When is it acceptable to cut bait with underperforming players? It's a question Fantasy owners wrestle with all the time, particularly early in the season. While early season waiver wire pickups can be tempting, you never want to be the person who gives up on an elite player after a few games. The real answer depends on your perceptions.
It's needs to be clarified here that I'm not talking about high, or even middle round, draft picks. Don't be foolish enough to cut Bryce Harper because he didn't get off to a strong start. Same with a guy like Matt Cain, who was likely drafted a bit later. If you're truly concerned about those types of players, there's always a trade market.
Now, if we're talking about a late-round pick, things change. These players didn't cost much during the draft, so it should be easier for Fantasy owners to part with them. At the same time, some of these players are your big sleepers. The players you really thought would break out this year.
That's why making the choice to cut an early underperformer is based on your perceptions/confidence level in that player. That's probably a cop out answer, but I don't think there's a cut and dried way to determine when a player has to go.
The method I typically follow is this: If I truly believed in a player prior to the start of the season, I give them at least a month (maybe more) to show me something. If I merely drafted a guy based on upside, but I'm not that enamored with him, I might be willing to cut bait sooner.
I'll use an example to illustrate the point I'm trying to get across. I was a big fan of Kolten Wong coming into the year, so I'm not concerned about a week and a half of poor production. I'm seeing him out for a while. Drew Hutchison, on the other hand, was not on my radar prior to a strong spring. I took him late based on his spring numbers in the hope that I could strike gold. After one solid start, and one iffy start, he's far more expendable to me if a better option is available. Hutchison isn't a guy I'm passionate about, so I can live with him coming back to bite me if I let him go.
Basically, you need to trust youself as a Fantasy owner. Have confidence in your research and skills. Don't give up on guys you truly believe in at this point.