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Managing the Trade Deadlines – yes it’s plural

So the MLB trade deadline has come and gone and wow that was crazy. So how should you- as fantasy managers and GMS – react to all the craziness that the MLB GMs did? This will vary some of course by your league settings, but let’s explore some of the ways to react to the MLB deadline and, since many leagues have a fantasy deadline a month or so after MLB’s deadline, how to think about your upcoming deadline.

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Reacting to MLB trades

This reaction will vary drastically depending on your league. If you are in an NL- or AL-Only, or a league like what I randomly encountered this morning where leagues are based on where a team plays spring training so guys like Max Scherzer had to flip teams there, then some of this will be determined for you (possibly very much to your detriment).

So if you’re in a league where the rules obviously dictate a player can’t be on a roster, or, alternatively, if you’re in an AL-only and now have a chance to add a player like Rizzo or Kimbrel midseason or an NL only and get Kyle Gibson or Eddie Rosario, then that’s a big piece of strategy, and FAAB distribution, that you should have been prepping for since the beginning of the season.

Or, what if you just had a player traded away out of your league because of that? That’s a tougher situation if you just lost a key part of your team. If that’s the case then you need to not only be actively hunting the waiver wire to make adjustments (easier said than done depending on the depth of your league) and looking to make trades (assuming you’re in a rational league that has trading).

However, even if you are in a traditional league where you don’t have to deal with worrying about what league a player is in, the trade deadline will still impact you. So let’s consider a few players you may need to adjust on and some that you really don’t need to worry about who were traded.

If you had Max Scherzer or Trea Turner then congrats – you still have them, they are still great, and now Max has a better offense behind him and Trea has a better offense around him. If you had Anthony Rizzo – awesome – I would expect some more power from him playing in the bandbox that is Yankees stadium. But, for the guys whose value went up or didn’t change like the aforementioned players, José Berrios, Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Javier Báez, Cesar Hernandez, or Kyle Gibson you don’t have to change much. One player whose situation improved for his context that also has a larger impact is Kyle Schwarber. While it’s not entirely clear how the Red Sox are going to use Schwarber, I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets 1B eligibility for a number of leagues which could offer a nice option for teams at first, especially in deeper leagues.

How about closers?

Closers are always a thorn in fantasy leagues, which is part of why, especially in leagues with 12+ teams, I prefer SV+HLD or some variation therein. But saves are important in any format, and we had plenty of closers change MLB teams over the last few days. Yesterday morning Eric Cross helped give some potential closers for you to target in FAAB if you lost a closer, but there’s also the question for deeper leagues how to handle losing a closer.

I think this is particularly tricky in the case of Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel has been great this year, and I think this is a great pickup for the South Siders to help with the back of the pen and really prepare that team for a run in October. But if you roster Kimbrel in a league (or if you roster Liam Hendriks and are worried about Hendriks losing some saves to Kimbrel) that’s a tough situation. For example, I roster Kimbrel in a redraft league that I’m in first in and I’ve been having to decide, do I try to just add a free agent who can help with saves, do I trade for another bonified closer? This isn’t something that is a one size fits all fix as league settings and context are crucial (including can you trade or not), but is something that needs to be considered carefully.

Other considerations

The other big thing that can be overlooked around the deadline is how playing time will change for some position players. Of course, a player like Anthony Rizzo is still going to be an everyday/week start at first base. But now what are the Cubs doing at first base – or for that matter shortstop and third base? Last night it was Patrick Wisdom – and with the trades I do think that you can expect Wisdom, Matt Duffy, David Bote, Ian Happ, and, for now, Sergio Alcantara to have pretty regular starts, and so in a deeper league, these are some options to add to help out a roster. And this is obviously not unique to the Cubs, but any team that traded a position player – who is set to get more playing time? Is Andrés Giménez going to come back for the soon-to-be Guardians?

How about Washington? Is Kiebert Ruiz going to get thrust into a starting catcher role? And if he does… that’s quite another potential option at C mid-season. Is Kieboom going to get some run and is there any of that top prospect pedigree there? These are the types of players to be considering, be it the waiver wire or in trades as your try to find some players who could have regular playing time and who may have some talent begin to shine through with that playing time.

For more on the changes in player evaluations or values check out the latest Toolshed podcast (and the next 2) where Eric, Chris Clegg, and David Mendy talk about it in more detail.

