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Grand Theft Roto: Trades to make

6/8/2007

In books about succeeding in the workplace, a common piece of advice is to subtly "mirror" your boss.

If he orders salads for lunch, you order salads for lunch.

If he works until 8 p.m. every night, you stay late too.

If he's a bad golfer, you should be a worse golfer.

If he wears bow ties and sandals with socks, you should … um … not laugh at him.

So I'm taking a page out of those career-oriented books. Two weeks ago, big bossman Matthew Berry wrote about some surprising trades he'd make. Now while the GTR family does have the local "concession" on trade talk, let's just say the Talented One is a "friend of ours" who is given special dispensation to muscle in on our turf every now and again.

But that won't keep me from laying out a few trades I'd make, GTR style.

Casing the joint

We might as well start with some big names, so how about you offer up Mark Teixeira for Ryan Howard? Teixeira has been all that and a bag of stats, batting .294 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs going into Thursday's games. Meanwhile, Howard has 10 homers and 35 RBIs, but batting 59 points lower. Of course, last year's home run king has done his damage in a little more than half of Teixeira's at-bats, and he's finally healthy. Over the last 15 games, Howard has hit four dingers with a batting average north of .300. Teixeira has slumped slightly, but is still sporting an inflated hit percentage of 35 percent.

My roto-gut says Howard has another 30 homers in him and his batting average will rise all summer. Meanwhile, Teixeira's hitting too many grounders to keep up his pace, and when trade talks heat up about him (and they will since he's a Boras client who is a free agent after 2008 and the Rangers are already out of the race), I wouldn't be surprised to see some slumpage.

Howard was untouchable before the season. He's irresistible to me now.

Geoff Jenkins has more home runs than Nick Markakis (10 to eight as of Wednesday night), and sports a better batting average (.281 to .268), yet I'd give Jenkins away for Markakis straight up and maybe even throw in a sweetener to get it done.

Why? Two details. Jenkins has managed his 10 dingers while hitting only 40 fly balls all season. Among National Leaguers with double-digit homers, only Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder, and the previously pimped Howard have converted flies into taters at that rate or better. We may have already seen half of Jenkins' homers for the year.

The second detail is Markakis really didn't get it going until the second half of 2006, and while it's impossible to call it a trend considering that was his rookie season, I like him to match Jenkins at worst, and possibly blow his Brett-Favre-looking butt out of the water from here on out.

Rookie third baseman Mark Reynolds is tearing up the National League to the tune of a .356 batting average and four homers in his first 73 at bats. Not far behind him is fellow rookie Ryan Braun who is batting a very tidy .313 with three homers in just 48 at bats. But if you can turn Reynolds into Braun, you need to do it before I punctuate this sentence. Braun was the No. 26 prospect according to Baseball America before the season began, while Reynolds didn't crack the top 100. Braun also has wheels, having stolen 26 bases to go with his 22 homers in the minors last year. Finally, he's the one with a career batting average better than .300 in the minors, making his current mark seem sustainable.

If that all weren't enough reason to pull the trigger, here's one more. The Brewers have absolutely no one else waiting to take the job back from Braun with Corey Koskie's career seemingly over. Reynolds is facing a crowded infield and his manager, Bob Melvin, has refused to talk about what'll happen when Chad Tracy comes off the DL. A week from now may be too late. Move now.

When discussing American League starters in their second year, Fausto Carmona is certainly one of the sexiest names out there right now. After all, before Thursday night's start, he was 6-1 with a 3.29 ERA. So why am I willing to deal him for Boof Bonser, a guy with fewer wins, a higher ERA and a WHIP that dwarfs Carmona's? Carmona has struck out only 28 in his first 68 1/3 innings pitched, thriving largely due to a .263 balls in play average (BIPA), the 11th-lowest average among American League starters with 60 innings pitched. I know the Indians defense has gotten better, but that number is bound to rise.

Conversely, Bonser has struck out more than a batter per inning, but his BIPA is .316, a number exceeded by only four American League starters. Bonser is also trending in the right direction, despite his shellacking at the hands of the Angels on Monday night. Of Bonser's 30 walks this year, 20 came in his first six starts with only 10 in his last six starts. Likewise, he's cut his home run totals nearly in half in that span too. Bonser's a better bet to get better, while Carmona has nowhere to go but down once all those batted balls start finding holes.

Pulling the job

In an ESPN.com public league, I looked to consolidate talent since there are always intriguing players on the waiver wire. So when I noticed how good Howard was looking since coming off the DL, I acted fast and dealt another struggling first baseman, Paul Konerko, plus Dan Johnson and the tantalizing-yet-wild Scott Kazmir for Howard and Carlos Zambrano, who also is finally showing some signs of life.

It was a case of me trying to get two players who seemed on the cusp of turning things around. But did my consigliere, Zach Messler, see it that way? Apparently not.

LOVE getting Howard.
HATE getting Zambrano.
I think that Konerko will bounce back and Johnson will come back to Earth. But I would not expect as big a season from here on out for Ryan Howard as in 2006.
I don't think this is as good a trade as you do, but you're right … in a mixed league, getting two (and having the chance to pick up the third) for three is a very good thing.
If I am you, I try to deal Howard soon for more than I gave up to get him.

We differ on two details. First, I'm not at all convinced that Konerko bounces back even half as much as Howard does. Konerko's numbers right now eerily echo his disappointing season of 2003, suggesting that he be in a "down year." Second, while there are all sorts of warning signs on Zambrano, there are also hints he's coming around, including Wednesday night's nine-strikeout performance.

But that's the beauty of this game. Even two guys who read the same stats and watch the same games can differ on the future of top-shelf players. Find someone whose views differ from yours, and make a move.

Until next week, don't just win your league. Steal it.

Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball and football analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He can be reached at GrandTheftRoto@TalentedMrRoto.com