The concept of buying low and selling high is, without a doubt, easier said than done. After all, no league is played in a vacuum and most owners are simply impressed by fast starts or panicked by slow ones. Rather, there’s a balancing act when acquiring a player.
One must consider a player’s draft status, what kind of personality traits the opposing owner possesses and other various issues that aren’t as easy as measuring performance.
Every player has a price, or at least they should. Figuring out which ones are worth paying for is always key.
When putting together this list of pitchers, I tried to take into consideration not just whether a given player will outperform or underperform their current pace, but also weight the relevance of that information. For instance, saying that Brad Penny is a sell-high candidate is fine in theory, but I have yet to meet someone who would be willing to pay for him as if he was the 28th-best pitcher in baseball (as his current pace suggests). For that matter, I’m willing to bet that he’s one of those rare players who is almost impossible to trade because he’s playing too well.
Hopefully, you get the idea.
As usual, whenever I reference where a player ranks, it’s based on the Tom Tango formula.
Buyer beware (but don’t tell them that)
Mat Latos: If you’ve been reading this column, you may find the fact that the San Diego Padres pitcher appears in this category surprising. This is where the unscientific portion of my goal comes, in, though. While it is true that Latos was essentially a draft-day afterthought in many leagues (ADP in ESPN: 212), he was hardly an unknown commodity. Coming off his near perfect game (the only baserunner was an infield single), the hype surrounding this guy has never been higher. I own him in two leagues and have already fielded several offers. So far, he’s been the 35th-best pitcher in baseball. Oliver projects him to finish out as the 66th (3.49 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 83 strikeouts). Obviously, if you took him with one of the final picks in your draft, if he performs to even that modest level of success, you should consider him a solid investment. Still, if someone makes you an offer that you like, say someone like the underperforming Wandy Rodriguez or suddenly stable Jonathan Sanchez (I’ll have more on them later), you should feel free to pull the trigger.
Andy Pettitte: Maybe this is a little bit of a stretch since the Yankees starter is on the downside of his career and not exactly a fantasy-baseball crush (ADP 195), but I’m willing to bet there are buyers out there. Pettitte has essentially been performing like a top-20 pitcher and still plays for one of the best teams in baseball. Surely, someone is willing to pay a decent premium for that. Oliver projects Pettitte to finish out the season as the 80th-best pitcher (4.06 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and an 8-7 record). If you can grab a Jeff Niemann (projected as the 44th-best pitcher from here on out), John Danks (No. 31) or Shaun Marcum (No. 28), I say make the deal and never look back.
David Price: Like Latos, there are some serious caveats that need to go along with the Rays starter. Most importantly, please ignore this if you are in some kind of keeper league. Also, Oliver is not projecting for Price to fall apart (he’s projected to finish out, respectably, as the 43rd-best pitcher). Still, he’s pitching like a top-15 pitcher and the hype machine is currently working overtime. If you are ever going to get a serious return on your investment, this might be the time to cash in. Oliver projects a Rest of Season line of 3.72 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and less than a 2:1 K:BB ratio. If you can grab someone like Matt Garza (No. 23 from here on out), Josh Johnson (No. 13) or one of the truly elite pitchers like Felix Hernandez (No. 11), you’d be crazy not to make the deal.
Ricky Romero: I think the Blue Jays starter might fit the classic mold of this kind of column almost perfectly. He’s had some reasonable success before, is off to a blazing start and is bound to cool off. The value here lies in just how much Oliver projects him to cool. Keeping in mind that Oliver, for whatever reason, has been really down on Romero from the get-go, but Oliver has him finishing out the year as 175th-best pitcher (5.09 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 7-9 record). Right now, he’s pitching like someone in the top 10. If you believe in Oliver, getting value on Romero basically means convincing someone to give you a bucket of wet hair in exchange for not wasting a roster spot on him. I’m willing to bet you can get more than that. Ian Kennedy (projected to finish out the season as the 76th-best pitcher), Phil Hughes (No. 33) or even Oliver’s crush Colby Lewis (No. 6) would all seem to be players that could be had.
Francisco Liriano: Owners were definitely skeptical on draft day (ADP 210), but I’m willing to bet his hot start has erased many doubts. He’s throwing like the top-25 pitcher many have been waiting for and he might even be able to fetch a price that is better than that. Oliver projects a considerable fall-off (4.22 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, an 8-7 record are among the stats that would drive him down to the 68th-best pitcher in baseball). Could you get Cole Hamels (39th), James Shields (36th) or Jake Peavy (29th)? Definitely. You might even be able to get someone like Yovani Gallardo (26th) or Tommy Hanson (19th).
Buy, buy, buy
Ricky Nolasco: The Marlins pitcher has had an up-and-down start to the season (currently ranked 42nd). I wouldn’t expect anyone who drafted him (ADP 93) to get fed up with him, yet I do think that owners may be getting antsy. Oliver projects a stronger finish (3.67 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, better than 4:1 K:BB and a 10-7 record) that would make him the 12th-best pitcher for the rest of the season. I basically acquired him for Geovany Soto in one league. If you can get him for someone like that, I say make the deal.
Josh Beckett: If Nolasco has been up-and-down, the Red Sox starter has been a virtual bottomless pit (currently ranked 112th). OK, that’s not fair since he has had a couple decent outings. Either way, he’s been far from reliable, most recently getting shelled for nine runs in 5.1 innings against the Yankees. I have to imagine owners are getting mighty itchy about trading him and would welcome any reasonable offer. If you can get him, Oliver projects that you would almost certainly come out a winner, as he’s projected to finish out the season as the 22nd-best pitcher (3.88 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and about a 4:1 K:BB ratio).
Wandy Rodriguez: Although the Astros starter’s upside is not as high as the other two guys on this list, Oliver does project a much strong finish. After a slow start that has him as the 90th-best pitcher in baseball, Oliver projects a finish in the top 40 (3.93 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 139 Ks). Those aren’t the kind of numbers you build a fantasy rotation around, and he does play for one of the worst teams in baseball, but he’s probably available and probably at a lower price than the other guys on this list. Could you get him for Tim Hudson? I’m willing to bet yes.
Jonathan Sanchez: The Giants starter is not projected to equal his hot start, that should come as little surprise. The degree to which that is true might be, though. Sanchez is projected to be a top-50 pitcher the rest of the season (4.09 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and a 9-7 record) after compiling numbers that made him the 31st-best pitcher so far. I’m willing to bet many owners are expecting a considerable drop off and would probably move him for someone who’s off to a comparably strong start but is perceived to be more sustainable. Maybe Dallas Braden (62nd), Barry Zito (71st) or Jaime Garcia (86th) would do the trick.
Ubaldo Jimenez: Up to this point, Jimenez has been the best pitcher in baseball. Why would you buy a player like this? Considering his draft status (ADP: 93), there were definitely some doubts. There are probably a lot of owners that believe they are selling high. In a sense, they are—Jimenez’s value is probably going down. The relevant issue, though, is how much you have to pay to get him. Jimenez’s drop-off is projected to be reasonable (20th-best from here on out) and if you can get him for someone perceived to be more stable or have a better upside, then that’s a deal you should make. I wouldn’t be shocked to see someone like Liriano or Roy Oswalt bring Jimenez in return.