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Is April Too Early to Make a Significant Fantasy Trade?

Should fantasy owners consider making moves this early in the season, or is it too soon to even think about shaking things up?

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Each year, the last week of spring training feels excruciatingly slow to me, no matter how busy I am or what’s going on in my real life. The anticipation of seeing how my fantasy teams will fare once the games count gets somewhat overwhelming, which is bound to lead to some disappointment. For those of us who spend a fair amount of off-season time doing research and planning, a cold start to the fantasy season can be particularly frustrating. So how soon should you try to do something about it?

With the exception of potentially filling obvious holes in my team due to injuries, I usually don’t like to even think about trades until May, if not June. It’s always felt like a month of games is about the smallest sample size from which I can hope to draw any valuable information; however, I’ve been re-thinking this idea of late. (By the way, I’m thinking in terms of re-draft leagues here, since leagues that use keepers or have a farm system of any kind obviously come with an entirely different set of criteria for when and why to make a trade.)

Even though the MLB season will be just 10% complete, I plan to closely review some of the key players on my teams with a fresh set of projections this weekend. I’ll be starting from scratch, in a way, but with three weeks’ worth of knowledge about injuries, promotions and demotions, and positional battle outcomes that I didn’t have on opening day. Brian Dozier has scored a grand total of three runs this year, so he is on pace for 32 more runs, for a total of 35. I had him projected for 92, which would be 89 from here on out. While I think he’ll score a number much closer to the latter than the former the rest of the way, I will still bring my pro-rated projection down from what it originally would have been. As with any projections, for each player I look at, I’ll try to take things like past performance, lineup situation, and job security into account.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially with unproven players… if we asked 10 people how many home runs Trevor Story and Tyler White will combine to hit for the rest of 2016, we might get ten different answers, with a huge range between them. There’s at least history we can use when dealing with veterans, and I am looking forward to writing more specifically about some established guys who’ve gotten off to great starts, and whether some owners might actually be undervaluing them when looking to sell high.

So what does this have to do with shaking things up and trading a guy who looked like one of the cornerstones of your team less than two weeks ago? Even a few weeks into the season, we all are armed with a lot more information than we had when drafting our teams. If we don’t erroneously read too much or too little into hot and cold starts, projecting final stats should theoretically be slightly easier than it was when you constructed your team. On draft day, if you knew at a certain point in your draft that your team was solid on speed and average but desperate for power, you’d be looking at Jay Bruce or Evan Gattis, not Ben Revere. So if you’ve come to the same conclusion in mid-April, why wouldn’t you trade Dee Gordon for Mark Trumbo?

Panicking because you have a few slow starters on your team is rarely going to be the correct answer, of course. But taking a moment to carefully reevaluate, even this early in the season, may lead to a move that will start paying dividends immediately.