The Other Deadline

Now that the MLB trade deadline has passed, it’s likely your fantasy trade deadline(s) is(are) also coming. All of the leagues I run have an August 31st deadline, and given how very very active my leagues have all been all season, I expect to continue to see an increasing number of trades in these leagues as the deadline nears. I think I’ll be getting plenty of Fantrax Notifications over the next month.

So – as we approach trade deadlines in your leagues – how should you think about it and evaluating your teams?


Redraft leagues are tough to evaluate with trading, especially if you’re not doing very well in the league since there isn’t a next year to play for. If you’re in a format like my Relegation Leagues then your overall standing and standing in the league matters – but if you’re in most redraft leagues, especially NFBC type leagues, unless your league has some other penalties, you run the risk of teams checking out or making trades that don’t actually help them or that throw off the competitive balance of the leauge because they don’t care. While this can certainly be a point of concern for the commissioner, it’s also best if teams keep contending even if they are out of it, making the rest of the season more competitive and fun. If you run into problems with teams just quitting if they are out of it I would certainly consider figuring out some sort of incentivisation (or dis-incentivisation), to keep teams competitive going forward.

So – assuming you are contending or at least trying to finish as high as possible in a redraft league – what moves need to be made? The first step is looking at your league type, especially since all of those trades need to benefit both team immediately.

If your league is a H2H league, either points or category, where can you strengthen your team? How many teams make the playoffs? What is the playoff structure? Being a top team in the regular season in a H2H league (based on H2H standings or if you look at how the team would rank based on roto scoring) guarantees you nothing in the playoff, as h2h has the randomness of an MLB playoff series, where teams we expect to win or lose do not do that all the time. So, in a H2H structure especially, if there is a chance to sneak into a playoff spot I would certainly push to do that and see if you can make a run.

For a points league of course just figure out how to get points since it doesn’t matter where they come from. In a H2H category league, I would recommend you go to the standings page in your league and view season stats so you can see how your team stacks up from more of a roto perspective compared to other teams. You can also look at each week’s matchup to see what categories you have lost when you have lost them and where you tend to win. In a H2H format, you don’t need to win every category, so if there a category you tend to lose anyways that you can sell off what you do get in that category (say saves or steals), to help more in a category you need help in? Sometimes trading from a weakness to help a strength can work just fine, especially in a H2H format as you just need to win more categories than your opponent, not all of them. Now, a caveat on that is if you are still pushing for a playoff spot and if your standings are based on the number of categories won not just most during the regular season, then the number you win may matter more.

In a roto league the calculation is a little different. Here it’s not only about where you are in the standings for each category, but how big are the gaps. You could be in 5th in SB but have a 20 SB lead over 6th and be 20 behind the 4th place team. Or you could be in 5th and 3rd-9th place could all be within 10 steals of each other. Also, how many teams are there? In my 30-team league, a big jump in a category could give you another 20 total points, in a 12 team league that’s not going to happen.

So, once you have evaluated what your team has done, what you think it will do going forward (have there been other trades made, have you had injuries (of course you have) and how have they impacted you), then you need to see where your best avenues are to strike. Of course this isn’t just about your team – but also about the other teams – if you are trying to chase down someone in a counting stat where they will likely not falter at all, then maybe you should try a different strategy. Ratios are this point in the season are harder to make big changes on just because of the math, but it is possible, so consider that carefully as well.

Finally – consider mins and maxes. Does the team in first have a big lead in Ks, but they are on pace (team- min/max – see the pace of a team towards a min/max) to go past the max, say, IP, and so they will need to not start as many of their pitchers and will that afford you an opportunity to catch up? All of this needs to be considered as you think about making trades in your leagues.

And one more thing – while this shouldn’t be the sole motivator, it does matter in your leagues if they are money leagues what teams cash and how the payouts work. Hopefully, you are playing because you love baseball and fantasy, but the money component isn’t irrelevant for most so pay attention to that too.

Dynasty/Keeper Leagues

When evaluating trades in a dynasty league, all of the things said for redraft should be taken into consideration, but you must also add numerous other elements to your consideration.

The trading in dynasty and keeper leagues functions much more like what we saw happening on Thursday and Friday as one of the key evaluations each team must make (or maybe like the Orioles or Dodgers before the season it was already pretty clear), a decision of contending or not has to be made. On the last Commissioner’s Office Jesse Roche and Nic Civale talked about how Jesse traded Ronald Acuña Jr. to Nic and how the entire calculus of that move is Jesse is trying to win this year and Nic isn’t so Nic can wait on Acuña while Jesse “can’t.” In a similar strategy I traded Acuña yesterday in a H2H dynasty league where I’m in 1st place to the team in 11th because he’s happily able to wait for Ronald to recover from his ACL tear, while I need some productive stats now to try to secure the championship and make it through the dice roll playoffs.

