Trading Places: Focus on your team’s mobility

Trading Places is a classic 1983 film starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Akyroyd.  John Landis directs and as in many of his films he uses comedy and great writing to drive home a lesson about society.  Murphy plays Billy Ray Valentine, an inner city con man who is in and out of trouble as he tries to make his way.  Akyroyd plays Louis Winthorp III who has a Harvard degree and has been given everything since then including a top job at the trading company of Duke & Duke.  Duke & Duke is run by Mortimer and Randolph Duke, two brothers who disagree on why people are the way they are.  One says that it is genetics and the other says that it is environment that makes people do what they do.  So they make a $1 bet (“the usual”) and set up an experiment by having the down on his luck con man “trade places” with the successful Wall Street executive to see if the con man will shine and the executive will go crazy as a poor out of luck hobo.  Trading Places is brilliantly crafted with the timeless message of equality for all mankind. 

Why talk about this movie?  Well, trading is about figuring out what is going on around you and then making the moves to give you a chance to win.  It is also about societal mobility, both upward and downward that can happen at any moment.  So, let’s focus on that part of it.

“We took a perfectly useless psychopath like Valentine, and turned him into a successful executive. And during the same time, we turned an honest, hard-working man into a violently, deranged, would-be killer!”


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Finding the Right Trade Partner

Each year at this time, Colton & The Wolfman with Stacie Stern take an analytical look at where we stand in both leagues.  Usually, this means that I do some math and then present a case for a strategy.  As some of you might remember, last year uncovered the strategy of “addition by subtraction”.  We unloaded all our power hitters for Clayton Kershaw and a myriad of low whip starting pitchers.  This allowed us to run up the standings. 

On Saturday, with the Draft Guide out, my wife working and my teenage sons doing their own thing, I dug into the analysis of all nine of my seasonal leagues.  I won’t bore you with the details of them all, but there is an excellent lesson in one of them, League of Alternative Reality (LABR) NL.  We are one of three teams to play in both the AL Only and the NL Only leagues.  We did make deals in both leagues today.  The American League deal I will get to later.

So, the analysis does not take that long and amounts to creating what I call a “mobility” chart.  It is a look at all the categories in your league and deciding with great honesty exactly how far you can move up in the standings.  Don’t pretend you have no legs from Vietnam or dress up in a Santa suit and steal raw salmon.  Be honest about where you can go in the standings so you can take a shot at victory.

There are a lot of ways to find a good trade partner.  A common way is to send out a note soliciting trade partners based on players that you have available for trading.  I have found over the years that the best way to make a deal is to craft the deal that makes sense for both teams and send something VERY SPECIFIC.  Many experts will tell you, do not make the first offer.  Crrrrap.

Here is what you should do to get a good deal done and not waste time. First, identify the category you need help in. Examine what teams can help you in that category.  Then look at that team and determine what categories they are weak in to determine if you have what they need.  If you do, then, look at SPECIFIC players you can afford to give up and SPECIFIC players you want from their team and craft some fair deals.  Then, send SPECIFIC suggestions for deals and they will either accept one or counter one of them to bring you closer to a successful deal.  One thing I never accept is someone who says they are interested, but is negative on the players in the deal.  I tell them to counter.  That is the way it works.  You send out SPECIFIC offers.  They either accept or counter.  When I send my note, I always include the logic in the not to show that I am being fair and to make it easier for the trading partner.  Have to be careful not to treat people like the Dukes treated Billy Ray Valentine or Louis Winthorpe III.

Here is what we did this weekend to get deals done with the Gardner and the Flowers.

“Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high.”


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Finding a Gardner to Grow Your Team: LABR AL

We did the analysis.  Here are the standings in LABR NL where we have a chance with some drastic moves to make up points.  We can immediately recognize that there is huge upside in the most unpredictable category, wins.  We also recognize a lead in steals. 

Here is our mobility chart.  This shows that with significant moves in areas without detracting from others, how far we can move up or down from those moves.

After reviewing the chart, we can see that we can trade speed for pitching.  So, we huddle up and decide what to do.  We have Mallex Smith on the DL, so it is an easy choice to trade him for an SP if we can.  Glenn sends out a league-wide note.  A closer look also identifies that we can afford to trade Starling Marte if we get someone back who will dramatically change the calculus.  The pitchers that we target are: Jake Arrieta, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner and Stephen Strasburg.

Now, what I do is check the mobility charts for each one of the teams that owns those players.  First eliminate Arrieta because he has struggled and if you make a BIG move like this, it has to pay off.  The two teams that have Cueto and Strasburg have mobility charts that look more like ours and a trade is unlikely.  Then, we find this: the mobility chart for USA Today’s Steve Gardner who owns Mad Bum.

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He needs speed badly and can afford to give up pitching without losing too many points.  Then it is important to see where he is in the standings.  He is much lower than us so we can swap a similar amount of Roto points and this one deal won’t make us lose to him.  Now, he may make more moves and out play us, but we have to make a move.

So now how to get started in the deal making.  First we agree that a deal surrounding Marte and Bumgarner makes sense for both teams.  We send the mobility charts to show him the data and get him on board with the plan that helps both teams.  Then it is just a matter of adding anything to the deal to make it better for both parties.  We include a good relief pitcher and he includes a bat who plays almost every day.  Just enough to replace roster spots.

Now in the American League, we are farther out so we need to make drastic moves, but don’t have a lot to trade so we have to build assets and be patient for about 3 more weeks.  That showed itself from the mobility chart.  However, two important rules of trading came into play:

1. Make ANY deal that makes your team better – It sounds simple right. Well, some people value a deal strictly on the basis of what players you are getting and what their projected stats will be for the rest of the season.  You see “trade evaluators” on sites all over the internet showing you only the stats for the players and determining who “wins” the deal.  That is crrrrap. Both sides should win the deal.  Also, if you have a ton of steals, let’s say and someone is offer you a deal to acquire more, it is never a bad idea to consider it.  By controlling a scarce commodity, it allows you to trade players in that category to get greater value for your team. 

Like Billy Ray noticed about the Dukes…” That’s called the ‘quart of blood’ technique. You do that, a quart of blood will drop out of a man's body.”

2. No deal is too small ("the usual") - Many deals that helped us win in the past were very small deals that got us those three extra steals or five extra home runs.  If you are dropping a player, we always offer him up for ANY DL or reservable player.  You may as well get something for what you are getting rid of.  We commonly end up doing these deals with the same people as you create a relationship with certain people in every league who want to help each other in small ways. 

Like Mortimer realized when the vase broke…“I believe we paid $35,000. But if I remember correctly, we valued it for the insurance company at $50,000. You see, Mortimer? William has already made us $15,000.”

So using these rules above, we had a player coming back off the DL in Kevin Kiermaier.  Our mobility chart showed that we needed offense.  We could not find a two for one trade with Kevin Kiermaier and another bat for a bigger bat so we traded him for Yordano Ventura with Ray Flowers.  Admittedly, this was partially for the poetic justice of trading with a Gardner and a Flowers.  Just too funny…and fun is the best thing to have...

“When I was growing up, if we wanted a Jacuzzi, we had to fart in the tub.”