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Last weekend, somewhere between gifts and cake, my friend gave me Cole Hamels for my birthday.

Well, not literally, of course. But in the world of fantasy baseball, my friend served up the Philadelphia ace on a silver platter, gift wrapped and everything.

I've told you about him before (we'll call him Mark). He's the one who traded me Yovani Gallardo for Adam Lind, straight up, back in early May. At the time, my pitching was absolutely horrific, and Mark's hitting was almost as bad. A little more than a month later, saying he and I were approaching middle-of-the-road numbers in our respective weaknesses would've been a stretch, at best.

hamels_cole_3
Cole Hamels, one of the best aces to get for your fantasy team as a birthday present.
Photo by artolog, used under creative commons license.

The Gallardo-Lind swap helped both of us, but it wasn't enough. Mark still needed hitting, and I definitely still needed pitching. This we acknowledged.

Mark had six starters from which I could pilfer -- excuse me, trade for: Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez, Carl Pavano and, of course, Hamels. I figured Greinke was off the table no matter what players I threw out for him; and given that Greinke has started to appear somewhat human in recent weeks (only one win in his last five outings and three-plus earned runs in his last three starts), I wasn't so sure I wanted to buy all that high on him anyway.

Wainwright has certainly been serviceable this year (six wins, 3.49 ERA, 71 strikeouts, 1.34 WHIP), but he just doesn't wow me. It seems he's always on the cusp of taking it to the next level, but for whatever reason, he doesn't put it all together. And I'm not big on Pavano or Jimenez, but then again, who is? So really, it came down to me wanting Cueto or Hamels, and I chose Hamels for two reasons: one, he's a bit more established, and two, since my league is comprised of Cincinnati guys, we tend to overvalue our Reds players a bit, and I felt Mark's asking price probably would have been too high (although anyone would agree that Cueto is having a fine season).

So Hamels was it. Sure, he's already been on the DL this season, but this is a guy who, in 2008, pitched 227 1/3 innings and had 14 wins, 196 strikeouts, a 3.09 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. He's a big reason the offense-heavy Phillies won the World Series, and entered the season as a consensus top-10 fantasy hurler. Besides, in Hamels' first six appearances since returning from the DL, he went 4-0 and allowed three runs or fewer five times, including a complete-game shutout over the Dodgers in Los Angeles on June 4.

I moved fast. My first trade offer was relative garbage -- Aaron Hill and Yadier Molina for Hamels. This trade was swiftly rejected, as I expected. Then I got a little serious. I offered Paul Maholm, Dan Uggla and Ryan Theriot for Hamels and Toronto closer Scott Downs.

Overall, Maholm has been steady but not spectacular this year (four wins, 3.61 ERA, 50 strikeouts, 1.31 WHIP). His home/road splits, however, are about as uneven as uneven gets; his ERA at home (1.83) is more than three runs lower than it is on the road (4.88). With Maholm, it's gotten to the point where I don't care who he's going against or who's on the hill for the other team. If the game is in Pittsburgh, Maholm is starting, and if it isn't, he's sitting. Period.

Theriot is a guy I've plugged in at shortstop as I await Jason Bartlett's return from the DL. He's an average player who won't make a significant impact in any stat category, but he won't kill you in any, either (.278, six homers, 23 RBI, eight steals and 33 runs scored as of June 13). Because I planned on dropping Theriot upon Bartlett's return, I didn't see losing him as any sort of loss.

Meanwhile, Uggla's value, as we all know, is in the power department. He has 11 bombs for the year, but he's barely hitting his weight (.222 when the trade was proposed and .218 now). Given that I have Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera and Jason Bay on my roster, I wasn't exactly desperate for power, especially since Manny Ramirez, who is on my bench, will be returning from his 50-game suspension in early July.

As far as Downs went, I was -- and am -- desperate for saves. I only had two closers, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg, neither of whom had been all that steady, so I thought Downs would help.

I thought this trade has a chance to go through, and I was relieved when Mark texted me saying he would accept it. Only he didn't. He ended up shooting me a counter offer: Hamels for Uggla. Straight up.

It took me all of about three seconds to accept this offer. I didn't need Uggla's power, Hamels is a legitimate stud, I'd get to maintain Maholm for those home starts and keeping Theriot meant I wouldn't have to play the free agent wire and put in a liability at short. And going back to my league's draft, I nabbed a fourth-rounder for a sixth-rounder. I plucked the best starting pitcher from the guy with the best pitching numbers in the league for a guy hitting lower than .225. It was genius.

But the sad thing is I can't take any credit for it. It'd be different if I proposed the Hamels-Uggla trade and finagled the transaction with flawless persuasion. But alas, my boy Mark was just feeling generous, even though he thinks I'm the one who was swindled (he's predicting at least another trip to the DL for Hamels).

After accepting the trade, I just had to wait to see if it would actually go through. The first two votes were vetoes, but somehow, seven of the next eight weren't; by a 7-3 vote, the trade passed (for a trade to be disallowed in my league, six of the ten members not involved in the deal must veto it).

The bottom line? I'm two-for-two in trades this year. I acquired Cole Hamels and Yovani Gallardo, and all it cost me was Dan Uggla and Adam Lind. As far as not acquiring the closer I so desperately wanted, I picked up temporary Phillies' closer Ryan Madson off waivers, and he's already gotten two saves for me.

With a sick offense set to get sicker with Manny's return, I now have some depth in the arms battle: Hamels, Gallardo, Jon Lester, Rich Harden, Aaron Harang, Paul Maholm, Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Hanson.

