ASK ROTOMAN: Four-Letter Players Starting With C

Dear Rotoman:

I’m in a points league, head-to-head just like fantasy football. Pitchers obviously get you more points, but would you trade away Cano to get Cain? I’m on the fence on this one.

“Tough Cs”

Dear TC:

The only way to give you a definitive answer is to understand how points are scored in your league and what the roster requirements are for your team.

But I can say that, just like in fantasy football, the gross number of points isn’t the important thing. Quarterbacks generally score more points than other positions, but the difference between the average QB and the replacement QB is generally less than the difference between the average RB and the the replacement RB.

You have the same issue here. What you have to determine is how many more points Matt Cain will score versus the pitcher who takes his place, then compare that to the difference between Robinson Cano and the second baseman who would replace him.

Without knowing your league settings I can’t tell you who rates better. And without knowing the makeup of your team (do you have a strong squad of hitters now, so you can afford to take a little hit to improve your pitching staff) it’s equally difficult to give you a definitive answer. But if you think about it this way I suspect an answer will become quickly obvious (or this really is a close call).

Until then, I’ll say: Cano.

Sincerely,
Rotoman

Bonus Link: My friend Todd Zola has written the primer-to-end-all-primers on Head to Head Points over at ESPN. It looks like you need to be an Insider, but I include it here in case you are an Insider, or maybe you don’t need to be.

The Mike Napoli Problem

My take on The Worst Trade in the World Ever was that clearly the Angels’ motivation was to get rid of Mike Napoli, who everyone acknowledges is a bad catcher and a somewhat limited hitter against right-handed pitchers. These are not insignificant problems for a player who, though he hits well for a catcher, is not nearly so good for a first baseman or DH.

The Angels also as well as upgrade the aging and unreliable Juan Rivera in the outfield.

This isn’t to excuse the Angels’ side of this. It’s near impossible to imagine that if they had insisted that the Blue Jays throw in, say, $10M (or heck, $25M) along with Vernon Wells for Napoli and Juan Rivera, that the Jays wouldn’t have gone for it. But I think it’s worth noting that Napoli was unlikely to be a positve force this year on the Angels because Mike Scioscia wasn’t going to let him catch, he wasn’t going to displace Kendry Morales at first base, and the Angels needed room for Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter to DH a fair amount.

The Jays’ subsequent dumping of Napoli on the Rangers is further evidence of that. Johan Keri tries to argue that this is a good trade for both sides, but his reasoning is a little mushy, even if you follow his own argument. It’s really more like a shuffling of resources and money, to which both teams find some appeal.

Napoli’s role on the Rangers, apart from injury, appears to be about 200 AB vs. left-handers while platooning at first base with Mitch Moreland, and an occasional turns behind the plate and at DH. The Rangers signed a catching regular (Yorvit Torrealba) in the offseason, and according to Keri the Rangers’ braintrust likes good defensive catchers (like backup Matt Treanor). With DH filled by Michael Young, there aren’t that many additional at bats to be had for Napoli with the Rangers unless Moreland fails or there is an injury.

But there may well be more than he would have had with the Jays. Not only is Toronto committed to JP Arencibia this year at catcher, but they have Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind at 1B and DH. The marginal advantage of Napoli over any of them, especially given his defensive limitations at catcher, was small, and now he’s gone.

The point here isn’t that Napoli is a waste, but rather that despite his admirable and somewhat overlooked offensive skills, as a complete player he clearly isn’t a valued commodity. His poor defense reduces his marginal value substantially at catcher, and he doesn’t hit enough to be a regular first baseman. With a price of somewhere around $5-$6M this year he’s an expensive platoonist versus lefties. It seems the Rangers recognize that and are willing to pay.

So were the Angels, in their own way.

The Players Who Weren’t Traded

I don’t know about you, but I spent the last few days leading up to the interleague trade deadline clicking on the excellent mlbtraderumors.com. And even now that the deadline has past and the smoke (Smoak) has cleared, they’re still relevant and worth checking out.

This post about the players who weren’t traded is full of useful information, but none more so than the list of players who cleared waivers in August last year and changed teams. If you weren’t in the best position to cash in on the semi blue chippers who just changed leagues, have hope. If the past is prelude, there is more yet to come.

Nando DiFino’s Trade Offer

Nando finds himself with four closers in Tout Wars Mixed, and needs a starter. So what does he do? He makes a video…

“Holding out for a Starter” from Nando on Vimeo.

Joe Sheehan on a Righteous Three-way Deal

Baseball Prospectus (free)

Maybe it would be better if the lives of trees were at stake (he goes on a little) but this is an excellent analysis of the Sox-Bucs-Dodgers deal yesterday. Maybe it’s that there’s nothing mind-blowingly original (Epstein good, Coletti bad), but every point is made clearly and in a larger context. Maybe it’s that he ends on a somewhat confessional insidery note. This is a solid piece of work worth reading.

