Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 3's Buy-Low, Sell-High Trade Advice

Jason CataniaMLB Lead WriterApril 18, 2014

Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 3's Buy-Low, Sell-High Trade Advice

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    Now might be just the time to swap Johnny Cueto, who is coming off perhaps the best game of his career.
    Now might be just the time to swap Johnny Cueto, who is coming off perhaps the best game of his career.Al Behrman

    What good is talent to a fantasy owner who lacks timing?

    Fantasy baseballjust like the real thingis a game of skill, luck and timing. That last trait, in particular, comes in handy in regards to getting value in the trading game.

    Knowing which player(s) to trade away and which to deal for—and knowing just the right time to do so—can make all the difference.

    After all, it doesn't get much better than making a move to unload a hot flavor-of-the-week type who's about to cool off in exchange for a slumping stud who's ready to take off.

    Now, speaking of timing, let's get to some players to sell high and buy low.

     

    Statistics come from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, except where otherwise noted.

Buy Low: Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 2 W, 4.00 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 28 K (27.0 IP)

    Worried about the 35-year-old who's given up a whopping 40 base hits—most in the majors by a wide margin—in his 27.0 frames? Don't be. Cliff Lee's subpar stats are still smarting because of that poor first start when the savvy southpaw surrendered eight earned on 11 hits over five innings with only one strikeout against the Texas Rangers (in a game he somehow won!).

    Since then, Lee has gotten back to pitching deep into his outings, including a complete-game, one-run, 13-strikeout effort against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday—albeit with 11 more hits allowed. The base knocks are a bit worrisome, but that number will come down once his .432 BABIP (second-highest) starts normalizing, and while Lee's 4.00 ERA currently stands out for him (and not in a good way), his FIP actually is 2.16.

    Trade for him with confidence, especially if your fellow owner is panicking at the prospect of Lee being too hittable and pitching for a mediocre team that could limit his wins figure.

Sell High: Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Tom Mihalek

    2014 Stats: .462 BA, 9 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 0 SB (58 PA)

    Simply put, nobody can come close to keeping up what Chase Utley has managed so far. Especially not an injury-prone 35-year-old middle infielder.

    In other words, talented as he is, Utley has nowhere to go but down, unfortunately. Although he's likely to be a strong top-five second baseman on a per-game basis in fantasy, the lefty swinger has injury and age issues that have continued to crop up in recent years. To wit, over the past four seasons going back to 2010, Utley has played even 130 games but once (2012) and averaged just 108 a year in that time.

    If you feel confident that Utley has found some sort of fountain-of-youth elixir, then by all means, hang onto him. But given the track record and his dynamite performance so far, now would be the time to move him for a net-positive return on the trade market.

Buy Low: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .192 BA, 5 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB (58 PA)

    It appears the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year winner is suffering the dreaded sophomore slump (as if such a thing exists). After breaking into the bigs halfway through last season by hitting .293 with 50 runs, 13 homers and 53 RBI—great numbers for only 88 games—the 23-year-old is off to the kind of start that might have gotten him demoted back to Triple-A in 2013.

    Part of the problem is that for a player who has hit for high averages throughout his career (.300 BA in the minors), Myers does tend to whiff quite a bit, as his current 27.6 percent strikeout rate shows. That's the sort of thing that leads to hot and cold streaks, and Myers clearly is experiencing the latter right now.

    Point is, patience is necessary, so if Myers' current owner lacks the fortitude to trust in his talent, you might be able to play up the fact that the track record for a second-year player is far from extensive and swoop in with a low-ball offer that might not seem all that low. Then you'll enjoy the hot streak that's bound to happen once Myers turns it around.

Sell High: Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: 1 W, 1.50 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 35 K (30.0 IP)

    As the intro says: Timing is everything when it comes to pulling off a great trade in fantasy baseball, and sometimes, the best time to deal a player is after he's just had what was the game of his life.

    That's just what Johnny Cueto managed by hurling a complete game shutout with a career-high 12 strikeouts against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday. Now, realize that the 28-year-old has been a strong fantasy pitcher in the SP2 mold for the past four years, so it's not like this came from out of nowhere, and it's possible you could regret not having him in your rotation going forward.

    The reason you should consider moving him sooner than later, though, is that Cueto has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons. While he did pitch a career-high 217.0 innings in 2012, he's never even topped 190 in any of his five other years, and he sandwiched that 217-inning campaign with 156 innings (2011) and 60 innings in 2013. Last season, in particular, was one of the most frustrating around, as the righty spent three separate trips on the DL with a bothersome lat strain and made only 11 starts.

