ROTISSERIE: NL-TOUT—Trading Aces

Like many “expert” leagues, there’s generally been little trading over the years in Tout Wars, particularly in its "Only" leagues. I’ve been in the NL-only league going on 15 years, and in many seasons there has only been a couple of trades all year.  So it was not surprising to me that Lenny Melnick decided to use his trading partner—that would be me—to announce a major trade on his Sunday morning radio show. After all, it’s not all that often that a top starter has been traded in the NL-only league, let alone two aces in one deal. So Lenny wanted to proudly announce his acquisition of both Zack Greinke and Stephen Strasburg (as well as Jose Reyes) in exchange for Javier Baez, Eugenio Suarez, and Ian Desmond.

On the surface, the deal may seem nuts from my side. Yet, the reaction of some of my long-time foes has been positive. One owner called it a bold move and something he should consider (although he added he couldn’t bring himself to trade two top guys). Todd Zola in his FAAB review at www.toutwars.com sent kudos to both owners. And Mike Gianella wrote at Baseball Prospectus that he thought the trade made more sense from my side of the deal. Below I lay out the background and genesis of the trade to let you decide.

Two months ago, I walked out of the Tout Wars draft feeling pretty good about my team. My goal had been to spend more on hitting than my competitors and acquire two aces for my pitching staff even though that likely meant that the rest of the staff would be unproven (or worse). I did indeed spend the most money on hitting (although ironically Lenny matched me), I did acquire Strasburg and Greinke, and I didn’t have much pitching—at least on paper—beyond those two. Onroto.com, which hosts the Tout Wars league, projected my squad to have the best offense in the league.

Fast forward to last week. My pitching had been excellent, accumulating mid-40s points out of a possible 60. This was in part because some of the draft picks—Amir Garrett, Ross Stripling, Tyler Glasnow among others—had pitched much better than expected. Similarly I’d made some savvy free agent acquisitions, including Luiz Gohara, Robert Gsellman, and Andrew Suarez, at very little cost.

On the other side of the coin, my offensive production wasn’t good enough to say it was struggling. A couple of my players had missed much of the season; several more have missed all season. I also had a few players hitting below the Mendoza line. The situation was so bad that despite the lack of production, I had taken advantage of Tout Wars’ swingman rule and elected to go with a tenth pitcher rather than a fourteenth hitter because said hitter would likely do more damage than good. Indeed, late last week, I had a grand total of 11 hitting points and more than half of those were coming from OBP. In every counting category, I was either last or next to last.

My fear at this point was that even if my offense started to turn around in the next few weeks, that I would be so far behind the the rest of the league in the counting categories that I’d never catch up. That meant if I were going to make a move, I needed to do it sooner rather than later.

I did not, however, set out to trade both aces. Instead I simply let it be known that I was willing to trade either Greinke or Strasburg for hitting. To say the response was tepid is to exaggerate the response, and that goes back to my initial point that trading just doesn’t happen that much in this league. Gianella did say he was interested, but when I suggested a name, his response was crickets. Then Lenny chimed in and said he was interested, but he wanted both. That stopped me in my tracks—for an hour or two.

First I evaluated my pitching staff and noted that I now had a few decent starters, as well as three long relievers pitching very well and likely to get some starts before the season was over. I also checked how many innings my team had thrown. Even though the baseball season is at the quarter mark, my team had already accumulated approximately 40% of the 950 innings minimum required for the NL-only league. I was second or third in both ERA and WHIP and felt that it was possible that I would be able manipulate my weekly roster in an effort to avoid bad outings and maintain that standing (or at least not lose too much ground in those categories). Wins would suffer and probably strikeouts as well, but I thought I could finish with a total of pitching points in the mid-30s. It’s also a truism that in leagues with deep player pool penetration, such as Tout Wars’ "Only" leagues, it’s often easier to find pitching than hitting during the year. That makes the mid-30s goal at least plausible.

On the hitting side, a roster that had three or four cyphers was suddenly solid at just about every position. There’s 75% of the season left, and at this point, I’m still close enough to the pack in the counting categories that I should be able to make up ground and perhaps even approach 50 points in hitting.

Right now first place is sitting at 84 total points. There are a lot of "if"s in the last couple of paragraphs, but if most of them come to pass, I’ve got a fighter’s chance in the league. I’ve got to believe that’s better than sitting quietly in the bottom of the standings, waiting for lightning to strike.

What does this mean for you? Patience is wonderful, but especially in a redraft league, you have to make sure that you don’t lose touch with the pack. Sometimes that means gambling, but if you’re in next-to-last place in late May, gambling might be a better option than sitting on your hands. Agree? Or should I be calling my doctor? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.