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Making Moves - Fantasy Baseball Trade Advice for Week 8

Trading is the most creative and fun way to improve your fantasy baseball roster, but also the hardest. You have to be able to value your own players objectively while accurately gauging how your fellow league owners value their own players. It is a battle of strategy, risk, and chance that can pay off in a big way if you know how to approach each situation. Be sure to have reasonable expectations and make offers that benefit both teams.

"But wait, I want to win the trade and fleece the other guy." I hear this all the time and it is a bad attitude to have if you want other players  to deal with you again in the future. People value their own players higher than anyone else does, it's just the way it is.

You don't want to insult another owner and gain a poor reputation, otherwise they will see you your trade offer in their email and simply delete it. Ever send an offer and not get a response? That is why. It is important to make trade offers that make sense for both sides while making your team better.

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The Mailbag Scoring System

Every week, I will be breaking down trade values as well as trade offers sent in by RotoBaller readers to shed some light on how to make the best deal for your team. I will be grading trades that have been sent in using the classic letter system. Here are examples of what those grades might mean:

  • A: The reader won the trade. No risk, no downside. All victory.
  • B: The reader won the trade, but it was fair enough.
  • C: The trade was even for both sides and could go either way.
  • D: Even though the move may have filled a need, it was a poor return
  • F: What was the reader thinking?
  • V: Good or bad, this trade is likely to be vetoed. (I do not condone vetoing trades.)

Be sure to send your fantasy baseball trade questions on Twitter to @MattWi77iams. Now, let's take a look at some trades you may be looking at this week in fantasy baseball.


Who's on the Block This Week?

 Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks)

Paul Goldschmidt’s value is hard to gauge. He looks lost at the plate and his strikeout rate has skyrocketed in 2018. However, his O-Swing% (pitches chased outside of the strike zone) and his swinging strike rate are sitting around his career averages. What’s that about? The man is not swinging at bad pitches, yet he is striking out a ton more. One cause of the problem is that his contact rate, especially at pitches within the strike zone, is way down this season across the board. Oddly enough, this has not affected Goldschmidt’s quality of contact as far as hard-hit rate is concerned.

It seems like the main issue is two things. First, Goldschmidt does not seem to be aggressive enough at the plate this season. The total number of first pitch strikes against him this season is well above his career average. Starting an at-bat with a strike against you would make even hall of famers vulnerable to failure. The second thing is bad luck. The Diamondbacks’ all-star has both a .282 BABIP and a 12.8% HR/FB ratio. Those numbers may not seem that far off the league average, but they are very far off from Goldschmidt’s. From 2015-17, he has seen a BABIP of .343, .358, and .382, while his HR/FB rate is typically around or above 20%. Those numbers should normalize at some point and I would be happy to buy low on the Diamondbacks’ first baseman.

Matt. I traded Goldschmidt, Colome, Familia for Syndergaard, Encarnacion and Addison Reed in a holds league. What do you think?”

This is an interesting offer. We know all of the reasons to feel comfortable enough trading for or holding Goldschmidt. But what about Encarnacion. He too has seen a dramatic increase in strikeouts this season. The only problem is that the increase has also come with a rise in both his swinging strike rate and chase rate. Not what you want to see out of an aging power hitter. He has suffered a bit of bad luck in the BABIP department as well, but not enough for me to overlook his defincienes elsewhere. We have seen this show before though, and while it is still possible for Encarnacion to turn this ship around, I don’t want to be the one trading my first-round pick with him as one the the centerpieces.

Syndergaard is a fine pick-up in the trade. He has a solid 10.43 K/9 with a 2.91 ERA and a 2.55 FIP. I don't think anyone questions the value that Mets ace brings to the table. If the owner needed a starting pitcher, this will certainly bolster their rotation.

The fact that this is a holds league kind of deflates the value of Colome a bit. You need quality bullpen arms in a holds league and saves don’t take a ton of precedence. I would call Reed and Colome a wash. That leaves Familia as a cherry on top as far as the relievers go in this deal.

So what is the verdict here? I like the trade for the Goldschmidt owner if he had a real need at starting pitcher. He did well in getting Syndergaard back. The only thing is I really doubt that Encarnacion will return anywhere close to the value that was projected for him. I would have held out for a different, more valuable bat all together.

Let’s grade this trade a: C


Bryce Harper (OF, Washington Nationals)

Who is freaking out about Bryce Harper? You are not alone it seems. Many fantasy owners have reached out in terror as Harper’s batting average has fallen into the depths. He is hitting .238 on the season. Guess what? He hit .243 in 2016, but he also hit 24 home runs and stolen 21 bases. Would you take that this year? I’m guessing not, since he was your first-round pick. I hate to break it to you, but Bryce Harper is streaky. Not just from month-to-month, byt from year-to-year. Here are his batting averages from 2014 to now: .273, .330, .243, .319, and .238 this season. See a pattern? The man is a pendulum.

Try not to worry too much though. There are quite a few things he is doing this year that should soothe your anxiety. First, he has a career high 20.7% walk rate. The sheer amount of walks has likely driven Harper to be a bit impatient at the plate, forcing him to swing at pitches to try and “do something.” The thing is that it does not show in his chase rate, which has stayed fairly consistent. Another thing discounting an overly aggressive approach by Harper is his career low 16.3% strikeout rate. The soon-to-be free agent is walking more, striking out less, and has a 43.8% hard-contact rate (and just a 6.8% soft-contact rate). To make a long story short, Harper is fine. He has a .389 wOBA, 147 wRC+, and all of the incentive in the world to succeed this season. This leads me to reason number three. Harper has, just like Goldschmidt, been very unlucky. The Nationals all-star has a .200 BABIP, compared to his typical mark north of .350 in that department. The power is there and his skill set is intact. If someone is actually looking to sell Bryce Harper, now would be a great time to buy him.

