Grand Theft Roto: A bad time to deal

Updated: July 29, 2007, 2:39 PM ET
By Shawn Peters | Special to ESPN.com

I don't know if there are times when rappers just want to listen to Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits.

I don't know if there are days when Fox News wants to offer an unmocked liberal point of view.

I don't know if Pamela Anderson wakes up some mornings and thinks about dating a nice, Jewish online columnist even though he has a much smaller ... house than she's used to.

But I do know that even a swap-addicted roto swindler like myself can look at a calendar and admit, "This isn't a great time to do a deal."

While most fantasy leagues are still a few weeks away from their trading deadlines, Major League Baseball's non-waiver trading deadline is a little more than 100 hours away as you read this article.

Sure, you might find a steal here or there if your league has a guy with an anxiety disorder who's ready to trade away Eric Gagne for a song because he's worried the Canuck Closer is going to be shipped off to be a set-up man for a contender. (For the record, Gagne probably isn't OK'ing any deal unless he gets to save games.) But against formidable owners, making a deal now -- so close to a time when several players' roles could change -- just doesn't make sense.

Sir Francis Bacon said, "knowledge is power" and he was both smart and had a tasty breakfast meat for a last name. Mmmmmm ... knighted bacon.

So instead of dealing for players, you should be dealing in knowledge (and bacon) right now.

Casing the Joint

What you can do in preparation of the impending big league trading deadline is know who will benefit most if a big-name player gets dealt so you can start laying the groundwork and then pounce once you're close to certain the deal is doing down.

Obviously there are dozens of players who could get moved at the deadline, but for our purposes, I'll just focus on a few of the most likely movers who might suddenly be sexy in deeper leagues. Of course, I'll be culling my information from MLB Rumor Central on a little Web site called ESPN.com.

Mark Teixeira is rumored to be moving to one of four teams -- the Dodgers, Braves, Red Sox or Yankees -- assuming the Rangers can take off their Dr. Evil masks and stop asking for more than anyone will ever give. But if Big Tex does end up wearing a new uniform, power-hungry fantasy owners need to have Brad Wilkerson's owner on speed dial. Going into Wednesday night's games, Wilkerson had posted a .526 slugging percentage as a first baseman, a mark 76 points higher than the one he's shown this year when playing outfield. If Wilkerson gets to play first five or six times a week, you can't expect an average above his weight, but you can expect 10-14 more homers in August and September. The impossibly-hot Marlon Byrd would likely benefit as well with a suddenly uncrowded outfield/DH situation.

Apparently, difficult-to-spell last names are all the rage in Rumor Central since Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be moved by the Braves. Obviously, if "Salty" gets dealt to a team where he can catch four or five days a week and pick up a few at-bats at first or DH, you want to deal for him since he could easily be a top-five catcher the rest of the way. But what other players see their value spike if Saltalamacchia takes his Scrabble-winning surname to a new town? Believe it or not, the nearly-forgotten Scott Thorman might resurface. He did hit nine homers in the first three months of the season, and as bad as his .215 batting average is, it's still better than the .197 average being posted by Julio Franco, who is one bad night from hitting his age.

Royals' reliever Octavio Dotel is probably the most likely player in the majors to actually move at the deadline; as Kansas City realizes having a proven closer on that team is about as necessary as having a tanning salon for Goths. Someone will bring in Dotel to set up or even close in a pinch, and K.C. will have to choose another reliever to close the door on the rare occasions when it actually wins. Joakim Soria, who notched 10 saves while Dotel was on the DL, would seem to be the next in line and a great trade target. Just remember that Soria had shoulder inflammation that kept him on the DL for more than a month earlier this season and the Royals have a lot more invested, on many levels, in finding a way to make Zack Greinke an impact pitcher. Both could be value buys once Dotel is on the exit ramp out of K.C.

Is Ken Griffey Jr. going to be moved by the Reds, or is Adam "Dunn" in Cincy? Don't know. But there's a decent chance one of them will be relocating to a park that isn't as homer-friendly as Great American. However, if either moves on, there will be more at-bats to be had in the outfield and that may provide some opportunities. Josh Hamilton is a risky pick, as he's on the DL with a sprained wrist and due back in early August. Personally, I'm not a fan of power hitters with gimpy wrists, but the guy does have legit pop. Interesting in a different way is Norris Hopper, a classic "quadruple-A" player who has some speed. If an outfield slot opens up and he picks up some real playing time, he could be worth 8-10 steals the rest of the way. I know, it doesn't sound like much, but in my average GTR league, the difference between four points and seven points in stolen bases is only about 16 steals.

If you keep tabs on the deals that look like they're happening and position yourself to benefit, you can turn the Major League Baseball trading deadline into the starting line for some Grand Theft Rotos.

Pulling the Job

I've often said, "it's not a GTR if someone offers you a deal and you just accept it."

That goes for me as well, which means I did not pull any GTR's this week. But I did make a trade that I like and while it was proposed to me, it was actually a result of a season-long dialogue.

In one of my ESPN standard public leagues, an owner had been trying to get Hanley Ramirez from me for a while. I always countered with outrageous demands and nothing got done. But a week ago he offered Rafael Furcal (who was featured prominently in my second-half stud column two weeks ago), Jeremy Bonderman and the object of Matthew Berry's affection, Brandon Phillips, for Chien-Ming Wang and Ramirez.

I'll admit, I did a double take and then clicked "accept." I've been waiting for Rickie Weeks to wake up for ... well ... weeks, and there was no doubt I liked a Phillips/Furcal combo more than Weeks/Ramirez in my infield. Dealing Wang, who still doesn't' strike anybody out, for Bonderman, who strikes multiple "anybodys" out, was a bonus.

Two days later, Hanley Ramirez injured his shoulder and announced he may need surgery in the offseason. That ain't skill, people. That's luck.

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

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