by Simon Jones
During the course of the baseball season I often get asked for trading advice. A lot of the questions come through the site and this column, but I play in a bunch of leagues and frequently I get questions from the guys that I play against about their other leagues. A few days back, I had a mail asking for my view on a trade involving Cano/Gallardo for Holliday/R. Weeks/Downs.
Now, the particulars of the trade weren’t nearly as significant to me as the comment that accompanied it. “Downs is kind of immaterial to me since I’m not even sure he’ll hold the job and I’m okay on closers.” My thoughts were that he was underselling Downs, undervaluing him as he didn’t provide immediate impact to his roster.
This got me thinking about the wider role of the bench in fantasy baseball and the value of the players on your bench.
The most obvious use for your bench is in daily leagues where you can swap players in and out, based on matchups, streaming, form, injury etc. This is the way that most people think about their benches, and for a lot of leagues that is the right way to play your bench.
However, when you play in weekly lock leagues the role of the bench changes. There are some similarities in that you want to have bench strength in case of injury or loss of form or role. The importance is to highlight the differences though, mainly the fact that your bench is non-scoring – no streaming, no matchups. This means the role of the bench becomes much more strategic. Having players that can’t immediately impact your fantasy scoring can actually be an advantage. In a weekly league you can hold prospects, upside players or next-in-line closers. Holding these players in a daily league can cost you as you lose the opportunity to score points, but in a weekly league you are looking to hold players who might crack your roster in the future.
As always, having players useful to your roster is only part of the story. An often missed aspect is to hold players that could be useful to other rosters too. Stockpiling at positions makes sense, especially in deep leagues. In the case of Downs, it isn’t always important about whether the guy needed or trusted Downs, but whether someone else needed him or believed he was the answer to the closer problem in Anaheim.
Never underestimate the importance of a strong bench in weekly lock leagues. In deep leagues, it isn’t always easy to cover injuries or underperformance from the FA pool. I’d estimate that I pull off 4 or 5 deals a year that owe themselves entirely to me carrying bench strength and trading from it.
This week in the TCFL has been pretty quiet. I have a couple of discussions going on, but nothing close. My only deal of the week was in my 20-team 6×6 keeper league, where I traded away Jim Johnson and Casey McGehee for Shaun Marcum and Wilson Betemit. I’m pretty high in the rankings in holds and saves but struggling in the SP categories. Also the FA pool is so thin that I’ve been forced to run with McGehee at CI which has really been hurting me. Betemit should help me significantly ongoing (I hope).
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