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Trading Tips

Early-Season Trading Tips

by Fred Zinkie
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

First off, I would like to thank the great people at Rotoworld for adding me to their staff for the 2018 season. Always my go-to source for fantasy information throughout the past 15 years, Rotoworld has always had an excellent group of writers who offer terrific articles in additional to providing the most thorough set of player notes in the industry.
Known as “Trader Fred” to many people in this industry, I have more experience than most writers in navigating the trade waters. I’m hoping to use this weekly space to provide owners with some trade targets and big-picture tips throughout the 2018 campaign.
My initial tip centers around early-season trading. Some of the worst advice available comes from those who recommend sitting on a fantasy squad for several weeks before making major moves. Owners who used a draft to select their teams could have had a substantially different roster if selecting from a different slot. And those who picked their squad in an auction would have made several changes if they had known the final prices of all players before the nomination process began. For these reasons, owners are wise to immediately float offers for some of their perceived value picks who landed on other teams. Additionally, some owners fall victim to early-season overreactions, which can create buying opportunities for those who maintain a more balanced approach. And now, let’s take a look at a few candidates for upcoming trade talks.


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Buy Low
Jeff Samardzija, Starter (Giants): Impatient Samardzija owners are likely willing to deal the injured right-hander for cents on the dollar. Moreover, those who hope to add the 33-year-old at a discount can highlight that he is coming off a season in which he won nine games and posted an unimpressive 4.42 ERA. Already throwing and expected to return to the rotation by the end of April, Samardzija could serve as a low-end number two starter in mixed-leagues for five months of the season by replicating his 1.14 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 rate and 3.60 xFIP from a year ago. Additionally, the workhorse -- who ranked second in baseball with 1058 1/3 innings pitched from 2013-17 -- should enjoy the improved support from an upgraded lineup and enhanced relief corps.
Tommy Pham, Outfielder (Cardinals): With just five months of difference-making fantasy work to his credit, Pham was a polarizing member of 2018 draft lists. Furthermore, some owners who had confidence in the power-speed threat during the winter may have had their confidence shaken when he posted a .676 OPS during spring training amidst reports that he was struggling to see the ball. Still, owners should be ready to make a discounted acquisition on a player who slashed .306/.411/.520 and was on pace to post 28 homers, 115 runs scored and 30 steals across 155 games last year.
Rougned Odor, Second baseman (Rangers): Coming off a 2017 season in which he slashed .204/.252/.397, Odor could have used a strong spring more than most established players. However, after posting a .662 OPS in Cactus League action, the 24-year-old is seemingly on course for another disappointing year. Wise owners will float Odor’s spring numbers in a quest to pick up a discount on someone who dealt with poor batted-ball luck (.224 BABIP) last year and has averaged 31.5 homers and 14.5 swipes across the past two seasons.
Ryan McMahon, First baseman (Rockies): McMahon fits the rare profile of a player with rising fantasy value who still makes for an excellent acquisition candidate. The 23-year-old excelled during spring training (.887 OPS) after batting .355 with 20 homers and across 119 games in the minors last season. Moreover, any quality hitter who plays half his games at Coors Field has a substantial ceiling. Now that he has made the team by outperforming fellow prospects David Dahl and Raimel Tapia, McMahon could soon force his way into a starting role.
Drew Pomeranz, Starter (Red Sox): Draft-day prices for Pomeranz plummeted after the Red Sox announced that he would open the season on the disabled list. Further, there are likely many owners who wish they could change their decision to nab the left-hander in mid-March drafts. However, Pomeranz produced a 3.32 ERA and a 9.4 K/9 rate across 2016-17 and is expected to make his season debut by the middle of April. Owners who make a small trade investment in the 29-year-old could have an every-week starter on a contending team for 5.5 months of the season.

Sell High
Ronald Acuna, Outfielder (Braves): The inclusion of Acuna in this space is by no means a comment on his potential. The kid is going to be a stud, perhaps as soon as this season. However, the hype train is speeding out of control in some owners’ minds after Acuna slashed .432/.519/.727 and stole four bases during spring training. While owners of the 20-year-old should be in no hurry to make a deal, they could perhaps find an overzealous league-mate who is willing to trade an established star in return for this enticing jar of magic beans. After all, Acuna still has an undetermined debut date and would not be the first future star to post uneven results during his rookie year.
Scott Kingery, Second baseman (Phillies): While owners were wise to race to their waiver wire once Kingery was announced as part of the Opening Day roster, some owners will now lose sight of the difference between potential and production. With plus speed and the potential to hit for power and average, Kingery could become a mixed-league lineup member in the coming weeks. However, the 23-year-old lacks a full-time role, which is a major barrier to relevance in shallow formats. In most formats, owners would be wise to swap Kingery’s potential for the consistent production that comes from veterans such as DJ LeMahieu or Ian Kinsler. Additionally, youngsters such as Ian Happ and Yoan Moncada have similar ceilings and higher floors.
Brad Boxberger, Reliever (D-backs): Owners who know that just 11 relievers tallied 30 saves last season will understand that Boxberger is a poor bet to post a sizable saves total this year. Beyond being concerned about his ability to stay healthy (53 2/3 innings across 2016-17), owners can have performance reservations about a reliever with a marginal career 3.91 FIP and 1.25 WHIP. Neverthless, in every league there are saves-obsessed owners who are willing to trade a stable asset at another position for a reliever who recently got the ninth-inning seal-of-approval from his manager.
Matt Davidson, Third baseman (White Sox): By smacking three homers on Opening Day, Davidson immediately went from waiver-wire fodder to sell-high candidate in many leagues. Sure, the slugger has the potential to bash 35 homers this year. However, he also has some of the worst place discipline in baseball (19:165 BB:K ratio in 2017) which leads to struggles reaching base (career .277 OBP) and scoring runs (43 runs across 443 plate appearances last season).  Add in his complete inability to steal bases, and Davidson has no potential to help in more than two categories. Owners who can deal the 27-year-old for a stable producer should do so right away.
Trevor Story, Shortstop (Rockies): While some fantasy owners were excited to see Story hit .370 in spring training, those who took a closer look noticed that he was fortunate to post a high batting mark despite striking out 22 times across 60 plate appearances. Moreover, the whiffs have followed the 25-year-old into the regular season, where he has already fanned seven times across nine plate appearances. Coming off a 191-strikeout season, Story could eventually lose his starting role to prized prospect Brendan Rodgers. Owners of the slugger would be wise to trade him away while he still has the luster that made him come off the board around pick-100 in most 2018 drafts.


Fred Zinkie is a baseball writer for Rotoworld and BaseballHQ. You can find him on Twitter @FredZinkieMLB.

Fred Zinkie
Fred Zinkie is a baseball writer for Rotoworld and BaseballHQ. You can find him on Twitter @FredZinkieMLB.