Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Buying high and selling low

This week, it’s THT Fantasy’s turn to host the Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. Thanks go to Eriq Gardner, Eric Hinz, and Michael Lerra for helping to put this question together:

Is there ever a time when you ‘Buy High’ or ‘Sell Low’ on a player (interpret the meanings of those two phrases as you wish)? Choose a player who you would currently ‘Sell Low’ (i.e. David Ortiz, Garrett Atkins) or ‘Buy High’ (i.e. Michael Young, Raul Ibanez, etc.) and give us your sales pitch for that player. If, for example, you’re trying to trade Ortiz, how would you market him to the other owners in your league? Finally, what is the minimum requirement you would accept in a trade for the player you selected (or the maximum you would offer in the case of a ‘Buy High’ player’)?

Jon Williams – Advanced Fantasy Baseball

This is a great question. If I must do one or the other, I would prefer to ‘Buy High’ rather than ‘Sell Low.’ I guess I would rather ride out a hot streak than wait for a player to come around. I think it is just as likely that a Raul Ibanez has an unexpected great season as David Ortiz continues to have a miserable one. However, before I bought Ibanez, I would kick all the tires at least twice.

Ibanez spent the last few years of career playing at Safeco Field one of the better pitcher’s parks in the American League. This season he moved from that difficult situation to much more favorable one at Chase Field. He moved from an okay at best lineup in Seattle to a killer lineup in Philadelphia. This all gives me reason to expect to see some improvement.

Ibanez’s strikeout-rate, walk-rate, and BABIP are about the same as always so nothing to worry about there. He is hitting a few more groundballs and fly balls but fewer line drives, but he’s mostly in his career ranges here as well. Ibanez’s production looks very real to me so I would be willing to offer what it takes to get a top outfielder who is probably priced very well in NL-only leagues. I would be okay with offering a solid outfielder and a top prospect to a re-building team, or a solid starter, or an extra closer (assuming I had one) if trading pitching for a bat was an option.

If I had to sell David Ortiz, I would have done it after he hit his first homerun. I would mention his consistent production as a Boston Red Sox. I would note that he began slow last season and still finished as a productive player. I would mention that Dave Magadan has found a mechanical problem with his swing (he was holding his hands lower than usual to start his swing), a problem that Ortiz believes he has finally addressed. I would also wish you luck.

Patrick Cain – Albany Times Union

Great question.

This idea of Buy High/Sell Low is very much how I approach players, as I treat players like stocks. Whaaaat? you might say. The old notion of buy low, sell high is flawed. From a stock stand point its very difficult to do; for each Warren Buffet you have 10 broke schmucks. There’s a reason stocks go down, it’s because they stink. Baseball players aren’t much different. It’s really hard, with the information available to fantasy managers, to determine what is a good buy low opportunity. Yes, occasionally we’ll strike gold and pick up CC Sabathia or Roy Oswalt early in the 2008 season. But for each of those starts in decline, there are people mired in a bad season or in the declining phase of their career.

Buying high is relative. Right now there is no person flying higher than Zach Greinke. Let’s say he was valued at like $20 in the preseason and now he’s worth $50. Buying high doesn’t mean paying $51. It means paying $30. He’s not going to end the season with a sub 1 ERA (I think). But he’s also not going to become a pumpkin (I think, again).

I think buying low is just playing with fire. Right now Ortiz is playing like a $2 player. But you’re not getting him for $2. You’re probably not even going to get him for $12. Whoever owns a slumping guy, believes in said slumper. Or, that is, he probably believes a lot more than you do.

If I was trying to get rid of a guy mired in draught or a collapse, I’d move him in a package. That way the owner feels like their risk is diversified. He’d get not only Ortiz, but also Ibanez. That way you set them up with base of stats and get them dreaming of what could be. But guess what, it won’t be. It simply won’t.

Brett Greenfield – FantasyPhenoms

I consider a “Buy High” a player who is exceeding expectations, yet has the ability to sustain such a high level of production. On the other hand, a “Sell Low” is somebody who is underachieving but, for example, because of age or lack of lineup protection could continue to underachieve. It isn’t often, but there are times when buying high or selling low make sense.

This year, Adam Jones has started off scorching hot. I say “Buy High.” He was the main cog in a deal that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle a few years ago. Bedard had come off of a Cy Young-like season and Jones was the Mariners best prospect. Jones hits in an ideal spot in the Orioles lineup. This spot is similar to the spot that Shane Victorino was put in when he broke out for the Phillies in 2007. Jones is sandwiched between Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, two quality, proven fantasy studs. After them, lies Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora and the potential of Matt Wieters.

