Dear Mr. Fantasy: Time to sit tight, capitalize

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Have we already forgotten?

Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Jose B. Reyes, David Wright, Grady Sizemore, Chase Utley, Mark Teixeira and Jimmy Rollins.

If your league drafted after Alex Rodriguez's hip injury became common knowledge, its first eight picks probably looked something like that. You honestly want to write off half of them now, saying this is as good as they'll get?

We're talking about the best of the best here. They went that early because of what they'll contribute over a full six months, not six weeks.

Granted, every draft has its early-round busts -- I don't mind calling David Ortiz one already -- but most of the elite players end up performing exactly as they should. It's a long season, and we've still tasted only a small sample of it.

Rewriting the rankings and undoing the draft now would only rob you of the rewards to come.

I recently traded Lance Berkman for Javier Vazquez. I'm a huge Astros fan, but when I watch Berkman hit, it's kind of scary. Plus, I really like Vazquez's strikeout potential. Did I make a good choice? -- James Owen

SW: I can't say I would have made that deal, but then again, I don't know what about Berkman's hitting makes him "scary." You mean his numbers? Yeah, that .216 batting average hurts, but everything else looks normal relative to the low batting average.

As a lifelong Astros fan, you should know that Berkman has these slumps every year. He hit .171 in September last year and .244 over the first two months in 2007. He'll have a massive course correction soon, and by trading him, you forfeited your chance to reap the benefits of it.

And for what? Well, I wouldn't call Vazquez chop suey. He'll definitely give you strikeouts, probably 200 before the end of the year, but he has a pretty extensive track record of mediocrity, posting an ERA of over 4.00 in four of his last five seasons. Yeah, the return to the National League might revive him -- it looks like it has so far -- but let's not forget he had a 3.43 ERA through the first two months last year. He unraveled from there, finishing with a 4.67 ERA.

Even if he can improve his consistency in the National League and become a better pitcher overall, he won't perform like a third-round pick. Berkman will, assuming he gets back on track. And at this point, I don't have any good reason to think he won't.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league. I have a pretty deep pitching staff and have been offered Matt Wieters and Grady Sizemore for Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett. I don't know if I should jump on the Wieters bandwagon or keep my pitching. -- Dan Gates, St. Charles, Ill.

SW: Does this trade really have that much to do with Wieters? He looks like just the throw-in part of a well-timed deal for a first-round bat.

First, you need to assess how much you need that pitching. I have no way of knowing if you can afford to give up two top-of-the-rotation guys, but as long as you have three stable options behind them, I think you probably can. And if you've ever read anything I've written, you know I'll always recommend taking the hitter over the pitcher, even if he's underperforming.

At the end of the season, Sizemore will end up the most valuable player of this foursome. I don't know why beginning-of-the-season slumps always get so much attention, but it's completely unreasonable. Yes, Sizemore's hitting .228 right now, and no, that's not good. But he hit .221 in May last year, .243 in August and .250 in September. I don't remember anyone crying about it then. He'll get hot eventually, and when he does, he'll put up monster numbers -- guaranteed.

I know you didn't ask about him specifically, Dan, but the fact you didn't mention him as the crux of this deal shows me you don't have the utmost confidence in him. Wieters is a nice addition in a keeper league because he should develop into an elite Fantasy catcher, but even if your opponent proposed this deal without him, I'd still consider it -- and probably take it.

But go ahead and assess your needs first. If you need a hitter, you can't expect to get one better than Sizemore no matter what you offer in return.

I'm in a 12-team league and have been offered Brian Roberts and Michael Young for Ian Kinsler. Do you think I'm crazy for not jumping on it right away? -- John Makris

SW: Some people might say so -- the majority, in fact -- but those people probably put too much stock in Young's performance so far.

Let's review the facts, shall we? Young has a .427 slugging percentage over the last three seasons, averaging 11.7 home runs per season, so he can't possibly maintain this pace of 34 home runs and a .603 slugging percentage. Granted, he does have two 20-homer seasons in his career, but those years are so far in his rearview mirror that they hardly qualify as a fair basis for comparison.

Could he reach 20 homers again? It's possible -- he certainly has a nice head start -- but in order for this trade to make sense, you have to assume it'll happen. And I'm not ready to take that leap of faith. Too much history goes against it.

