Streamlining the Buy Low Discussion

The phrase “Buying Low” gets thrown around in the baseball community. I’m not sure if owners can actually buy low on many of these frustrating but talented players. Owners need to be willing to sell. I going to try to redefine the concept of buying low concentrating on drop rates and go over a few potential targets.

When I hear or read about buying low on a player, the touts are focusing on buying a good player during a cold streak. Paul Goldschmidt fits this label with his .208/.324/.380 slash line. Owners paid first round prices for replacement level production. But are Goldschmidt’s owners selling low? Probably not.

Going over some recent trades at the Yahoo trade tracker, Goldschmidt is being traded straight up for players such as Clayton Kershaw, Joey Votto, Patrick Corbin, and Shohei Ohtani.

His value is down some (and should be with the K% spike) but not horribly. He’s still owned in 99%+ of leagues at ESPN, Yahoo, Fantrax, and CBS. Even the most frustrated owners in shallow leagues aren’t moving on. So why should owners focus their time and energy on players who even the most frustrated owners aren’t moving on with?

Instead, they should zero in on players who other owners are starting to move past, specifically those on drop lists. These players are the low hanging fruit ripe for the picking. In shallow leagues, these players may pop up on the waiver wire. In deeper leagues, they may be on benches hoping for a turnaround. Either way, they’ve frustrated enough owners to move onto the latest hot hand. Many of these players still have value.

Not every player going to the waiver wire should be a buy-low opportunity. Many are heading to the waiver wire for a reason. Some are hurt. Other have lost playing time or demoted to the minors. And finally, others have experienced a major talent level adjustment. But some haven’t. These exceptions can still be contributors in your league (possibly not on every team) and many have a common trait, they were off many pre-season radars.

After looking through the latest drop lists, they had low acquisition costs. Most went undrafted and were waiver wire pickups. Their owners didn’t spend many resources (draft picks or auction dollars) for them so they don’t feel much attachment to the player and can easily let them go at the first sign of struggles.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig explains this phenomenon during a speech:

“I believe that’s mainly because the more intensively you research a stock, the more of yourself you’ve invested in it. Your own superior knowledge of the stock becomes a sunk cost. Once you invest in a stock, you’ve invested something of yourself, too. It has become “your” stock, and you want it to go up to validate the superiority of your own judgment.
What’s more, we know that people generally regret errors of commission more than errors of omission. … Our tendency to engage in counterfactual thinking — to ask “what might have been” if we had taken a different course of action (or inaction) — can have a paralytic effect on decision making.”

This is often called the “disposition effect” or “status-quo bias.”


The owner feels they are playing with house money, so why not move on if the player slides just a bit. Now if they spent a 10th round pick on a player with eroding skills, they will likely hold on to him because of the fear of being wrong even if it hurts their overall league standings. The goal is to win … it’s not to be right.

Using the drop lists from ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, and Fantrax, here are some low-value preseason hitters to “Buy Low” on because owners are now selling.

Tyler O’Neill (Yahoo, 2639 drops, 38 adds): What the hell? Owners rushed out to own a no walk, high strikeout power hitter. Were they surprised when they ended up with a no walk, high strikeout power hitter? I don’t follow the logic at all.

Eduardo Escobar (Yahoo, 1088 drops, 139 adds): I’m wondering if this trend is because of Miguel Sano’s return. The Sano owners no longer need Escobar but in most leagues, Escobar is a fine starter and his eligibility at possibly three positions (2B, SS, 3B) increases his value.

He had limited preseason value since playing time was a major hurdle but the suspension of Jorge Polanco has provided at least a half season job. I’d not be surprised to see Escobar’s ownership increases once other owners pick him up to fill their needs.

Ryon Healy (ESPN, 59.3% to 40.2%): Another instance of roller coaster expectations. He’s hit eight home runs in a quarter of a season. While, I wasn’t on him to start the season, but he’s “on pace” for 32 HR. How is he only 40% owned?

Delino DeShields (ESPN, 47.1% to 37.9%): Stolen bases are about impossible to find and owners are selling the player tied for the 12th highest total? I know DeShields doesn’t provide much in other categories but any hitter with 40 SB potential needs to be owned.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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4 years ago

My dad once told me that “it ain’t house money – it’s your money,” once it’s in your pocket.
I try to proceed accordingly.

4 years ago
Reply to  dan

Was your dad a gambling addict too?

4 years ago
Reply to  pvalent

I don’t think you understand the advice..