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Charging the Mound: Who Should Sell?

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 6:22pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Charging

Chris, I'm getting impatient. Here it is, June 28, and we still haven't had a significant major league trade. I understand that teams want to make sure that they are either sellers or buyers before acting, but seriously, by not trading by now many teams are minimizing the impact any possible trade might have. I get why we haven't had a CC Sabathia-like blockbuster deal yet, but there's just been nothing so far. Am I off in expecting trades to start happening now? Or has the wild card pushed enough teams towards thinking that they're competitors for longer, taking all the inventory off the market? Right now teams that nominally looked like sellers at the deadline are hovering around .500 or better, like the Indians (41-36), Mariners (39-40, just two games behind the Rangers), Nationals (40-39), Pirates (39-38, four games out in the NL Central) and Diamondbacks (43-37, two games behind the Giants in the NL West). Maybe one of those teams might end up selling, but the Indians and D-Backs might actually go in the opposite direction at the deadline.

Anyhow, I thought I'd go through which teams are definitely sellers and which players might make for good trade targets, just to see if we can do some planning in advance on their potential replacements or changes in value occurring because of a potential trade. Hopefully this can become a useful exercise.


And immediately, I can see teams that *should* sell, but I don't know if they really will.

Baltimore - The Orioles made a big push as a win-now team, signing Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, trading for Mark Reynolds, among other things. But really, what sort of chance is there that the O's actually decide that they're better off selling, and what exactly do they have to offer that's really expendable? Who is going to trade for Lee or Guerrero or a banged up Luke Scott? J.J. Hardy would be attractive, but (a) he's only 28 and (b) isn't that expensive. Factor in how long it's taken the Orioles to find a shortstop post-Cal that can hit a lick, and I can see why they wouldn't trade him, unless they're absolutely convinced that they can't re-sign him (and he might even be under organizational control for one more year). Jeremy Guthrie might be a guy that they could deal, if they want to go in that direction. This isn't a bad team, but they're stuck in the wrong division. As you and I talked about Monday on the show, their chance of making the playoffs this year is laughably low, probably as low as 1%.

Kansas City - Joakim Soria can and arguably should be dealt. He's locked into potentially three more years contractually, with club options for each of those years. Since a brief hiatus from the closer's job, Soria has been nearly perfect, having not allowed a run in 12 innings this month. But relievers don't last forever, and the Royals don't need an elite closer right now, even with so much talent coming through the system. They should peddle him aggressively.

Minnesota - Again, I don't think the Twins will sell off - they were viewed as contenders coming in, had a ton of bad luck with injuries, and still draw huge crowds in a new stadium. Plus, the division leaders in the AL Central aren't all that strong. But I would explore seeing what Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps might fetch.

Oakland - Though the A's are only six games out, they're nine games under .500 and their hitting is still pretty much a nightmare. Making the problem worse is that they've had a lot of trouble developing hitting prospects, be it their own or those they traded for in previous deadline deals. In theory they should be sellers, but they have an inventory problem. Josh Willingham or Coco Crisp might fetch some interest, and maybe a reliever like Grant Balfour could too. But there's not many big names worth pursuing.


There's more to work with in the National League, at least. Even though Pittsburgh and Washington aren't givens at this point, they could join the list in the next few weeks.

New York Mets - The Mets have the best talent to trade, with Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez all hanging out there as possibilities. They also have a new front office, so there's not a Jim Hendry problem - a general manager trying to save his own skin and thus refusing to give up on his season. Reyes will be their toughest decision - can they get enough in a trade to forego the draft pick compensation they'd get if he signs elsewhere as a free agent. They still also might be able to sign him in the offseason. But Beltran and especially K-Rod should be as good as gone.

Florida - I still don't get why the Marlins collapsed like they did, but now that they have, it's going to be nearly impossible for them to climb back out in the NL East. I'd make Leo Nunez available, and I think of peddling "King of xFIP" Ricky Nolasco just to see if his name carries a lot of value to some saber-friendly organizations. If Hanley Ramirez started hitting, would you think about trading him if you're the Marlins? Or is there no way for them to get full value for him at this point?

Chicago Cubs - They really need to de-Hendry themselves first, but it's time to tear this team apart for good. Alfonso Soriano appears untradeable (though if Toronto could find a taker for Vernon Wells' contract, anything is possible), but what about Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Pena or Aramis Ramirez? Under the theory that you should trade your relievers at peak value, I'd consider seeing what I could get for either Carlos Marmol or Sean Marshall, too.

Houston Astros - I doubt that they can rid themselves of Carlos Lee's contract, but they should at least try. Otherwise, the only guy that fits the nexus of "desirable" and "expendable" could be Wandy Rodriguez.

Los Angeles Dodgers - I wonder if their financial situation is going to create a fire sale of some sorts somewhere down the line? I doubt it happens in-season, but both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are about to become a lot more expensive - their two-year deals expire after this year, and while they'll be arbitration-eligible again, it's going to be a lot more costly to keep them, and I doubt that they'll be able to get the two players to sign long-term deals. I could see Ted Lilly getting traded midseason again, and the same with Hiroki Kuroda. Maybe another team will want to give James Loney a change of scenery to see if it works out - it might even work.

San Diego Padres - The Padres have already been willing to trade relievers at their peak, so it's likely that they do it again with either Heath Bell or Mike Adams. Bell has talked about wanting to stay in San Diego, but if real talent is being offered up for him, I don't see how the Padres can pass it up. Given that the Pirates' and Nats' relievers might not be on the market, the Padres are sitting in a pretty good trading position.