Besides, even assuming Young can maintain close to this pace, Kinsler is without question the most valuable player in this deal. In shallower leagues, you always want to avoid giving up quality for quantity since you almost have to have a stud at every position to ensure victory. Trading one without getting one in return is counterintuitive, regardless of need. No hole is big enough to justify crippling the foundation of your team -- not when you can find a satisfactory alternative on the waiver wire.

If you really need a shortstop, maybe you can get Stephen Drew on the cheap. Otherwise, make do with a Ryan Theriot or Asdrubal Cabrera until a better offer comes your way.

I have Ryan Howard at first base, Aaron Hill at second base and Ryan Zimmerman at third base. Aubrey Huff and Brian Roberts are on my bench but put up decent points every week. Who should I start at second and third on a regular basis? -- Jesse Dorn

SW: This question fits in so well after the last one, where I completely glossed over the significance of Roberts. Let's talk about him now.

Ian Kinsler he's not, but Roberts never gets the appreciation he deserves as an elite Fantasy second baseman. He ranks among the top five options at his position every year, and often among the top three. He offers consistent, reliable numbers every week, and you can't ask for more than that in Head-to-Head leagues.

Hill, on the other hand, will slump at some point. It's a foregone conclusion. He strikes out too much, and he's on pace for 40 homers. Something's gotta give.

I don't have anything against the guy. He clearly has emerged as a must-start in all leagues, and even if he does cool off, he'll get hot again. But in my mind, he hasn't done enough yet to leap Roberts.

Try trading him. I guarantee somebody in your league needs a second baseman, and Hill hysteria is at an all-time high right now. In this same column not more than two weeks ago, I told someone to trade Hill for Prince Fielder, thinking it a slam dunk, but then several readers wrote in saying they'd rather have Hill than Fielder. That still blows my mind. Could you maybe even get someone like Grady Sizemore for Hill? Hey, I'd try it.

At first base, you clearly want to start Howard. As for Huff, I have a feeling you wouldn't get fair value for him if you tried to trade him. He hasn't quite lived up to last year's performance, but he hasn't played poorly enough to suggest he won't. You risk underselling him now, which isn't the worst thing in the world if you can use him to fill a crippling need, but I'd probably hang on to him. A little extra depth never hurt anybody.

I'm in an eight-team NL-only 5x5 keeper league. We have 23 active players with a 15-man reserve, so it's fairly deep. My relievers are Jose Valverde, Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol and Trevor Hoffman. I'd like to keep two and trade the other two for starting pitchers. Which two would you keep? --Todd Bellm, Florence, Ky.

SW: Yeah, having two closers in an NL-only league should keep you in contention for saves, but you don't want to go overboard and make a weakness out of a strength.

If you want to stay in the hunt for saves, you should make sure you stay in the hunt for saves. That's not a throwaway statement. It means you need to stick with the guys who you know will get saves.

You don't know Marmol will get saves. You hope he will, as does the rest of the Fantasy-playing world, and just that hope gives him plenty of value in a format as deep as yours. I wouldn't want to rely on him as one of my only two sources of saves, so if you want to trade two of your relievers, he has to be one.

Of the remaining three, Valverde probably carries the most risk because of the calf injury that currently has him on the DL. I think he'll recover from it just fine, but I don't know how long he'll need to return to form. He's normally a slow starter, and I worry that he'll have to start slowly all over again. If he doesn't start locking down saves consistently until mid-July, you might fall behind in the category.

But then again, just how much will a setup man and an injured closer fetch you? You could test the market and find out. I'd probably try that first. If you still can't get what you want, you could try coupling Marmol with Hoffman, who has more injury risk than Bell, and then just take your chances with Valverde.

I'm in a 12-team non-keeper Rotisserie league. I have Ervin Santana coming off the DL and need to drop or trade a pitcher. Should I get rid of Wandy Rodriguez, Kevin Slowey, Matt Cain, Chris Volstad or Tommy Hanson? What could I expect to get in a trade? I could use an outfielder or a middle infielder. -- Ed Rodman, Burlington, N.J.

SW: If you think you have time to maneuver a trade, you should obviously take that approach first. Trading is always preferable to dropping.

