Kill Your Babies (or, Trade your Prospects) starring Manny Machado
We all love those guys that vault into the top-10 after we drafted them in the fourth round three seasons ago, and now we get to bask in their glory and use that astute pick to prove to all how good we are at fantasy baseball. While snarky, this is a big reason (whether consciously or not) why we play fantasy baseball and acknowledging it is a step to becoming a better manager. This piece is talking to the manager (myself included) who knows they should trade their prospects but just cannot do it.
Do Not Actually Kill Babies
If you have ever taken a writing class, or read a screenwriting book, you may have heard the term “kill your babies,” which, while not the most aesthetically sounding phrase, can very much be applied to Dynasty Baseball. What it means is taking the best, most precious, sentence in a piece of writing (or the phrase you think will live on forever, or the protagonist speech that simply cannot be taken out), removing it, and by doing this it makes the piece stronger as a whole. This idea is very easily transferable to Dynasty baseball by simply replacing “babies” with “top prospects.”
As stated before, this piece is directed towards the prospect hound manager. She has grown to love her prospects, nurture them, and research them meticulously. I myself am in one league where all our minors are tracked via google sheet, and my prospects’ listings are linked to their baseball-reference page. It has been three long seasons of waiting on Mackenzie Gore to come up and dazzle us all with a Hall-of-Fame career, but waiting has been done and time has been invested. Deals have been rejected based on that nurture. Would it be difficult to see Mize/Kelenic/Luciano/Jasson/Abrams/etc become a superstar in a few seasons? Absolutely. But would it be better to win the league this season? Most definitely.
Anchor’s (bias) Aweigh
Something else I have noticed in regards to trading prospects is anchor bias. Anchoring is a cognitive bias “where an individual depends too heavily on an initial piece of information offered (considered to be the “anchor”) to make subsequent judgments during decision making.” For example, whenever my wife or I see something on sale, we have to remind each think about anchor bias. Is it really a good deal? Or is the “original” price set based on what the “sale” discount will reduce it to? You can never know absolutely, but recognizing this bias can help decide to make the purchase or not. Here are a couple of Dynasty baseball parallels:
- A fantasy manager told me he would not trade CJ Abrams or Andrew Vaughn since these prospects (among others) were acquired when he traded Mike Trout. Since he traded a consensus top fantasy player he could not justify trading the others for production “lower” than Trout’s. Having Mike Trout as the anchor for Abrams and Vaughn is affecting his subsequent evaluations of those two. I am no better, however, as you will see momentarily.
- Before last season, in a long-running Dynasty league, my team traded for Lucas Giolito for the low price of a second-round pick in the first-year player draft. Of course, I did not know that Giolito would take the leap but it has occurred to me that, when other teams have inquired about him since then, my evaluation is higher than expected since I acquired him for such a good deal and do not want to lose the “value.”
When taking over a Dynasty team and making trades we often look at what it costs to acquire that player’s services and we ask ourselves whether we are getting good enough production in relation to a prior deal involving said player. That is when we have to remind ourselves of the anchoring bias and attempt to assess the trade based only on the players involved, not the ones acquired/or traded away previously (having a friend/expert/reddit to ask for advice comes in handy). Obviously you know your team and can assess accordingly, but by recognizing our own bias, we can better manage our teams, just do not be afraid to Kill your Babies (Trade your Prospects).
Blowing Up My Own Spot on Manny Machado
This piece began as I tried to trade Manny Machado, one of the hottest hitters in baseball, in our writer’s league. Even bringing this up may make some less likely to trade, but so be it. I subscribe to the Ricky Bobby philosophy on playing Fantasy Baseball, “if you ain’t first you’re last.” It is simple and means always focusing on winning. However, that also comes with realizing when you can and cannot win.
My team cannot win this season. It is prospect heavy, with a couple of major league assets, Machado being the best. Now that the trade deadline is upon us, moving Machado for a good haul of young players is my team’s focus. Machado’s services were made available and some deals came in. What I found most interesting was the amount of “untouchable” prospects that could not be traded for Manny. It is more than you would think. So I looked at top 500 Dynasty lists and saw Machado hovering around #50 overall (which if he keeps up his 2020 should vault the 28-year-old up the list). Here are his statistics since he became a regular:
His 2014 was hampered by right knee issues ending in surgery but the knee and his overall health have been very good since. The consistency in all his stats (and his improved BB% and K% in 2020 thus far) makes it very odd why he would not be a good dynasty player, especially this season, for contending teams.
In most formats Machado is a top-five player thus far in 2020, so why is he not more popular? There is a myriad of possible reasons. The public perception of some players (Bryce Harper would be another good example) can push people into thinking they are lazy, arrogant, uncaring players, of which Machado has been the victim. It also could be a positional issue, because while he has third base and shortstop eligibility this season, next season he is 3B only (as SS is Fernando Tatis Jr.’s position for the next decade-plus).
There is also a feeling I have that many think Machado is just waiting to be terrible and the other shoe is going to drop any day now. I am not sure where this idea comes from, as the above statistics show a remarkable consistency. Hopefully, now that I have convinced the other writers here at TDG (and you too) that acquiring Machado is a worthwhile endeavor, let us quickly touch on another option: Not trading Machado. Trading Machado just to do so does not help my team. Before the First-Year Player Draft may be a better time to move him, especially if finishes the season as strong as he began it. Why isn’t Machado generating the type of interest that he should? Most likely it is a bit of Part A and Part B, and it just goes to show how much we can analyze a player, a team and a trade, and the effort involved is not minimal.
This has been an especially difficult season for drafting, trading, and managing and to my fellow managers out there making it work, I salute you. Keep up the good work through the last month, and we can all take a deep breath come October, and get ready for the first-year player drafts!