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June 1, 2009

Prospectus Today

Fantastic?

by Joe Sheehan

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I don't do a whole lot of fantasy-specific pieces, but when I can combine looking like an idiot, not taking my own advice, and serving as a cautionary tale for others, well, that's just some good content.

There's a principle I came around to years ago, dating back to a drawn-out negotiation in a Strat-O-Matic league that ended up—and I wish I were kidding—with one of the parties following the other back to his hotel room and pressing the point even as the first readied himself for sleep. This was over, and I really should lie about this, Damion Easley. I don't even remember if I had Easley and wouldn't give him up, or wanted Easley and wouldn't close a deal without his inclusion. I do remember how impossibly awkward it was to be all but tucked into bed, but with another person in the room trying to close a deal, apparently unaware of the ludicrousity (Monday word) of the situation.

I learned from that, first to close doors more quickly behind me, but also that when you're trying to make a trade, you don't sweat the "plus." The plus always gets you into trouble, when you worry so much about not giving up that fourth-round pick or becoming distracted by the throw-in. Swapping Carlos Beltran for Tim Lincecum is a big enough deal that if you're interested in making it, the minor details should never get in the way.

I know all this, thanks to Damion Easley, except that apparently I don't.

Hey Joe,
Hope all is well...How about Hamilton and Harrison for Murphy and Verlander?

Thanks to Mike Siano of MLB.com, I joined an AL-only keeper league, a money league, back in March. Mike was looking for dead money to fill the prize pool, and naturally landed on the guy who finished 19th in a 12-team AL-only league a year ago. I inherited a fair roster, ended up keeping the maximum of five guys, including a by-rule $11 Jason Bartlett that I wasn't happy about. I loved my team after the auction, in which I used the same strategy I'd gone into AL Tout Wars with—one closer, one starter, lots of skilled middle relievers. This is also known as "The Rafael Perez Immolation Technique," and RPIT should only be attempted by professionals.

Suffice to say I have one of the best offenses in the league, and one of the worst pitching staffs in the league. The above trade offer—I had kept Josh Hamilton and FAAB'd Matt Harrison—would rectify that to some extent. That he was offering Justin Verlander was just candy given that I had, just hours prior, filed what amounted to a mash note to Verlander for Sports Illustrated. Plus David Murphy? The only proper response to the e-mail was "I accept."

I don't mind that structure, but I don't like Murphy at all as a player—last year was a peak for him, really just a big couple of months. Is there a comparable player you could plug into that slot? Zobrist instead, perhaps?

Enter the plus. Josh Hamilton for Justin Verlander was such a good trade for me that the rest of it didn't matter one bit. He could have been offering Donnie Murphy, Billy Murphy, Dale Murphy, or the last guy cut from the Dropkick Murphys, and it would have been a good trade for me. Hamilton is overrated by dint of storyline, because his body doesn't appear to have what it takes to play regularly at a high level in the major leagues. On the day this offer was made, he ran into a wall and was removed from the game. That was May 17. I might have saved this a few days later, when Hamilton looked like he was coming around and before Verlander made his next start.

If Hamilton checks out OK and it seems as if he will I wanted to see if we can come together on an agreement... Who are some offensive players besides Zobrist that you would want to get back in a deal for Verlander?

What I should have said in reply was:

Let's just do the original deal, the two-for-two that was on the table. I don't want to get caught up in the bit parts. It's a good trade.

What I actually said was:

Might be hard to find guys who don't throw the trade out of whack. I named Zobrist since he's a part-time player, more or less, with some value. I don't want Crosby, Wigginton, or a catcher. Where does that leave us?

That was the last I heard from the other manager. A day after the above, Verlander threw six good innings against the Rangers, striking out eight and getting the win. He followed that up with seven shutout innings with six strikeouts on May 25. Hamilton rejoined the lineup May 20, even homered May 24 against the Astros, but with each passing day, it was clear that the trade was dead. The two players were going in opposite directions, with clearly divergent values, and whatever deal had been there on May 17 was long gone.

The cliché is that sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make. It takes two people to not make a trade, though, and my inability to see past David Murphy to the meat of this trade—to take the advice I've been giving for more than a decade about not sweating the plus—was the unconscionably stupid act that led to the deal not being made. Now, Hamilton has a 696 OPS since the offer hit the table and is headed for an MRI machine, while Verlander is off to his Kevin Brown-flavored career.

So I'm spending a column to make this point again. If you play fantasy baseball, if you play Strat, if you play Scoresheet, if you do anything that involves trading... remember Damion Easley. Remember David Murphy. Remember that there's no major trade worth holding up because of the secondary and tertiary players involved. Just pull the trigger, and don't sweat the small stuff. If you get too caught up in winning every fraction of a deal, you will eventually make the kind of play that costs you a league.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Trade,  David Murphy

29 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ElAngelo
(942)

Your point is correct, but it only applies in limited circumstances when you're talking stud-for-stud. If the deal is either a dump for prospects or something like Melky Cabrera & X for Andy Sonnenstine & Y, the identities X and Y definitely matter.

Jun 01, 2009 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
cbirkemeier

In which case, I wonder if the deal is even worth discussing. Seriously, is that type of trade really going to affect the standings?

Jun 02, 2009 05:00 AM
rating: 0
 
abcjr2

Particularly in a keeper league, those throw-in details can be very important.

Jun 02, 2009 09:32 AM
rating: 1
 
ElAngelo
(942)

Depends on your league. If it's a keeper league and/or a deep league, it might.

Jun 02, 2009 09:53 AM
rating: 1
 
Stinneford1

Joe - Excellent Lesson...Could not agree more.

I can't remember his name, but I do remember reading a quote from an old GM of the Phillies that basically went something like "In a trade, if you get the player you want, do the deal. Not much else matters."

