April 30, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
Make That Trade
One of the most common pieces of advice at this early juncture of the fantasy baseball season is to be patient. While this is very wise, we’re often told that, as part of being patient, we shouldn’t make any trades until a certain point—the middle of May, the start of June, whenever. This, however, is a piece of advice I strongly disagree with.
This piece of advice usually comes with one of two explanations. The first is that you should wait a while to see how your players perform before you decide to trade them. But this line of reasoning is flawed. If you wait to make trades for this reason, one of two things will happen: your player will play well (so why would you trade him?) or your player will play poorly (so who would want to trade for him?). Waiting for this reason accomplishes nothing except getting games in the books, all the while passing up opportunities to improve your team.
The second explanation some give for the “wait to make trades advice” is that, in April, we’re not very far removed from the draft. If you liked a player more than everyone else on draft day, why should you expect that to be any different now? This one seems to make sense, but I still disagree. The dynamics of a draft (and auctions even more so) sometimes do align such that the owner who likes a player most does not get the player. For example, I can pretty much guarantee you that I liked Chipper Jones more than anyone else in LABR NL, but he didn’t end up on my team because I filled my 3B spot too early by price-enforcing on Ian Stewart (I believed I got a discount on Stewart, but not as big of a discount as I would have on Jones). Even in a draft, this kind of thing can happen; I may value a player as a fifth-rounder but, seeing that his ADP is as a 12th-rounder, wait until the 10th round to take him. If someone else grabs him in round nine, though, I don’t get my guy
Not only might you be able to justify making trades early, but I would contend that April and May are, in fact, the best time to make trades (especially if you’re in a league with weaker players). As I discussed in regard to FAAB budgeting, the earlier you make a move that stands to benefit your team, the larger the benefit will be. The longer a good player is on your roster, the more of his stats you’ll get!
Additionally, at no point in the season will a player’s stat line be further removed from the stat line he’ll finish September with than at the start of the year. Because we’re dealing with small sample sizes, a guy could be playing poorly due to nothing more than random variation, due to nothing more than luck. When this happens, fantasy owners tend to panic. They wonder if something is wrong. They wonder if the player is going to be this year’s Adam Dunn. The truth of the matter is, though, for every one Adam Dunn, there are dozens and dozens of Carlos Gonzalez’s who have a bad April and then are completely fine. The savvy fantasy owner will realize this and take advantage of the weaker owners who are going to panic about their underperforming players. The savvy fantasy owner is going to go out and swing a deal for Zack Greinke or Tim Lincecum or Adam Wainwright and will likely find himself acquiring a May-to-September ace for a fraction of the sticker price.
So while some may warn you against making trades this early—You don’t have enough information! What if you make a trade you regret?!—I don’t hesitate. We’ll never have perfect information, and our projections in April are going to be just about as accurate as our projections in August. If you can acquire extra value in April, why not do it? Your chances of swinging a lop-sided deal will never be greater.