One of my favorite things to do about this time of year is start to sell off some of my pitching for bats. In one league I put Ubaldo Jimenez on the block and was able to do a deal for Matt Kemp within a matter of days.
The main reason I like to start making deals like these is the ability to sell high on pitchers while replacing some of the strikeout production and help my team's WHIP by adding multiple non-closers to fill that role.
If we compare the difference between a starter and top-notch non-closer over a weeks time, we can sometimes find very similar production.
Last week Matt Cain gave fantasy owners one start where he went 7.2 innings, allowing three earned runs, six hits, two walks, and three strikeouts. If you had Matt Thornton last week you got 3.2 innings, zero earned runs, three hits, zero walks, and seven strikeouts. If you add another non-closer to Thornton's stats, say J.J. Putz for example, you would have added on three more innings, no earned runs, two hits, no walks and four strikeouts.
Matt Cain - 7.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 3 K (loss)
Thornton/Putz - 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 11 K (Win and a save)
There are some requirements with this strategy however.
First of all, you need to already have a decent ranking in wins. Middle relievers don't get the same opportunities for a win, so you can't count on much for that category. Second, you'll have to free up roster space for every pitcher you trade. Two for one deals are the best in this case. What type of bat can Mike Pelfrey and Jaime Garcia get you? Lastly, this strategy does not work as well in weekly leagues as you can't swap out starters based on what day they start.
The ideal pitcher(s) to trade are the ones with good ERA, WHIP numbers, but low strikeout totals.
On the season:
Matt Cain - 2.16 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 30 BB, 68 K
Thornton/Putz - 2.72 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 14 BB, 78 K
This really comes down to roster space and, as mentioned above, trading two pitchers for one hitter is the ideal way to go.
The best non-closer's based on K/9 and BB/9:
Matt Thornton 13.2 K/9, 2.93 BB/9
Luke Gregerson 11.4 K/9, 0.97 BB/9
J.J. Putz 11.6 K/9, 1.4 BB/9
Hong-Chih Kuo 11.14 K/9, 2.57 BB/9
Jason Motte 10.7 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
Sean Marshall 10.7 K/9, 2.94 BB/9
Joba Chamberlain 10.6 K/9, 3.16 BB/9
Darren Oliver 10.5 K/9, 1.48 BB/9
Tyler Clippard 10.45 K/9, 3.35 BB/9
Joal Hanrahan 13.5 K/9, 3.52 BB/9
Jose Contreras 11.7 K/9, 2.82 BB/9