Volstad might fetch you the best return of any of those guys, and he probably has the most room to fall. I wouldn't call his performance illegitimate so far. He should remain a viable mixed-league option all season. But given his high walk rate, his WHIP will likely rise, and his ERA will follow.

His trade value depends so much on the eye of the beholder. I could see you getting as much as a Shane Victorino for him or as little as Nelson R. Cruz (and depending on how you view those players, you might think I meant to say "as little as Victorino or as much as Cruz"). Maybe you could buy low on someone like Stephen Drew or, in a worst-case scenario, Pat Burrell. Something should work there.

If you can't negotiate a trade in time, I don't think you have any choice but to cut Hanson. Who knows when he'll arrive in the majors? All of your other options can already do too much good for your Fantasy team for you to prefer one who could potentially do nothing.

Recently, I traded away Albert Pujols in a 10-team Head-to-Head league. I was offered Jose Reyes and Alex Rodriguez, and I just couldn't refuse. I'll have Prince Fielder fill in at first base and then have my choice of Aubrey Huff or Stephen Drew at utility. Was this trade good for me, or is it a trade that is totally dependent on Alex Rodriguez getting back to his old ways? -- Patrick McKittrick, Seattle

SW: Before the season started, I would've told you to draft Reyes before Pujols, and I still think trading one for the other is perfectly acceptable. Following that logic, Rodriguez here might be the greatest throw-in in the history of trading.

It goes back to what I was saying earlier about needing studs at every position to win in shallow leagues. You followed that line of thinking exactly, fortifying yourself at two positions without losing much at another.

Reyes could realistically finish as the No. 1 shortstop in your league. He did last year. A-Rod could realistically finish as the No. 1 third baseman, at least on a per-game basis. He does just about every year. Fielder likely won't finish as the No. 1 first baseman, but in a world devoid of Pujols, he certainly could.

So you likely landed the top shortstop and the top third baseman -- top-five picks, both -- for the top first baseman. And while that first baseman might technically outscore both the shortstop and third baseman, he plays a much, much stronger position, as you demonstrated yourself by filling his void with Fielder.

I think it's a brilliant move. Even if the unthinkable happens and A-Rod bombs, you can't complain about what Reyes will give you.

I'm in a 13-team NL-only Rotisserie league. We have a $290 salary cap and can sign players to long-term contracts where their salary increases $5 every year. I currently own Joey Votto at $7 in the first year of a six-year contract, so I'm in great shape with him. But somebody offered me Chris Duncan ($16, one year) and Casey Kotchman ($21, one year) for him. I have no real salary cap issues and could use one of them to replace Chris Burke in my utility spot. Do you think Duncan and Kotchman will put up bigger numbers this season than Votto? -- Jack Heston, Southaven, Miss.

SW: This question does a good job of illustrating the occasional backward logic of deeper leagues. In a standard league, trading a blossoming star for two low-end regulars would make absolutely no sense, especially if the low-end guys cost five times as much money. But here, it would actually serve a purpose.

Because you really do have to combine the contributions of both players, Jack, to gauge their value in relation to Votto's. Burke is a virtual zero at your utility spot, and the waiver wire presumably doesn't offer you anything better, so the extra player would give you something where you had nothing.

In a mixed league, you'd never have nothing. Even if the contributions of the two low-end players added up to more than those of the high-end player, you'd also have to weigh the expected output of the best player on waivers. Simply put, what good is trading Votto for Duncan and Kotchman if you can find a player just as good as Kotchman on waivers? You've essentially traded Votto straight-up for Duncan, which is obviously a terrible idea.

But I know you know the difference, Jack. I just wanted to spell it out for the readers who might not have played in a format as deep as yours and wouldn't understand how you could possibly consider making this trade.

However, tempt you as it might, I think you should decline. Duncan and Kotchman together will probably outperform Votto -- it'll probably happen -- but the long-term effect of losing Votto is too much to ignore. You can't mortgage such a promising future for something that won't definitively put you over the top.

If you really need an extra bat, try shopping one of your middling pitchers for a guy like Austin Kearns. He doesn't seem to get enough love.

You can e-mail our staff your questions at Be sure to put Dear Mr. Fantasy in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. We'll get to as many as we can.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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