“Small moves that might matter” is certainly a connotatively positive way of describing relatively insignificant end-of-season, keeper league, roster moves. It is also certainly a more succinct title. We could just as accurately describe these moves as small moves that will probably not matter. What exactly are these moves? They are “who to drop” decisions of little consequence that come with the nature of keeper leagues and expanded September rosters. Here is an example I am facing in my 10-team, AL-only keeper league:

I need to activate or cut an $8 Drew Pomeranz this upcoming Sunday. In order to activate Pomeranz, I would need to release one of the following players: Danny Salazar ($15) or Rubby De La Rosa ($10). None of these pitchers are likely to be keepers at their current prices. I am currently in fourth place, the last position that pays out (I would get my entrance fee back). I am about 50-50 to finish fourth or fifth, which gets the first pick in next year’s minor-league draft. (In hopes of reverse jinxing myself, there is an outside shot that I finish in sixth.) I value a fourth- or fifth-place finish equally.

Given the above, we can really see the probable insignificance of my upcoming decision. While your keeper league may have different rules that lead to different types of decisions, my hope is that we can take a quick (I’ll try) look at what factors we should be weighing when making “who to drop” decisions. But why write an article about such moves if their outcomes probably do not matter? First and honestly, there is really nothing of significance left to write about from a strategy/decision-making standpoint (the fantasy baseball offseason cannot come fast enough). Second, probably does not mean definitely; thus, these moves might have an impact and, thus again, are at least worth taking a look at. Because the potential impacts of these moves are minor, there is a good chance that we are overlooking them or not doing our due diligence in analyzing them. Given all of this, what should we be looking at? Great question, we should be looking at the following:

1. Competitive Circumstances
(I will not belabor this part because it is obvious to the point of being patronizing. I will, however, touch on it because it is the most important.) If you have something of significant value on the line and your decision can impact that result, then you should be cutting the player that least helps you in obtaining that thing of significant value. Relatedly, you want to avoid dropping a player that can be picked up by someone who is competing with you for that same thing of significant value. The biggest error I see in this situation is trying to juggle conflicting goals. If you are going for it, then sometimes you have to drop a potential future piece (maybe an $8 De La Rosa) if all of your other pieces give you a better chance at winning, even if those other pieces are not as enticing for the future. The last thing you want to do is lose in the final weeks because you got greedy holding onto future pieces.

2. Trade Value
If competitive circumstance is not a factor, the next thing we should be looking at is potential future trade value. It is important to note that trade value is not a singular trait across a league. Owners will value some players differently. Even if we do not view certain players as keepers, other owners may very well view them as such. Consequently, we want to keep the players we have the best chance of trading. (Tip: writing an article on the internet and saying you do not view players X, Y, and Z as keepers will probably hurt your chances of making such a trade.) It is also important to note that a player’s trade value is not static. For example, while Salazar does not currently look like a keeper at $15, he may certainly look like one with a strong finish to the season and a strong spring training. This might make him more valuable this offseason than a player whose trade value is less likely to improve into “keeper value.” Also, this conveniently brings us to our next point.

3. What Can Change
This is really a sub-point of the previous point, but there is not too much public outrage regarding my article organization so I am going for it. We already touched on the strong finishes and strong spring trainings, but not all strong finishes and spring training are the same. For example, we might not be able to get anyone to bite on fringy (price-wise) Mike Moustakas, even with a strong spring training, because we have already seen that story play out twice. A quick list of some other things that can change that can affect future trade value:

  • Change in home ball park
  • Change in league
  • Change in surrounding lineup or team
  • Change in position
  • Change in pitching repertoire/usage
  • Change in velocity
  • Change in role (i.e. reliever to closer, fourth outfielder to platoon outfielder, etc.)
  • Change in fantasy baseball perception (i.e. regular player to SLEEPER)

While none of these are groundbreaking ideas, each player is more or less likely to have such a change happen to them. The chances of these are small and forecasting such things in September is difficult, but using such logic will probably lead to better results than no logic at all.

Back to the Example:
Of Salazar ($15), De La Rosa ($10), and Pomeranz ($8), I would cut Pomeranz as it currently stands. First, I am, not competing for anything of significant value. Next, even though Pomeranz might be the most likely to earn his salary next season, he almost certainly will go for less than $8 in our auction (we have very little inflation). More importantly, Salazar and De La Rosa have the upside and stuff that we can dream on and are thus more likely to gain (emphasis on the more, not the likely) the vaunted sleeper/bold prediction status. Put differently, I am cutting Pomeranz because I think I have a better chance of moving the other two, even though the most likely case is that none of these players nets me anything this offseason.

My current process goes something like this: Cut the player who least helps you improve meaningfully in the rankings. If that is not a factor, then cut the player with the least trade value. If that is not a factor, then cut the player who has the smallest chance of gaining trade value or the player whose potential future trade value is the least. Again, this is not groundbreaking stuff, but paying attention and being able to gain little values here and there can make a difference.

Thank you for reading

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Update: I'm now in 5th (Selig shoulder shrug)
So you're keeping Rubby at $10 in a 10 team AL-only league? You think he's going to be that much better next year to earn $10 and more?

Or you're only keeping him because you think you can flip him to someone else?
I don't think I'll be able to flip him or Pomeranz, but I'm keeping him bc I think I'll have a better chance of flipping him (but better certainly does not mean good in this case)
Pomeranz will likely be starting next year in Oakland, which pretty much makes him a keeper, doesn't it?

Pomeranz and RBDL are very close for me. Right now I think the upside of RBDL makes him more likely to find a taker than Pomeranz. However, the latter does have the advantage of being single digits (only $2 less though) and the better ball park. It will be a close call for me although I doubt I'm able to trade either.
Yeah, thanks for the help all, RBDL is the drop. Sometimes I gotta write to figure it out (talk about process).