It was no big surprise when Shin-Soo Choo landed on a bunch of my teams this past March. We had a lot of good roto times in Cleveland, Choo and I. The Cincinnati year was fun, too. With Choo headed to the Arlington undertow, I thought we might be looking at his best season yet.
Okay, we're about 40 percent through the 2014 dance, and you can strike all those career-year thoughts. As Wednesday's baseball action was meandering along, I was thinking, maybe it's time to liquidate myself from some Choo stock. Maybe I'm over-invested here. Maybe I need a change.
Yep, selling low. The two dirtiest words in fantasy baseball. Thing is, I'm not only unafraid to do it, I actually enjoy doing it in some instances. Forget chasing upside, I'm ready to settle in for some floor. Sometimes there's a logical case for it.
Although Choo had a meaty game in Wednesday's victory over Miami (4-1-2-1, four RBIs), he's been in a funk for a while. Check his last 33 starts: .176/.310/.294 slash, three homers, no steals. The Texas undertow (and a healthy walk rate) has kept the run production numbers in a reasonable place: 13 RBIs, 19 runs (remember, this is from a guy hitting .176). But obviously we expected something completely different from a second or third round pick.
Choo dinged his ankle in late May – is that tied to his inability to run? Heck, has it affected his stance and batting approach in any way? Or is this just the type of slump you notice when you play the arbitrary endpoint game?
Some expert leagues are allergic to trading, but you can't pin that on me. I'm usually among the swap leaders. I started working the wire in the Yahoo Friends & Family League, sending out 3-4 reasonable offers that I thought could be accepted. I need steals in that league - it's the only offensive category where I have a lot of growth potential - so I focused on that category. Eventually Jeff Erickson of Rotowire (longtime friend, longtime Choo sympathizer) answered the call, sending Coco Crisp my way in exchange for Choo, accepting my earlier offer.
In a vacuum, I can see how some might think I made a foolish, impetuous error. In a vacuum, I'm sure most pundits rank Choo higher. His theoretical upside is certainly higher. And isn't "selling low" the wrong angle in this game?
I have a different frame to it, of course. I'm already a contender in the F&F, with my category path on offense well defined. Choo's upside is no longer particularly interesting to me, especially if he's unlikely to run (perhaps that's the case, with the ankle injury). I expected Texas's offense to be an undertow, and that hasn't been the case. Meanwhile, look at what Oakland is doing - the A's have the best offense in the majors.
I see the deal from Jeff's side too, of course. He's 19 points out of first place in the standings (I'm nine back) and maybe needs to make something happen, catch lightning in a bottle. The upside of Choo makes sense. Given that my winning chances are better in my team's position, I was willing to settle in on floor. And again, I'm attacking a specific category need.
My other Choo deal of the evening isn't as easy to sell. In the Tout Wars Mixer, I moved Choo to front-running Fred Zinkie for Angel Pagan and $10 of FAAB. Easy, peasy, deal got done inside of a half hour.
Maybe I'm a sucker for taking on extra FAAB bucks in that league, the Sunday night shopping market is something I enjoy. Maybe I'm a sucker for going floor-chasing with a team that's already mired in the middle of the pack; maybe I'd be better served hoping Choo starts to play like the guy we expected in March. Maybe I'm just a sucker. Go ahead, throw your arrows if you like. It's a league where I need speed (and worry about Choo's inability to run), but it's also a league where OBP replaces average - and Choo still has a keen batting eye.
Still, trading is fun. I love that it's easy to have a reasonable dialogue with good chaps like Zinkie and Erickson. I'm glad to have some new players going forward. And I'm still clinging to one more Choo share in a different league, in case his ankle heals up and he starts rocking again.
• The erratic nature of closing represents what we love and hate about fantasy baseball. Saves are such a blast when you're finding them for free, but it's such a bitch of a category when good bullpens go bad. And to anyone who wrote off the Tampa Bay bullpen earlier this week, I can't say I blame you. A four-man committee? Sounds toxic to me.
Just to further prove how crazy baseball is, consider Grant Balfour. The slumping Tampa reliever forced all the committee talk through his terrible start to the year (6.46 ERA through 23.2 innings, two losses, two blown saves). Okay, move along, start hedging, start picking other guys. And then completely out of nowhere, Balfour posts a shut-down save Wednesday against St. Louis, a freaking seven-out save of all things (no baserunners, one strikeout, just 31 pitches). Go ahead and try to make sense of this. I cant. I'm just glad I don't have any notable investment in this team or bullpen.
• We're had a lot of Justin Verlander talk over the last few weeks, so you should know where I stand. I don't own him, I don't want to own him, and I suggested you sell high after the strong win over Seattle. (Nothing special there, seemed obvious to many of you, too.)
That said, I watched every pitch of Verlander's start Wednesday at Chicago (5.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 BB, 6 K) and I'm here to tell you it wasn't nearly as bad as the numbers might say. The Tigers left Verlander in too long. Chicago only had one run until the sixth, and the final inning featured some cheap hits. The bullpen allowed inherited runners to score. Verlander's velocity was in the high-90s at times.
If I were shuffling pitchers at the moment, I'd still have Verlander at an ownable price, something in the $12-14 range. The Cy Young contender might be gone for good, but there's a theoretical upside here. He gets Kansas City (good draw) and Cleveland (not so good) in the next week. Maybe you can work a trade after he (likely) shuts down the Royals.
• Speaking of documented themes, you've read constant Corey Dickerson and Danny Santana propaganda in this column, dating back to when they were scarcely owned in Yahoo. I'm not going to rehash. You should know the deal by now. We've just waving hello. Enjoy the ride. (If Dickerson isn't owned over 50 percent by the weekend, I'll assume most of you are point shaving. Come on, gamers. It's the easiest connect-the-dots possible.)
• It's not really a fantasy note, but we're not baseball fans if we don't mention the defensive display Crisp and Mike Trout put on in Anaheim Wednesday night. And then there's Yoenis Cespedes, who's uncorked two Hall of Fame throws in as many nights. You're with me, leather. Defense is cool.
• I know some of you guys want me to scrawl a public blood apology when I'm wrong on a player, so here's one for today. I regret everything I wrote about Masahiro Tanaka this spring. He's unreal. He's ridiculous. He's a Top 5 pitcher on my clipboard now. He's fun. But having him on zero Pianow teams is no fun.
Japanese Ice for the win, again.