Did I miss anyone? Is there a team that's not on the list but should be there, or vice-versa? Who else should we think about getting traded?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 3:04am
To: "Jeff Erickson"
Subject: Charging

I like that there haven't been any trades. After all, I've spent most of my FAAB in AL LABR and NL Tout, so the longer all the savers have to wait the better. I don't have much to add to your list anyway except that maybe I'd sit on Joe Nathan, Mike Adams and maybe Aaron Crow in mixed leagues, as closers and closers-in-waiting are the only players whose values are likely to change substantially. If the Cubs move Carlos Pena, does Tyler Colvin or Jeff Baker move the needle outside of an NL-only league? If Hanley Ramirez is traded for some Giants prospects, I don't see anyone's value changing there, either. There are some cases where players will lose jobs or inherit them, but it's usually some young player that might or might not do anything who gets the job, and some marginal veteran who loses out. Plus, we really don't know who will get traded for a variety of reasons, one of which will have to do with injuries. Maybe the Giants acquire a catcher, something that would have made no sense six weeks ago, and four weeks from now, there will be new injury scenarios. Or maybe as you pointed out, some GMs will want to win 80 games to save their jobs and only pretend to bargain seriously.

So the best policy is simply to stockpile useful real-life (or fantasy) players who are cheaper than they should be due to underuse and hope that injuries, trades or a hot streak frees them up. For example, in AL LABR I had Tom Trudeau throw in Edwin Encarnacion in a deal a few weeks ago, and so far he's hit a few homers as Brett Lawrie got hurt at Triple-A, and Rajai Davis and Jayson Nix slumped out of the everyday lineup. I've also been trying to offer some players to Steve Gardner for Chone Figgins in that same league. In a mixed league, you probably have to aim higher with players who could be good like Mat Latos or Alex Rios but for some reason are still struggling.

One potential trade I'm concerned about is the Yankees dealing for K-Rod, who apparently and inexplicably is willing to consider moving into a setup role even if it costs him a guaranteed payday of $17.5 million next year. I'm hoping greed trumps the desire for a championship there. I don't think he's really going to turn down that money any more than Dudley Moore was going to turn down his inheritance when he married Liza Minelli in "Arthur". I'm sure K-Rod will say to his family (or agent): "Of course I took the money. I'm not crazy!"

In any event, I made a list of players I think you can buy dirt cheap that could return good value in the second half. Anyone else you'd like to add to it due to potential trades, injuries or simple variance?

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 8:44pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: RE: Charging

True, from a self-interest point it definitely benefits me that there haven't been any major trades, and I certainly hope that there aren't many players coming from the NL to the AL, as I've spent more FAAB money than most in my two AL-only leagues. I'm definitely a proponent of spending your FAAB money early, particularly when the available player pool is really thin like it is in Tout or LABR. I'd rather have five months of play from a $10 guy than wait and hope that a $30 guy comes over for the last two months (and that I get him, and that he stays healthy). So yeah, from a self-interest standpoint, I should like the lack of trades.

But as a fan, and especially as a writer/commentator, I love the chaos that these trades create. I want more action, more players becoming viable because of the trades and more material to cover. Hopefully we'll get some of that before the All-Star break.

I like the "stockpile" idea - it's that level of player that's going to be available either cheaply in our "only" leagues, or even free in mixed leagues, as Encarnacion was for me in Yahoo Friends & Family. He folds in nicely with your buy lowest theme.

I'll add three more names to the list:

Ubaldo Jimenez - There's still time to buy him, thanks to his poor record at home in Coors Field, but I doubled my bets on him this week in a dump trade in my NL keeper league, where he was part of a package I got in exchange for a $5 Andrew McCutchen (I also got Carlos Beltran, Shane Victorino and Mark Melancon, none at keeper-worthy prices, in the deal). The control is still a problem for him, but he's showing some signs of improvement in that respect, to go along with an improved strikeout rate.

Ted Lilly - There's very little different in the statistical profile for Lilly between this year and last, but for his home run rate. The velocity is the same, as his G/F rate. He's a pitcher that gives up a lot of fly balls, I suppose he's more prone to variance in the HR/FB rate than others, but I would be willing to bet on a second-half recovery.

Casey McGehee - McGehee's pounding the ball into the ground right now, to the tune of a .595 OPS and just four homers on the year. But why would he be doing that? Unless there's an injury, isn't it more likely that he'll start elevating the ball again? I think he's the NL version of Encarnacion - a guy that could hit 10-15 homers over the second half and is freely available in mixed leagues.

Finally, what do you make of David Freese, who just came off the DL? I think he's pretty interesting, given the dearth of good third basemen out there.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 9:35pm
Subject: Re: Charging

I like Lilly the best of those three to bounce back to previous levels. Jimenez will be fine, but his price tag is still going to be higher in most formats, and I'm not sure what McGehee's shelf life is in the league.

As for trades providing more action, I hear you. I'm tempted to start marginal pitchers in Y!F&F some days just to have some (I've given in a few times - successfully with Vance Worley and Chris Capuano, and also painfully with Rick Porcello and Jeff Niemann). But the best trades - the ones that produce the most action - are the most unexpected. No one will be surprised if Heath Bell goes to the Yankees, or Carlos Pena winds up on some AL contender. But if Joe Mauer winds up on the Yankees, that would be seriously jarring. I don't know whether he has a no-trade clause, but that contract is a real burden for the Twins, given the health risk, and the Yanks could use him at DH this year and catcher/left field in the future. That trade almost certainly won't happen, but once in a while there's a shocker, and those are the only ones I really care about.

As for David Freese, he could be useful - hit for a little power without hurting your average. But good Triple-A numbers in your mid-to-late 20s don't necessarily portend serious major-league success. He didn't show much power last year at age 27, and his park is poor. I'd take a flier on him, but my expectations would be pretty low.