Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Winning the fantasy baseball offseason - How I turned roster fodder into a top 35 SP with a few strategies

So we're in the World Series (actually late game 1 as I'm writing this).  Fantasy baseball, for most, ended the first week of October.  But in my keeper league, fantasy baseball is always around as long as I have access to my league.  And that's how I turned a bunch of junk into a $14 Gio Gonzalez in my $250 salary cap league, greatening my chances at a 4peat in this league next year.

How'd I do it?  Well, a few steps.  I'll write out some of the key aspects below

Step 1: Sign a bunch of randos with upside at season's end.

Now in a redraft league, lots of people give up in the final weeks.  But I'm always amazed that some people do the same thing in keeper leagues.  Yes, lots of guys will stay active, but there's always a few guys who just let their crappy rosters stay crappy from late August onward.

Me - my roster is a constant churn anyway, but in the final days of the season, I'm always adding guys, if only as trade bait.  So even in my league, where anyone added after the ML trading deadline is subject to an arbitration auction in the offseason, I still try my best to pick up assets.  So once I was up 200 points and guaranteed to win the championship, I added a ton of prospects in the final week.  Some of the guys include Michael Conforto, Greg Bird, Ketel Marte, Brett Phillips, Kevin Pillar, Trea Turner, J.P. Crawford, Robert Stephenson, Jameson Taillon, Blake Snell, Matt Moore, Jerad Eickhoff, Jimmy Nelson, Patrick Corbin and Rasiel Iglesias.  A pretty good mix of high upside, at least interesting names, all starting at $1 but most not being kept (whether I just decided not to keep them or someone bid them up significantly in arbitration and out of my ideal price range).

So with all those dudes, I moved on to step 2.

Step 2: Trade all the guys.

I already mentioned that I traded Ketel Marte for a trade amnesty (my fourth) immediately after the season ended.  I then also was dealt Elvis Andrus in what was technically a rental return (I'll be cutting him and his $14 salary in the offseason with one of my amnesties).  But this past week it got crazier.

First I traded Bird and Taillon (both $1 arb eligible) for Adam LaRoche ($1 through 2017) and Mike Leake ($2 through 2018).

LaRoche I didn't want, and was probably going to amnesty, but Leake is a solid pitcher on an awesome contract.  He ranked 42nd this year among SPs, though he gets very few strikeouts, so already a nice get for future potential that I might not have even been able to keep (Bird would've been bid up a bit - Taillon scares me injury wise).

I then offered LaRoche (plus Patrick Corbin and Zack Cozart) for "trash" (Richie Shaffer and Adam Conley).  The guy could not accept it fast enough (he loves Corbin and Cozart) and I now had Leake, an amnesty back (since I didn't have to use it on LaRoche), and two scrubs, all picked up for four amnesty players, only two of which I would've even tried to keep at $1.  Which brings me to step 3.

Step 3: Don't cut ANYONE in the offseason until you have to.

I'm not sold much on Conley despite his end of the season run, and I'm DEFINITELY not sold on Shaffer.  But in the offseason you never know what someone might like, so it's always good to gold onto these kind of dudes just in case.

After the 2nd trade, I offered Leake, Raisel Iglesias, Matt Moore, and Kevin Pillar for Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Piscotty, and trash.

The guy countered with Leake, Iglesias, and Moore for Gonzalez and trash, citing not wanting to lose Piscotty.

I told him that was decent...but I didn't want to lose Leake AND Iglesias.  And I mentioned a few of the other arb guys I would give away, including Shaffer and Conley.

And he told me that he liked Iglesias best but liked Leake's contract status too - if I included Conforto AND/OR Conley, we might have a deal.

I couldn't counter back with Leake + Moore + Conley + Conforto for Gio quick enough.  Yes Leake is decent, but the no k's are no good.  Moore is an injury risk, Conley is a shot in the dark, and Conforto is a stud but he's going to arb so I can still get him back if I put up enough cash.  So in the end...nothing really lost.

Only Gio Gonzalez gained.  Yes, at the 32nd SP in ESPN this year, he's only really 10 spots better than Leake, and with $12 more on his contract and one less year of control.  But the Ks are there, and every little upgrade counts, especially when 2/3's of the players used in the final trade to make that upgrade are scrubs.

So long story told fully, that is how I got a $14 Gio Gonzalez through a combination of Greg Bird, Jameson Taillon, Patrick Corbin, Zack Cozart, Matt Moore, and Michael Conforto.  All six of those guys were not on my lineup with two weeks left in the fantasy season, and I think the fact that they acquired me a real nice SP speaks volumes as to why you should always be on top of your lineup management, even when the other guys are speaking.  

(Now let's just hope I win Conforto at arbitration and it'll be a perfect coup!)

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