RotoWire Partners

Charging the Mound: The Biogenesis Edition

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-----
From: Chris Liss
Sent: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 9:47pm
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Charging - on steroids

A lot of people were cavalier in the preseason about the risk of Ryan Braun (and a few others) being suspended on account of the Biogenesis probe. I'll chalk that up to a tendency we all sometimes have to ignore things we deem unlikely to happen, even when the results would be catastrophic - and in terms of drafting a fantasy team, losing the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick for 50-100 games is about as catastrophic as it gets*.

I was arguing then - and I'd argue now - you have to price in three kinds of risk about equally: (1) Almost certain, but only modestly bad, e.g., a player like Braun missing 5-10 games per season with nagging aches and pains; (2) Somewhat likely and fairly bad, e.g., that Stephen Strasburg misses 3-5 starts with an injury; and (3) Highly unlikely, but catastrophic, e.g., Braun is suspended for at least two months and maybe four. Let's say the first scenario is 80 percent likely and costs you $3 of value, the second is 50 percent likely and costs you $5 of value and the last is 10 percent likely but costs you $25 of value. How much you discount the player is about the same in all three instances, and it might have been enough to pass on Braun at No. 3 for Robbie Cano or whoever you valued there. Even if you decided Braun was still worth it, I think you need to do the calculation or at least estimate it roughly in your head.

While it's still possible Braun gets out of it - it's not as though Biogenesis proprietor Tony Bosch, the witness against Braun, is particularly credible - we don't yet know what other evidence MLB has, or whether other Biogenesis employees would back up Bosch's story. Moreover, Braun did test positive once, and got off the hook due to a chain of custody issue, i.e., there's a good chance he really did the deed, and if so, he knows he did it, and knows there's probably evidence to that effect somewhere. At what point - especially with the Brewers out of contention - does he simply put the controversy to rest by sitting out 50 games this year and not have it linger into 2014 when the team has a fresh start. Incidentally, for a good background summary of the situation, I'd encourage anyone to read Jonah Keri's piece on it in Grantland.

The bottom line - while some are advising to trade for Braun on the cheap, I think I'd sell if the going rate is someone like Justin Upton or Jose Bautista.

* The only thing more catastrophic is "The Plan" in NL Tout where its three major pillars, Stephen Strasburg, Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper, are now all on the DL. Oddly, that team is still in fifth place.

I have to mention something about Game of Thrones this week, too. If you haven't seen it yet, don't worry, I won't give away details, but I'm still traumatized by it. Holy f***ing s***. What a great episode, though. Now they've set the precedent they might put you all in at any time, and so you can never relax.

I have to say I love my 14-team Yahoo! Friends and Family team and think it has an outside shot. Yes, this would be the team where I took Giancarlo Stanton at 1.5, Jason Heyward on the way back, the underperforming Starlin Castro in Round 3 and Aramis Ramirez (who also missed three weeks) in Round 4. I dropped Andrew Bailey for Mitchell Boggs before the season and took his worst beatings, had Roy Halladay active for all his starts except against the Cardinals (his best) and now have Carl Crawford and Jake Peavy on the DL.** I'm also in 11th place.

But after trading Ramirez for Madison Bumgarner and picking up Francisco Liriano and Julio Teheran to go along with Max Scherzer and C.C. Sabathia, I think I can get my ratios back to middle of the pack by season's end. And on offense, I have Heyward back, Josh Donaldson, Mitch Moreland, Domonic Brown, Yasiel Puig and Jurickson Profar to go along with Castro and a hopefully healthy Stanton in two weeks. It's really going to come down to those ratios and batting average because power, speed, Ks and wins are pretty strong. But aside from pulling my hair out when a starter like Peavy implodes while pitching hurt (what's with these guys - Halladay did the same thing), there's nothing more enjoyable than making a worst to first climb. I probably won't get there, obviously, but I look at this roster, see how bunched some of the categories are and honestly think it has a chance.

**I was all set to trade you Peavy for Joe Nathan but noticed Peavy had a start against the Marlins coming up, got greedy and waited. By that time you dealt Edward Mujica for Alex Cobb, and it was too late. I have much regret.

I also made a big trade in AL LABR with Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf - I gave them Miguel Gonzalez, Zach McAllister (original reserve, so you can actually play match-ups with him), Phil Hughes and Oswaldo Arcia for David Price, David Robertson, Justin Smoak and Dylan Bundy. (At the time of the deal, Bundy was meeting with James Andrews and the news turned out good the next day).

