August 02, 2006

Fantasy Sports

Playing For Next Year

When I was little I'd draw the ire of the nuns in school (and the sting of their rulers) by constantly engaging my baseball-crazy schoolmates with proposed fictional trades.

One of the best things about fantasy sports is making trades for real. Shrewd trades can win titles, but in keeper leagues, it provides a quick way to rebuild as well.

Let's take a recent look at a big trade made in my league, The Albany National Rotisserie league, an NL-only keeper league. The Tommy Johns, mired in 10th place with 41 points, are looking towards the future. The Orange Pac, with 71 points, is just four points behind the league leader, the Bandits.

The Pac trade: Carlos Quentin, Jeremy Hermidia, Brian McCann, Stephen Drew, Ryan Madson and Aaron Heilman.

The TJS give up: Nomar Garciaparra, Jacques Jones, Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, Brandon Webb and Johnny Estrada.

Terribly one-sided, right? Of course — unless you consider the strategy the TJs used. They are playing for next year when they will begin the season with 23 players whose salaries total $260 or less.

Garciaparra ($21), Jones ($25), Oswalt ($34) and Clemens ($51) total $131 for just the four of them. Webb and Estrada are in the final years of their contracts, meaning they will go back into the draft and go to the highest bidder next April.

Quentin ($10) and Drew ($10) were on the Pac's minor league roster, meaning the "clock hasn't started" on them. The TJs can keep both of them for three years at their current salaries. Among the others, Hermidia is $10, and McCann, Heilman and Madson total only $5. So the TJs get a nice base of cheap, young talent heading into next year.

Nevertheless, I think the TJs got fleeced in this one. First of all, Garciaparra at $21 is a keeper, and Jones at $25 may be as well. If you're rebuilding you need to keep the veteran building blocks.

I'm not convinced Hermidia is as solid as the scouts think: so far he has shown a surprising and troubling lack of power. Quentin and Drew look like the real deal, but both are rookies, and it's too early to tell. McCann is a bonafide keeper.

The reason I think it was a bad deal for the TJs is they failed to extract the Pac's prime keepers. Chris Carpenter, at only $7, would have been a logical player to ask for since three star pitchers were moving the other way in the deal. The TJs also allowed the Pac to hold onto their young closer, Mike Gonzalez, because that team "needed saves," I would have said, "tough crap" (!) and held out.

Here was the TJs rationale: there are only three teams currently buying: my team, The Fire, The Pac, and the Bandits. The TJs felt the Pac had the most to offer and didn't want to risk getting shut out — the Bandits have little to offer, though I've been dangling Ryan Howard and Jess Barfield. The problem with my bid is the TJs have Alfonso Soriano, and I wanted to wait until after the Major League trading deadline to finalize a deal. The TJs apparently felt they had to make a move right away.

In retrospect I have only myself to blame, because I figured if I was going to trade Howard I'd want Soriano back, and with the risk looming that he'd be traded to the American league, I couldn't pull the trigger.

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