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The Anatomy of a Championship Team, Part Three (The Trades)

Bret Sayre finishes his three-part series on how he won the title in his more important home league by looking at the trades he made during the season.

Greg Fiume

In case you missed Part One and Part Two of this series, check out those links for the background on this series. Today I'm going to talk about the trades I made during the season and how they helped my championship run. By my count, there were 8 of them - some small in stature and some which were landscape shifting for my roster. For this section, I'm going to go chronologically and give some context as to where I was in the standings at the time (and what I was trying to accomplish).

But first, I want to talk about how I view trades as the season goes on. During April and May, trades should always be about value. You can't predict how the categories will shake out this early, so you just want to accumulate the most value as possible. Then in June and July, you're making trades to fill needs. If you're team is unbalanced towards hitting (like mine was), deal for a pitcher or two - but still do not get too hung up on categories. In August, trades should be about category management. If you need saves, steals, wins, strikeouts, now is the time to go after them. There's still plenty of time left in the season to make a run in a category, and by waiting until August, you can limit the damage to other categories you are doing well in.

So with that general concept in mind, here are the trades that I made in 2012:

5/3/12 - I traded Placido Polanco for $10 FAAB

I had an extra hitter, as Andres Torres was coming back off the DL and was looking to get as much FAAB as possible, knowing that I had just put in large bids for Harper/Trout. Polanco ended up doing nothing the rest of the year.

5/8/12 - I traded Brandon League and $7 FAAB for Matt Moore

This was my first reasonably sized trade of the year. It was also about a week before League ended up losing his job, so it was very well-timed. As I mentioned in the previous pieces, I spent most of the season trying to make up a draft-day deficiency in starting pitching and Moore was a huge help as he rebounded closer to the pitcher I thought he would be in the pre-season. For the record, his stats for my team: 10 wins, 3.34 ERA and 147 K in 142 2/3 IP.

5/24/12 - I traded David Murphy, Frank Francisco and Matt Capps for Mark Teixeira, Homer Bailey and Jonny Venters

This trade was a direct result of Aroldis Chapman's ascension to closer in Cincinnati, as I found myself with four closers. Dealing Frankie and Capps left me with just one closer, but the value was too good for that to matter - plus, I was banking on being able to grab another one down the road if it was necessary. Teixeira had gotten off to a slow start and was hitting .226 with 5 HR and 21 RBI in 155 AB at the time of the trade, but he is a historically slow starter.

Bailey was not a guy I was specifically targeting, but I wanted a starter back in the deal. He ended up giving me exactly what I did not expect from him, consistently above-average performance. In fact, from the time of the trade on, he won 11 games with a 3.48 ERA and 134 K in 160 1/3 IP. What I also was not expecting was that Capps and Francisco would combine for a measly 16 saves the rest of the year (after accumulating 21 for me in the first seven weeks of the season).

5/25/12 - I traded Joaquin Benoit and $2 FAAB for Johnny Giavotella and Josh Collmenter

This was a very boring trade. I needed a second baseman when Mark Ellis got hurt, and Utley was still not back yet. I've always had a bit of a thing for Giavotella and it didn't really cost anything to acquire him. Unfortunately, he ended up being pretty awful - hitting an empty .240 with 3 RBI in 41 AB.

6/28/12 - I traded Chris Nelson for $4 FAAB
7/5/12 - I traded Mark Ellis for $2 FAAB

These were pretty inconsequential, as both were roster crunch moves with Chase Utley returning from the DL. Again, the extra FAAB always helps - especially when you've blown more than half your budget on one player (Trout).

7/26/12 - I traded Mark Teixeira and Tim Collins for R.A. Dickey and James Loney

This trade marked the point where I really started my push in on the pitching categories. When I made this trade, I was still 20+ points out of first place and sitting near the bottom in every non-SV pitching category. I had offered this owner the same trade a month earlier, but he did not budge on Dickey's value, until he hit a bit of a wall in July. In the five appearances before I dealt for him, Dickey went 1-1 with a 6.49 ERA and 23 K in 26 1/3 innings. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little concerned about his recent performance, but I needed to start taking some chances if I wanted to make a run - and I was a Dickey believer. After the trade, he pitched 94 1/3 innings (!) with a 2.39 ERA, 7 wins and 91 K's. It was everything I needed and more.

The kicker was that Teixeira was terrible after I dealt him away. From the date of the trade onward, Big Tex only hit .215 with 5 HR and 17 RBI in 107 AB. You may be asking yourself, sure, but what did James Loney do? He hit .250 with 4 HR and 14 RBI in 160 AB. Essentially, a wash. So for those of you counting at home, in the two months that I owned Teixeira he hit .291 with 14 HR and 46 RBI in 189 AB. In the four months I did NOT own him, he hit .221 with 10 HR and 38 RBI in 262 AB. Did I get lucky? Absolutely. But I was also following a plan which was beginning to come to fruition.

8/20/12 - I traded Albert Pujols, Andres Torres and Bobby Parnell for Shane Victorino, Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Dempster

This trade firmly falls into the category management variety. At this point, I was within 5 points of first place after making a big run over the last month, but I needed wins, strikeouts and steals. This trade accomplished exactly what I wanted it to and was another big reason why I won the league. Between Victorino and Cain, I got 17 steals in six weeks. Those 17 steals gained me five points in the category (including one over the team which finished in second place). And on the flip side, I had enough cushion in all of the non-SB offensive categories that I could trade Pujols and not fall back. When I made the trade, I was 3rd in AVG, 1st in HR and 1st in RBI. I finished the season in those exact three spots.

Now, to the Ryan Dempster portion. In Dempster's first three starts with the Rangers, he had 1 win, 16 K's and an 8.31 ERA in 17 1/3 IP - two ugly blowups and one good start. However, the Rangers were also in the midst of a rough stretch of schedule. Dempster's three starts had been at home v LAA, at NYY and at BOS. It's quite a difference between the dregs of the NL Central and the power of tough AL lineups. However, things were about to change. He was scheduled to pitch on the day of the trade against Baltimore, followed by match-ups against Minnesota, Cleveland, Kansas City and Cleveland again. In those five starts, he went 5-0 with a 1.91 ERA and 36 K in 33 IP to help propel me into first place. When you're making a trade at the deadline, it's very important to know a pitcher's upcoming schedule - I cannot stress that enough.

So with Dickey, JJ, Moore, Dempster, E-Jax, Bailey and Cobb rolling, my team picked up 16 points between ERA, K's and Wins over the last ten weeks of the season. All while Trout, Miggy, Posey, Heyward and Hanley were carrying me to 62 out of a total 64 points in the offensive categories. It was an unlikely victory, but I was able to pull it out through a combination of in-season moves which worked out for me and some plain old luck.

In the end, there were three important lessons I took away from this season. First, never give up. No matter how deep of a hole you're in, you're only a couple of good breaks away from pushing back up towards contention. Second, don't be afraid to spend your FAAB budget early. After May 3, I was down to $32 to spend for the rest of the season. That part did inhibit me a little bit, but I also had Mike Trout and Wilin Rosario to show for it. And finally, trust your own analysis. I dealt for Teixeira, Dickey and Dempster all while they were struggling - which made their prices lower than they would have otherwise been.

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