The best part of dynasty leagues is that trade behavior can mimic real baseball. When you’re in a deep 20 team format, the league splits into contenders and rebuilders. The prices for win-now talent and top prospects often mirror what we observe in reality. It’s fun.
Over the weekend, a buddy of mine asked me about a trade proposal he received in his dynasty league. He covets Nolan Arenado (who doesn’t), and a rival finally made an offer – Arenado and Dallas Keuchel for Andrew Benintendi, Miguel Sano, Rafael Devers, Josh Bell, and a 2018 draft pick.
That’s a hell of an ask. What would the Rockies want if somebody came to them and said “I simply must have Arenado?” Not those four specific players (they play for different teams, duh) but probably four similarly talented prospects.
The offer highlights the advantage of owning elite assets like Arenado. The soon-to-be 26-year-old Coors slugger has plenty of future upside. There’s a very real chance he’ll outperform that entire package over the next five seasons. And since his value is condensed into one roster spot, it’s possible my friend would be better positioned to win this season with Arenado than the bundle of shiny widgets.
Of course, it’s the future seasons that throw a real wrench into the equation. While none of these players are likely to ever match Arenado’s output, this volume of young, core quality depth is hard to discard. Even ignoring the scenarios where something unexpected happens to Arenado, any one of the four players has enough raw talent to reach a superstar ceiling. Betting on any one specific name to produce near Arenado is a fools game. Betting on four of them at once starts looking a lot more reasonable.
This is a situation that lends itself to falling apart. On the one hand, we have an owner who wants to extract a ransom for his elite asset. On the other hand, we have an owner with multiple elite prospects who wants to aggregate talent. How many prospects is too many?
My recommendation was to decline the offer and counter with Benintendi OR Sano, Bell, and the pick for just Arenado. While that probably isn’t enough to acquire him, it’s necessary to reset expectations. Speaking for myself, I make these sorts of offers when I see a desirable target. I can totally picture this thought process…
“Ooh, Benintendi is a good starting point for Arenado, but he’s not enough by himself. And I need a third baseman so I’ll ask for Sano. And Bell is interesting as a throw in. And why not Devers too, he’s just a prospect. Annnd a pick too.”
In this case, Benintendi and Sano was my target return for a fair swap. Note, I’m not necessarily willing to settle for “fair.” The rest were cheekily added to test just how much extra future talent I could extract. However, the way this negotiation ends will affect where it picks up in the future. These massive blockbusters have a habit of lingering for months or even years.
Jumping into my buddy’s shoes, my preference would be to walk the fine line between developing talent and contending. The Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, and Red Sox are doing it, and they look like dynasties in the making. While it’ll be harder to win right now with Sano than Arenado, I trust my managerial skills to squeeze some extra juice out of the roster.
While it’s very important to aggregate talent in the form of players like Arenado, my mantra is to build depth then aggregate. Only when I have more depth than I can possibly play do I pivot to overpaying for stars.
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