Many fantasy pundits point to Memorial Day (or alternatively May 31 or June 1) to be the first milestone in taking stock of the performance of one’s roster with an eye toward making significant corrective action. In other words, it is time to get serious about trade talks over and above the business-as-usual acts like continuing to comb the free agent wire.
Sometimes it is a fine line to walk between being too aggressive and not taking decisive action soon enough.
I know the latter case well. Just last season, I hit the speculative closer jackpot in National League Tout Wars. My gambit placed three new closers - all on playoff-caliber clubs - on my roster. They were Craig Kimbrel of Atlanta, Philadelphia’s Ryan Madson and Fernando Salas of St. Louis.
With just 13 other closers across the NL to be shared among the other 12 Tout owners, the math was pretty clear. I was in a dominant position to log a big advantage in that category. As expected, I did amass a large and comfortable lead in saves.
As the summer went on, I either did not work hard enough to find trades, no one wanted to deal or perhaps I had set the bar too high in my expectations. Although I was willing to move all three closers, Salas was the only one I could sell.
I did receive the WHIP and ERA benefits of these closers, but by the end of the season, I had left several dozen saves on the table. That represented the gap between my team and the one with the second-most saves.
Worse, it meant I did not re-balance my resources to address pressing needs elsewhere. I am not saying this alone was the difference between me losing my lead and placing second again versus winning, but how could it not have been a factor?
This year in NL Tout, I have a strong offense, but my pitching is badly lagging. Though I have Chris Carpenter on injury reserve, his chances of being a 2012 difference-maker slip away by the day. Little other help is on the horizon.
Though I condemned broadcast trade proposals in a recent roundtable, I think I may have been too harsh. In fact, I used two of them to my advantage this week. They provided me motivation to act, indicating that other owners are out there currently and actively looking for what I have to offer.
Despite one of the two barely responding to my inquiry, when all was said and done, I closed a deal with the other. Though it took more than three days, it was worth it to actually close a deal.
My trade partner, Nate Ravitz of ESPN, seemed mutually motivated to ensure that he wasn’t sitting by idly, letting the season pass him by. He wanted to move pitching for hitting, an ideal match for me.
In reality, I was actually Ravitz’ second or third choice, as he kept my potential trade for Zack Greinke on hold while he worked out the final touches of dealing Cliff Lee to Phil Hertz. That five-player deal netted him Michael Cuddyer, among others.
Ravitz wanted to make another deal before seriously considering trading his second ace so I focused my attention on others in the league.
I had one bite, but that owner wanted David Wright. If he had other ideas, he wasn’t offering them up. I was more anxious to trade Melky Cabrera, despite his .371 average. It is interesting Cabrera and Wright are currently ranked 1 and 3 in the National League batting race with Wright having been the leader until a few days ago.
In my opinion, Wright has more staying power, though the injury history is always a concern. I remain just as willing to live with that chance today as I did on draft day. Of course that is why this trade partner likely also preferred the more proven Wright over Cabrera, a player on his fourth MLB club in four seasons who is currently batting 90 points above his career average.
Another prospective trader replied to my query with amazing and refreshing clarity. He ranked his own pitchers and indicated where Cabrera would fall on his list in his view of comparable value. He then made a counter-proposal of another hitter who better fit his needs.
Though we did not make a deal this time, I will remember his candor and business-like manner in exploring the possibilities. I will surely not hesitate to approach this owner again in the future and I thanked him graciously for his attention.
Ravitz had teased me earlier in the week with an offer that wasn’t really an offer. It was a thought for which he did not want to pull the trigger without his second deal getting done.
He suggested the idea of me sending Cabrera and $50 FAAB his way in return for Greinke and injured Lance Berkman. The $50 is half of my full-year stipend, but if a name player was traded into the league, it wouldn’t be enough. Berkman may return for the final two months of the season, but like Jayson Werth, already on my DL, the open question is how well he will produce even if he makes it back. I also have Ryan Howard, who along with the aforementioned Carpenter already gives me an all-star disabled list even without Berkman.
All in all, I liked the essence of what Ravitz was pitching, but it took awhile for discussions to re-kindle.
I had found the right buyer in Ravitz, who is a self-professed believer in Cabrera, whom he also owns in the NFBC. After discussing a number of other prospective players to include in the deal, we settled on me adding Kris Medlen while Nate dropped $10 FAAB from my bill. Medlen has some real upside when he returns to Atlanta as a starting pitcher in a couple of weeks. I didn’t like giving him up, but making compromises is what good trading is all about.
My 2012 NL Tout season is rapidly lining up for a fourth-quarter comeback. Will I have enough of a kick to approach the leaders or will I have already been buried beforehand?
Only time will tell if May 31 was the ideal sell-high time for Melky or if he wins his first batting title and leads Ravitz to another NL Tout championship.
One thing for sure, however, no one can accuse either of us of sitting back and waiting. When you are mired deep in the second division, now is the time to take action.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.