Earlier this week our wonderful fantasy staff put together their Second-Half Buys. I, absent such fullness of wonder, did not participate, and for that, I apologize. To make up for this, my plan is to help us try to develop some tools for finding our own second-half buys, our own trade targets.
This skill, finding trade targets, is incredibly important, obviously, but it is likely even more important in today’s (fantasy baseball) game. Why is it more important today than it was ten years ago? Because, as we have said many times, the internet has made it difficult to differentiate via information asymmetry. Put differently, as soon as we posted our staff’s “second-half buys,” those players likely became more difficult to acquire—either their acquisition price in trade or FAAB went up or someone looked to scoop them from the free agent pool. This does not hold true for every player or recommendation (some fantasy baseball participants do not read fantasy analysis and some only read some sites), but it holds true for more players than you, or at least I, originally thought. Why? Because these recommendations are not random strokes of genius. We, as a fantasy baseball analysis community, largely follow the same twitter accounts, read the same articles, and are thus likely to write-up and analyze the same player because those players are most likely to be top of mind. This is not a criticism, it is just how our brains work, and I point it out in order to highlight the increased importance of finding trade targets outside of and in addition to recommendations from fantasy baseball experts. Moreover, the more players we can target, the more we can shop around for the best price. Lastly, not everyone wants to put in the effort, so those willing to do so can often get better than expected deals.
So you all get it, finding trade targets on our own can be really beneficial, more beneficial than we might have initially thought. But how do we do so? It involves a recommendation that we have made many times before: paying attention to concepts and process followed, in addition to the conclusions found, in an analysis. Going back to our staff post, the concepts used to identify potentially undervalued trade targets include (i) players with skills and uncertain roles (Javier Baez, Edwin Diaz, Ryan Dull), (ii) players with pedigree that have played better of late (Addison Russell, Anthony DeSclafani, Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman), (iii) pitchers with better peripheral numbers than topline numbers (Michael Pineda, Ray, Stroman), and (iv) players whose output is underrated because of the means in which they produce or obvious flaws in their game (Leonys Martin).
Because many of these targets will either no longer be bargains or were not available in our league to begin with, we should be trying to apply these concepts to our leagues to find our own undervalued players. This is all fine and dandy, but there is one last part that needs to be addressed and that part involves why we love player rankings and “targets” articles. We love them because (i) they do the hard work for us and (ii) they allow us to share the burden of making a risky decision. Regarding the first point, if you don’t want to put in the work, then the process of relying on such information works great (we should just be aware of the increased costs acquiring such players noted above). Regarding the second point, sharing “the burden of making a risky decision,” requires a bit more discussion.
For starters, being loss averse, we tend to, as the internet will tell you, seek to avoid losses more than we look to acquire gains; and trades are therefore unappetizing to our loss averse minds. If, however, we can feel more confident about a decision with backing of expert opinion, then maybe we can make those potential losses seem a little less scary (Kelley Blue Book, for instance, is a business). This natural pull of such articles (or, in general, expert advice) can make it difficult for us to transition our focus from conclusions to concepts. In other words, there is no one to share the burden of risk with when applying someone else’s concept (unless that person is writing about the concepts) instead of their conclusion.
That said, no one is sharing that burden with us in reality anyway. Just like Kelley Blue Book is not paying you back for a lemon you bought, Mike Gianella is not going to suffer alongside you if you get burned by Leonys Martin. So fear not and let us frame our quest to find trade and free agent targets through best practices and sound concepts rather through loss aversion.