Keeper league strategy: Injuries

The final article for today, we’ll talk about how trading for injured players can pay a world of dividends for your team next year.

Capitalizing on injuries in keeper leagues

When news broke that Chase Utley had fractured his hand and would be out 4-6 weeks, many of his owners watched as their championship dreams floated away. With the drop-off from Utley to Maicer Izturis, one owner didn’t see how he could make up that production. Even if he tried to trade Utley, he likely wouldn’t be able to get much value for him. That was until one owner came along and offered up Jason Bay.

Out of context, this seems like a ridiculous move. In the hypothetical league I’m talking about, though, it was a genius move. The first thing to know is that it’s a keeper league. The Utley owner was in second place and had a legitimate chance to finish in first. The Bay owner was in tenth place and did not.

He had paid $40 at auction for Jason Bay, predicting a huge breakout, and — after making several ill-fated moves like this one — had found himself in the basement of his league. Oddly enough, Utley was auctioned for just $30 a few hours into the auction. The market — especially for second basemen — saw inflation early, and a number of short-sighted owners didn’t realize that it was likely Utley would come cheaper later.

The Utley owner was thrilled to get a guy as good as Jason Bay for his damaged goods and keep his championship hopes alive, and the Bay owner (who was fortunate enough to read this article before his league’s trade deadline wink ) was equally thrilled to get a good keeper like Utley for such a reasonable price. Since Bay wasn’t in his plans for next year at $40, it made no difference if he traded him, dropped him, or let him sit on his roster the rest of the year.

By now, I think you’ve figured out this strategy. Target good, keepable players that were recently injured on teams still in the championship hunt. Explain to these owners how six weeks of Roger Clemens is much more valuable than three weeks of Ben Sheets… and that’s assuming he doesn’t suffer a setback. Most owners will see the logic in this, get themselves back into the race, and kindly give you a very nice keeper.

Players to target

Here’s a list of batters currently on the DL who might make good targets:

And here are some pitchers:

Of course, depending on their price tags and how many players you are allowed to keep, not all of these guys would be good to go after.

Player notes

I’d just like to quickly talk about a couple of these guys.

Nick Johnson has great numbers and might come easily in a trade, especially if his owner is in the running for this year. Everyone knew Johnson would miss a good chunk of this year, so he probably came cheaply — if he was auctioned at all. Still not active, he might come even cheaper in a trade. He could be a great player next year, especially if the Nationals make a few moves to improve their offense. If nothing else, getting Johnson would give you another option for next year.

Francisco Liriano is another guy like this, albeit one with much more hype. He possesses that drool-worthy combination of strikeouts, walks, and ground balls that is so rare in a pitcher. Were it not for his injury, he almost certainly would have been the #1 pitcher on my personal rankings coming into this year. He will be just a year removed from Tommy John surgery, though, so temper your expectations a bit.

Also, a warning about Chase Utley, from Rick Wilton:

Players coming off wrist and hand injuries rarely regain their normal power levels for up to a year after the injury. Even if he’s able to regain his power stroke in less than a year, he sure as heck isn’t going to find it in September. All we have to do is look at Derrek Lee as an example to see how a wrist injury, albeit a much more serious one than Utley’s, causes a player to lose some power for an extended period of time. The standard guideline for that power drop is at least 12 months.

This is something else to consider when pursuing these trades. Make sure that the injury the targeted player has sustained isn’t the type that will cause a decrease in production next year or is one that the player could continue to struggle with next year.

Concluding thoughts

That wraps up today’s keeper league discussion. If you use these strategies, I think you’ll find yourself in a better position come March. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email.

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