Trade Strategy: Considering Perceived Value

Yesterday afternoon, I was asked by one of my best friends and fellow fantasy baseball owners about whether he should offer a specific trade. He owns Joakim Soria and wondered whether he should offer him for Trevor Cahill. He plays in a head-to-head league with daily transactions, so I would think closers are worth a little more than in your standard weekly transaction rotisserie league. He did currently own a whole bunch of closers, but half of them were temporary or part of a committee, so Soria represented only one of two full-time closers on his roster.

I told my friend that I would guess Cahill and Soria were drafted in similar rounds, probably in the 7-9 range, giving them nearly equal projected value. Though, I personally believed that Cahill was overvalued coming into the draft given his performance last year that I considered laced with good fortune and unrepeatable. However, he has opened this season with excellent results once again, but this time it is much more supported by his skills, primarily due to an uptick in his strikeout rate. As a result, Cahill’s perceived value is probably even higher than it was during draft time.

Soria, on the other hand, has seen his perceived value decline since the draft as he has posted a 4.63 ERA and walked more than he has struck out. This likely means that if drafting today, he may drop to round 10 or 11, whereas Cahill’s performance might be proving to many owners that last year was no fluke, vaulting him to the 6th round of drafts.

I said to my friend that perceived value must always be taken into account when making a trade, especially when the trade in question does not fill an immediate need. Right now, Cahill’s perceived value is almost certainly higher than Soria’s. I would guess that assuming his league mates aren’t too difficult to trade with, at the very least he could turn around and flip Cahill for a better closer with fewer question marks if he so desired.

So I told him that even though I did not love Cahill and expected his strikeout rate to fall, he should absolutely make the offer. I also said that I highly doubted the trade would be accepted, given this perceived value reasoning I just explained. I have not heard yet if the offer had been responded to, though after last night’s start from Cahill, it is even more unlikely it gets accepted.

Since the first month of the season has just about ended, it is still not completely advisable to start trading to fill a need. So if you are simply looking to make an attempt at buying low and/or selling high and just trading for value, then thinking about perceived value and potential future trading opportunities is vital. Of course, if your league is notoriously tough to trade with, then perceived value plays less of a role, because it is more likely you will be stuck with the player you just traded for all season.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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In my two keepers leagues Cahill was drafted in the 12 and 13 rounds, so a 7-9 range is way too high. Cahill might have been overrated entering the year, but a Soria for Cahill trade is a fair. Soria (and closers in general) are overrated and should not have so much value in fantasy leagues. Last week, Brian Wilson was traded for Eric Hosmer in one of those leagues and nobody complained. Actually, the manager tried to trade him for a more valuable player but he couldn’t.
I assume that “perceived value” is a different way to say “sell high” or “buy low”, but this perceived value is, without a doubt, a very important variable when you propose a trade.