I play in a 12 team head-to-head mixed league with 8×8 scoring (with OBP, Ks, and hits on the hitting side, quality starts, innings pitched, and relief appearances on the pitching side with K/9 in place of Ks). The league is extremely active; everyone checks every day and there are plenty of transactions made as part of the weekly chess match that is fantasy baseball.
Another symptom of everyone’s interest in it, my league has trade talks of all kinds going on nonstop, resulting in plenty of interesting trades. For my next post, I plan on looking back a month or so to a couple of trades at the start of the season to review my reaction from back then and to gauge whether or not my initial feelings were accurate.
Today, however, I’ll examine a trade that happened early this morning that shifted the landscape of the league, with three players from the top two rounds changing hands along with a breakout pitcher. The trade? Bryce Harper and Jacob DeGrom for Adam Jones and Jose Abreu. Let’s break down the deal and see if it was worth it for both sides.
The team getting the Harper side, let’s call it Team A, has struggled so far this year. Last year, its owner traded away his best players for high draft picks this year and the team was expected to do well. Despite this, Team A is mired in 11th place, over 30 games out of first place.
How did this happen? Well, the first most important thing to know about my league is that because there are no transaction limits and because of the categories we use, pitchers mean nothing. With that in mind, Team A used three of its eight picks in the first four rounds on pitchers, nabbing Chris Sale, David Price, and Corey Kluber. All three of those guys have been performing well but it doesn’t really matter because of the hitting-pitching disparity in the league.
He spent the other five top 42 picks on hitters, but the problem was the hitters he acquired. Carloz Gonzalez and Robinson Cano have been busts and Jose Abreu, Adam Jones, and Evan Longoria have been only okay instead of the studs that were expected. With the possible exception of Gonzalez, none of these players were predicted to play as poorly as they’ve been so far. With this trade, Team A aims to acquire the superstar it missed out on during the draft.
On the opposite side of the trade, we have Team B, a team that took a second-round gamble on Harper and has seen it pay off big-time. Team B’s owner is an avid trader, making the most trades in the league, including a three-way trade with me last week that we’ll talk about another time.
Team B has a team built around streaming meaning that DeGrom means little to it. As to its hitters, the starters consist of a few very good players and few very average players. This trade allows Team B to exchange one of those average guys for another very good player, a valuable improvement.
I have three big rules when evaluating trades. Let’s run through them and see which team comes out on top by each criterion.
First is to never ever trade for past stats. To illustrate this point, let’s say that Player A and Player B will both hit 30 home runs this year but so far Player A has 13 homers to Player B’s 7. Player A looks better right now, but for the future, Player B will have 23 home runs compared to Player A’s 17, a significant gap in value. While real life is never as simple as the players outlined in this scenario, it still pays to bear this concept in mind.
Looking at this trade, Jones and Abreu have underperformed expectations significantly, while the opposite is true for Harper and DeGrom. By this measure, Team B has the advantage.
Next, a simple rule of thumb is to always trade one stud for two. Once you get past a certain level, while some players are better than others, all of them are really good. The three hitters in this trade all meet those standards so while yes, Harper is better than Abreu and Jones, despite my lack of aptitude in math, I’m pretty sure that two is more than one, giving Team B the edge.
The last tool I use to judge trades is even simpler than the last one: always get the best player in the trade. Harper, even assuming he doesn’t keep up the torrid pace he’s set for himself, is still going to be a superstar the rest of the way, barring injury.
Personally, if I had to choose, I prefer the Jones/Abreu side over the Harper/DeGrom side. To me, getting two great players for one is always a trade I want to make. Also, after making this trade, Team A has more depth issues than it had before. Our league has ten starting spots for hitters (one from each position plus two utility slots) which means, obviously, that one needs ten quality hitters. Team B gets one closer to that magic number while Team A loses ground.
On the other hand, Harper has been the second best player in fantasy this year. His production is insane and trading him leaves a big hole in your outfield that’s nigh impossible to replace.
All in all, it’s a fair deal, the two teams exchanging security and safety for upside and risk. Of course, the initial opinion of a deal matters very little so with the benefit of hindsight, we’ll examine this trade again in a month or two to see whether or not our analysis was correct.