When you're trading a fantasy baseball superstar like Matt Kemp or Albert Pujols, your approach should be as risk-averse as possible. When trading a player of that caliber, it's critical that you derive as much guaranteed value from the deal as you possibly can.
Before we get going, we should define the word "superstar." In fantasy baseball, a superstar is a Top 20 overall player. That means guys like Kemp, Pujols, Clayton Kershaw and Robinson Cano are in, but the likes of Curtis Granderson, Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Cain don't quite make the cut.
With that settled, here's your guide to deriving the greatest possible value from your superstar trade.
Buy-Low/Sell-High Doesn't Apply
Buying low and selling high is generally upheld as the first and last rule of trading in fantasy leagues, but when it comes to superstars, it really doesn't apply.
If your superstar struggles out of the gate (I'm looking at you, Mr. Pujols), rival owners will undoubtedly approach you with "buy low" offers.
He'll act like he's doing you a favor, like he's saving you from the heartache that would accompany a homer-less season for Pujols, because in his mind, that's probably what's going to happen.
Still, for all of his concern and kindness, the offer of Edwin Encarnacion and Chad Billingsley in exchange for a slumping Pujols just doesn't feel like a favor to me.
Even if your superstar starts the year on fire, things don't get much easier.
Kemp, who has followed up his career-best 2011 with a start that can only be described as "torridiculous," is actually tougher to trade right now than you might think.
He entered the year so highly regarded, it's hard for his value to ascend much higher. His perceived value has certainly seen an uptick, but after only two weeks of play, it's hard to quantify exactly what kind of an impact this start is going to have on Kemp's full-season numbers.
An owner of Kemp would probably think that his hot start portends a payoff for Kemp's preseason projection of a 50/50 season, but a prospective trade partner might still be confident his own preseason projection that Kemp will plateau somewhere closer to 35 home runs. For him, Kemp's six early home runs means he's only getting 29 for the remainder of the season, making Kemp's power essentially equal to that of, say Nelson Cruz, who's hit exactly one home run this season.
When the subject is a superstar and the conversation occurs this early in the season, people tend to stick to what they predicted before the year began. With that in place, executing a buy-low/sell-high approach is almost impossible.
"The Rule of 20"
Unless you really need to fill a couple of holes, being on the long end of a two-for-one or three-for-one deal probably isn't a good idea. Too often, these types of trades end up with one side trading a dollar for three quarters.
That's where "The Rule of 20" comes in. It's a guideline to steer you toward fair value in a superstar trade, to prevent you from trading Ryan Braun for a package headlined by J.D. Martinez.
The idea is that if you're giving up a player that ranks in the Top 20, you need to get at least one player who ranks somewhere in the next 20 spots behind that player in return. This ensures that you get at least something in the neighborhood of fair value for your studs.
For instance, if you're trading Braun, and he's your fifth-ranked player, you'd need to get at least the 25th-ranked player, somebody like Adrian Beltre, to be included as part of the package you receive in return.
Of course, you wouldn't trade Braun for Beltre straight up, but if you just lost Brian Wilson and somebody offered a package of Beltre and Jordan Walden for Braun, your ears should start to perk up a bit.
Know Your Team
This is a good thing to remember when making any trade, but especially when a superstar is involved. You need to understand the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of your own team.
First of all, you must quantify the statistical contribution that you're giving up against the numbers that you expect to get back in order to understand how the result of the transaction will impact your team's makeup as a whole.
It sounds elementary, but you need to make sure that you're actually improving your team. You need to quantify what you're losing in relation to what you're gaining and ensure that the result is going to move your team up in the standings.
For instance, if you are counting on Jose Bautista to provide a big chunk of your power production, flipping him for a package headlined by Jose Reyes might not be the best idea.
Now, it's completely acceptable to make a deal that weakens your team in one category in order to strengthen it in another—you just need to be aware of the degree to which that deal is going to impact each category.
On top of that, always keep your lineup flexibility in mind. Getting more production than you're giving up is great, but if that production isn't usable, it's worthless.
Say, for instance, that the proposed Bautista-for-Reyes deal included Brett Lawrie as well. That sounds like a pretty nice deal. In tandem, Reyes and Lawrie can come close to replacing Bautista's power and batting average while providing a big upgrade in total steals, runs and RBI.
