Get ready to wheel and deal.
Being a fantasy baseball owner is all about mimicking the life of a real-world general manager, so it's only natural, then, that so many of us enjoy making trades in our game.
If you're at a point in your season where you've assessed your roster's strengths and weaknesses, this is an ideal time to begin exploring the trade market. I'll even help: Wednesday, I'm proposing several straight-up trades I'd make right now.
These are swaps meant to identify opportunity, either players whose values might be perceived too high or those who could be currently undervalued, and they go straight by my rankings, updated below. This means that they all follow the order of my ranks, yet build in some wiggle room; some owners might disagree with my order of players, but also the difference between players ranked only 10 spots apart in the 150-160 range is minimal, for example.
Give these swaps a try, or even if unsuccessful, you might find that substituting a comparably ranked player might get the deal done.
I'm as big an Andrew Cashner fan as anyone -- he was my No. 31 starting pitcher entering the year and a near-top-100 player overall -- but a four-quality-starts-in-five performance resulting in a 2.10 ERA and 1.05 WHIP nevertheless presents a cashing-in opportunity, and fantasy owners need to use said chips to acquire more talented players when and if they can. Cashner, after all, has an injury history: He missed more than 60 games in 2012 with a lat injury, and missed almost all of 2011 with shoulder woes.
Bailey, meanwhile, has been obliterated by bad luck, whether matchups (double St. Louis Cardinals), the wind or this statistical fact: He has a 28.6 home run/fly ball percentage, fourth highest among qualified pitchers. His BABIP is a league-high .421. His well-hit average -- the percentage of at-bats against him that resulted in hard contact -- is .125, which is actually lower than his .149 number in 2013.
Braun has come up in this space before, and every caution previously offered stands even now. Nevertheless, he's on pace for 46 home runs and 123 RBIs, largely on the strength of two huge games (a three-homer outburst on April 8 and a two-homer game on April 19), but I'd argue that those build your case to trade him rather than keep him around. Braun's thumb issues could resurface, and if he'll fetch you first-round value, it's wise to purge yourself of the risk of him missing time.
Suggesting Stanton as a return might seem puzzling, considering he has some injury questions of his own -- he missed 85 games combined from 2012-13 -- but based on his early returns it's a chance worth taking. He's on pace for 44 homers, and I'd suggest his chances of actually reaching the 40-homer plateau are greater even if both stay healthy; he simply has more raw power of the two.
Trumbo is off to a solid start -- No. 35 on the Player Rater despite his .210 batting average -- but haven't we heard this story before? He is a player who historically excels early in the year but struggles late, evidenced by his first-/second-half numbers:
Career first half: .268/.324/.517, 60 HR, 22.2 K%, 28.2 Miss%, .215 WHAV
Career second half: .227/.268/.410, 35 HR, 28.8 K%, 31.1 Miss%, .186 WHAV
Meanwhile, Alvarez went 15 spots later on average during the preseason and has the lesser 2014 Rotisserie stats of the two -- .179-6-13 to Trumbo's .210-7-19 -- but I was always on board with him being the better overall player of the two, and I still think he is the better bet to breeze past the 30-homer mark (and perhaps approach 40). Alvarez's well-hit average thus far is right on par with his numbers in 2013: He has a .192 mark, which compares nicely to last year's .199.
Segura is and should remain a useful source of stolen bases, but he's not as powerful a hitter as he showed in 2013, typically a player who hits 60 percent of his balls in play on the ground. So far this season he has hit just eight fly balls (for a 76.4 percent ground-ball rate), but the greater concern is that he's just 5-for-9 in steals, after struggling to the tune of a 17-for-25 steals performance in the second half of 2013.
Hosmer, meanwhile, might have a pair of doughnuts in the homer and steals departments -- that's your strongest case to acquire him cheaply -- but everything in his game hints that he's doing all the same things he did during his breakthrough 2013: He's hitting to all fields, not chasing too high a rate of non-strikes and he has cut his swing-and-miss rate by more than 7 percent. With a little lift on the ball he could be a 25-homer hitter, and he'll even chip in a few steals, helpful for those who might feel the pinch from dealing Segura and his speed.
A quick glance at Walker's statistics shows minimal change in skills outside of one area: power. That's easily explained by his 18.8 home run/fly ball percentage, which is nearly 9 percent higher than his numbers in either 2012 or 2013. Walker is a handy player even in mixed leagues -- he's middle infield material in a 10-team league -- but he lacks the kind of power/speed upside evident in Dozier. Dozier is a natural fly-ball hitter, with a 43.1 percent rate thus far in his major league career, plus a .152 isolated power, and he's plenty capable of stealing in double digits. Absorbing Dozier's batting average might be a negative for some fantasy teams, but it's one well worth taking based on his greater homer/steal upside.
You'll notice that Cobb plummeted in this week's ranks, upon word that he would likely miss another six weeks with his oblique injury, but the correct time to deal for him is not at the end of May, once he fully recovers. The time is now. Lynn, a notorious hot starter, is an ideal trade chip, a pitcher with a 12-0 record, 2.60 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 13 career starts in the month of April.
Normally I'd resist trading for an injured player, but in Cobb's case, my confidence is based upon his strong recovery from injury last year, in a more challenging situation: He had a 2.41 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in nine starts after recovering from a concussion sustained when he was hit in the ear by a line drive. Cobb is an underrated pitcher who has made a major breakthrough the past two seasons on the strength of his changeup; he has merely been unlucky in the injury department.
The case can be made that Mesoraco and Wieters aren't that different in terms of 10-team mixed value; both by all rights could end the year with .260 batting averages and 20-25 home runs. Mesoraco's owners might prefer to stick with him and see whether he can extend his hot start. Here's why they shouldn't: Wieters is the player with the greater experience, critical for a catcher, as the learning curve appears to be lengthier for the position (a point about which he's an outstanding example). He's 28 years old, had a strong spring and has experienced a small uptick in both his isolated power and fly-ball rates thus far in the regular season.
Tristan H. Cockcroft's top 250 "going-forward" rankings
For a detailed rankings breakdown by position, click here.