When looking at your team, as in redraft, you’re looking at if you can contend, where you can improve if you are contending, and what advantage you can gain over the other contending teams (especially in roto leagues), by making trades. But, unlike in redraft where most trades will be to help both teams fill a need for this year, most dynasty trades of this sort are going to address future needs for one team and current needs for another. While contender-contender trades can happen in dynasty league, they are more rare.

Consequently, the team and league evaluation in dynasty becomes not only a serious evaluation of if and how you can make up ground if you are borderline contending, but also the question of whether trying to make up that ground the right choice long term? Just like a mediocre MLB team could trade off prospects and add major league players for this season, do they seriously have a shot at making the playoffs, and if so winning, or are they just going for it because they can (or because they don’t have really any players to trade and are in the unfortunate position of being stuck in the middle). You do NOT want to be stuck in the middle. So unless you have a chance to legitimately contend (as noted this is different in roto versus head to head) trade away players that will not be a part of your next contending team, be that next season or a few seasons down the road and prepare your next competitive roster.

These trades can be easier to figure out often than redraft trades because of the win now/win later part of them. For example. In a 16-team dynasty league, I recently traded away Tyler Mahle and Patrick Sandoval, two players I like, for Carlos Colmenarez, Aaron Bracho, and Jake Eder. This trade would be awful in a redraft league, but for a team in the bottom and not having a dream of competing this year like mine, I will happily add those prospects to my farm. On the other hand in 30 Rock one manager recently acquired Nicky Lopez (remember – 30 team league 60 man rosters) for Yohendrick Pinango and Zavier Warren. In almost all dynasty leauges it is normal, indeed expected, to see many trades be current MLB player for prospects. You’ll also see trades, as mentioned earlier with trading Acuña, seeing injured players get traded who will not help a contending team now, but will next season. So, in short, what the Cubs did the last two days, getting mainly prospects and injured Nick Madrgial for win now pieces on expiring contracts.

Other considerations:


When thinking about prospects there are a few things to consider. First, avoid prospect hugging. You may have your guys, and you may really like them, but unless you really really like them to the point that the offer actually isn’t even, be willing to trade them. Prospects bust all of the time, even elite ones, so be willing to trade prospects when you are contending. Flags Fly Forever. Don’t trade them for nothing – but be willing to move them. Additionally, know your league depth – what is the replacement level prospect available, and can you replace a prospect with someone pretty similar after trading one for free off the waiver wire?

On the flip side if you are acquiring prospects – do your research – don’t just rely on a list or a tweet at an analyst. Do some digging, figure out how that player fits within your league’s system and scoring.

How many do you keep?

Is your league a true dynasty league? Or do you only keep 8-12 players? If so, why do you care about who anyone is on your roster beyond the 12 players in terms of keepers. If you have prospects and are contending and if you don’t trade them there is no way you are keeping them anyway – trade them! Regardless of contention or not, you can use the deadline to consolidate your roster, make some 2-1 trades or trades of that sort, in order to make sure you can keep the most talent possible on your roster.


Is it a contract league or not? If not – ok. If so, then that dramatically changes the calculus again. Just as you saw teams take on salaries for players they traded away at the deadline to improve the return, this is something that will impact trades. There are a number of elements that are added when you have contracts so I won’t go into the minutia here, but make sure you are paying attention to that, salary caps, etc, when thinking about trades and seeing how you can use salaries to your advantage when making trades.

Trade etiquette

Finally – and there may be a fuller article on this soon – but when you are engaging in trade conversations please be polite. If someone contacts you, respond. If someone doesn’t respond, reach out again, but don’t be rude. If you don’t like someone’s offer you can respectfully decline. If someone doesn’t like your offer and they tell you that you can respectfully accept they don’t like it. It’s ok to explain why you think a trade makes sense and your logic – but only if the aim is so everyone can get on the same page and get where people are coming from – NOT to bully someone into accepting a deal by trying to prove you are “smarter” than they are. Relationships are a great and important part of fantasy so talk to the other managers, just do it politely.

So go! Analyze your team! Makes some trades! Have fun! And be nice doing it!

Thanks for checking out this week’s article. Be sure to check out Eric Cross’s updated Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects.

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