Saturday, April 30, 2011


The drafts and auctions are over. Other than checking boxscores every hour or two, what should we do now?

A lot of owners say just let them play awhile. But that’s second division thinking. There are a couple of ways you can help your squad improve right now. Both take a considerable amount of effort, but can yield substantial results.

Step 1: Many leagues provide the opportunity for owners to add new players to their rosters, either by free agent purchases or waiver claims. Some leagues allow you to pick up anyone from your fantasy league web site, while others require that a player be active before you can bid on him or claim him. Either way, it's a good idea to study the free agent list very thoroughly.

The time to get a player at a good price is before he pops up on everyone's radar. There are usually signs that an excellent opportunity is about to take place. If it looks like a player is scuffling so badly that the club may send him down, someone stands to pick up that playing time. It might be a fourth outfielder moved into a full-time job, or it might be the guy tearing up AAA who almost made the team out of Spring Training.

Take Casper Wells as an example. It may be that the only thing keeping him from playing every day is Austin Jackson, who has been terrible so far. If Wells hasn't already been taken in your league, he might be a good speculative play, given his combination of power and speed.

On the pitching side, anticipating a change in the way a reliever is used can bring rewards. For those of you in keeper leagues, an investment of a buck or two could have netted you a great freeze in Joel Hanrahan.

Another example is Fernando Salas. The owners who grabbed last week (or who might grab him this week) are optimistic, as he has now picked up two saves for the Cardinals.

Step 2: If you haven't already done so, it can be a good idea to analyze the rosters of every other owner. Doing so will show you where the other owners have weak areas which need to be improved, as well as areas of surplus from which they might deal. I make notes of my impressions of each of the other teams, and pull out those notes when a trade opportunity comes along.

Many owners just aren't very proactive when it comes to trading. The odds of making a deal with one of these passive owners can be increased significantly if you can demonstrate how your trade proposal can help his team. "You have plenty of pop on your roster, probably the most in the league. It looks like you could use a little speed, though. How about I give you X for Y. X might be good for three or four points in the standings, since stolen base totals are so closely grouped". It never fails to amaze me how many trade offers I receive that would do absolutely nothing to make my squad better. My usual response is "How would this help my team?"

Step 3: Even though every owner knows that it is still April, there's still a psychological tendency for some owners to hit the panic button when three or four of their players are hitting .160, or their team ERA is over 6.00 and rising. This can create some excellent opportunities to help your squad. I realize that everyone says "buy low" and "sell high", but doing so successfully requires finding the player who is badly under-performing now, but who should get it rolling any time.

Buying low also requires finesse. If your approach makes it obvious you are looking for a motivated seller, you may frighten away your prey. Similarly, if you are trying to trade away your $5 outfielder who is playing like an MVP, but is bound to come down to earth soon, be careful how you approach. Everyone has a different approach to trading, and sometimes the approach which is best depends upon owner across the trading table.

In summary, a vigilant owner can help his team this time of year. Lineups and pitching staffs are still shaking out. A free agent you buy now can help you for five more months, as opposed to a player purchased in August. Stay calm, but if others around you are growing impatient with their players, be ready to step in with a trade offer.

Well, that's it for this week's article. I hope your teams have gotten off to a good start, but if they have stumbled out of the gate, there are ways to get them back on track.

Good luck, and have fun!

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