Matt, should I trade Harper for Strasburg and Gary Sanchez?”

Forget everything I just said if this is the kind offer you plan on sending to the Harper owner. This is not “buying-low”, this is paying a premium. Stephen Strasburg is carrying a fantastic 3.12 xFIP to go with a 10.07 K/9 this season. If anything, the Nationals star is actually pitching better than his numbers indicate due to an inflated HR/FB ratio against so far this season. On the other side, Gary Sanchez is a beast among men at a very shallow catcher position. The Yankees’ catcher has already smashed 12 home runs to go with a .372 wOBA and 135 wRC+. If I were the Harper owner I would be excited to accept this trade, then smile afterwards. Harper is a great trade option if someone is panicking about his .238 batting average, but only if you can get him at a decent value. Congratulations to the Harper owner on this trade.

I grade this trade a solid B+


Josh Donaldson (3B, Toronto Blue Jays)

Josh Donaldson is a monster when he is healthy. The key word being “healthy.” The Toronto third baseman has been anything but so far this season, being hobbled by a shoulder injury since the beginning of the season that recently sent him to the disabled list. Donaldson missed significant time in 2017 due to a calf injury, playing in just 113 games. That did not stop him from blasting 33 home runs in a shortened season. The man can hit, when healthy.

The all-star is off to a .224/.316/.431 start with five home runs over 116 at-bats. Donaldson is still holding a .321 wOBA and 100 wRC+, so he is not exactly “bad”. He is simply not the “bringer of rain” we have come to expect. His swinging strike rate has seen a large spike, jumping all the way up to 15.5%, well above his career average. The most concerning metric is the ten percent drop in Donaldson’s contact rate, which now sits at a lowly 65.2%. It would not be hard to imagine that the shoulder injury is still giving him issues considering the dramatic change to his skill set. However, it is just as likely that this is just  a matter of shaking off some rust with Donaldson. Like I said, if healthy, the man can flat out hit. Fantasy owners should look to acquire the third baseman at a discount if they can, just make sure to “buy-low” because this Donaldson certainly comes with some risk.

I was offered Josh Donaldson for Whit Merrifield and Matt Davidson. Is this a buy-low chance for Donaldson or not a good deal if I accept?”

Whit Merrifield has turned a slow start into a solid campaign so far in 2018, batting .286 with four home runs, 12 stolen bases, and a .339 wOBA. He has doubled his walk rate to 8.7% from his breakout campaign last season while making solid hard-contact across the board. Does this make him worthy of compensation for Josh Donaldson? Nope, but maybe Matt Davidson make up the difference.

Matt Davidson is off to the best start of his career having already hit 11 home runs to go with a .381 wOBA and 142 wRC+. The main reason for his success has a dramatic change of approach at the plate. The White Sox third baseman has an impressive 15.8% walk rate, up from just a 4.3% rate one season ago. Davidson is still a strikeout machine, but his .279 ISO and 48.3% hard contact rate make him a legitimate 30-homer threat with a chance to reach for 40. Of course there is also the chance he implodes and loses his job. I happen to believe in Davidson.

Overall, the injury concerns of Josh Donaldson can not be dismissed out of hand. However, it is awfully tough to give up an elite level third baseman for two players with limited success in their track record. Even so, if the owner trading Donaldson has a serious need at second base I could see making this deal to land Merrifield. The bottom line here is that this is definitely “selling low” on Josh Donaldson and their owner could stand to profit a great deal more if they would be patient. If offered this trade like the reader, I would take it, if for no other reason than to simply flip Donaldson for more after he goes on a hot streak.

I would give this deal C+


Madison Bumgarner (SP, San Francisco Giants)

Madison Bumgarner is an interesting trade target right now. He is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment this Saturday after breaking his pinky finger in the early part of the season. The Giants’ ace threw for the first time to live batters in a simulation and is on track to come off the disable list to face either the Diamondbacks on June 5 or the Nationals on June 10.

Bumgarner is coming off a disappointing 2017 season that was partly lost due to injuries suffered from a motorcycle accident. Last year he saw his strikeout rate fall to 8.19 while going 4-9 with a 3.95 FIP. Not exactly what San Francisco and fantasy owners had in mind from the all-star pitcher. Bumgarner allowed a career high 35% hard-contact rate that led to him allowing 17 home runs over 111 innings, by far the worst mark of his career. He came into this season as a hopeful bounceback candidate, but the last time we saw Madison Bumgarner pitch he was capping off a terrible September that ended with a 4.91 ERA. For trade purposes it all depends on of the owner considers Bumgarner a top-10 pitcher, or an injury risk lottery ticket he may be antsy to trade. The chances are that if they held onto him for this long they believe in him to a degree. However, DL spots are finite and the owner may tired of waiting and eager to open up a roster spot.

If you have the chance, take a shot at grabbing Bumgarner off an impatient owner if you can buy-low and spare a roster spot for a few more weeks. However, I would open with an offer no higher than the Trevor Story or Ender Inciarte range at the moment, which would likely not be enough to the get the deal done.

Send my Thor and D. Peralta for his Madison Bumgarner and Morrow?”

Long story short, no. At best, Madison Bumgarner is equal to Noah Syndergaard. Unfortunately that is far from a sure thing with the Giants’ ace being two years removed from being elite. There is also no way the move from David Peralta to Brandon Morrow moves the needle in a significant way to change the deal. This would be an easy move to hit the reject button as there is nothing but risk here.

I give this trade a D


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