    Good as he can be, Cueto almost certainly just had his best four-start stretch of 2014, and owners should take advantage of that by getting a big return—before any further injury issues make it too late to do so.

Buy Low: Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez

    2014 Stats: .206 BA, 9 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 SB (71 PA)

    If you own Hunter Pence, your hating Hunter right about now. Following what was his best-ever fantasy season in 2013, in which he hit .283, reached 90 runs and RBI for just the second time and posted his first 20-20 campaign, the 31-year-old is looking like a lost cause.

    Here's where we point out that Pence's current .235 BABIP is nearly 100 points below his career mark of .318 and remind you that if you're seeking a potential OF2 for your team, Pence is still a great target.

    Frankly, given his slow start so far, there's a possibility that Pence could be had for little more than one of his fellow Giants outfielders, Mike Morse (.306 BA, 9 R, 2 HR, 10 RBI) and Angel Pagan (.377 BA, 8 R, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB). Heck, trading both of 'em for Pence would still be a good deal in the end—for the owner acquiring Pence.

Sell High: Yovani Gallardo, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Gene J. Puskar

    2014 Stats: 2 W, 1.46 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 19 K (24.2 IP)

    Yovani Gallardo's 2013 was a clear step down from his previous seasons, as the 28-year-old posted a career-worst 4.18 ERA while throwing the fewest innings (180.2) in five years due to a hamstring injury that cost him a few starts late in the year.

    That's why Gallardo was going so late in drafts—if he even was being drafted at all in shallower formats. As the stats above show, those who gambled on (or added) him have been enjoying the ride over his first four outings of 2014, each of which has been a quality start.

    Gallardo is likely to be better than he was last year, but he's also nowhere near this good going forward. Two reasons: First, the righty's velocity has been dropping in recent years, which helps explain his strikeout-rate dip to 7.2 per nine last year and 6.9 so far in 2014. And second, Gallardo never has been a helpful WHIP pitcher with a career mark of 1.30.

    Does Gallardo deserve to be owned? Definitely. Should he be owned by you? Maybe not, which is why you should be peddling him now.

Buy Low: Carlos Santana, C/1B/3B, Cleveland Indians

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    2014 Stats: .157 BA, 6 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB (66 PA)

    It doesn't get much worse than Carlos Santana's opening two weeks, does it? The 28-year-old has just eight hits through 15 games, along with no homers and—get this—all of one RBI. That's almost impossible for a power-hitter whose batted cleanup in every single game this season.

    Santana, as you're well aware by now, has been transitioning off catcher to third base, where he's started seven times. That's the kind of narrative that should make it easier to acquire him on the cheap: Just point out that clearly the new position is getting to him and impacting his ability at the plate.

    Santana, who has 15 walks against only 11 whiffs, is still going to hit his 20-25 home runs and score and drive in 70 runs apiece. And remember, he'll do that while still being catcher-eligible in fantasy, which means he's going to wind up in or near the top five in that position when all's said and done.

Sell High: Dee Gordon, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Kelvin Kuo

    2014 Stats: .373 BA, 5 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 10 SB (57 PA)

    If you own Dee Gordon, you're playing with house money. Let's face it: He wasn't drafted in any but the deepest of leagues (or maybe just NL West-only formats!), so while you might feel a special connection for having uncovered him, remember not to get too attached.

    Yes, the 25-year-old is a former top prospect who's been seeing a lot of time atop the potent Dodgers lineup. Yes, he's eligible at both second base and shortstop, which gives him a nice boost in fantasy utility. And yes, he currently leads the majors with 10 stolen bases.

    Hey, it's not inconceivable that the super-speedy Gordon, who has 76 career swipes in a little over a full season's worth of plate appearances (726), could pilfer 50-plus if he remains healthy and hits enough to keep playing. But a reminder: Gordon has managed those 76 steals and 726 plate appearances across four different seasons, because the bat always has been a big question.

    Could he stick in your lineup as a startable 2B, SS or middle infielder? Yes, but only if you're looking for steals with little else and absolutely no power. Otherwise, trading him while he's this hot and hitting this much will bring a lot more in return than you ever expected when you picked him up off waivers a week-and-a-half ago.

     

    To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11