Currently batting .359, Jones’ average is certain to drop. He only hit .270 last year, but is seeing a better selection of pitches this year because of where he’s batting second. A .290 – .300 AVG is possible. After hitting only nine homers last year, Adam has already hit 10 and should easily surpass 20 at this rate. Jones is on pace for over 100 runs scored and over 100 runs driven in. If I had to choose one to stick, it would be the runs scored. It seems likely that he’ll score 100+ runs, while the RBI are likely to come back down, but 80+ is possible. Somewhere between 15 and 30 stolen bases seems like a realistic number for him to steal. He was 7-7 this spring in stolen bases, yet has not attempted many so far during the regular season. Expect his to steal more bases in the near future. Fifty percent of Jones’ hits have gone for extra bases, limited his opportunities to steal.

Jones is only 24 years old and is quickly becoming a five-tool fantasy stud. Despite batting .359 and on pace for 140 runs and 117 RBI to go along with 36 homers, Jones is the ultimate “Buy High.”

If I were to try dealing for Adam Jones I would have no problem parting with someone like Alex Rios, BJ Upton or Matt Kemp. You might even be able to get something else thrown back along with Jones in exchange for one of the aforementioned hitters.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Mike Podhorzer – Fantasy Pros 911

Yes, there is absolutely a time to “Buy High” or “Sell Low” on a player. In fact, I think this type of strategy may be a lot simpler to execute than the mythical “Buy Low” and “Sell High” trades that are nearly impossible to make in leagues with any bit of competitiveness. Though his 6.60 ERA will undoubtedly come down, I would sell Francisco Liriano low. His skill set has changed dramatically since his pre-TJ Surgery days and he now looks like a slightly better than league average pitcher at best, with little upside or potential to post a sub-4.00 ERA like his owners counted on.

The great thing about Liriano is that he still carries much more name value than other pitchers who have performed just as poorly. It would be easy to point to Liriano’s strong second half of last season and convince a league mate that he is buying low and Liriano’s value can’t fall any further. Point out that he is still only 25 years old and as he moves further away from TJ Surgery, he should continue to gain strength and improve, leading to another strong second half. In addition, a 7.7 K/9 is still above average and could help any fantasy team in the strikeout category.

The minimum pitcher I would require in a straight up deal for Liriano would probably be someone like fellow buy low candidate and rotation mate Scott Baker. Though I would definitely expect to get more than Baker, in terms of projected future value, he would be acceptable. The hitter would depend on my positional and categorical needs, but based strictly on value, I would say someone like Jose Lopez or Kelly Johnson.

Tommy Landry – RotoExperts

First off, never get high before managing your fantasy team, unless you like the nickname “Bob” (a.k.a. Bottom of the Barrel). That goes for buying OR selling.

But seriously, I am never one to go out and pursue a guy who is already playing like an All-Star, unless I think his ceiling is still much higher than what he has done so far. Unfortunately, it is rare that you’ll find a taker in that situation without seriously overpaying. In the case of selling low, I have been known to have the occasional fire sale in hopes of landing a replacement guy who I think is due to come out of a slump himself. This is where you can achieve some nice profit. You start by highlighting extended slumps that the player-to-be-dealt has endured in the past and sell it as the same thing. Then you show all the big chinks in the armor of the guy you secretly covet. Typically, I like to do this with players of different styles – e.g. dealing away a “stick a fork in him” power slugger for a speed guy who just healed up from a lingering hamstring problem. You can really harp on the hammy issue in this case, meanwhile playing up the “his walk rate is still great, his contact rate has to get better, and look at all the doubles he hit last week” angle for the slugger.

Of course, you have to draft a bust to have someone to sell low, and I’m risk averse to the point that I wouldn’t have taken a guy in severe decline like Big Papi before the tail end of any of my drafts this year. Then again, I’m sitting on Rafael Furcal in two leagues waiting with baited breath for him to “come around”. I might be waiting a long time.

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14 years ago

I like the writers’ take, in that its very hard to buy low and sell high anymore with a competitive league.  Keeper leagues make this concept easier, because one team may be selling high because they’re building for next year, but in 1 year leagues its very tough. 
With a guy like Grienke, I’d rather have a top hitter, a la Braun or somebody like that, so if he was on my team i would look to trade him, since its a lot easier adding a good pitcher than hitter.

14 years ago

I practice this concept when I believe someone is a true bust or a true breakout.  When everyone is trying to ‘buy low’, and you think you hold a legit bust, it is best to get the value for him and sell low.
After April, I traded David Wright for Youk and Fuentes.  I got ripped on the message boards for ‘selling low and buying high’.
I also traded Furcal for Mark Reynolds, and got similarly ripped.
Both times I knew I was selling low, but believed that both Furcal and Wright were damaged goods.  I also believed in Youk (no, not to hit .400, but to be similar to 2008, which most people dismissed).

