If your team didn't do too well in the first half, don't give up. There is still probably some hope. That's not to say that you are going to make a last to first turn about or erase a 40-point deficit in standard leagues, but the chance to improve is definitely there.
For those not that deep in the hole there is a lot more to aim for. After all the league frontrunners managed to get their stats in half a season, so why shouldn't you?
In some leagues the situation near the top is very fluid, but in others it's can be hard to move up. And the further back you are, the more you need to take chances in order to move forward. Doing that successfully is a matter of knowledge, planning and a drop of luck to boot. And as the great Branch Rickey (who I believe would have been an incredible fantasy baseball owner) said, "Luck is the residue of design."
It helps to have a bit of cooperation too. Leagues where almost no one trades, or leagues which veto just about everything, can kill you when it comes to improving via trade. In those cases you might well have to play via the waiver and free agent wires to make things happen.
First off: Prepare to think different. No don't rush out to buy an iPad, but the first step in making any sort of move is knowing the landscape of your team and all the teams ahead of you and behind you not just in terms of overall position, but in terms of each individual statistic, because making a move will probably mean sacrificing a point or two to gain four or five.
Taking a regular and exhaustive look at the standings should give you a lot of information, often more than the guy ahead of you is carrying, and he's the first owner you need to pass in making your move.
So what do you need to know? Well the first thing I look to do is identify the hard statistics (RBIs, Runs, HR, K, W, SV, SB) where I can gain the most points. Usually that means finding statistics where a lot of people are clustered together where you are close but behind the pack (example runs if you have 450 and four players are clustered ahead of you having between 451-470 that might be a good stat to target). You also need to know where you are vulnerable and could lose points and which statistics you have, if any that are unlikely to change (an example, you have 3 points in saves, and are 15 behind the person with four points, and the people behind you have no closers).
That should help you identify which players on your team are expendable -- obviously in the examples above your closers are totally expendable and could be used as trade bait. But that might be equally true if you had someone chasing you in that category because if you could trade a single point in saves for two or more points elsewhere you are ahead of the game.
It's rarely that easy, but this is the time of the season where punting a category makes sense if the chance of gaining points is slender and you won't lose much.
Then it's time to look at the overall standings once again and figure out just who has the goods you want, and who has a need for statistics you can afford to trade. I've always found it easier to trade with the guys at the very top (if you are unlikely to catch them they won't see you as a threat) or the guys at the bottom who you don't see as a threat. Guys close to you in a statistic aren't likely to trade that statistic away.
Before you float trade offers, and you should be just about ready to make some, you might want to take a look at some intangibles like name recognition, reputation and nagging injuries. Sometimes opponents will jump on the name brand and grab a Manny Ramirez over a statistically superior player, or jump on José Reyes, despite the injury concerns while letting you keep healthy players who can outperform them.
Another factor you'll need to consider, if you are offering 2-1, or 3-2 deals is who you'll peg as a replacement for the guys you are trading especially at a thin position like shortstop. Again using the example above, if you trade José Reyes without planning who your replacement at that spot is going to come from you might find yourself stuck with someone like Freddy Sanchez or Maicer Izturis who'll be a huge step down and could negate much of the value of the trade you might be proposing.
Once you've balanced all these factors it's time to float some trade offers.
In part II we'll talk about Free Agents, Waiver Wire pickups, Rookies and other speculative picks.
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