|Are you getting Wood thinking of another player? (Icon/SMI)|
Dereks Ambrosino and Carty have written nice articles on the relative merits of a well-rounded player versus a one-category super-stud. Plenty of writers (including myself) are proponents of drafting players with high upsides. Undoubtedly, one thing to consider when drafting/buying your initial fantasy team is a player’s eventual trade value. Some players, like some used cars models, are more tradable than others. Trade value is often a key component to strategies with super-studs or high-upside players.
The tempting thing is to take these strategies and use them to speculate for “trade” rather than “use” purposes. For instance: You’re sitting in the 20th round of your draft and you already have Evan Longoria at third base, but you see Brandon Wood still out there and you think, “If Wood gets playing time this season, he could easily outproduce some of the replacement-level third basemen in the league or slot in for the owner who has an injured Chipper Jones.” Wood is a high-upside guy that you will almost certainly have no room for in your starting lineup. But, if he breaks out, there should be other owners in your league willing to trade for him. You’re drafting Wood not because he may have use for you, but because he may have value in a trade later on.
Of course the key question in all of this is: What is Wood’s value? Is he worth the 20th pick over, say, Denard Span or not? How much should you consider Wood’s potential value to your team by playing on it versus his potential value as a future trade piece?
To make a trade, there must be what economists call a “double coincidence of wants.” Your team must not only have something the other owner wants, but you must be willing to give up a player that the other owner values more highly than the player he is giving up. You must have too much pizza and not enough beer and your trade-mate must also have too much beer and not enough pizza. Imagine if you conducted your everyday life like that—every time you wanted to buy milk, you’d have to have something the grocery store wanted in exchange (this is why barter economies and wife-swap parties frequently don’t work and why money is so helpful).
The thing with upside players is that if their upside comes to fruition, they are replacing some current starter. If trade markets were “perfect”—with no waiting periods, irrationalities and so forth—then Wood would replace, say, Chipper Jones on some team, but Jones would then be traded from that team’s bench to some other team, replacing, say, Mike Lowell, all the way down the line until Casey Blake ultimately is the starter that ends up on the bench.
The problem is that trade markets aren’t perfect. If they were, a lot more trades would happen throughout the season. So if you have Wood and Longoria on your team and you’ve found an owner with Chipper Jones who now wants to trade for Wood, he’s going to give up a lot less for Wood in the world where he can’t turn around and trade Jones immediately. Of course, you could try to trade Wood to the owner suffering with the previously replacement-level Blake, but he may be out of town (mentally or literally), or unwilling, or Blake’s kid nephew or whatever. Finding trading partners is hard, and sometimes you just have to be happy to find someone willing to give you anything for a player who’s almost surely going to stay on your bench. What’s more, the player you get in return for Wood (say, Geovany Soto, for some reason) would have more value to you if the catcher on your roster that he was replacing was also easily tradable. But he likely won’t be—you might even just have to cut him even though he was above replacement level.
So let’s say in the beginning of the season, you worked on your projections and you think Wood is a player who, if he breaks out, will be better than Jones but worse than the next best third baseman (say, Michael Young). If by that 20th round you’ve drafted a replacement-level player like Blake at third, then Wood could have value in use. But if you’ve drafted someone Wood has no chance to replace (unless there’s an injury), then you’re drafting Wood to trade him, and his value in that case is, I argue, a lot less.