First place, second place, first place, second place. That sums up my team's journey over the past week or two in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction league. A quick look at the category breakdowns makes it clear that the winner, which could realistically be any one of four teams, will not be determined until the final weekend of the season, maybe even the final day. Or maybe even the day after the final day, as Tout Wars counts stats accumulated in tiebreaker games.
Every year, whether it be in Tout Wars or any of my other leagues, I'm reminded that sometimes your best moves are the moves you don't make. I made a conscious effort this season to be more active in the trade market and even a little more willing to cut ties with an under-performing drafted player in favor of a less proven but more productive waiver wire option. But I did not all of a sudden turn into an impulsive owner who makes irrational decisions based on small sample sizes. Patience has been a quality that has served me well as a fantasy owner. Sometimes, I'm too patient. But I think I found the right balance this season, and looking back, it's scary to think about where I would be in the standings had I not practiced some patience.
On June 1st, Yasmani Grandal was batting .184 with four homers and 15 RBI. At that point, trading the Dodgers backstop for any top-15 type catcher seemed like a good idea. But I had high hopes for Grandal heading into the season and believed he could post career-best numbers if only he could stay healthy. And he was healthy. Three-plus months, 21 homers and 49 RBI later, Grandal is indeed wrapping up a career year, and with ten home runs and 21 RBI since the beginning of August, he's been one of my most productive hitters for quite some time.
I ended up drafting Justin Upton in four of my six leagues this year, and I was comfortable paying $30 for him in Tout Wars. Sure, he's streaky. But in the end, the numbers are always there, and 2016 would be no different. The new Tigers outfielder would also benefit from a lineup upgrade compared to his supporting cast in San Diego. I have always valued the younger Upton's season to season consistency, and that's why he has been a member of many of my fantasy squads over the years. But in early-June, when he was batting .213 with three homers and 11 RBI, I decided that I had enough. The only problem was that he carried zero trade value unless I wanted to sell him for 20 cents on the dollar. I had no choice but to keep him, and I'm glad I did. The .295 OBP is disappointing, but with three weeks to go, Upton is well within reach of matching or exceeding last season's 26 homers and 81 RBI.
Brandon Finnegan was a popular late-round breakout pick heading into this season, but after drafting him in the reserve rounds, the Reds southpaw resided on my bench for much of the first half. The walk rate was too high and the consistency just wasn't there. I almost dropped him on several occasions and even considered a mid-season trade offer of five FAAB bucks for Finnegan's services. My counteroffer of Finnegan for 20 FAAB dollars was rejected, and that was the end of that. In seven starts since the beginning of August, the 23-year-old has registered a 2.76 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Also of note is that his strikeout rate has increased from 6.5 K/9 in the first half to 9.3 K/9 in the second half. Finnegan has found a home in my starting lineup, and there's a good chance he will remain there through the end of the season.
We waited and waited and waited some more for Trea Turner to make his 2016 big league debut. During this time, I got tired of waiting and offered Turner along with Trevor Plouffe to Fred Zinkie for Lucas Duda and Alcides Escobar. My offer was rejected. Phew. Finally, Turner was called up by the Nationals. The date was June 3rd, and in his first start of the season, he went 3-for-3 with a double and a walk. A few days later, he was back in Triple-A. Nats fans and fantasy owners were furious. This made no sense. Turner would not return to the big club until early-July, at which time Manager Dusty Baker, in response to questions about Turner's lack of playing time, pointed out that "This isn't a tryout camp." Huh? The speedster had nothing left to prove in the Minors. All he needed was regular at-bats. It all worked out in the end, with Turner learning the centerfield position, which turned out to be his ticket to everyday playing time. He's now my third-most valuable hitter, behind only Jose Altuve and Edwin Encarnacion. The wait was well worth it.
Now excuse me while I check the standings.