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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

I understand how boring it can be to read about others’ teams, but it only makes sense to try to ground lessons in real-life situations. That remains my quest here in Articles of Configuration.

Last time, I shared the reasons why my league mates in National League Tout Wars were disinterested in acquiring starting pitching. Unfortunately, that is what I had to offer.

The lesson to be learned is that in single league formats, the longer the season goes on, the greater value is placed on hitting. So if you do take advantage of pitching bargains on draft day, make sure you make your moves to balance your roster sooner rather than later.

I admitted that one hope, albeit remote, was that by polling my peers for my article, I might be able to open trade dialogue.

It actually worked in two cases. Though only one trade was eventually executed, I felt like I ended up in a far better place than where I had been previously.

The message here is a simple one. It often takes time and persistence to make a deal, but if you keep at it and both sides can see benefit, you can end up with success.

The door opening in this situation was a simple case of clarification. In my initial league-wide e-mail offering of eight starting pitchers for trade, I did not make it clear I would consider moving more than one of them. My prospective trade partner, Mike Gianella, could not tell and was too busy to ask – until my poll.

Another lesson learned. No matter how clear you think you are in your communications, you probably aren’t. Read and re-read and go overboard in explaining. As the old line goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Despite being in the upper half of the league in most hitting categories and in the bottom half in pitching, the latter is what I had to trade. The reason was that I had acquired a number of injured pitchers at bargain prices (usually $1 and a week of no stats) after they had been cashed in by their original owners for FAAB rebates.

Looking ahead to roster expansion in September, I could see a number of my current disabled list pitchers returning. They include names like Jason Grilli, Wandy Rodriguez, Ross Detwiler and James McDonald. Roy Halladay just was activated this past week. While all will likely not make it back this season, even if one or two come through, I would need roster room for them.

My goal was to trade a couple of my incumbent starters for a front-line offensive player. Ideally, it would be a strong performer in batting average, a category in which I was weak but had opportunity to pick up points.

While I do not have a realistic chance of winning the league, my revised goal is to add at least 10 points in the final month and finish in the top five.

As the dialogue began, Gianella was cautious. He seemed to want me to be the first to declare players’ names. As I scanned his roster of hitters, my eye kept returning to the oft-injured Dodgers star, Hanley Ramirez. While I probably could have taken a safer route by going after Hanley’s teammate, Adrian Gonzalez, for example, I decided to go for it.

At this point of the season, taking a little extra risk seemed like a good idea.

After several back and forths that carried across multiple days, Gianella was ready to name names. I assumed he would want my top strikeout arms, Francisco Liriano and Homer Bailey.

Though the wait was painful, Mike did a smart thing to enable the trade. Instead of demanding two names only, he identified four of my starters that would work for him. He didn’t give me carte blanche, however. Mike defined four combinations he would accept.

Three of them included Liriano. After looking at Liriano’s career track record, I worried that his September results could tail off. Bailey and Kyle Lohse were two others named, along with Jorge De La Rosa. The Rockies starter has the built-in risk that goes with his home park to go with a WHIP that is higher than I’d like.

After a bit of thought, I decided on Liriano and De La Rosa for Ramirez.

Before we could close the deal, a complication ensued. Rather than panic, it required a bit of time to understand and solve.

During the multi-day period of our dialogue, the weekly free agent deadline came and went. Gianella had dropped his only potential backfill for Hanley, meaning I had to sweeten the deal a bit so his roster could remain legal.

I had the ideal sacrifice in Miami’s Ed Lucas, a regular who qualifies at first, second and third, but who had been dragging down my batting average (.216 while active on my roster). In a way, it was a double benefit getting Hanley in and Lucas out.

In executing the trade, I needed to fill a couple of pitching spots. Due to the same time crunch, I had only one viable option – the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, who had perplexed the Cardinals over seven innings during the prior weekend. I would have also had to activate Trevor Cahill, who was hammered in his first start off the DL.

Instead, Mike came to my aid by throwing in Colorado’s Matt Belisle to tide my pitching over for the week.

Here is another example of potential learning. Both of us had come far so far in the trade talks that we were motivated to work out the two throw-ins rather than scuttle the entire deal.

As it turned out, both hurlers were two-start pitchers the first week – and they pitched on the first day they changed teams. Sellers’ remorse immediately set in for me as Liriano threw seven shutout innings while fanning 13 Padres. That same night, De La Rosa went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on six baserunners. Both starters collected wins.

On the other hand, Hanley went 1-for-9 in his first two contests on my roster. After that, I decided to stop analyzing day-to-day results, reminding myself I am in this for the long haul - or at least the final month.

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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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