Friday, May 6, 2011

Original Ottoneu: Trade Recap

After completing my first FanGraphs Experts League trade last week, I followed it up with my first in-season trade of the year in the original ottoneu league. As the other owners in this league can tell you, I LOVE to trade and I am always active in the trade market, either as a buyer or seller. The fact that I have already made one trade and am in talks for one to two more is a surprise to no one.

But this is a somewhat odd trade for me to have made. Around the time I posted this, I began to explore the possibility of parting ways with Chad Billingsley. I actually think he is quite valuable in the 4x4 format and at $28, I do not think he is overpriced for his production, but I received some feedback before and during the season suggesting that most of the other owners would not have paid him that much and that his market value is actually below what I am paying him.With my team falling to last in the standings, he was one of the players I expected to sell before the year was out.

I went through the standings to see who was in a position to compete but struggling with their SP and sent out feeler emails to a few owners, and got a bite. Actually, and this becomes important, I got exactly one bite. Most of the responses I received were tepid at best, ranging from "I'm pretty lukewarm on him" to "Oh no, I hate Billingsley." (To be fair, the latter stemmed from anti-Dodger sentiment more than anything else).

But one owner expressed interest. Over the next couple weeks, talks went slowly and my team bounced around between 12th and 10th. I knew that the other owner was exploring some other deals, including one for Cliff Lee from an owner who I knew was entering full-on sales mode. We started to settle on a deal that would include either Jordan Zimmermann ($5) or Zach Britton ($3) along with a couple prospects. I couldn't get him to bite on sending me Brandon  Belt, but names like Archer, Choice, Segura, Machado, and Arodys Vizcaino were tossed around.

And then something odd happened. His team began to drop, falling from the top 5, while my team started to climb. By the beginning of the week, he and I were bouncing between 7th and 8th, and over the next couple days, I climbed as high as 3rd (for about an hour). But we kept talking and settled on a deal that would send him Billingsley and some cash for Zimmermann, Choice ($1) and Archer ($3).

My situation had changed. On Wednesday, I was in 4th when my hand was forced - the owner I was dealing with proposed the trade and gave me until 5:30 p.m. that evening or he was pulling the deal. I could have called his bluff, but I knew he could get Lee (for a higher price) or 1-2 other pitchers, and this deal really would be off the table.

Looking to the future, I think I got good value here. Zimmermann should develop into a solid starter (I think the k-rate will come back as he continues to recover from surgery), I really like what Choice brings to the table, and I think Archer could be a decent contributor - although I kind of hope he ends up in a relief role, where I think he will have more value for me.

From a 2011 perspective, I think it is clear he got more value. In evaluating this, I'll assume no 2011 value from the prospects: Choice is nowhere near the bigs and Archer seems unlikely to contribute this year either. But even so, I don't think the spread is huge. The rest of season ZiPS projection for Billingsley is 166 IP, 8.46 K/9, .6 HR/9, 3.42 ERA, 1.28 WHIP. For Zimmerman, 82 IP (by far the biggest gap), 7.13 K/9, .88 HR/9, 3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP. Clearly Billingsley is the better pitcher, or projects to be, but Zimmermann is younger and much cheaper. Plus, I have strengthened my farm system to the point that I may be able to make another deal for a SP.

So the conundrum I was left with was whether to take a forward looking trade that would likely leave me needing to make another deal to get back to a solid rotation for 2011 when I was pushing up towards the money.

And this is where the fact that I got absolutely no other interest in Billingsley factors in. If this other owner made his deals and settled into a rotation he liked, I had no market to move Billingsley later in the year. In the end, I decided the value I expect (hope?) to get from Zimmermann would be enough to keep me afloat until I can figure out something else, and that I had to jump at the pure value of this deal before it disappeared.

It is not every day that you see a team in 4th move a front-line starter to a team in 8th for an unproven youngster and prospects, but I think in this case it was the right move for me. As always, would love to know what you think!


  1. I like this deal. I'm not that high on Billingsley either, while I am high on Zimmerman. I think you've definitely improved your team for 2012 and beyond. And if you do end up using the prospects you also acquired to get another solid SP, then you're back to where you were for 2011, again with a more solid future.

    While reading your post, you mention prospects and your "farm system." That got me thinking about the share of your roster you should devote towards building "a farm system." Based on your post, notably your trade partner throwing "a couple of prospects" into the deal, it seems like owners in your league devote a good chunk of their rosters to prospects. In my league, there are somethimg like 50 minor leaguers rostered. What are your thoughts on the optimal roster breakdown between major and minor leaguers, as well as allocation of minor leaguers at various levels (A, AA, AAA, etc.)?

    I entered the season with only three minor leaguers, each of whom was projected to be in the majors sometime by the end of 2012: Hosmer, Britton, and Trout. As of today, that list has been whittled to one due to earlier-than-anticipated callups.

  2. Once this trade goes down, I will have 11 minor leaguers on my roster. And that is only cause Sizemore got called up finally. Two others I expected to be up to start the year (Chris Carter, Brandon Allen) and two more I expect to be up at some point (Jason Kipnis, Andy Oliver) with one more maybe getting a cup of coffee (Wilin Rosario).

    Suffice it to say, 11 is too many. I have limited depth and have not been able to execute the SP/RP combo I typically like to use. I will definitely be exploring trades to swap out prospects for present-day talent.

    But 50 guys rostered in your league is, I would argue, too few. That means that some very good prospects are out there for the grabbing and once teams start to figure out if they are competing this year or not, they will get gobbled up.

    As for levels, my basic theory is to avoid guys who are more than two years away completely - so anyone who you don't expect to be up by this time in 2013 is, I think, unownable. Beyond that, I basically will take anyone at any level who is a top 25 prospect, anyone AA or above below that. If you are outside the top 75 or so, you better be ready to contribute this year, even as a role player, if I am going to take a shot at you. That help?

  3. I like the trade for the Zimmermann portion - but Archer at $3 doesn't do it for me. Given that he could top out as a reliever, and he's also probably a year or more away...well, he just seems a bit too expensive to really be a viable throw in. Though, to be fair, I don't know how much you could've gotten out of your trade partner in addition to the other stuff you got. Choice is a very nice lottery ticket, and at $1, totally worth rostering for a little while.

    Good deal, but not one of those ones where the other owners are going to want to punch the other guy in the face. Which, in my opinion, is the best way to go about things.

  4. Thanks for the thoughts Chad. I agree with your strategy of avoiding anyone below AA unless they are top-25 or so. I won't take anyone that I don't expect to be a full-time big leaguer within the next 24 months (which probably gives you roughly the same list as AA and above). And of course, price gets factored in too. I have to get at least a $2 discount on a AA guy relative to an equivalent AA guy, due to both risk and salary inflation.

    Maybe not for you given the owner quality in your league, but for the rest of us in public leagues there's also the risk that our league will deteriorate due to owner attrition, lack of interest, etc. This has significantly impacted my strategy for holding minor leaguers, as the status of the league in 2013 and beyond is very unclear. If my league shows to have a solid core of owners then I will reevaluate, but I discount the future pretty heavily at present.

  5. Should have said "...$2 discount on a AA guy relative to an equivalent AAA guy...".

  6. I think being cautious about the future makes sense under those circumstances. I can say without a doubt that the value of prospects has risen in our league over the years. Year one was definitely an experiment; year two it seemed to have legs. By year three, no one was going anywhere and building for a year or two down the line was a legitimate strategy.