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The kind of deals to make at the trade deadline

By Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer

Nick Markakis is a fine player and all, but he's wasted on your bench. (USATSI)
Nick Markakis is a fine player and all, but he's wasted on your bench. (USATSI)

We're now about a week away from the MLB trade deadline (the one where players don't have to clear waivers first, that is), which means you're running out of time to make the deal that will put your team over the top.

Chris Cwik wrote a thoughtful post about negotiating etiquette over the All-Star break, but my focus here is less on the how and more on the what. After all, success isn't measured by how many trades you make, but what those trades do for you.

Every team, regardless of record, has the ability to improve itself through trade. The key is to maximize assets -- to figure out which ones are wasted on you and who would appreciate them the most.

Of course, that's easier said than done, but in most cases, these principles apply.

Use excess at one position to upgrade at another. You'd think this one is fundamental, but every week on Fantasy Baseball Today, we get calls from frustrated owners lamenting a lack of roster space because of all the studs on their bench. Folks, the bench is no place for studs. If you can't fit them into your lineup, they belong in someone else's. You can either wait for logistics to force your hand, requiring you to drop a player who doesn't deserve to be dropped, or you can make it happen on your own terms.

If you have two of the top 12 second basemen in Fantasy, then someone in your 12-team league has none. Figure out what he has that would improve your team and make an offer. Maybe you're content with Manny Machado at third base, but clearly, Adrian Beltre is better. Could Machado and that extra second baseman land you Beltre? It's worth a try.

Maybe that extra second baseman is Ian Kinsler, and in a vacuum, he and Machado seem like too much for Beltre. But what do you care? You're giving up excess. Granted, depth has its place in Fantasy, but as a general rule, the better your starting lineup, the better your team. Why not improve its bottom line and eliminate clutter in one fell swoop?

Trading two for one might be a fringe contender's best hope. Conventional wisdom says the side getting the one player in a 2-for-1 deal usually wins the deal, and for the first three months of the season, that's absolutely true. But during those early stages when the standings are just beginning to take shape, you have the luxury of time. If acquiring a foundation-type player creates a hole on your roster, you can just hope the waiver wire provides a way to fill it. And if it doesn't, you can address it with another trade later.

But when you're fighting for your life, the time for laying the foundation is over. You need to win now, and if that scrubby shortstop is preventing you from doing it, well, using Paul Goldschmidt to upgrade at the position might just be the way to go.

The trick is to get back more than Goldschmidt is actually worth, which sounds like a challenge, but because conventional wisdom says the side getting the one player gets more, you'll find owners eager to overpay for a super stud. (I'm typically one myself.) And while with the luxury of time Goldschmidt and Jean Segura may seem like a better foundation than Freddie Freeman and Jose Reyes, as things stand now, Freeman and Reyes will together do more for your team's bottom line.

One caveat: Ideally, you wouldn't be making this trade with an owner who's 14-2. If so, you'd be playing right into his hands. Assuming he's stacked across the board, upgrading from a stud like Freeman to a super stud like Goldschmidt only improves his bottom line.

Be aggressive with your bench slots. This kind of goes along with the first point. Just like players who deserve to start don't belong on your bench, players who you'd never start (other than at starting pitcher thanks to the lovely and not at all frustrating reality of two-start weeks) don't belong on your bench either. Nick Markakis is a fine player and all, but if you have a starting outfield of Jose Bautista, Carlos Gomez and Michael Brantley (in a three-outfielder league, of course), you're never using him. Someone else in the league could certainly use him, though, and if that someone balks at the idea of helping you upgrade at a position by way of a 2-for-1 trade, see if he's in possession of a lottery ticket.

Cliff Lee is a perfect example. He's a big question mark the rest of the way. If he's back to full strength, he's a potential ace down the stretch, but lingering concerns over his elbow, especially after the way his first start back from the DL went, make him too dangerous to trust for some owners. Could swapping Markakis straight-up for him ultimately be a waste? Absolutely. But if Markakis is on your bench anyway, again, what do you care? You get all the rewards with none of the risk.

Justin Verlander also fits the description of a lottery ticket, as do Mike Minor, Masahiro Tanaka, Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis. I'm not saying Markakis straight-up for Trumbo is the most rewarding move you could make in a Head-to-Head points league, but maybe it's Jimmy Rollins or Aramis Ramirez you give up for him instead.

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