Written by Tony Meale
Published: 20 August 2009
The MLB trade deadline may have passed on July 31, but the fantasy trade deadline -- if your league has one -- likely either just happened or is about to happen. In my league, the deadline came and went Aug. 16. Saddled in seventh place (out of 12 teams), I knew I had to act. Despite early and mid-season acquisitions of Yovani Gallardo and Cole Hamels, my ERA and WHIP numbers both stood at 1 in our rotisserie-league format (in other words, awful).
CC Sabathia: As big as names get
I knew that if I were going to contend for a title, I needed to make a move. Well, actually I made two (the first one got vetoed). In my original deal, I sought out a friend I grew up with in Cincinnati who now works in sales in Boston (we’ll call him Howie). Big Red Sox fan. For all my Tommy Boy aficionados out there, Howie could sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves. Dude basically got a bachelor’s in B.S. But for whatever reason, when it comes to his personal dealings, the kid is clueless. He’s the kind of guy who trades Boardwalk for two railroads. I love the kid to death, but I can’t explain it. And to pilfer a line from another cinematic favorite, “It’s immoral to let a sucker keep his best fantasy players.”
Which is why I found my inability to screw Howie over this year a bit disconcerting. After a few hours of negotiations, this is what it came down to: I would ship Jason Bay, Jon Lester and Tommy Hanson to Howie, and in return I would get David Wright, C.C. Sabathia and Chris Carpenter.
Now, if you’re like most of the guys in my league, you’re probably thinking I just committed the heist of the century. The trade was reviewed and received the minimum number of vetoes -- six -- to be disallowed. One of my friends believed that Howie was being a homer in wanting Bay and Lester and gave up way too much for their services. “Fantasy sports are about stats,” my friend argued.
He’s right. Fantasy sports are about stats. Which is why I’m astounded that this trade was vetoed.
Let’s compare Bay and Wright. At the time this trade was reviewed, Bay had an absurd three times as many home runs as Wright (24 to 8) and more than 25 more RBIs. They were within five runs scored of each other, with Wright having more than twice as many steals (24 to 11) and a batting average in the .320s (Bay was hovering around .260). So, in review, Bay had the edge in homers and RBIs, Wright had the edge in average and steals, and they were almost dead even in runs scored.
That, my friends, is called a wash.
But let’s move on to Lester and Sabathia. Comparing their season stats, Lester’s ERA was a little more than a tenth of a run lower than CC’s, and he also had more than 40 more strikeouts than the portly pinstripes hurler. Lester’s then ERA (3.67) was all the more impressive considering the fact that it was a 6.07 on May 26. In his previous 13 starts, he had allowed two runs or fewer 10 times and recorded at least eight strikeouts eight times. Granted, Sabathia had the edge in wins (13 to 9) and WHIP (1.14 to 1.27), but he also allowed five earned runs or more in four of his last nine outings. Looking at the entire 2009 season, I’ll give Sabathia a slight nod; but over the course of the last three months, the advantage has to go to Lester.
In terms of Carpenter and Hanson, I’m not even going to try to make an argument that the Atlanta rookie has been as good as the former Cy Young winner. But Hanson has still been sharp. At the time of the trade, Hanson had a 3.05 ERA and had allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his 12 starts this season. Carpenter, meanwhile, has been filthy (12 wins, an ERA right around 2.25 and a WHIP below 1.00). But let’s not forget that he’s done essentially nothing for several years due to injury; Hanson, on the other hand, carries virtually no risk of injury. And since he wasn’t called up until June, I expect him to finish the year strong.
In the end, did I think I was getting a better deal in this trade? Sure. If I didn’t, why else would I have agreed to it? But I don’t think this trade was so one-sided that it was worth a veto. I was getting quality guys, but to say I wasn’t giving up guys or wasn’t taking a risk with the guys I was getting is absurd.
Why, you may ask, did I agree to the trade if it was so even? Because I -- like my friends who vetoed the trade -- played the name game. Any fantasy owner would rather have Sabathia and Carpenter over Lester and Hanson (except Howie). The first two are veterans with proven track records of finishing strong. The last two should be marvels for years to come, but their body of work just doesn’t compare.
I ended up adding Kevin Gregg to the deal, and the trade was passed. I suppose it’s karma on both sides that Wright went down with a potentially season-ending concussion and Gregg got demoted from his closer role, but with potentially 20 more starts combined from Sabathia and Carpenter, I’ve got a shot at making a run at a league title. My pitching numbers have already increased a bit, and I’ve vaulted into third place, 16 points behind the league leader.
So remember, fantasy sports are about numbers. But for better or worse, names almost always take precedence.