Teaching myself a lesson in opportunity costby Derek Ambrosino
June 30, 2010
Certainly you needn’t be a pack rat to understand the feeling of being extremely reluctant to throw away an item that actually has little monetary or even sentimental value. For example, I have shoe boxes full of pens (though not nearly as many shoe boxes full of shoes – just let my fiancé tell you) that I should just throw out, but don’t. They’re perfectly good pens. I don’t know how I accumulated so many, but while they may be superfluous, they’re functional and thus are not trash, I tell myself. But, of course, they aren’t really worth anything and I’ll likely never use them, so what’s the point of them taking up room in my closet or desk drawer?
In my shallow mixed league, Johnny Damon has become a box full of pens. My outfield is extremely strong in that league and I’ve been trying to trade from that strength all year without much success. Recently, I was able to move Hunter Pence for Aaron Hill in order to upgrade my middle infield, especially as Troy Tulowitzki nurses a broken wrist for the next month or so. I still have five outfielders better than Damon and Damon is now sitting in my utility spot and will be battling for playing time with the recently healthy Aramis Ramirez.
The question is why do I have Johnny Damon on this team at all. There are likely better fits for my team on the wire, since this is a shallow league. So, why haven’t I made this move? I guess the answer is that I still think Damon has some trade value due to his decent performance (mainly in the runs category), his name recognition and long history as a valuable commodity. However, realistically, my hope of swinging a deal that includes Damon is nearly exhausted. I was just unsuccessful trying to shop him along with Ian Stewart to upgrade my middle infield again. I may soon be left with no course of action but to drop Damon and pick up one of the serviceable corners on the wire and then shop a corner and try to upgrade elsewhere.
As I look back over the course of my relationship with Johnny Damon this year, I see it is the latest instance in one of my most chronic and debilitating fantasy behaviors. I’ve said many times here that I often get too attached to players who I feel are just good enough to help somebody else and therefore I hesitate to drop those players, even if they aren’t the best possible options for my team. I guess some might consider this a version of the endowment effect.
I write this column as much as a treatsie to myself as a piece of advice to you all (those who can’t do, teach; isn’t that what they say?). Consider opportunity cost. Yes, was I to drop Damon, he would likely find his way on to another team soon. And, yes, he may help that team in a fairly tight race in the runs category. But, what am I losing by owning Damon and rotating him between the bench, part-time utility player, and outfielder when my regulars have a day off or haven’t a game scheduled?
Let’s see. I could be spot starting. Somebody recently dropped C.J. Wilson for whatever reason and I wanted to pick him up to start against the Astros this past weekend, but couldn’t bring myself to drop Damon to do it. Wilson grabbed a win, and three wins separate five points in our current standings.
I’m taking that big ole “1” in saves in this league (yet I’ve still spent most of the season in second place). So, I could be using that roster spot to speculate on potential closers-to-be.
I could also just drop Damon for the best possible bat on the wire, or the player with the highest steal or homer potential. I could try to deal myself to an upgrade in other, more creative ways, as I mentioned above.
My point here is that perhaps it is not always the wisest course to attempt to extract the most possible value from your fringe commodities on the trade market. If you can’t make that flip in a timely manner, you may be losing more in opportunity cost than you retain in value-add to your team.
I’d also like to make a tangential point here regarding Damon and his current value. Damon is a significant contributor in the run scoring department; on my team’s roster, only Ryan Braun has scored more runs than Damon and my team is mid-pack in that category. But, anecdotally, of all the traditional counting stats, the least trade-able one-category producer is he who excels in scoring runs. Many owners just happen to see runs as a byproduct of overall offensive productivity, and to a substantial degree I wouldn’t say they are wrong. Owners also aren’t so likely to regard a difference of 10 runs scored over the course of a season as a profound difference between two players. Very rarely do you hear somebody say that a player is valuable because he scores a lot of runs and rarely is the runs category managed as attentively as, say homers or steals, during a draft or auction. In fact, how many of us can even name the top 5 or so in runs scored off the tops of our heads? When discussing A-Rod’s amazing career, how often do you reference his incredible seasonal run totals?
So, for better or worse, runs are tough to sell and much of Damon’s value is wrapped up in them. By the way, if he was stealing bases at 2001-2008 pace or hitting with some power as he did last year, he wouldn’t be burning a hole in my pocket—if he could give me roughly 40 combined homers and steals, I wouldn’t even care much how they were distributed.
I’m writing this piece a few days before it will be published; perhaps Damon’s stint won’t last until publication. My outfield boasts Nelson Cruz and the now returning to humanity Andre Ethier, both of whom spent time on the DL, so it was helpful to have some depth at the position. But right now I feel that roster slot could be better used in another way and moving Damon is feeling like extracting blood from a stone.
When reading fantasy articles, experts can make it seem like it is very easy to trade players, even fringe commodities. In reality though, it is often quite difficult and while it is always best to never give away anything of value, sometimes relenting to do so may be doing you more harm than good.
Derek Ambrosino aspires to one day, like Dan Quisenberry, find a delivery in his flaw, you can send him questions, comments, or suggestions at digglahhh AT yahoo DOT com.
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