14 years ago

Love reading these roundtables.  Tangentially…

Has anyone actually “pitched” or “marketed” a player in a trade and changed a potential trading partners opinion about a player? 

Or maybe a better question is: has anyone had their own opinions changed by a pitch?

The reason I ask is because I frequently receive trade offers where the other owner pitches a player and points out previous years stats etc. and my immediate reaction is, without fail, “Does this guy think I’m an idiot, of course I know Ortiz has been a remarkably consistent producer the past few years”, which, of course, turns me off to the idea of working a potential deal.
I guess I’m just wondering if there is any real  
value to marketing a player because from personal experience it seems to have the opposite of the intended effect.

14 years ago

I agree Bookie. Marketing a player begs the question of why said marketing owner is so gung ho to get rid of the player. Oh, Big Papi’s ready to bust out? Word. So, I guess that means you’re not interested finally getting that elite offensive production?

The only time I see “pitching” as valuable is if you speak directly to the context of the league’s standings, or other owner’s roster. Ex. “Player X’s speed is more important to you than he is to me. I’m atop the category, while you’re bunched tightly with several other teams. This one player could have a significant impact on the standings for you, more so than his objective ‘worth.’” Sometimes you can try a similar pitch with positional depth and waiver wire availability. Otherwise, I shut my mouth because I don’t consider myself a credible source, and ignoring that conflict of interest is just an attempt to insult the intelligence of the other owner.

In terms of buying low, it seems like there are two ways I could see something like this happening. One, trading my disappointment for yours. 35 games into the season, maybe two owners wanted to swap Alexei Ramirez for Garett Atkins. This is like the “change of scenery” archetype. Not advisable for its own sake, but somewhat understandable. Two, swapping one type of risk for another. Here’s a scenario where you could possibly sell low and buy high in the same deal. As soon as Manny’s suspension was made public – you offered a trade for Greinke. Manny’s risk is relatively known. He’s gone for 50 games and it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll still produce when he gets back. There you could have tried to bet the known, and finite, “low” of Manny against the unknown of the small sample size of Greinke’s utter brilliance. An owner in one of my leagues tried to sell me Grady for a discount as soon as his elbow problems were made known. This owner was worried and wanted to get a return for Grady. He was willing to either bet on a dubious break-out or just accept a discounted % of Grady’s value, but he wasn’t willing to bet on Grady’ health. I almost bit, but I wanted to pay pennies on the dollar and he was asking nickels.
Some owners are just more willing to accept one kind of risk than another, and you can sometimes sell low by exchanging one type of risk for another you are more comfortable with.

Derek Carty
14 years ago

Great comments, guys.  Bookie, that’s an excellent question, one I think I’ll end up posing to the roundtable when it comes back around to us.

14 years ago

Hey Digglah, Great post.  I agree that “pitching” a trade in terms of league standings or a league-mates roster is valuable and can lead to fruitful trade discussions.


Derek, that would be great. I look forward to hearing what the Round Table has to say on the issue of marketing players themselves.

14 years ago

Great, post digglahhh… Let’s get you into the next roundtable.

14 years ago

Thanks for the kind words, guys (and potentially ladies – being inclusive just in case…)!

I think discussing the “value” of pitching would be a good idea, Derek. I’d be interested in even anecdotal evidence of its efficacy, and the types of pitches that have worked for others.

I think one of my weaknesses as a fantasy GM is that I may tend to overestimate the savviness of my league mates. (Though in my serious leagues there are really no owners who are notably easy to take advantage of.) However, every now and then I’ll see a trade go through and mutter to myself, “I wouldn’t have even had the audacity to propose that!” Perhaps a slick pitch was involved in some of those deals.

In one of my most competitive leagues, all the owners are good friends – same group for like 7 years running, keeper league – and it is worth noting that aggressiveness does have the potential to effect one’s willingness to trade. I’m normally active on the wire, but rather quiet on the trade front (sometimes to a fault). If you’re in a league with people you know well socially, try to make trade talk in person and on the phone, not just in proposals. Email is the easiest medium in which to ignore or decline somebody.

You know how when you’re deciding on which bar to go to (or whatever), one or two guys always seem to wind up getting their way? You can recreate those dynamics in trade talks by using the personalities of your potential trade partners. But you have to interact with them actively, as opposed to passively.

Another related topic that might be nice to discuss would be peoples’ thought about posting their needs and/or whos on their trading block on the league message board. Some people think it stimulates activity. I think it causes you to start at a disadvantageous position in negotiations – it’s like showing your hand in poker. I’ be curious to hear others’ experiences with this “tactic.”