Peter O’Neil: Etiquette!

TRADING ETIQUETTE

By PETER O’NEIL

As a father of three children between ages 11 and six I probably spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with manners: “Devin, elbows off the table please.” “McKenzie, don’t talk with your mouth full.” “Will, stop firing your Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast gun in Aunt Ruthie’s ear.”

So I’m particularly conscious these days of the social interactions surrounding trade negotiations.

Trading is at its best when you are honestly sharing ideas and information, keeping doors open, testing bottom lines, and finding the best deal that leaves both sides happy. In my experience this never happens if an owner involved in the negotiations is quick to spit venom at the first sign of a so-called “insulting” offer, or simply ignores e-mailed suggestions he doesn’t find appealing. Why even consider making offers to people like that?

I’m far from perfect on this front, but after giving this matter some thought I’ve come up with some dos and don’ts that I think make trade talks pleasant and build, rather than raze, bridges.

DO:

*No one likes the silent treatment. Try to respond promptly to a trade offer or e-mail query, even if it’s just a “thanks for the offer/idea but no thanks.” It’s pretty frustrating going to the trouble of putting together an offer, developing a rationale, and have it sit in someone’s in-basket for a week or longer. I know of someone who forgot about an offer he made in that situation, and it was finally accepted after the player he sought went on the disabled list. Now that’s both rude and unethical.

I realize some people will pester others with offers and not take no for an answer. A firm “thanks but I’m not interested” should be applied, and after that it makes total sense to ignore further contact.

*Throw in a few pleases and lots of thank-yous, the latter even if you get what you perceive to be a low-ball offer. “Thanks for this! I don’t think that would work for me, I’m not really a fan of Kevin Millwood and I’m pretty attached to King Felix, but when you’re ready to part with Peavy let’s talk.”

It might turn your stomach to laugh off a ridiculous offer but you only catch fish if some of them are nibbling.

*Conversely, try to respect your league-mates by doing your best to make sure the offer doesn’t insult the other person’s intelligence. Remember, even if they accept a low-ball deal the long-term impact could be negative, because if that person is burned they’ll be twice-shy. The other downside, of course, is they start to mistrust your offers even when they are legit.

I have some friends who say that respect means you should never make an offer without providing meticulous research to prove the deal is beneficial to the other guy. But in this era when everyone’s hyper-busy that’s not always realistic. It might be fairer to say: “Sorry, I’m busy, not sure if you want a steals guy and no time to check, but if you have a need for speed B.J. Upton is available for power.” The other guy doesn’t have to do any research at all to simply bang out on the keyboard “yes” or “no.”

*Respect confidences and privacy. It’s not ethical in my opinion to take elements of a private trade discussion public on a league forum without the permission of the other person.

DON’T:

*Say anything in trade discussions you wouldn’t say at a social event with acquaintances. For instance, calling an offer ridiculous or absurd is inflammatory, insulting and counterproductive. Maybe you think the insult is just, but if you want to trade with that person again why would you alienate them? And trust me, word will get around if you are abusive and others won’t want to deal with you either.

I received a very reasonable offer from someone this year, delivered politely, and I said no. He asked for a counter but I just didn’t have the stomach to offer one. Why? Last year he called an offer I made ridiculous and when I objected to his tone he said something along the lines of: “This isn’t a tea party, you know.” Well, he may think a fantasy baseball league encounter is the equivalent of a longshoremens’ night out at the local pub, but that’s not my style. I face enough stress, and challenging people, in my day job.

*Assume the person making what seems to be an obvious low-ball offer knows it’s a low-ball offer. It’s very hard to be objective about your own players. You follow a player through his minor league career and pick him in the March draft, he hits .340 in April with six home runs, you’re giddy as heck, feel like a genius, and suddenly notice an established player is hitting .196 in April with two rbis, and has a bothersome hammy. You listen to experts constantly chanting the mantra “buy low, sell high,” so you make an offer legitimately believing it’s fair, and then you get a response a treats it like a slap in the face. I remember touting Jeff Hamilton last year in late April and I got heckled a fair bit, but I legitimately believed I’d struck gold. I think his performance since then has proven that, when healthy, this guy is a stud. But when I flogged him in early-2007 trade talks some of my leaguemates treated me like a snake oil salesman.

Last year I broke my own rule and responded to an offer by saying something along the lines of, “Please be serious.” I had dangled the league’s best closer, looking for a starter, and was offered a rookie pitcher with a 5.00-plus era. But I think I let my disappointment over the lack of decent offers from others get the best of me, and I took out my frustrations on this poor guy. Maybe he’s in keeper leagues where this phenom is considered gold, and perhaps he actually thought the kid was about to have a huge second half. I felt badly, as the guy did take offence, and I think I unnecessarily burned a bridge.

