Haste makes… hay

You are reading this on the date of the 2012 Major League Baseball trading deadline. In most fantasy leagues, however, you still have a few weeks remaining before your league’s trade deadline. Pushing your league’s trading deadline beyond the actual MLB is good policy, as it enables teams to make decisions with full information about a player’s situation. While it can be prudent in the case of certain players to wait until his role and team are known, it is usually in your best interest not too wait any longer than the MLB deadline to address your needs.

A mid-to-late-August fantasy trade deadline leaves very little time for players acquired at that point to produce for their new teams and give them the categorical surges for which they are needed and acquired. Therefore, if you are in need of help in a specific category, there aren’t many compelling reasons to wait longer, despite the time cushion available. One effect of the late trade deadline is that it acts as a peg that influences the timeline on which owners begin to consider trading, compelling many owners to procrastinate and often ultimately wait too long to make their moves.

With the logic of acting sooner than later fairly self-evident, I’d like to discuss the exceptional cases in which waiting a few extra weeks is wise.

Trading low-volume stats from surplus without major categorical need
You are at or toward the top of the standings. You’ve already secured some distance and security in saves, steals, or maybe homers – you can trade a one-category producer away and still expect a top 3 finish in the category. You have no glaring needs, are generally competitive across the board and are basically looking to upgrade one of your weaker starting position players or for an extra arm to provide some push down the stretch.

In these scenarios, the player you are trading doesn’t hold much value to your team, roto-points-wise, so it is in your team’s interest, in a vacuum, to trade this player even for a modest upgrade at another position. However, the player you are giving up could be very valuable to the team acquiring him. You may be giving up more points to the receiver than you will gain from the player you will get.

In this scenario, you shouldn’t be in a major rush and completing a deal shouldn’t be too difficult, as there are likely many potential suitors (these categories tend to cluster in the middle) and you likely have a fair amount of flexibility regarding the position of the player you take back. In this situation, you also must consider the teams with which you are willing to be a trading partner. You don’t want to trade with a close rival, since you are likely to lose out in raw points in the deal. So, trading with a team at the middle or bottom of the standings is preferable. You may also want to consider trying to ship the player to a team that could then pass your rival in the category, stealing yourself an extra point that way as well.

You don’t have to wait in this scenario, per se, rather the proper course is dependent upon how close certain categories are and the relative position of the team with which you are planning to trade.

Creating time pressure when acquiring somebody else’s surplus value

Look at the above situation from the eyes of the rest of the league. Sometimes you can tell from a team’s roster construction and categorical strengths that they will be looking to unload a categorical surplus at the deadline. If a team is leading comfortably in saves, a closer with non-elite ratio stats is useless to that team, but can be useful to you. As the deadline approaches, the other owner is going to have increased pressure to deal that surplus and therefore may be willing to accept less in return just to get something back that they can use.

One other point to note here is that it is usually not worth trying to wait to extract the best possible deal if your need is glaring. Getting a player who will help you in a category in which you need to make up considerable ground onto your roster immediately will have more impact than waiting two weeks and getting either a slightly better player or giving up a bit less to get that player. You have to win the league, not the trade.

Making sneaky plays for next year when you aren’t out of this year’s race
Over the years, Derek Carty emerged as one of the masters of free to cheap closer keeper strategy and each year he would publish candidates to emerge as closers the following season. Suppose Rafael Betancourt is not dealt before this article publishes. Don’t think the Rockies have any use for him going forward and that they feel they’d be better off trading the established veteran with a friendly contract and handing the job to Rex Brothers in 2013? Well, wouldn’t it be smart to trade for Brothers now and keep him at his pre-closer price?

If you are in the race now, these are luxury moves. You don’t want to give up anything you need to win this year, and the player you are targeting will likely make a bigger impact as an under-the-radar keeper next year due to potential offseason moves. In this case it is sensible to wait as long as you can before acting so your sacrifice is minimal. In these cases, you are expecting the change of status to occur in the offseason, so waiting an extra few weeks shouldn’t change much about the player’s price.

If you have a nice lead in your league, this could be another way to spend your surplus value—trying to acquire cheap players with the best chances of becoming more valuable in the offseason via a change of team or role. Who these players might be usually becomes clearer once the MLB trade deadline passes.

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