- Shawn Peters
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No attempts to be clever.
No extended metaphors designed to set up a theme.
No structure of "Casing the Joint" and "Pulling the Job." No "Three I'm Stealing or Dealing or Congealing."
There are less than two full days until the ESPN standard league trade deadline of Friday, Aug. 14 at noon, meaning you need only know who you want to target, who you want to trade, and how you're getting it done.
Let's take the last part first, shall we? In most trade scenarios, I'd argue that the longer you can prolong negotiations, the better the deal will get for you. You can literally wear down your trading partner over time with offers, options and e-mails. But not now. You're in the drive-thru lane, and dragging your heels will just result in people honking as you haggle for an extra sweet-and-sour sauce.
Up against the deadline, the rule is you shouldn't be making any lowball offers. You shouldn't even be making mid-ball offers, if that's a term. With the trading season now measured in hours instead of days, you need to make offers that are begging to be accepted. In fact, it's OK to overpay.
Usually, the back of my throat would fill with bile just for thinking that last sentence, but not now. Overpaying at this point is the only thing to do when you know there are only a few players with the specific skills to help you win the league, beat your biggest rival or just get out of last place. To be clear, I'm not saying you should overpay for saves, because even though this is the last article I'm writing for ESPN for a while, I'm pretty sure my editors would permanently ban me if I suggested that notion. As the Talented Mr. Bossman always says, saves will come into the league over the next two months. But if what your team needs most isn't going to be available on the waiver wire, it's OK to pay full price right now, and that includes fronting the sales tax.
Look at your standings. Do the math. Find out where you can gain points and where you're stuck for the season, and make offers accordingly. If you're in first, defend the position. If you're chasing, take some chances. But wherever you are, don't stand pat because by lunchtime Friday, the all-you-can-trade buffet will be closed for the season.
With that in mind, I'm swinging for the fences, with a grand slam of huge one-for-one, position-for-position trades I'd make in a vacuum. The only rule is that I'm using the ESPN Player Rater and every player I'm trading away ranks higher than the guy I'm getting back. Does that mean the other guy will definitely take the deal? No. But he will have to listen, and you might even be able to score an upgrade elsewhere in the deal to notch your final GTR of the year.
Trade Zack Greinke, SP, Royals for Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals: Did you know that both St. Louis and Kansas City are in Missouri? It's true. Know what else is true? Greinke has only three starting pitchers ahead of him in the Player Rater. Granted, he has slowed down since starting out like Dwight Gooden circa 1985, but I'd still say that his value remains sky high despite a middling 3.66 ERA since the All-Star break. But Wainwright has been, dare I say, Greinke-esque in that same span. We're talking about a 1.56 ERA post-break, and he has walked only two batters this month. The Cards' 27-year-old ace is 18 spots below Greinke in the Player Rater overall, has a slightly higher ERA and fewer strikeouts, but I'd rather have the guy in red.
Trade Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels for Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: I'm not going to argue with the Player Rater but Abreu is 14th overall? I don't expect a return of his once-vaunted power, and see him as an on-base machine who is a lovely source of speed, average and runs. But you can say the exact same thing about the less-heralded Choo, who is sitting 49th on the old P.R. and there is a lot more to love. First of all, even though he hasn't hit a single dinger in the second half after 13 first-half taters, his slugging percentage has actually gone up. The long balls will come. Secondly, I'll take 27-year-old legs in August and September over 35-year-old legs, especially if there's even a chance the Angels rest their stars if their 4½-game lead swells in late September.
Trade Dan Haren, SP, Diamondbacks for Johan Santana, SP, Mets: Twenty-five spots separate these two, and if I told you that at the beginning of the season, you'd have assumed it was Johan on top. So far, though, Santana has been the less impressive of the two and while neither team is bound for postseason glory, at least the D-backs aren't the soap opera of MLB. But Haren is a notorious second-half fader -- 2.85 ERA the past three years before the break, 4.42 after -- and has allowed five runs in each of his first two August starts. Meanwhile Johan is a picture of consistency and he's actually dropped his ERA since the midsummer classic. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion the Mets are due a meaningless hot streak to get all their fans' hopes up for 2010, which could result in a flurry of wins for Santana.
Trade Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees for Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies: I wish Tulo didn't hit for the cycle this week, because I think you could've gotten this deal done lickety-split a week ago. Still, make the offer because I'm not sure there's any shortstop I want more the rest of the way. Jeter, as the 22nd guy on the Player Rater, has been a multi-category beast all year, but his power is really no better than occasional and he has stolen only three bags since the beginning of July. The only thing he does better than Tulowitzki, who is 52nd on the Player Rater, is hitting for average. Maybe Jeter collects an extra 20 hits the rest of the way, and when you realize that a fantasy lineup amasses over 6,500 at-bats in a season, there's no way those hits are moving the dial for you in average. Go for the guy who still has double-digit homers and steals in him the rest of the way.
There you go. A quartet of blockbusters. Do with them what you will. As for myself, I made one deal in my AL-only keeper league, picking up Matt Holliday (we still use a player's stats in-season if he's traded to the NL), Magglio Ordonez and A.J. Burnett in exchange for an underpriced Brian Fuentes, Lars Anderson, and some minor league picks. It was a classic "deadline dump" deal as I try to move from third to second and my trade partner plays for 2010 and beyond.
Meanwhile, in the S.T.E.A.L., I've risen to fourth in the 16-team league and have the best chance of explosive growth in homers and RBI, while my ERA, WHIP and batting average are all stable enough to ignore. Thus, I sealed a deal with Matty "Meatballs" Cederholm in which I sent him Chris Getz and Rich Harden for Nick Swisher and the surging young Derek Holland. If Harden stays healthy, it was an oops, but if Jose Reyes returns for me at any point, I won't miss Getz and I'll boost my power output by at least 10 dingers.
As for the league itself, we've had nearly 70 trades this season in the S.T.E.A.L., and that's before the flurry to come in the next 48 hours. Every single team in the league made multiple trades and 13 of 16 teams pulled off five trades or more. Even though there will be no other GTR installments, you can still keep track of the S.T.E.A.L. and see how all these fantasy felons do with the spoils of their steals.
If there is, in fact, honor among thieves, it has been my honor to play with these 15 other swapsters, just as it's been a privilege writing this column for the past three years.
I hope that when you collect your trophy, prize money or bottle of Yoohoo in a few months, you'll say, "I didn't just win this league. I stole it."
Shawn Peters is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him your own grand theft rotos by clicking here.
Shawn Peters offers a special edition of Grand Theft Roto as the ESPN.com trade deadline nears and notes that Adam Wainwright has surpassed Zack Greinke.