Obviously, Lawrie can fill the hole left by Bautista at 3B, but what if your team already has Elvis Andrus at shortstop? Then the situation becomes substantially stickier.
Sure, you can still slot in Reyes in as an upgrade, but without a place to put Andrus, you've completely devalued a pretty solid asset.
With that in mind, the true exchange becomes Bautista and Andrus for Reyes and Lawrie, which doesn't seem quite so enticing.
Wait Until He's Healthy
I know losing Jacoby Ellsbury is devastating, and I know the waiver wire can get pretty ugly, but trust me—trading an injured superstar can have much graver consequences than having to stomach a few weeks of Cody Ross in your lineup.
If the Red Sox can do it, so can you.
It sucks to watch your first-round pick rot on the DL, but the hard truth is that Ellsbury is never going to have less value than he does right now. We know he's hurt, but we really have no idea how serious it is.
There's just no upside to shipping him off at this point.
The best-case scenario is that you get 50 cents on the dollar, maybe somebody like Ben Zobrist, and you're saved from experiencing Cody Ross-induced night terrors.
Worst-case, you trade Ellsbury and three weeks later, he's back with a vengeance. Even after missing some time, he steals 60 bases, hits .300, pops 20 home runs and leads your biggest rival to a league championship.
But it's cool, you got Ben Zobrist.
Consult Your Draft Results
If you decide to shop a superstar, it's always a good idea to shop him to owners who never had a chance to get him in the first place. Whether your draft was auction or a traditional snake draft, it's always smart to start your search for a trading partner with the owners who barely missed a chance to acquire your most treasured asset.
Say, for instance, you selected Miguel Cabrera with the fourth overall pick and now you're trying to trade him. The owners who picked first, second and third probably aren't worth your time. They had a shot at Cabrera, and they've already proven that they're not particularly interested.
Instead, start sending offers to the owners who picked fifth, sixth and seventh. With any luck, at least one of those guys was staring at his computer before your pick, pleading to the gods of Yahoo! Sports for some computer error to bypass your pick and drop Cabrera into his lap.
When you offer him a second opportunity to acquire his beloved Miggy, he might just back up the proverbial Brinks truck to make sure he doesn't miss his chance.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask
If you're selling a stud, don't be shy about asking for what you think is fair value in return.
You think Joey Votto is worth a package of Prince Fielder and Dustin Pedroia? Fine, it can't hurt to ask.
Some fantasy players hold particular superstars in unfairly high regard. Even if an offer like the one above seems a bit lopsided to you as you're making it, you just might get lucky and find a trading partner with a particular jones for power-hitting Canadians.
It probably won't work most of the time, but why not try? There's no downside.
If your fellow owners scoff at your initial offers, who cares? Worse comes to worst, you have to keep Joey Votto on your team.
Don't Do It Yet
If you take only one piece of advice from this article, let it be this.
Don't do it yet.
If the player in question truly is a superstar, now is the worst time to trade him. I'm not saying that you shouldn't trade him, just don't do it right now.
Quick side note: Before I get into this, I'll admit that there is one notable exception here. There are times when a player, usually a pitcher, is demonstrating a measurable and sustainable drop in ability (i.e. a three-plus mph drop in fastball velocity) that portends a future injury. If you find yourself in this situation and can find scouting reports to back up the statistical evidence that the injury is coming, by all means, get out from under the collapse and move him as soon as you can.
This, however, is a very rare situation. Most of the time, these sorts of things tend to work themselves out. Unless you're absolutely sure, don't make the deal. Side note out.
This early in the season, there's no such thing as normal, stable performance, at least in terms of public perception. Two weeks in, the player in question is either hot or cold—there's no in-between.
If Zack Greinke had given up eight runs at Wrigley in mid-July, it'd be shaken off as one bad turn out of 30, but because the Cubbies decided to pounce in April, suddenly Greinke's season is shattered.
Regardless of whether his temperature gauge would rest on chilly or toasty, trading a superstar this early is a bad move.
If the player's on a hot streak, you risk trading your way out of a career year. While an early hot streak for an average player can be chalked up to luck or just general weirdness (that means you, Omar Infante), a hot streak from a superstar could actually be a sustainable change in performance.
I can guarantee you that Infante won't reach 25 bombs, but can you tell me with complete certainty that Matt Kemp isn't going to hit 60 home runs this year?
I didn't think so.
That, my friends, is precisely why you don't trade your superstar two weeks into the season.