I am always open to trading…just name a day and a player, and, if it is to my advantage, I will do it. I did not expect the e-mail I received on April 8, 2012, however, when one of the favorites sent an e-mail looking for me to dump (I assume all of you are familiar with the terminology, but, if not, dumping is essentially cashing in your non-keepers to a contender for next year components). I am not easily offended, and my team does stink, but the offer got me thinking about the pitfalls of pre-tax day dumping for both the "dumpor" and the "dumpee."
1. What are my needs?
I do not keep a hard and fast rule on when trading should start. Generally, I like to see my team play the month of April. I find it difficult to assess my needs in just 20-25 at-bats or 14-15 innings. Sure, I know the value I kept on my team and the value I auctioned, but we do not use “value” as a category. I need to know if I am light in a category or categories. I need to know whether I need to dump one category or bolster another. I need to know where my competitors sit – did someone win a job, or luck into a closer, or get off to a hot start in steals. There are just so many variable to assess, and early dumping could limit your future possibilities.
2. He lost the job? He pulled his what?
The superstars are not going to lose their jobs under normal circumstances. Some role players, however, could find the bench with a slow start. Or, perhaps Dexter Fowler finds AAA if he continues not to hit. Injuries, too, are unpredictable. If you traded for Lance Berkman last week and he hit your roster on Monday, you just held your breath for about 24 hours while the MRI machine checked out his calf. Heck, you might have expected Berkman would have gotten hurt at some point, but you would not have expected it to be his calf (since that is one of the few areas of his body he has not hurt). The moral of the story is, of course, injuries and playing time are fickle things, particularly in April. If you are trading for the rockets to propel your team forward, you need to make sure they are solid in their jobs and they are not prone to injuries.
3. I hit the cap already?
The salary cap is intended to be an impediment to dumping. It essentially bars any team from compiling a roster of superstars. My National League and American League home leagues have $350 salary caps, which allows plenty of room for trades and free agent acquisitions. If you make a dump trade early, however, you can cripple yourself for the remainder of the season. For example, in my American League, one of the contenders was offered a $49 player and a $33 player, in exchange for essentially $4 in salary. That is a net gain of $78. Since this team is already at a team salary of $271, this trade would put him a mere $1 under the cap. Now, the upgrades are great, but this team is now at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to other dump trades, free agent acquisitions and the like.
1. Is my team this bad?
Point number one for the contender applies equally to the pretender. It is difficult to determine how poor your team really is over a week or two in April. Again, you have a general idea about how you did in the auction and you have a rough idea what the projections tell you. Maybe your team gets off to a quick start. Maybe you have category strengths that you can play into a competitive advantage. Maybe you have some significant dump chips which you can use if other teams dump early and drop to the bottom of categories. I used to believe in getting out of Dodge early; in fact, I used to auction with a mind-set to dump. Over the past few years, I decided to try and compete every year, which, frankly, is a lot more fun.
2. Who do I build around?
One of the challenges of playing for next year is deciding how to build your team. In my American League, Mike Trout is one of the prime targets for 2013. We “know” Trout is going to be great. Of course, we have known many prospects who were going to be great who are now real estate agents, high school teachers and gas jockeys. How do we decide, on April 12, who is the guy? The pretender has limited resources – just a couple of chips to trade for next year value. He cannot afford to make a mistake. If you target the wrong guy, or if he gets hurt, or if a hidden gem springs up during the course of a long season, the pretender can lose a significant competitive advantage.
3. Now what do I do?
If you are like me, part of the thrill of fantasy baseball is competing. The trades, the free agent pickups, the manipulation of the salary cap…all key components of a successful season. If you dump early, no matter how much future value you get, the season loses some of its fun and flair. There are only so many players you can buy with your FAAB, most of whom will not amount to anything the following year. Watching your team fall to 16 points at the bottom of the standings really is no fun either. Maybe you can guest write for a blog!
There is no right or wrong answer here. Like I said, I do not think you can put a hard and fast rule on this. Nonetheless, these are some of the questions you need to ask yourself regardless of which side of the equation you are on…a little luck will not hurt either.