I'm pretty sure their ratios were destroyed already, so they needed wins and Ks from available regular starters, while I'm lower-middle of the pack in the standings and simply needed to make a high-upside move. I originally asked for Trevor Plouffe, but wound up with Smoak who I later realized I have no room for but I'll make another trade to fix that. Then Rick and Glenn had to drop someone to have a legal roster, so they traded me Jesse Crain for James Paxton, and I traded Derek Jeter to Steve Gardner for Andy Pettitte, to replenish my starters while I wait on Price. I hated to lose Jeter but he's likely out at least another month, and I have no idea what he'll do when he gets back. At the very least, I don't think he'll run much, and I don't know how much power's left.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Erickson
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2013 2:58am
To: Chris Liss
Subject: RE: Charging - on steroids

I agree, regardless of what you think of the merits of the case, you're burying your head in the sand if you disregard it completely. This is something I may or may not have done before. Let the reader decide. One player who did that calculation in a high-profile place was Shawn Childs in my NFBC draft - he passed on Braun at #3 (Trout and Cabrera were gone) and went with Troy Tulowitzki in that spot, which has worked out handsomely for him.

Right now is a pretty good time to kick the tires on Braun and a few other guys on this list, on both sides of the equation. Opportunities to get the better part of a bargain exist more often when there's imperfect information. If you wait until we know for sure what the verdict is going to be, it's too late. The market is going to be fully set at that point. If you think the value of Braun the rest of the way is $.85 on the dollar, then try to go out and get him at $.75 on the dollar. If you own Braun and are trying to protect a high spot in the standings, try to sell him at $.95 on the dollar. I don't own Braun anywhere, so part of me is just rooting for a big suspension and for it to come quickly, from a schadenfreude point of view. But I don't think you can pass up potential pathways to bargains.

To that end, I've offered up Alex Gordon to the Braun owner in one of my leagues - it's a 6x6 league (we add hits and holds) and he needs BA and hits. I also own Yadier Molina in that league, who I might be willing to deal if it comes to that. I think that the right price for Braun is somewhere in the 85-90 cents on the dollar range. Do you think that's about right? And do those players fit that description?

* Your NL Tout team is similar to my NL LABR team - I have nine guys on the DL there, including Stanton, Utley, J.J. Putz and Roy Halladay, but I also have some upside. Yasiel Puig was the last of my six reserve picks, and I have him active this week thanks to the near decimation of my roster. One more DL trip and I'm there! Yet I'm still in the middle of the pack overall, despite the injuries and catastrophic pitching ratios.

* I think I like that you doubled up (tripled up? quadrupled up?) on Smoak. I think that the was starting to show some signs of turning the corner before his injury, perhaps as has the rest of the Mariners offense, though maybe I'm just wish-casting. You know that one of the lesser players in that deal will turn out to be the difference - I'm just not sure which one at this point. And having the extra 1B/DH type won't be catastrophic - someone always needs a bat in that sort of league.

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Liss
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2013 3:24am
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging - on steroids

I'd deal Gordon or Molina for Braun unless I were in first with a comfortable lead and wanted to minimize my downside. I wouldn't go much higher than that, though.

I like how often Smoak is walking, though it's possible he could be doing a reverse of Dom Brown - who scrapped the walks in favor of power. But Smoak, like Brown, was a top prospect, and I'd rather stick with him too long than give up on him easily - especially when there are some positive signs. (Both his walks this year and his power numbers down the stretch last year).

Of course, that LABR trade has already gone badly for me - Rick and Glenn got Miguel Gonzalez's and Phil Hughes' excellent starts the last couple days. But we'll see what happens when Gonzalez gets vs. ANA and BOS next week.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Erickson
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2013 1:45pm
To: Chris Liss
Subject: Re: Charging - on steroids

He ended up rejecting that deal, but countered to include a swap of my Patrick Corbin for his Tommy Milone in the deal. I accepted that in part because I think I got the very best of Corbin so far this season. He's not overly dominant (61 K's in 74 IP) and pitches in a worse ballpark, albeit in the better league for pitchers. My hesitation in accepting that aspect is that he qualifies as a RP in the Yahoo system, where we run this league, and we're required to have 5 SP and 5 RP active each week. However, I just snagged Alexi Ogando in that league and he also has RP-eligibility, so he'll slot in nicely.

That LABR trade didn't turn out all badly - McAllister has already missed a start this week due to injury and has started to slow down generally, so you might have pared him off at just the right time. But I do hate seeing a former player do well for his new team right away, at least when I'm not immediately reaping the benefits from the deal myself. The best win-win trade I ever made was with Scott Pianowski this year - in a golf league! He traded me Sang-Moon Bae as the secondary part of a 2-for-2 trade, and he won in his first week. I traded him Boo Weekley as part of that deal, also the secondary part, and he won the next week! I don't think that's ever happened in the 15 years of this league.