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Monday 16th Oct 2017

You have probably read about challenge trades over the years – deals in which the two trade partners offer up players of comparable value, perhaps even at the same position. The hope on both sides is that the new team can maximize the potential of its new player and prosper as a result.

Though it is probably less common in fantasy baseball, I just executed a challenge trade with Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN in National League Tout Wars - my Dee Gordon for his Matt Carpenter. Both qualify at second base, though the Cardinal also has eligibility at first and third.

Here is how and why the swap came about.

Back in March, I had an imbalanced draft and with time getting short in the season, I need to try to recover. There are two key problem areas with my roster.

I had over-emphasized stolen bases and now that we are four months into the schedule, I have established a huge lead in the category. How huge, you ask? Currently, I have 17 more stolen bases than the second-place team and a whopping 39 bags more than the team with the third-most steals. As we all know, winning any category by a country mile is a really bad idea, as a huge edge provides no more points in the standings than winning by one.

As you might guess, my roster has multiple stolen base threats, but the headliner is clearly Gordon. The Marlins’ leadoff man has swiped a total of 38 already this season. Only Billy Hamilton has more in the NL.

My other problem is at the opposite end of the scale. My team is dead last in on-base percentage, but is not without hope. I have the potential to pick up two points quickly and another two reasonably within sight – if I can get some help.

Though Gordon has improved his OBP recently, his .341 mark is not his strength. Nor is it embarrassing, as a team of Gordons would be a very respectable fifth in NL Tout in the category.

Still, Gordon is no Carpenter. St. Louis’ first sacker is 16th in the Senior Circuit in OBP at .378 this year, within three points of his career mark. Mr. Consistency’s OBP in the second half to date is .377, compared to .378 before.

The deal aligns perfectly in terms of value, as well. According to Todd Zola’s rest-of-season projections - part of the Mastersball Platinum package – in a 5x5 OBP league, Carpenter is worth $25, with Gordon right behind at $24.

However, I did not target Carpenter. I let him come to me.

I began my trade efforts with a broadcast e-mail to the league that generated zero responses. My excuse for such boorish behavior is that I have been extraordinarily busy the last 60 days. But still, I probably got what I deserved.

When I had a few moments, I reviewed the league standings and looked for a team that was still competitive and that could benefit from a shot of stolen bases.

Cockcroft jumped off the page for those two reasons and another.

Tristan is in second place, but needs to make up 18 points to pass the current leader. With just six more bags – the same total as Gordon has swiped in the last two weeks alone – Cockcroft could pick up three very quick points.

Even better is that Tristan was in the same imbalance situation as me, except in his case, his surplus was in OBP. His total of .359 is a whopping 11 points ahead of the next-closest team. Considering we are two-thirds of the way through the season, that represents a clear area of strength from which to trade.

In the standings, Cockcroft would have to lose 14 1/2 points just to fall into third from second place, so why not take a shot at a trade to try to close the gap? After all, no one remembers who comes in third vs. second, anyway.

The potential benefit for me would be to solidify my spot in fourth, just ahead of a pack of league mates, and with some good luck, slip into third. I know. I just said no one remembers, but to me, it still matters.

When our talks were still in their infancy, Cockcroft identified infield as the area on his roster from which he wanted to trade. Carpenter jumped off the page as the perfect fit. Once Tristan evaluated my offer from all angles, he agreed.

We will see if this is enough to help Cockcroft win the league and for me to hold off the others for fourth, or perhaps even slip into third. But it is clear that at least on paper, this deal works for both owners - by subtracting from a clear area of excess and enhancing a category where leverage to improve exists.

When evaluating your leagues for trade partners and player targets, look for this kind of ideal match. Once you do, do not be afraid to go for it, with a clear and honest explanation why you see it could be good for both owners. And good luck to you in your trade efforts the rest of the way!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-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. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

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