Taking Stock at the All-Star Break
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The All-Star game is upon us, which is the traditional halfway point of the baseball season. The true halfway point came at the end of last week, so we are now at the point of the season where fewer games are ahead of us than games already played. It is a very exciting time of year for MLB players, as well as for Fantasy players. All-Stars get to showcase their talents and be rewarded for having an above average first half of the season (even Brock Holt). Non All-Stars get some well-deserved rest as they prepare for the last 10 weeks of the season. Fantasy players get this time to potentially make a stretch run for a title. MLB GMs and most Fantasy owners each have the next few weeks until July 31 to make their final moves. Are they in it, or not; are they buyers, or sellers?
[caption id="attachment_95071" align="alignright" width="457"] Scott Kazmir is almost certain to be traded by the deadline. Photo Credit:RWLeslie58[/caption]
All season, I’ve hopefully given you some sage advice to get you to this point. If you did the necessary prep work during the preseason and kept the pressure on right up to today, you are hopefully in the lead in your league, or at least in contention. The decisions you make during the next three weeks before July 31 will seal the deal one way or the other.
Sometimes timing is everything. A player in my league had an abundance of speed; he traded with a team that had zero speed. The trade seemed fair at the time. The two players traded away were Jacoby Ellsbury and Desmond Jennings. The next day, both players went down with injuries, effectively killing the recipient’s chances of being in the money. He’s in eighth place and making trades to build his 2016 team. It’s the team I traded with to acquire Chris Archer, who is in the last year of his Fantasy contract.
Timing can be the difference between success and failure. Last season, on July 31, with only an hour left before our league’s trading deadline, I traded for Jarred Cosart, at the time a young pitcher for the Houston Astros. Within the hour, Jarred Cosart was traded to the Miami Marlins. Since this is an AL-only league, I traded an asset for an ineligible player.
Be mindful of players who are projected to be traded. If you are in a mono-league you cannot afford to make a trade for a player who gets dealt to the other league. These next few weeks can be treacherous, so tread lightly. The no-brainer players to be concerned about are as follows. Jeff Samardzija, a solid pitcher playing on the woefully underperforming Chicago White Sox. They will definitely be sellers as July 31 approaches. Everything that applies to the White Sox, applies to the Seattle Mariners as well. They are flush with young pitching and Hisashi Iwakuma is a free agent at the end of the season. Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir are as good as gone; I believe their lockers have already had their nameplates removed. Billy Beane has never been known to be shy, and when he senses the A’s have no chance, he wheels and deals in an effort to rebuild. Everyone has been saying it for what feels like years now, but the Philadelphia Phillies will trade Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard. They owe it to the fans of the Phillies to make an effort to rebuild, and they owe it to those players. They are and have been marquee players in the league for a long, long time and deserve to move on to potentially greener pastures with a chance to help a team succeed.
With the advent of the second wild-card slot, more teams believe they have what it takes to make a run. Most of them are chasing fool’s gold, but it’s tough on July 31 to tell your fan base that you don’t feel you’re in it if you’re only a few games out of that wild card spot. It is for this reason that teams must commit to their decision and act accordingly; half measures will prove ineffective. It is also for this reason that teams like the Phillies, White Sox, A’s, and Mariners will get a king’s ransom at the trade deadline.
Other players who should be traded before July 31 are Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers, Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds, and Matt Kemp of the San Diego Padres. Each of those teams are out of any realistic chance to compete for a wild-card spot. Aside from the usual suspects, there are are usually some fireworks at this time of year with players that nobody is talking about.
Aside from Kazmir and Zobrist, could Billy Beane decide to deal young ace Sonny Gray, or breakout star Steven Vogt? Could the Red Sox decide they can’t leap frog four teams in their division and sell? Even long-time favorite Dustin Pedroia? What about the Detroit Tigers? Could GM Dave Dombrowski look at the landscape and say this just isn’t their year. It started badly with Victor Martinez and Justin Verlander’s injuries, and now Miguel Cabrera is on the DL for the first time in his career. Could Dombrowski decide to move David Price and/or Yoenis Cespedes, both in the final year of their contracts?