I'm in fifth place right now, but thanks to a nice birthday gift, I expect the standings to change slowly but surely.

Last weekend, somewhere between gifts and cake, my friend gave me Cole Hamels for my birthday.

Well, not literally, of course. But in the world of fantasy baseball, my friend served up the Philadelphia ace on a silver platter, gift wrapped and everything.

I've told you about him before (we'll call him Mark). He's the one who traded me Yovani Gallardo for Adam Lind, straight up, back in early May. At the time, my pitching was absolutely horrific, and Mark's hitting was almost as bad. A little more than a month later, saying he and I were approaching middle-of-the-road numbers in our respective weaknesses would've been a stretch, at best.

The Gallardo-Lind swap helped both of us, but it wasn't enough. Mark still needed hitting, and I definitely still needed pitching. This we acknowledged.

Mark had six starters from which I could pilfer -- excuse me, trade for: Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez, Carl Pavano and, of course, Hamels. I figured Greinke was off the table no matter what players I threw out for him; and given that Greinke has started to appear somewhat human in recent weeks (only one win in his last five outings and three-plus earned runs in his last three starts), I wasn't so sure I wanted to buy all that high on him anyway.

Wainwright has certainly been serviceable this year (six wins, 3.49 ERA, 71 strikeouts, 1.34 WHIP), but he just doesn't wow me. It seems he's always on the cusp of taking it to the next level, but for whatever reason, he doesn't put it all together. And I'm not big on Pavano or Jimenez, but then again, who is? So really, it came down to me wanting Cueto or Hamels, and I chose Hamels for two reasons: one, he's a bit more established, and two, since my league is comprised of Cincinnati guys, we tend to overvalue our Reds players a bit, and I felt Mark's asking price probably would have been too high (although anyone would agree that Cueto is having a fine season).

So Hamels was it. Sure, he's already been on the DL this season, but this is a guy who, in 2008, pitched 227 1/3 innings and had 14 wins, 196 strikeouts, a 3.09 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. He's a big reason the offense-heavy Phillies won the World Series, and entered the season as a consensus top-10 fantasy hurler. Besides, in Hamels' first six appearances since returning from the DL, he went 4-0 and allowed three runs or fewer five times, including a complete-game shutout over the Dodgers in Los Angeles on June 4.

I moved fast. My first trade offer was relative garbage -- Aaron Hill and Yadier Molina for Hamels. This trade was swiftly rejected, as I expected. Then I got a little serious. I offered Paul Maholm, Dan Uggla and Ryan Theriot for Hamels and Toronto closer Scott Downs.

Overall, Maholm has been steady but not spectacular this year (four wins, 3.61 ERA, 50 strikeouts, 1.31 WHIP). His home/road splits, however, are about as uneven as uneven gets; his ERA at home (1.83) is more than three runs lower than it is on the road (4.88). With Maholm, it's gotten to the point where I don't care who he's going against or who's on the hill for the other team. If the game is in Pittsburgh, Maholm is starting, and if it isn't, he's sitting. Period.

Theriot is a guy I've plugged in at shortstop as I await Jason Bartlett's return from the DL. He's an average player who won't make a significant impact in any stat category, but he won't kill you in any, either (.278, six homers, 23 RBI, eight steals and 33 runs scored as of June 13). Because I planned on dropping Theriot upon Bartlett's return, I didn't see losing him as any sort of loss.

Meanwhile, Uggla's value, as we all know, is in the power department. He has 11 bombs for the year, but he's barely hitting his weight (.222 when the trade was proposed and .218 now). Given that I have Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera and Jason Bay on my roster, I wasn't exactly desperate for power, especially since Manny Ramirez, who is on my bench, will be returning from his 50-game suspension in early July.

As far as Downs went, I was -- and am -- desperate for saves. I only had two closers, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg, neither of whom had been all that steady, so I thought Downs would help.

I thought this trade has a chance to go through, and I was relieved when Mark texted me saying he would accept it. Only he didn't. He ended up shooting me a counter offer: Hamels for Uggla. Straight up.

It took me all of about three seconds to accept this offer. I didn't need Uggla's power, Hamels is a legitimate stud, I'd get to maintain Maholm for those home starts and keeping Theriot meant I wouldn't have to play the free agent wire and put in a liability at short. And going back to my league's draft, I nabbed a fourth-rounder for a sixth-rounder. I plucked the best starting pitcher from the guy with the best pitching numbers in the league for a guy hitting lower than .225. It was genius.

But the sad thing is I can't take any credit for it. It'd be different if I proposed the Hamels-Uggla trade and finagled the transaction with flawless persuasion. But alas, my boy Mark was just feeling generous, even though he thinks I'm the one who was swindled (he's predicting at least another trip to the DL for Hamels).

After accepting the trade, I just had to wait to see if it would actually go through. The first two votes were vetoes, but somehow, seven of the next eight weren't; by a 7-3 vote, the trade passed (for a trade to be disallowed in my league, six of the ten members not involved in the deal must veto it).

The bottom line? I'm two-for-two in trades this year. I acquired Cole Hamels and Yovani Gallardo, and all it cost me was Dan Uggla and Adam Lind. As far as not acquiring the closer I so desperately wanted, I picked up temporary Phillies' closer Ryan Madson off waivers, and he's already gotten two saves for me.

With a sick offense set to get sicker with Manny's return, I now have some depth in the arms battle: Hamels, Gallardo, Jon Lester, Rich Harden, Aaron Harang, Paul Maholm, Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Hanson.

I'm in fifth place right now, but thanks to a nice birthday gift, I expect the standings to change slowly but surely.