*Harass or argue with someone who turns you down, unless they say something that you believe is fundamentally incorrect. Even then it’s probably best to begin with: “I realize we aren’t going to do this deal but I just wanted to point out that I think you are underestimating my player’s value because of…”

*Don’t always ask for offers without coming up with your own. Do some legwork yourself. I was in a league with a guy with the attention span of a three-year-old who would break most of the aforementioned rules. He’d post on the forum: “Offers! Where are my offers? C’mon guys, I need to make a move.” And when we actually sent him offers, by email or even by phone, he didn’t even respond.

To sum up, be polite and respectful, and don’t abuse the anonymity the internet age provides you. Pretend an e-mail is a phone call, and an actual exchange is a live conversation. Ask yourself: “Is this something I’d say face-to-face?” AND, most important, remember that no one views players exactly the way you do.

-30-

(Peter O¹Neil, who covers Europe from Paris for a Canadian news agency, is a
former stock market columnist for the Financial Times of Canada. He won the
2007 Rotoman¹s Regulars non-keeper title and is multiple winner of the Brian
Baskin¹s Fantasy Baseball League based in Ottawa.)

The Myth of Buy Low, Sell High by Peter O’Neil

(Peter O’Neil will be contributing fantasy baseball columns from time to time.)

In early May fantasy guru Ron Shandler published a list of 10 hot starters, among them Fred Lewis and Kyle Lohse, and proposed trading them for another 10 out-of-the-gate stumblers. That list included fantasy favorites Robinson Cano and Roy Oswalt.

“I am trading away 28 HRs and a .355 batting average for 8 HRs and a .172 batting average. Heading out is a 1.94 ERA; coming in is a 5.61 ERA. I’d have to be completely out of my mind, right?” Shandler wrote on his baseballhq.com site.

“We’ll check back in October.”

The point of this column was to wisely and usefully stress the importance of being patient with slow starters. He was also urging subscribers to follow the old stock market adage: Buy low, sell high, which he said is not something “that fantasy leaguers do easily.”

Really? As an owner of red-hot Fred Lewis at the time, I began a thread on his website¹s forum under the title of this column ­ The Myth of Buy Low, Sell High.

“I can’t count how many times in the last two weeks I’ve floated Lewis’s name in trade talks. Zero interest. If anyone took him it would be as a throw-in,” I wrote.

“You regularly see on this and other sites a reference to a player: Sell high; to another, Buy low.
But where are all the guys doing these deals? It reminds me of a saying from high school I once heard: Everyone is getting laid except the girls. In my experience these trades almost never happen. And when they do, and the results are as predicted, that newby has learned his lesson and never does it again. The shark who pulled off the heist gets a bad reputation and it
becomes harder and harder for him to make deals.

“So in fact I suspect that at minimum nine owners out of 10 would take the team of established stars, like Oswalt and Cano, over the other list.”

The debate began with someone helpfully explaining that curious imbalance I noted involving high school boys and girls: “Guys were getting sex hand over fist.”

As the debate turned more serious, several agreed with my point. The classic buy-low, sell-high trade “still doesn’t happen in my league. Ever,” one poster wrote.

“Candidates you think you can ‘sell high’ are perceived by everyone else as players that will revert to their original projections. Candidates you think you can ‘buy low’ are held by their owners because they’re just slumping.”

Another poster was one of several who argued that my basic “myth” argument was flawed.
“Nearly every day, I read of a lopsided trade completed by a poster on these forums that provides a counter-example to the notion that buy low, sell high trades are only a myth. Some of us say it isn’t happening in our leagues, but clearly it happens in many leagues.”

The last post I’ll cite came from someone who also challenged my argument, but also made the point that is fundamental in this debate. “With the internet making all sorts of secondary stats easily available as well as tons of expert analyses, owners are smarter than they have been in
the past. And most of us are hardcore-type rotogeeks who choose not to play in leagues with unsophisticated owners, anyway.”

So I considered these responses in early May as I started crafting an earlier draft of this column which led to the final product you¹re reading now. I made the point that one might have to start being counter-intuitive and contemplate taking advantage of the fact that hot starters’ values are
discounted, while the slow-starting superstars like Miguel Cabrera are always assumed to be on the verge of a huge breakout.

“If your player has started slowly, and you see a valid reason to question whether touts were right to hand him such lofty projections, it might not hurt to put feelers out that you’re ready to trade,” I wrote.

“You should have absolute faith that with quality players, the sharks will smell blood when think they have a shot at getting these players at 50 cents on the dollar. You shouldn’t sell them that low, but it may indeed be a wise move to trade at a slight discount or even no discount at all ­ particularly if it means getting back break-out player who might not turn out to be a
flop after all.”

