Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 23 April 2009
I’ve said before it’s far too early in the season to panic if your team isn’t doing well, but there certainly is a reason to think about addressing whatever issues your team might have.
Of course to address them you need to realize what they are first. Maybe you can do that yourself, but many fantasy players tend to see the world through rose colored glasses and don’t see their own team’s deficiencies. Even if you don’t think you are one of those players it might be wise to ask a fantasy player you respect (and ideally not one in your league for an honest assessment of your team). Remember that when a team is assessed it’s important to note not just the weaknesses but the strengths too.
Sometimes, it's difficult to really "see" your team.
Once you’ve got a fair idea of what your problems are it’s time to try to fix them.
Basically you’ve got two main methods for doing this - trading and picking players off the free agent or waiver wire.
Since most of the best players have probably been drafted, the free agent pool in most leagues is usually pretty thin, but as I wrote about last week, this is the time of year when a lot of owners make silly decisions and drop productive players for guys who are more likely to be in AAA at midseason than among the league leaders in fantasy categories. Take advantage of that whenever you can, but don’t count on the free agent pool to solve all your problems in any really competitive league.
Trading on the other hand offers you the chance to tap into a pool of prime fantasy talent. In many leagues trading is hard as owners tend to overvalue the talent they drafted, while undervaluing everyone else. That doesn’t mean that trading isn’t possible, just that you’ll have to be creative and realistic in the offers you make. The more realistic your offers are the more likely people are going to trade with you - and the less likely they are to get sick of your offers of Adam Dunn and Joel Hanrahan for Albert Pujols. If you make those kinds of offers constantly people are going to be loath to make any sort of deal which you propose.
No matter where you are looking for help, the key here is to be persistent. You might have 100 trade offers shot down before you find one that works, but it’s that one that has to be worth the time you put into it. That means your team has to be better than it was before the trade - which is different from saying that the owner you traded with has to be worse then he was before the trade. Trades usually succeed when both teams think they are coming out winners in the deal.
While it’s ok to aim for the occasional home run type trade, realize that most trades made are more likely to be singles with the occasional double thrown in. What you are aiming for is a continuous incremental improvement of your team, slowly (or in some cases rapidly) erasing your weaknesses and raising your competitive balance.
Incremental improvement is the key with any type of acquisition that you make, but in order to win at fantasy ball, you have to get a little lucky too. You need to find some players who far outperform their fantasy expectations. Some examples of that in 2008 would have been Cliff Lee and Ryan Ludwick.
Both of those players mentioned above went undrafted in most leagues last season, and both were still available on waiver wires for most of April and in many cases well into May. That’s why you keep an eye on the waiver wire no matter how good you think your team is.
Trying to find guys about to break out like that isn’t easy, and it is always a gamble. The secret is trying to make it a low risk, high reward-type gamble, rather than a high risk high rewards player. Thus when you think you’ve identified the player you think is a breakout guy, you’ll want to drop the most easily replaceable players from your roster, rather than solid guys who you know you can count on for better than average stats - even if your pick up would send that guy to the bench.
So if your team has a few holes, or even if it just could use some little improvements it’s time to start looking at how you are going to address them. I certainly hope this article offers you a bit of help.