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Sunday 17th Dec 2017

It will not go down as the biggest trade of all time – Pedro Strop for Marco Gonzales. In fact, far from it. Yet, I am hoping the move will help jump-start my floundering Tout Wars squad.

We are still two weeks away from Memorial Day, that time when traditionally, we should take serious stock of our fantasy baseball rosters.

I am not waiting that long in this league. The realities of a weak pitching staff, accentuated by the struggles of (former) Miami closer Steve Cishek, have come home to roost. My club is currently last in ERA and second to last in WHIP, so improvement is mandatory.

Here is how one approach came about.

Roughly three weeks ago, St. Louis Cardinals prospect left-hander Marco Gonzales, arguably the club’s best pitcher during spring training, strained a lat muscle and went on the disabled list of Triple-A Memphis.

Because I cover the Cardinals system for a living, I often receive questions about players in the organization from fantasy-playing friends. In this case, the friend is also a competitor in NL Tout, BaseballHQ’s Phil Hertz.

Phil asked me if there was any reason he should not cut bait on Gonzales, a player he mistakenly rostered on draft day for $5, while thinking the player on the table was Gio Gonzalez, instead. (As an aside, I bought Gio later for $16, and he has become one of my leading underperformers.)

With just four reserve spots in Tout, roster management is crucial. In this case, holding onto a minor leaguer while waiting for a call-up, and then hoping they will be effective upon their arrival, was a valid consideration on Hertz’ part.

In all honesty, I told him that I thought it was too early to discard Gonzales. I did, however, offer to acquire the pitcher for a few dollars of free agent budget (which can be traded).

Phil countered with what I felt was an unrealistic offer, pairing Derek Norris with Pedro Strop in return for Gonzales and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the latter who had already been designated for assignment. After I declined his offer, he said he would hold Gonzales. Yet, a few days later, Hertz sent a broadcast e-mail to the league, offering the lefty in trade.

Why did that happen? Opportunity had been created. Adam Wainwright’s injury caused an immediate roster opening for the remainder of the season. Further, two other Cardinals lefties already tried and had not impressed – Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons.

The Cardinals’ wild card is oft-injured lefty Jaime Garcia. The veteran is trying to work his way back to St. Louis in parallel with Gonzales, who was with the big league club as a reliever through the 2014 postseason.

I also own Garcia in this league, so having him and Gonzales both would seemingly give me a very good chance of eventually ending up with a starter with a consistent job for a very good St. Louis team.

There were no takers in NL Tout to Hertz’ offer, but after Gonzales was tagged in his first rehab outing and just before Garcia took the mound for his first turn, Phil came back around. He offered me Gonzales for Strop plus $3 FAAB.

With no up-and-coming prospects among my reserves, I was willing to execute a buy and hold on Gonzales. Only time will tell if it will be a good move or not, but I like Gonzales’ upside, especially in return for a setup man.

Therefore, I countered with the two players straight up and no cash involved. I was anxious to close the deal before we saw how Garcia would perform in his rehab outing that same day. Weak results could have strengthened Gonzales’ perceived value.

Hertz agreed to the one-for-one trade, while making several interesting comments. One is that he pledged to stop playing marginal starting pitchers. Another is that he is worried why I wanted Gonzales.

I too made a decision to get rid of a pair of stat-draining starters in Arizona’s Jeremy Hellickson and Colorado’s Jordan Lyles. Both were drafted, but primarily held in reserve until now. Their replacements were a group of middle relievers who may or may not become the next Strop, but at least I can plug them into openings with less fear of a terrible outing hurting my pitching stats even more.

The fact that Gonzales has now had two rough starts since being activated in Triple-A is concerning, but he has shown his ability before. Perhaps he can offer a boost later in the season, though it may be unrealistic to expect him to be the next Noah Syndergaard in 2015.

My advice to you is to consider every move, no matter how minor, in your efforts to address your roster weaknesses.


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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