Jun 01, 2009 12:27 PM
rating: 1
 
Stinneford1

wanted to add - his comment basically dealt with the same premise of "don't sweat the small stuff in the deal."

Jun 01, 2009 12:33 PM
rating: 0
 
Noel Steere
(965)

Was he the guy who dealt for Von Hayes?

Jun 01, 2009 16:30 PM
rating: 1
 
sjdiehl

Phils get - Ivan DeJesus
Cubs get - Larry Bowa and some throw in named Ryne Sandberg

Jun 02, 2009 09:50 AM
rating: 0
 
Michael
(736)

If you had counter offered by phone then you could have tried to correct the small stuff and, if that was unsuccessful, still probably gone back to the original offer and closed the deal within that same phone call.

In other words, while you drew the lesson of "don't sweat the plus" a different lesson to draw might be "if you might want to close the deal ASAP, then talk to your trading partner instead of relying on slower less immediate forms of communication."

Jun 01, 2009 12:31 PM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

I agree - never try to final a trade via e-mail. There are crucial negotitation subleties you can't detect in an e-mail.

Jun 01, 2009 17:11 PM
rating: 0
 
abcjr2

I'd also add, here, that Joe should have considered making a counterproposal that the other owner could have said yes or no to. I try not to make offers that are conditional -- you add someone to the deal and then I'll tell you if I want to agree. That's not really an offer, it's a passive aggressive way to try to invite an offer. If you want to close the deal, make an offer that only needs a yes or no to accept. It can even be "I'll offer Hamilton and X for Verlander and your choice of Zobrist or Crosby."

Jun 02, 2009 09:37 AM
rating: 2
 
dantroy

Joe, considering that I acquired Verlander as a throw-in at the end of April, I strongly disagree. Indeed, I cared about getting Verlander a lot more than the nominal top acquisition (J.J. Hardy).

Jun 01, 2009 14:14 PM
rating: 0
 
sunpar

If Verlander is a throw-in for your league, I think you could win it easily without sweating the small stuff anyway.

Jun 01, 2009 17:14 PM
rating: 4
 
dcarroll

If I understand Joe correctly, you are not in disagreement with him. If you cared that much about Verlander, then he is not a throw-in for you.

Jun 02, 2009 11:22 AM
rating: 0
 
dantroy

I think my comment would go under the category of gratuitous bragging. Clearly, there was no other point.

Jun 02, 2009 15:58 PM
rating: 0
 
strupp

So... where do I vote to give this article a thumbs up?

Prospectus Idol has made me confused.

Jun 01, 2009 14:47 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

The subscription-renewal page. :-)

Jun 01, 2009 15:19 PM
 
strupp

touche'

Still not renewing until next February or March or whenever :)

Jun 01, 2009 18:25 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

ROTFL!

Jun 01, 2009 18:46 PM
rating: -1
 
anderson721

I wonder if that "old Phillies GM" was the guy who in threw Ryne Sandberg to complete a deal...

Jun 01, 2009 16:26 PM
rating: 0
 
Steve Hild

Give him a break. He got Ivan DeJesus and unloaded Larry Bowa. What's one more little infielder to make that happen?

On the other hand, worrying about crap like that is what causes good deals to not get made.

Jun 02, 2009 07:57 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Joe, another point you could've made is that it's harder to play fantasy baseball if you're a baseball writer because you give away indications on who you do and don't find value in. I think the other owner read your article and knew a Verlander offer would entice you into getting what he wanted.

Not that the trade was lopsided, but Hamilton did threaten for the Triple Crown for half of last year. I think you would've sold low on Hamilton and bought high on Verlander (depending on the league format. I would've countered with Harrison and a lesser bat for Verlander if you needed pitching that bad.

Still, your point stands that you shouldn't let minor players deter you from a trade.

Jun 01, 2009 18:52 PM
rating: -2
 
Christopher Taylor

You still may not regret doing this deal... just sayin'. I don't think Hamilton has been proven to be "injury prone". He came back quickly from a minor injury and will rake during the summer in Texas.

Jun 01, 2009 22:53 PM
rating: -1
 
cbirkemeier

He didn't rake during the summer last year. Last year, he wilted under the summer sun. His big months were April, May, and September.

Jun 02, 2009 05:04 AM
rating: 0
 
Brian Van Dorn

I think he's referring to that one day in July where Hamilton hit, like, 17 home runs or something.

Jun 02, 2009 19:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Magnum1799

Speaking of fantasy trades, I wonder if Alyssa Milano is still thinking that she got a "sweet" deal trading Matt Holliday for Grady Sizemore now that he is most likely heading to the DL...

Jun 02, 2009 09:40 AM
rating: 2
 
Robotey

The simple wisdom of this story is undeniable. I will never forgive myself for not pulling the trigger quickly enough in a Geoff Jenkins etc. for Alfonso Soriano etc. swap 2 years ago! I held out for Lo Duca to get thrown in, and when I realized my stupiditiy so did the other owner and rescinded the offer. Soriano only hit more HR's than any other player from that point on and Jenkins..well...

Jun 02, 2009 12:41 PM
rating: 0
 
pschoenke

My rule for trades is if it looks good on first impression, take it. Give yourself 2 hours. After that the moment is gone as players play new games.

It's kind of like how Warren Buffett says he can make a decision on any deal in 24 hours. If you know the value of your own team(company) very well, it doesn't take long to know if a trade is good or not.

Jun 02, 2009 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
harpago17

For the other owner, getting hung up on the "small stuff" (in this case Zorbist) ended up saving him in the end. So the point of this article should really be that luck happens, both good and bad. Or in the words of Nuke Laloosh, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains."

Jun 03, 2009 14:21 PM
rating: 0
 
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