By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
Fantasy gamers need to be at the top of their game right now, as the default trade deadline in Yahoo leagues is less than a week away (August 11). And after giving player-specific tips for the past four months, I’m now going to give some big-picture advice for making deadlines deals.
Check late-season schedules
With teams having about 16 remaining series, some clubs are going to have a much easier time than others. This point is especially important for those who are playoff bound in head-to-head leagues, as they can solely study September schedules. Gamers should always check the remaining schedules before making a big trade, but here are some teams that have favorable upcoming slates:
For hitters — Red Sox, Brewers, Twins, Rangers.
For pitchers — Braves, Reds, Astros, Dodgers, Twins, A’s.
Make 2-for-1 trades
If you are reading this article, you are probably having a pretty good season. After all, most of the gamers who are in the bottom half of your league are already putting this season behind them and getting ready for fantasy football drafts. With interest fading in most leagues, the most involved and sharpest gamers should be able to regularly nab waiver-wire gems down the stretch. And there will be plenty of gems to be found when teams start to juggle their rosters in September. By trading two average players for one stud, you create roster space to find another difference-maker in the coming weeks.
Invest in bad closers
I am firmly in the camp of avoiding bad closers on draft day, believing it is a bad gamble to expect a mediocre reliever to collect saves for the better part of six months. But we aren’t talking about six months anymore, and most gamers will be happy to get six good weeks from their closers. While acquiring Kirby Yates would certainly help you sleep at night, anyone who has a closer’s role can get you the saves you need during August and September. Additionally, save chances are erratic, and closers on losing teams can outperform those on contenders over a short stretch. In 2018, the saves leaders after August 1 were Edwin Diaz, Ken Giles, Sergio Romo, and Felipe Vazquez. None of those relievers pitched for postseason teams.
Invest in injury-prone players
Similar to the theory of acquiring bad closers, gamers can get ahead of their competition by taking some stretch-run chances on injury-prone players. Drafting players who rarely play a full season can be a fool’s errand, but once we get to August, we are counting on players to stay off the IL for a matter of weeks. Players who have had miserable seasons due to injury such as Giancarlo Stanton could still pay huge dividends in September. And although I have often espoused the concept of dealing Stephen Strasburg due to injury concerns, we only need the right-hander to make about nine more starts to reward those who deal for him right now.
Acquire players on good teams
Although Major League teams are not a big factor in trade talks, at this time of year I am inclined to seek out players on contending clubs. Players are more likely to play through minor injuries if they are part of a contending team. And teams in the postseason hunt are more likely to throw out their best lineup each day, rather than altering playing time and rotation plans to give opportunities to young players.
Understand your categories
This is the most obvious piece of advice, but I still feel compelled to mention it. In roto leagues, gamers need to carefully assess their categories before making deadline deals. I’m a big believer in trading for value for most of the season, but this is the time to worry more about moving up (or not moving down) in specific categories. Gamers should assess their category needs by figuring out which ones are the most tightly bunched, rather than worrying about where they are weak or strong overall. A team that sits last in steals doesn’t need to worry about that category if the next team is 10 swipes ahead. That same team may be more inclined to improve their third-place standing in homers if they are close to the teams above and below them in that category.
Don’t sell your soul for a title
I’m not going to offer a blanket statement on contending teams trading with competitors who are sitting near last place, as every league has their own set of rules and competitive standards. But in general, gamers should avoid talking trades with any leaguemate who hasn’t been paying attention to their team in recent weeks. I have made deadline trades with last-place gamers, but those trades were made in extremely competitive leagues that had some motivation for playing things out until the very end. Overall, it’s not worth sacrificing your dignity to claim the top spot in your league.