- Shawn Peters
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Are there people in the world who love to fly because they really dig little bags of peanuts?
Do some folks get frequent haircuts because they get a secret thrill from having another person cover their neck in talc?
Is it possible that there is a tiny minority of the human race that goes to Las Vegas and stay at Caesars Palace, only because Bette Midler is playing a nightly show there?
I don't know the answer to these questions. But there are many people who do strange, even repellent things to satisfy their addictions. For example, I play fantasy baseball because I love to trade.
There is no sport like hardball, in terms of fantasy trading. It's a sport in which one moment, an unknown middle reliever who hasn't pitched in the ninth inning since high school is suddenly worth gold because his team's closer caught a cleat on the mound.
That's magical stuff.
If you don't think this way, you're normal and be glad for that. But if the words I've just written give you goose bumps, you aren't just kind of like me. You're part of my family. The Grand Theft Roto Family, and once you're in you're in for life.
Every week in this space, I'll focus on trades and trading, offering up some basic strategy and thoughts on maximizing ESPN.com's new Trading Block feature. I'll also run down a list of three players I'm dealing and three I'm stealing based upon anything from recent trends to upcoming schedule.
There will also be a section each week in which I detail deals I have made in one of several public leagues I participate in under a pseudonym. I will do everything short of lie or cheat to pull off as many trades as possible in these leagues, even if it means selling more trash than Oscar the Grouch at a flea market. Basically, these leagues are my laboratory, and these columns are my lab reports.
This exercise keeps me honest. I can't just blather, "Go get Adrian Gonzalez" -- though you should -- and let it sit at that. I have to put my roto where my mouth is. If I advocate trading Matt Kemp, because my colleagues at ESPN.com have pimped him to the point at which he will need to turn Gatorade into wine to live up to the billing -- and I think they have -- I'm going to follow my own advice and try to get a ton for him. I'll also take a little space to give a nod to readers who submit Grand Theft Rotos (aka "GTR"s) to me, and welcome them in the family.
So if you're ready to be aggressive, take some chances and most importantly, take some good players off the opposition's roster for as little as possible… let's begin.
Casing the joint
You think you have plenty of speed or you're going to need another high-strikeout pitcher, but you don't know for sure. But there is one thing you do know: What the average person in your league thought of certain players. You know which guys were taken much earlier than you expected, and you know which guys stayed on the board longer than you would've thought.
The first piece of information doesn't help you much, but the second piece could allow you to improve your team before the season even starts.
I'm not in your league -- or at least I'm not admitting it if I am -- so I don't' know which players slipped for no reason in your draft. But I do have access to those nifty Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers that are free and available to all who play here at ESPN.com, and I'll use those to point out …
Three I'm Stealing
Ryan Garko, 1B, Indians: What does a young slugger with a lifetime batting average of .290 in the majors have to do to get some respect? With an ADP of 138.5, he is going toward the end of the 14th round in ESPN standard leagues. People are sleeping on Garko. That means they're ignoring the fact that even a 10 percent improvement in his numbers entering his 27-year-old season could make him a .300 hitter with 25 homers. Pay for him like he's a solid corner man, and get a guy who is poised to be more than that.
Willy Taveras, OF, Rockies: Three straight years of an increasing on-base percentage is a fine indicator, but there's a more subtle one for Fast Wily. His steals have been remarkably consistent for three years -- 34 in 2005, 33 in 2006 and 33 in 2007-- despite fewer at-bats each of those years. This season, his role as leadoff hitter is secure and he has already swiped eight bags in the spring. Forty steals for the year feels conservative, and if he was taken at the end of the 17th round in your draft, as his ADP of 169 may suggest, his owner might not realize the kind of runs and steals machine they have.
Jeremy Bonderman, P, Tigers: He's being drafted at the top of the 19th round, with an ADP of 180, meaning his owner considers him as a shaky starter. We all know why. A sore elbow turned him into one of the most disappointing pitchers during the second half of 2007. But Bonderman is pitching healthy now and his career trajectory until the injury indicated he was about to become a top-30 starter. On this Tigers team, he could win 17 games and cost you little more than a speedy outfielder.
Three I'm Dealing
Dontrelle Willis, P, Tigers: Hey, remember that starter who struggled in the National League and then came to the American League and figured it all out? Yeah, me neither, because it never happened! Willis has looked awful this spring, but he has still been drafted in 100 percent of ESPN live drafts. So find a Tigers fan and make a deal.
Miguel Tejada, SS, Astros: In school, you learned about the bell curve, right? Well Tejada, who once hit 27 homers or more in five straight seasons, failed to top 20 homers for the first time in a decade in 2007. That's the downside of the curve. Throw in a team change, a league change and federal investigators, and I'm not even sure he's a top-10 shortstop. Trade him now while he's still being drafted like one.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: As stated above, the ESPN hype-machine has turned Kemp into Vladimir Guerrero, circa 1998. I don't disagree that the kid has most of the skills necessary to make a leap. But his ADP of 86 has him going off the board in middle of the ninth round. That's really early for a kid with fewer than 500 big league at-bats, to say nothing about the fact that he has struck out in one out of every three trips to the plate compared to only 25 walks. I just believe you can get more for him now than you'll be able to get once the season starts, unless he explodes out of the gate with a dozen homers in April.
Pulling the Job
I'm still joining leagues, so I've made only a few offers so far. I guess I could've taken the offer of Bonderman, Kosuke Fukudome and Robinson Cano for Jake Peavy that I received in one league, but really, who accepts a 3-for-1 offer before the season begins? Unless I drafted Kelvim Escobar, Evan Longoria and Colby Rasmus and found myself entering the season with some serious holes, I'd have to drop two players to make room. Oh yeah, and am I benching B.J. Upton, Edgar Renteria or Carlos Guillen?
It's a simple lesson in swap strategy: Make sure the other guy needs and can use the players you're offering or else they can't say yes.
That's not good. You want the other guy to feel like they can't say no.
Until next week, don't just win your league. Steal it.
Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball, football and golf analyst for ESPN.com.
Shawn Peters has his first suggestions of players to trade and trade for to open the 2008 season.