So I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and yet it still feels like this is going to come out half baked, for which I apologize. I’m going to try not to delve too deep into numbers, even though they’re very important, because I don’t want people to get caught up in the examples so much as the concept itself. The concept in question is value. It’s a big word these days, and the focus of many minds, both in the fantasy and real life realms.
In the real world, it comes down to dollar values. Free agent signings, extensions, trades all relate to impacts on team budgets and affect both roster composition and more importantly than ever; opportunity cost. Signing or trading for someone is evaluated by possible alternatives both at the time and in the future.
In the fantasy world, value mostly comes in the form of trades. We see this all the time when answering Bat Signal questions for BP.
“I’m looking to move player X, what should I be looking for?”
“Is Player A + Player B enough value for Player Y?”
And so on and so forth. It’s always difficult for me to answer these questions because there’s so much we don’t know. Often people go to great lengths to include enough details to give us the proper context for their question, but the reality is that it’s extremely difficult to give a proper answer without knowing what other teams look like. Needing speed and acquiring Jose Altuve seem like a great match, but if you can’t gain enough points because the teams closest to you have Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton, then acquiring Altuve isn’t much use. Jeff Quinton wrote a wonderful article on this type of thing for Baseball Prospectus ($), saying it’s important to focus on what categories we can gain the most points in, rather than the categories that we’re weakest in. In effect, if it’s 4th and long in stolen bases, punt.
All of this is to say, I think we concern ourselves with value, in a vacuum, too much. Part of this can’t be avoided. We all want to win our trades and look smart in front of our friends or enemies, and when you ask an expert (or an “expert”), often the best they can do is tell you where the value resides sans context because even working with partial context can skew the answer otherwise. We also can’t spend our entire day or night overexplaining the intricacies of our leagues to someone, so I’m not advocating that anyone go and do that. What I’m advocating is to do your best to take their non-contextual answer and filter it through those intricacies, be it roster and/or league related.
The most important thing to filter, though, is this question: Am I making my team better?
The answer of course can be complicated – especially in dynasty and keeper leagues – where short term and long term goals need to be balanced. Opportunity cost is a bitch in these situations. It plagues us to think we made a particular deal when a different, more opportune deal could have been out there! But the question at hand should always be “did I make my team better?” Sometimes that includes a deal that is value negative in the abstract, but gets you what you ultimately need. Overpaying isn’t overpaying if it nets you the necessary player.
This is a long way of saying a simple thing, I know, but I think it’s important to understand what we’re doing when answer an abstract question, and also what to focus on when doing your own analysis. It’s ok to take a short term loss in value if you’re not competing this year. Does the trade (or move) make your team better for the time period that you’re attempting to compete in? That’s the biggest question you have to answer. Whether it’s the best deal out there or not isn’t always the issue. There are instances where you could have held on for a larger return, but it’s not worth sweating that type of move if the player you moved wasn’t going to benefit you when you needed the benefit. Stop worrying if you’re getting the best bang for your buck. All that matters is talent acquisition.