#TDGX Trade Deadline Strategy: Standing Pat
The trade deadline is quite frankly the main reason I enjoy playing fantasy baseball. I love trading. Who doesn’t love trading? Bring me to them, I’ll make ‘em an offer they can’t refuse. The art of the deal – the process of finding common ground on an agreement that improves your team (cough while diminishing your opponent cough) – is the most challenging and riveting dynamic of the game. And when you add in the ticking clock of a looming deadline as an increasingly-prominent-by-the-minute variable it kicks things up another couple notches. The thrill of the hunt, and so forth.
I can’t recall ever standing pat at a trade deadline in any league I’ve played in ever. That is, until this trade deadline in TDGX, anyway. Yep. I sit in fourth place as of this writing, and the clock just ticked past the deadline with no frantic last ditch efforts by m to acquire X, Y, and Z pieces to make my run at glory down the stretch. So why’d I do it? Why’d I let this golden opportunity to chase the inaugural league flag slip through my twiddling fingers?
Well, the short answer is that while sometimes you don’t make a deal because you’re a terrible General Manager, other times you don’t make a deal because there aren’t deals to make that serve your best interests. As I’ve discussed in check-in pieces several times recently (July June May), my squad is a strong team that currently sits a cut below the most elite teams in the league. I’ve been burned by several of my ostensible stars failing to live up to their draft day prices, and really when you consider how little I’ve gotten from my top eight picks in the draft it makes my squad’s performance all the more remarkable. Check out this quick and dirty table of those picks and their projected-versus-actual performance rankings:
Despite this catastrophe of underperformance at the top, I enter play today with the following category rankings:
So my weaknesses here are pretty clear, and for mid-season trading purposes they’re pretty terrible weaknesses to have. AVG is a notoriously difficult thing to project, and it’s an even worse thing to try and chase in-season. Batting averages come and they go, influenced not only by tangible skills but also the whims of batted ball luck, defensive shifting, wind patterns, and strays infield pebbles. Trading for a guy to be a batting average boost because he’s hit .300 over the last couple months is more often than not a bad idea, because you’re trading for a skill that may or may not be reflective of actual skill. And while you can get under the hood to extrapolate trends and project around them, the reality is that a not insignificant portion of the components determining batting average are either the products of random variation or statistical sign posts that don’t stabilize within the sample sizes you’re reduced to looking at. And on the other side of the category coin, Saves are an equally ephemeral asset to try and acquire. A closer today is a burned out middle relief carcass tomorrow.
The point here is that the two categories where I have the most ground to make up are the hardest to assign value to in determining what is and is not an appropriate price tag to pay for talent. With volatility comes uncertainty, and with uncertainty comes greater risk. And in dynasty formats risk management becomes that much more of a critical enterprise, since poor decision-making affects not just the remainder of the current season but potentially several more to come after. And it may be boring, but when in doubt about the cost of doing business the correct business decision is usually the conservative one in situations like this.
The other primary dynamic at play driving my inaction was my assessment of my team’s standing on the win curve, and this is a critical thing for any owner to understand. I’ve see-sawed between fourth and fifth places with Team Chatelain for a few weeks now, and while that’s a strong standing in a twenty team league the reality is I’m a full 40 points behind Ian and Tim’s first place juggernaut and the chances are fairly overwhelming that I wouldn’t be able to catch them with even a significant deadline infusion of talent. Given that this isn’t a cash league with a top three payout or anything there’s very little in the way of incentive (beyond pride, of course) to mortgage future value for a run at second place this season. And given how my squad does stack up in its current form I’m close enough to a viable top-tier running that it doesn’t make much sense at all for me to sell off any core parts of my franchise for present upgrades.
To put some names on this last point, my most “tradable” assets – at least insofar as being the guys most frequently sought by other GM’s in talks – included George Springer, Shelby Miller, Dylan Bundy, Billy Butler, and to a lesser extent Raimel Tapia and Nick Williams. Outside of Springer’s assault on the league through May, none of those guys have done much at all to help me win this season, and any would’ve made logical sense to deal for present upgrades. But I believe in the long-term value of all of those guys, and in the cases of Tapia and Williams I’m willing to bet they’ll hold much more trade value a year from now when they’re in the high minors.
Given that the cost of a tangible upgrade to my present team would’ve included some combination of that group, and given the aforementioned uncertainties associated with my upgrade needs, it added up to a situation where the right deal at what I ascertained to be the right level of cost never materialized. Moreover, I believe the off-season – devoid as it will be of looming deadlines and heat-of-the-moment value assessments – will deflate the prices I need to acquire the talent I need to acquire.
Not making a trade is a tough pill to swallow for anyone with a jones in their bones to trade, but sometimes having the discipline to walk away and affirm a commitment to your long-term plan is the appropriate play. Much to my chagrin, that’s where I found myself for the first time at the TDGX deadline.
[…] I held steady at the trade deadline, which basically served to confirm what I’ve been feeling and saying about my team for some time, which is that I’m in that awkward in-between stage between the top tier and the middle tier. No move, however dramatic, was going to let me sniff a run at Kahn this year, and the cost of doing business for even mid-tier moves at the deadline proved costlier than I wanted. I’m not far away from taking a leap towards title contention next year, but in the end I felt I’d be better served making the moves I need to make in the offseason. […]