It is these types of real life decisions that MLB GMs make that can ruin your Fantasy team. Be proactive; if you have some of these players, try to move them if you can. Take 75 cents on the dollar if you have to. Also, do your best not to trade for any of these players. If you’re in a NL-only league, do not trade for Johnny Cueto, no matter how badly you need an arm.
There is one caveat to this rule; if you’re a poker player you’ll know the term “pot odds.” Pot odds are when you have to decide whether or not it’s worth throwing any more money into the pot based on the amount of potential return you’ll get on your investment, and based on how confident you are with your poker hand. If you are in a mono league and a player moves to the opposite league, you obviously lose him. If it’s a 100 percent sure thing that Johnny Cueto is getting traded by July 31, it means it’s a 51.7 percent chance he’ll go to the AL. If you can put together a trade in which you’re trading away 50 cents on the dollar or better, do the deal. The “pot odds” would make it a worthwhile risk.
If you are going to trade for some of these players, (I cannot tell you how much I recommend against doing it), do it sooner than later. The sooner you acquire one of these players, the more you’ll maximize their stats on your team. This situation came up in my league this season. An owner felt he was out of it and put some of his players on the block. One of them was Scott Kazmir. The team owner was asking for the world. At the time, it was before I acquired Chris Archer, so I definitely needed an arm. I informed the owner I was concerned that Kazmir would be getting traded before the trade deadline. I made him an offer before Kazmir’s start the next day. I told him the deal had to be done that day so I’d get credit for the start. He procrastinated. A few days later, after not only that start, but another start by Kazmir, the team owner came back to me. I informed him my offer would be lower because I effectively lost two starts that could have been mine if he didn’t drag his feet. This dance went on for a couple more starts, before he ended up moving Kazmir to another team. The point is, when dealing with players who will be traded, be definitive and resolute in your negotiations. Do not cave, and never pay too much for these players, you will find another solution.
This is also a good time of the season to project who will keep up their pace the rest of the way; who may stub their toe, and who may begin to over-perform to counter a poor first half. If you are an Xclusive Edge subscriber, you can go to our draft package, where there is a breakdown of the second half statistics of players during the 2014 season. Some players perform better the longer the season progresses, and some start the year better. Sometimes an injury can hinder second half numbers, and sometimes a nagging injury from the previous season can hinder a player’s April and May statistics. This isn’t an exact science, and shouldn’t be looked at as the only tool to use. But it is merely one of the myriad of tools we offer, and should be considered.
Someone like Robinson Cano should be looked at to have a nice second half because he’s never had this poor of a first half. It’s come out that he has been dealing with one of those nagging injuries. Usually at this time of year, he’d be starting the All-Star Game for the AL, but this year he’ll have a few days off. I expect Cano to be more like the player we’ve seen in previous years the rest of the way.
Someone like AJ Burnett should be looked at cautiously for the second half. He’s had a nice 18-year career, but this is his first All-Star Game, and he’s arguably having his best season…at age 38. I question whether he can continue at this pace the rest of the way.
There are over 20 first time All-Stars and the game is definitely trending younger, with names like Harper, Pederson, Trout, Sale, Archer…etc. This is the first taste of this much attention for many of them, as well as being the first time they’ve logged this much of a workload with so many games played. I wonder how some of them will hold up, especially the pitchers.
Although this game has lost some of its luster, due to interleague play in my opinion, it is still a wonderful event. I can remember the All-Star games of the mid to late 70s with perennial All-Stars like Jim Rice, George Brett, Reggie Jackson, and Carlton Fisk, and looking forward to seeing the NL stars for that one and only time of the year, except for the occasional Monday Night Baseball game showing two NL teams, or the playoffs. Seeing “The Cobra” Dave Parker, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and “The Hawk” Andre Dawson, still my favorite player of all time, was glorious. It’s still magical after all these years, and I can’t wait. Hopefully, it will be an entertaining game and everybody escapes unscathed.
I wish you all the best as you enter the second half of the season.
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