Welcome to the initial 2021 edition of Trade Talk. In this weekly article, we will go over some general trade tips and highlight players who may have an inaccurate fantasy value on the trade market. Take it from someone who is known in this industry as “Trader Fred”, making smart deals is the fastest way to improve your team.
Although the overall concept of acquiring a slumping player at a discount and moving a guy at the peak of his value makes perfect sense, most fantasy managers struggle to put the plan into action. After all, sending an excellent performer to another team in return for someone who has been struggling takes a lot of guts and plenty of patience. But especially early in the season, buying low and selling high in a fantasy trade is the best plan. Small-sample stats are incredibly misleading, and we should generally still have players ranked where we placed them on draft day. The obvious exceptions are injured players, those who have lost playing time and relievers in unsettled bullpens.
Players to trade for
Jesus Luzardo (SP, Oakland A's)
There may be a window to grab Luzardo at a discount in a trade, as he owns a 6.10 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP after his initial two starts. The talented 23-year-old was a little wild (four walks) last time out, but his swing-and-miss skills have been on full display (12.2 K/9 rate), and his ratios should improve in a hurry. Those who want to deal for Luzardo should try to do so before he faces the D-backs on Tuesday afternoon.
Robbie Grossman (OF, Detroit Tigers)
Although the surface stats don’t look special (1 HR, 2 SB, .185 BA), Grossman has been doing stellar work as a leadoff man this year. The 31-year-old sits second behind Mike Trout for the Major League lead in walks and has logged an exceptional .421 OBP. His patient approach at the dish should lead to plenty of runs scored, and he could approach the 20-plateau in either homers or swipes. For example, every Tyler Naquin manager should offer him for Grossman right now.
Andrew McCutchen (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
McCutchen’s slow start (.179 BA) can be attributed to a .200 BABIP. The 34-year-old’s strikeout rate is in line with his career norms, he is drawing plenty of walks, and he has already logged a homer and steal. The Phillies have a solid lineup, and McCutchen should score runs often as soon as his batted ball luck improves.
Josh Hader (RP, Milwaukee Brewers)
Hader is here as a placeholder for closers who haven’t picked up many saves thus far. The left-hander is pitching as well as ever, but bad luck has led to him picking up just one save. Aroldis Chapman and Liam Hendriks are other excellent stoppers with just one save to their credit. These closers are all studs on solid teams, and their save opportunities will come in bunches at some point this year. This is a great time to try to land someone like Hader in a 2-for-1 deal in which you trade a surprising closer such as Mark Melancon or Jake McGee and another useful player.
Players to deal
Byron Buxton (OF, Minnesota Twins)
This might be the toughest of the recommendations. After all, those who drafted Buxton did so on the expectation that his 2020 power gains (13 HR, 130 AB) was a harbinger of a breakout season. And Buxton has thus far exceeded even the highest expectations, going deep five times and posting a 1.734 OPS. But Buxton has just once played in 100 games, and his injury history has to be considered when dealing him away. Buxton managers have to consider moving him for a player who is off to a slow start after being selected in the initial 4-5 rounds.
Tyler Naquin (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
Tied for first in homers and second in RBIs, Naquin is the early leader to be this year’s waiver wire gem. But I’m not buying the sustainability of this breakout from a soon-to-be 30-year-old who logged a .702 OPS from 2017-20. And Naquin has no room for a letdown, as the Reds have one of the deepest outfield groups in baseball. If I was lucky enough to plug Naquin off waivers a week ago, I would be happy to trade him for anyone who I believed could still be on my roster by the summer.
Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B, Colorado Rockies)
Not surprisingly, McMahon took advantage of a season-opening homestand to get off to a hot start. But to me, this is the same version of McMahon who owns a lifetime .877 OPS at his hitter-friendly home park and a .616 mark on the road. My advice for McMahon managers is to hold him for at least another week (Colorado plays at home from April 16-25) and then trade him for a fantasy profit.
Javier Baez (SS, Chicago Cubs)
After struggling in 2020, Baez seems to have straightened things out by producing three homers and a trio steals across his initial 10 games. But a deeper look reveals a 1:17 BB:K ratio that is even worse than his disappointing 7:75 mark last year. Baez has danced around poor plate discipline at times in the past, but trading him away for someone with a more dependable skill set is the prudent move.