of high school, according to Baseball America, and his stuff speaks for itself. No one's saying he's a September callup, but Stephenson clearly should be on your radar in keeper leagues.
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