Early in the 2007 season, when Michael Young was off to a miserable start and I was desperate for a shortstop, I offered to the owner my recently-acquired free agents who had started strong ­ Josh Hamilton and closer Al Reyes. I also gave him Juan Uribe, but he could have easily
received my struggling Troy Tulowitzki had he just asked. I was going to waive Tulo but instead, after the Young trade, dealt him for a useless middle reliever.

This was a classic buy-low (Young’s price presumably being deflated) and sell-high (I paid next to nothing for these three players). In fact, it turned out that I gave away a closer and an emerging stud OF in exchange for a modest downgrade at SS. Even then I had to twist the guy’s arm to give up Young, his third-round pick.

My point here is that even when you get someone to agree to a deal like this, you always have to discount severely the current value and future potential of your hot starters in order to overcome the overwhelming skepticism about April surprises. Everyone recognizes a buy-low, sell-high
deal and the last thing anyone wants is to be fingered by leaguemates as the Nervous Nellie who panicked and sold a costly pick to the league shark.

So you have to seriously wonder if it’s better to be on the sell-low side of the ledger sometimes. More recently I read of a sell low trade in which someone dealt slow-starting Corey Hart in early May for Casey Kotchman and George Sherrill. But did he really sell low? Hart started slowly in the power department, raising doubts about pre-season projections of a 25-25 or 30-30
season, though has recently picked up the pace. Still, I think the Hart owner got close to full value: ­ a closer and a solid emerging first baseman. Hart has only had one great season in the bigs, and the 2007 year was powered by two huge months.

Then in mid-May baseballhq.com managing editor Ray Murphy produced a column titled: Buy High, Sell Low.

“The advice is ubiquitous at this time of year, both here and at other sites: ‘He’s a good buy-low candidate.’ ‘Sell high while you can,’ Murphy wrote.

“Some would say the words have lost all meaning, as executing this strategy is now impossible in all but the most elementary of leagues,” he said, citing the thread I started.

Murphy, who had never been exposed to my unpublished argument about the potential wisdom of selling low, suggested that owners consider turning the strategy “on its ear” and went on to identify “buy high” candidates whose fast starts were indeed legitimate, including Kerry Wood. (Potentially, and this is my point rather than his, these buy-high candidates could come at a
slight discount because owners might have their own doubts about the players’ ability to sustain their current performance level.)

Murphy’s readers were also advised to consider “selling low” on some slow starters that he didn’t think have either the skills or opportunity to turn it around, like HQ spring training favorite Jason Kubel.

So is buy low, sell high really a myth? Not completely. We¹re all human, so many of us are prone to eventually getting impatient with an underperformer, making us more inclined to sell. And it’s natural to become euphoric when a sleeper pick emerges as an April-May all-star. These emotions remain dynamics in any trade considerations, just as fear and greed will always be
factors in the stock market.

But I think it’s important not to beat yourself up because a fantasy expert declares smugly that it’s too late, you¹ve missed a golden opportunity to sell high on or buy low on a particular player. Because increasingly that opportunity isn’t really there, or isn’t particularly golden if it is.

-30-

(Peter O¹Neil, who covers Europe from Paris for a Canadian news agency, is a
former stock market columnist for the Financial Times of Canada. He won the
2007 Rotoman¹s Regulars non-keeper title and is multiple winner of the Brian
Baskin¹s Fantasy Baseball Pool based in Ottawa.)

Point/Counterpoint: Johan Santana

Mets Geek

My friend Steve Hubbell and his host, John Patterson, debated on January 18th whether a Santana trade would be good for the Mets, or a disasterous miscalculation. The die is now cast, apparently, and the Mets made a slightly better deal than Patterson anticipated (Gomez not Martinez). I suspect this debate will have entertainment value for years to come. Nice job, guys.

The Official Site of The Philadelphia Phillies: Official Info: Press Release

The Iguchi Trade

The transaction deadline in Tout Wars is 5pm on Friday. The idea is to give players looking at Monday deadlines an idea of what the pros have done. And to give Nando DiFino material for his engaging ESPN.com column, Playing with the Pros.

How to determine when transactions have been made is an eternal struggle for fantasy leagues. In this case, the Phillies’ press release (linked here) is timed at 4:51 pm on Friday, nine minutes before the transaction deadline. Not one of the pros bid on Iguchi except for Major League Baseball Advanced Media employee Cory Schwartz. So, given our Vickery bidding system, his $22 bid on Iguchi becomes an uncontested $1 bid. Kudos to Cory.

If the Phillies’ press release was actually posted at 4:51, I doubt that the actual transaction was reported on the mlb.com or espn.com transaction lists, which we have used as the standard in the American Dream League. As Swatman of that league I check what’s on those two sites at noon each claims Monday and only players listed are eligible to be claimed.

But now I wonder if timestamped press releases on team’s individual sites should count? As long as the timestamp and the actual claim beat the deadline, I don’t see why not.