Trade-Aholic Tidbits: Debunking the "Best Player" Myth

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IApril 22, 2010

PHOENIX - MARCH 17:  Starting pitcher Brett Anderson #49 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the MLB spring training game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on March 17, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Giants defeated the A's 6-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Back when the Hummer was all the rage, I noticed a brand new bright yellow H3 while driving along a rural road in central Pennsylvania.

It was parked in a junk-scattered and rutted dirt driveway next to an ancient and falling apart trailer home. I learned from a friend later in the day that this particular couple decided to invest money it had saved into a brand new Hummer. Obviously at the expense of upgrading the dilapidated home.

When I hear fantasy sports experts preach the “best player” myth to the unassuming masses, I find myself thinking of that Hummer. Why? Let me explain.

Check other sites for trade advice and you’re likely to read/see/hear that in order to “win” a fantasy trade, you need to be getting the best player in the deal. If only it was that simple.

The unstated part of that logic, however, is that to accomplish this feat, you need to lose production from other positions/stat categories. In other words, you’d need to raid your home remodeling fund to afford the shiny new Hummer in the driveway.

But does this improve your lifestyle? Some would argue it would. I’m on the side of a balanced approach.

In fantasy baseball especially, you have numerous starters at various positions all contributing to the greater statistical good of the team.

For example, in a 16-team league I’m in with representatives of various other fantasy sports blogs, we have 23 starting positions between offensive players and pitchers. Having a stud at one of those positions is great, but if a majority of your other positions are manned by marginal to dead-weight options, than your team lives and dies by the one or two stud players.

However, from previous experience, the teams who can withstand the ups and downs of a 162-game season and typically find fantasy gold at the end of the season’s rainbow are those who have a large collection of solid players, even if there are little to no true studs in the mix.

So, when approaching a trade to improve your team, it is OK to look at two or three solid players who improve your production at “black-hole” positions in place of one true stud player surrounded by fantasy scuzz.

For example, in the BlogWars league I referenced above, I was approached recently by an owner who had a fascination with Brett Anderson. Considering Anderson’s start to the season, what isn’t to like?

His obsession with Anderson was the basis of a good week of back-and-forth discussion about what type of players it would take to complete a deal. There was plenty of give and take, and finally he accepted a deal.

The best player in the deal was Anderson.

While it hurt to lose him in the deal, I was able to upgrade my corner infielder (Ian Stewart over Mark DeRosa), middle infielder (Luis Valbuena, who I like a lot this season, over Mark Izturis) and outfield (Nolan Reimold over Aaron Rowand). I also got three pitchers with solid upside … Mike Pelfrey (who was another pitcher I’d secretly been coveting since the start of the season), Fausto Carmona (so far shown he has bounce-back potential) and Aroldis Chapman (could match Brett Anderson’s stats the second half of the season if the scouting reports are true). All for the players mentioned above along with Jeff Neimann and Rick Ankiel.

I especially consider this approach to teams who find themselves consistently in their league’s basement, especially as summer starts to heat up. In most cases, these teams have one stud and a variety of disappointing players. Dealing the stud for a strong supporting cast can boost your stats and place in the standings quicker than you’d think.

And which players should you target in these types of deals? Check out my suggested buy-lows after Week 1 and Week 2 . Check back in a few days for the next chapter of that series.

What is your opinion on this strategy? It definitely goes against the grain, but I’m not aware of many ninjas who excel at wiping out their opponents by taking the road more traveled

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