Mistakes Were Made

Everybody makes a bad trade every now and then. I made dozens of trades during the 2017 season – most of which were very favorable to me. But two trades and one non-swap came back to haunt me when the season concluded. Let’s explore.

Acquired Bradley Zimmer for Eugenio Suarez, Jesus Sanchez, and Carter Kieboom

This trade was made in a 20 team dynasty league with weekly lineups and 5×5 roto scoring (OBP). We keep 28 players and roster 45 overall. There are no other costs or limits associated with keepers.

I executed this deal on August 1. At the time of the swap, my team was just 10 steals back from gaining nine points in the stolen base category. Those nine points were the difference between eighth and third place. I determined that converting a zero steal roster spot into a five-category asset would give me the best chance of earning those points without forfeiting others. Since I stood to earn $300 in real money, I was willing to overpay in future value.

Prior to the trade, Zimmer hit .282/.345/.464 with eight home runs and 14 steals. Once in our lineup, he hit .159/.239/.220. Although he did swipe five bags, he didn’t reach base often enough to help our cause. To make matters worse, Suarez batted .268/.387/.465 while tallying eight homers, 30 runs, 28 RBI, and a steal.

Luckily, I was able to grind out a third place finish without the stolen bases. However, had I simply not made this trade, I would have had a much larger margin for error in the final week of the season. And I’d still have Sanchez and Kieboom. Even if I prefer Zimmer to Suarez going forward (I do), I could probably now acquire him for Suarez alone.

The lesson is simple. Even as I negotiated for Zimmer, I stressed to his owner that he was selling high. Double-barreled regression usually bites hot-hitting rookies after a month or two. Scouting reports catch up, and exploits are discovered. There’s always a chance the player continues to mash (see Cody Bellinger), and that’s what I had hoped would happen. At least I’m left holding a talented 25-year-old in a keep forever league.

Did Not Acquire Tommy Pham for Ben Zobrist or Kendrys Morales

This non-move occurred in the same dynasty league. It was a disastrous failure to convert a fading veteran into a burgeoning stud. Pham’s owner originally came to me asking for Zobrist or Morales plus a small piece. He later (briefly) dropped the demand for a throw-in. This all occurred in early June.

I know exactly why I passed on the deal. Pham was playing well, but he had done this in previous seasons. Prior to 2017, he’s always turned pumpkin after a hot streak. Moreover, the Cardinals have roughly 35 MLB-quality outfielders. In St. Louis, even a modest slump can get a talented player sent to Triple-A. I was certain Pham would find his way back to the bench or part time duty. Since our dynasty league uses weekly rosters, good part time players don’t have much value.

By not making the swap, I missed out on a .310/.413/.529 batting line from Pham along with 18 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Those numbers would have made the Zimmer deal completely unnecessary. I still would have finished third place, but it would have been a comfortable ending to the season with a 10 to 15 point pad. Worse, Pham is now a vastly superior trade asset to Zobrist and Morales.

At the end of the day, I’d still make the same decision nine times out of 10. The exception is a scenario in which I’m both swimming in second base (or first base) depth and short on outfielders. This strikes me as an example of good process, bad result.

As an added aside, if you own Pham in a similar dynasty format, I strongly recommend selling high. His playing time is still endangered by an overly deep roster. However, at least a few owners in your league are probably willing to completely overlook that risk when setting a valuation.

Traded Madison Bumgarner ($49) for Felipe Rivero ($8)

This was a rare management mistake. In early-August, I had a seemingly insurmountable lead in my home league, a huge surplus of innings, and a rotation chock full of cheap, valuable keepers like Jimmy Nelson, Alex Wood, James Paxton, Zack Godley, and Brad Peacock. I also had Chris Archer and Jon Lester. I had no reason to believe I wouldn’t win with ease. Since my only vulnerable-looking category was saves and I had too many innings, I swapped MadBum for a keeper.

Of course, most of those pitchers cratered and/or landed on the disabled list. At the end of the season, I finished in second place by 2.5 points. Four wins would have secured an additional 1.5 points. Five wins would have bought me a tie for first place. Seven or eight victories would have spiked my total by four or five points. In strikeouts, I missed a two point swing by just nine punchouts – and that’s where I really missed Bumgarner.

With the Giants ace, I could have managed my waiver wire stream with just a little more focus – easily picking up those extra strikeouts and possibly the wins. I also would have been freed to chase some home runs where I finished just three short of another point. I would have needed to scrounge some late season saves to replace Rivero, but they were available. The difference between finishing first and second was about $150. The lesson here – never trust your pitching depth.

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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CarMars Favoritemember
4 years ago

I would be very surprised to see Pham miss significant PA’s next season due to OF depth.

4 years ago

What do you call “significant?” Even something like 30 PA’s matters in fantasy. Most other top-100 players have practically no playing time risk at all, whereas Pham has an amount that is clearly not-zero.

4 years ago

CF: Fowler, Grichuk, Sierra
OF: the above plus Piscotty, O’Neill, Bader, Garcia, Martinez

There is definitely some risk here.

4 years ago
Reply to  Stovokor

I don’t think all those players will be Cardinals in March. I think the Cardinals will make a trade using this depth (maybe even Pham).

4 years ago

Agreed. Pham had the 9th best WRC+, 11th best wOBA, and 10th most WAR of any position player in baseball. He racked up more WAR than Arenado, Betts, Goldschmidt. Unless they fear he’ll get hurt again and want to protect him, there’s really no other reason that he would lose playing time on account of guys like Grichuk or Mag Sierra.

Pirates Hurdlesmember
4 years ago
Reply to  abailey

Well unless you are suspicious of a 29 year old non-prospect breakout. I know, I know Cardinals Devil Magic, but Tommy Pham superstar smells fishy.

The Real McNulty
4 years ago

you’re questioning his ability, not his playing time. If one buys his past season (or most of it), you should not be worried about playing time due to other outfielders.

4 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

I’ve got nothing invested in Tommy Pham, but this is sort of silly.

He doesn’t need to be a “top 20 batter” to be better than the other Cardinals options in the outfield or a valuable fantasy asset. From 2014-16, in 358 plate appearances, Pham rolled out a .339 wOBA and a 114 WRC+. He wouldn’t have qualified for the leaderboards over those two seasons, but… of the players who did qualify, a .339 wOBA ties him with Curtis Granderson for 38th among hitters and Lorenzo Cain and Kole Calhoun for 36th in WRC+. Every indicator we have on Pham, small sample size/late breakout age or not, pegs him as a top-40 hitter. The Cardinals shouldn’t bench that guy in favor of their other options. And especially early in the year, coming off a season where he wasn’t a top-20 guy — he was more of a top-10 or 15 guy — the Cardinals would be wise to wait for regression rather than assume it and limit his time based on that assumption.

But even if they do, every indicator we have still says he’s a top-40 or so hitter on a rate basis. That’s valuable in fantasy. For years you could pair Troy Tulowitzki’s partial season with any other shortstop and end the year with top end SS production. Same deal here. You want guys who perform better than their peers, not guys who show up every day, especially in the outfield where there are a thousand replacement level guys and platoon options available on waivers.

I’m certainly not assuming he’ll hit like a top-20 guy. I wouldn’t buy him at that price and I’d certainly sell him at it if someone was buying. But I’m not inclined to think he’s going to lose a ton of playing time to the guys the Cardinals have now given what he just did.

4 years ago

Remember, last season’s health for Pham was an anomaly. He battled injuries his entire professional career.