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Sunday 30th Apr 2017

With the holidays now upon us, hot stoves cooking up delicious meals as well as tasty deals in our leagues and in the Show are big fun for fantasy owners.

Clearly, wondering the impact of the Ian Kinsler/Prince Fielder swap, is a big one. I personally love it, for I froze Nick Castellanos in the Experts Fantasy League, and at least going into the spring, that looks like an at least optimistic move.

Well, in my great MidWest Strat-O-Matic League, a 30-team keeper format where we can freeze 29 players year-to-year, the hot stove has been really jumping with swaps.

Since I have been rebuilding, I was able to make a few trades that will hopefully put me back into contention as early as 2014, and with a little luck, make me a serious force for a few years once 2015 rolls around (after which I guess it will become rebuild time again).

And, since the 2013 season—though remember, Strat-O-Matic is a simulation league, so we play out the stats from the previous season—is done, in addition to making the trades that will make each team stronger, we are also looking at the upcoming draft.

For because the MidWest League is a sim, the rookies from last year—like Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers—will be up for grabs.

And that means a lot of jockeying and swapping as dump trades can occur at any time in this type of format. That is because rebuilding can start at any moment; that is, as soon as the owner of a team decides the path of his squad is going nowhere.

Well, my two-plus year ordeal seems like it is nearly done.

Over the past seasons, I swapped Ubaldo Jimenez, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Ellis and Shane Victorino, among others, in my attempt to regain respectability.

In exchange, I wound up with Bud Norris, Domonic Brown, Carl Crawford, Derek Norris, Aaron Crow and Jose Tabata.

Now, that might not sound like much, but in this league, which is both extremely deep and with strict usage rules, I now have a strong everyday outfield with Tabata, Brown and Crawford.

My real needs going into next year entail getting one good starting arm, and knowing that I needed both second and third sackers to flesh out a solid starting nine.

Well, one of the advantages of having a terrible team in 2012 was that I netted the #2 draft pick, and that meant Matt Harvey, whom I love and figured I could have as the core or my pitching corps for years.

True, he has had surgery, but, I do still get his 2013 numbers: it is the 2014 season that would be a void.

Well, when I got an offer from Jed Latkin to send me Zack Greinke along with Pablo Sandoval in exchange for Harvey (there were other players involved to make sure the swap was even), I had to jump on it.

For, though it is tough to let go of a talent like Harvey, Greinke likely has 4-5 solid seasons ahead as he is in his prime. Furthermore, as good as Harvey has been, Greinke’s resume is longer.

As for Pablo, he gives me a solid everyday bod at the hot corner, and one who is just going into his prime (think years, there, not beef, although the Panda’s weight is a concern to me).

As part of the Harvey deal, I was also able to grab a second first-round selection as well, so that means with Jedd Gyorko, Nick Franklin and Anthony Rendon all on the rookie parade for 2014, things start to look good.

Then, with so many great young arms out there, filling the final pitching slot and even getting arm strength to help keep my team going for a few years is more than plausible.

I actually did make a second trade with defending 2013 champ and league commissioner Al Koman, sending him Jonathan Lucroy, Erik Bedard and a #4 pick next year for Ervin Santana, George Kottaras and his #4 pick in 2014.

Since I have Derek Norris (whom I received last year from Al along with the same Bedard guy in a swap that sent Ellis to the would-be champs), whom I like a lot and think will step it up as the full-time Oakland catcher next year, augmenting his usage with that of the left-handed Kottaras (platooning is essential in Strat), along with the defensively strong Chris Stewart gave me the freedom to swap the potent Lucroy.

In exchange, I have catcher covered, and now have a strong fourth starter in Santana, to go along with Greinke and rotation incumbents Norris (the Bud, this time) and Kevin Correia.

Now, if you play straight 5x5 fantasy ball, you might scoff at having names like Stewart and Bedard and Kottaras on squads, let alone the thought of them as useful pieces on a team.

But, in such a deep format, where a player can be used the same as the previous season plus 20% (so if a hitter was up 200 times in 2013, he gets 240 at-bats in 2014), these players are essential.

And, because the penalty for over-using a player from the previous year results in reducing the number of freezes going into the coming season, having depth on your bench and minors is similarly critical.

One of the things I often hear fantasy players say is what they are looking for in fantasy is realism, duplicating the game on the field to our imaginary leagues.

Well, let me tell you that when Eduardo Escobar is a pivotal utility keeper on a squad, you are a lot closer to hitting that realism we all crave.

So, though I am not sure my machinations will work out over the long haul, I have had fun making them. For, I do so enjoy the rebuilding process.

Furthermore, if you are a real lover of not just baseball, but games, I urge you to try different formats and deeper and more challenging configurations.

It is how we keep moving forward, after all.

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