Fantasy Mailbag: Just Say No

Time for another fantasy e-mailbag. I won’t bore you with an intro, so just go ahead and check out the questions and answers. If you have any questions of your own, don’t hesitate to e-mail me. Make sure you include your full name, city and state.

I’m in the middle of the pack in an 11-team, 5×5 league, with no glaring strengths or weaknesses (with the baffling exception of strikeouts), and have been offered the following: L. Berkman or J. Guillen, I. Rodríguez, T. Womack and D. Kolb for J. Varitek, E. Chávez, M. Ramírez and F. Rodríguez. On one hand, I could use the saves and the stolen bases. On the other hand, Pudge has cooled off drastically, and my gut feeling is that I’d be giving up the two best players in the trade (Manny and Chavez). Would this be a worthwhile shakeup, or just a panic-driven deadline blunder?Keith Scott, Brooklyn, New York

Panic-driven deadline blunder. You’re right that you would get saves and steals, but you’d also give up home runs and RBIs. And if your glaring weakness is strikeouts, you’re not going to help it by giving up Francisco Rodriguez and his 93 strikeouts in 59.1 innings for Danny Kolb and his 16 strikeouts in 40.2 innings.

To give you a better idea of why I don’t like this trade, let’s take a look at what the two trios have done so far this season (using Jose Guillen, since he’s having a better fantasy season).

Guillen, Rodriguez and Womack have combined to hit .311 with 41 home runs, 30 steals, 183 runs and 185 RBIs in 1,190 at-bats. Ramirez, Varitek and Chavez have combined to hit .293 with 63 home runs, 13 steals, 174 runs and 191 RBIs.

A few things to point out. First, of the six players, Womack’s the one who’s most likely to flop in the last two months. Second, the group you’re giving up has significantly more homers, slightly more RBIs and slightly fewer runs despite the fact that Chavez missed about 25 games. Third, Varitek will miss three or four games at some point because of the brawl with the Yankees.

At best, it looks like you’re just shifting your offense around a little bit rather than improving it. And while Kolb will save about a dozen more games than Rodriguez the rest of the way, Rodriguez will notch about 30 more strikeouts and the two should be pretty even in ERA and WHIP.

If Womack falls apart, and he’s only stolen six bases since the start of June while his batting average is falling since the beginning of July, then this trade is a big loss for you. If Womack keeps playing at the pace he’s on, it could help you a little. Those odds aren’t good enough for me to make this trade.

In a typical 5 x 5 roto league in which I’m doing very well offensively across the board, I have a shot at acquiring Carlos Beltran, who I figure is far too good a player to continue to hit for as low an average as he has been doing lately (though he’s still been very productive in terms of R, HR, RBI and SB while doing so). I would have to give up Jose Reyes (who sits on my bench spot starting for whichever one of my double play duo of Garciaparra and Giles is resting an injury) and either Miguel Cabrera or Hideki Matsui (who are both everyday starters in my outfield). Tony Womack is a free-agent who I could pick up to replace Reyes on my bench. Should I make the deal, and which of Cabrera and Matsui do you think will be the least productive from here on in?John Hill, London

I wouldn’t make this deal, because you’d basically be swapping outfielders of similar value and kicking in a decent middle infielder for nothing. Beltran’s been more valuable so far thanks to his huge advantage in steals, but he’s been in a major funk recently.

After hitting .235 in July, he’s only hitting .147 in August. You said that he’s too good to hit for this low an average, but he’s giving no indication that he’s about to start climbing back towards .300. Meanwhile, Cabrera and Matsui are both hitting over .300 already. The three players have similar run and RBI totals, while Beltran has a few more homers than the other two.

When you have to throw in Reyes, whose 14 steals in 43 games can help you make up for what you’re missing in not trading for Beltran, it’s not worth pulling the trigger. Especially considering who your starting middle infielders are, and the likelihood that you’ll need to keep using Reyes occasionally. As I mentioned earlier in the mailbag, I’m not a big fan of Womack’s prospects to keep playing well.

If you really think Beltran’s going to improve over the rest of the season and are intent on making the trade, I’d deal Cabrera and keep Matsui. I like Cabrera’s future a lot better than Matsui’s, but Matsui should see more runs and RBIs in the Yankees lineup and I think they’ll be pretty even in average and homers.

My friend has offered me Garret Anderson, Brandon Webb and Woody Williams for Beckett and Giambi. I would much prefer to have giambi and Beckett if they are both healthy but they aren’t. Should I accept?Norman Anseman

Definitely not, Norman. Nobody knows exactly when Giambi will be back, and you can’t count on him hitting well even when he does start playing again. Anderson hasn’t hit for power this year, but he’s got a nice .313 average and his run and RBI totals aren’t terrible.

As for the pitchers, neither Webb nor Williams have pitched that well, but they’ve both been decent. Beckett’s pitched better than his four wins and 4.33 ERA, but his injuries and inconsistencies have been maddening. Since you don’t really know what you’re going to get from any of the three, you might as well have two players with the potential to pitch well rather than just one.

Beckett does have the most potential of the three pitchers, but he’s also the biggest risk. If you make this trade, there’s a very real chance you could end up giving away three players for nothing if Beckett gets hurt again and Giambi takes awhile to get back on the field. If you don’t make the trade, you’ve at least got three players who, while not as good as you might have hoped, are good enough to help your team.

I am in a 10 team mixed 5×5. We allow trades to include next year draft picks. No salary or limitation on keepers. I am in 1st place and have mortgaged next years draft for the chance to win this year. We keep 8 players and I am having trouble deciding on who to keep: Berkman, Blalock, Nomar, Shawn Green, Huff, Derrek Lee, Hideki Matsui, Corey Patterson, Posada, AJ Burnett, Sheets, Santana. I am leaning towards: Berkman, Blalock, Nomar, Huff, Lee, Santana, Burnett, and Sheets. I would like to keep Patterson but am unsure who not to select.Josh Robinson

Josh, I think you’re right on target with your eight. Sheets, Santana, Blalock, Nomar and Berkman are pretty much givens. I’m not sold on Burnett, but if he doesn’t suffer any new injuries, he should be much improved next year with another off-season of recovery from his arm problems.

Huff and Lee are both worthwhile corner infield hitters, so you won’t go wrong keeping either one. If you do decide to let go of one of them (or Burnett), Patterson wouldn’t be the player I’d keep instead. Patterson has power and speed, and his strike zone control has improved, but I’m still not sold on him turning into a great hitter.

Matsui, on the other hand, is somebody you can count on. He was great in Japan, and after a year to adjust, he’s been great here. He should definitely have more home runs and a higher average than Patterson, and the Yankees lineup should help him drive in many more runs without scoring too many fewer.

The question then is whether or not you think Patterson’s steals will make up for Matsui’s significant advantages in three other categories, and I don’t think they will. So, not only should you not go out of your way to keep Patterson, I don’t even think he’s the best player you wouldn’t be keeping under the plan you’re leaning towards.

I’d probably keep Santana and Sheets to anchor my pitching staff and then go for offense with Blalock, Nomar, Berkman, Lee, Huff and Matsui. Burnett might be great, but pitchers are unpredictable under the best circumstances, and Burnett is certainly not the most reliable pitcher in baseball. Take the extra hitter you can count on and try to find some bargain pitchers (like Sheets was this year).

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