I love fantasy sports. I started my first fantasy football league in 2005, and have played every year since, some years with more teams than others. I used to play fantasy baseball, but the problem with that is you have to find a league with people who are really (and I mean REALLY) into it, otherwise everyone loses interest by early June. I played fantasy basketball for a couple of years too, and while that was fun at first, it became apparent pretty quickly that, unless you had LeBron James or Kevin Durant on your team, you really didn’t have much of a shot at winning anything. Regardless of what fantasy sport you’re playing, though, or who’s in the league with you, they all have one thing in common: That Guy.
If you’ve played before, you know exactly who I’m talking about. There’s always one guy in every fantasy league who completely destroys the market for trades, auction prices, etc. He’s the guy who does stuff like draft Chauncey Billups first overall, or the guy who keeps trying to pry Mike Trout away from you by offering up his backup-backup outfielder, or keeps pestering you over and over with eight-player, three-team trades that don’t make sense and consistently involve that person upgrading at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. Or the trades could be the opposite: he’s desperate, so he unloads all of his assets for Adrian Peterson, even though in doing so he guts his own roster. He’s the worst, and like it or not, everyone who’s ever played fantasy sports has probably been that guy at least once, I know I have been. The problem with That Guy isn’t so much that the constant one-sided trade offers and insane draft strategies are obnoxious (though they are) unless they directly benefit you, the problem is that at some point during the season, usually closer to the beginning before everyone has had time to assess which players are good, which are bad, and what deficiencies their team has, That Guy convinces someone to accept one of those dumb, lopsided trades. He kills the market, to the point where it makes it almost impossible to make any trades yourself because now everyone is trying to fleece everyone else instead of submitting reasonable offers.
In case anyone was wondering, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the That Guy of this offseason. Yes, I know the Red Sox signed David Price to the richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history, which didn’t exactly do much to steady things, but after Price committed to the Sox the D-Backs turned around and gave Zack Greinke the highest pitcher AAV ever on a 6 year, $206.5 million contract. Then Arizona doubled down and sent two prospects (RHP Aaron Blair, #61 in MLB’s Top 100, and shortstop Dansby Swanson, #10 in MLB’s top 100 and the #1 overall pick in last year’s draft) along with outfielder Ender Inciarte to Atlanta for 25-year-old righty starter Shelby Miller and reliever Gabe Speier.
Let’s play a game with Miller, shall we? Here are two players’ numbers since 2014:
Player A: 64 GS, 388.1 IP, 3.36 ERA, 9.4 K-BB%, .271 BABIP, 44.0 GB%, 3.96 FIP, 4.26 xFIP, 3.9 WAR
Player B: 65 GS, 395.0 IP, 4.40 ERA, 11.3 K-BB%, .312 BABIP, 49.9 GB%, 3.90 FIP, 3.79 xFIP, 4.1 WAR
Player A is Miller. Player B? None other than Wade Miley. Other than the big ERA differential, every single one of the peripherals is within shouting distance of each other, and they all favor Miley. I’m not the first person to make this comparison; it’s been written and tweeted about plenty since Miller was traded on Wednesday. But I still think it bears repeating: Arizona gave up the top pick in the 2015 draft and another top 70 prospect (plus a capable major league outfielder) for a luckier, younger version of Boston’s 4th starter last year. The Red Sox had just traded Miley a few days prior for a late-inning reliever and a lefty spot-starter, and while Miley is four years older than Miller and on a more expensive (yet still plenty manageable) contract, the jump in hauls between the two players is borderline staggering. Miller is a solid young, cheap arm, but he’s really no more than a passable #2 starter at absolute best. The Braves made out like bandits, and the D-Backs, with two quick moves, drove the market way out of proportion, just like That Guy has does in thousands of fantasy leagues every year.
To bring this whole tangent full circle back to the Red Sox, Peter Gammons reported that the Red Sox and Marlins did, at least, have the most preliminary of discussions regarding Miami’s Jose Fernandez. From the piece:
“We thought we might be able to piece something together with the Red Sox,” said a Marlins official. “With ERod (Eduardo Rodriguez), Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez, Yoan Moncada and another pitcher I thought we had something that might work.” Why not?
I mean, wow. Obviously, there’s no chance that deal would ever happen. Fernandez is great, but he’s an injury risk who’s only under team control for three years. He’d have to have a three year run like Pedro did from 1998-2000 and push 30 WAR for that trade to approach being something that the Red Sox would jump at, and even then I still think Boston would be getting the short end of the stick. The Marlins aren’t actively shopping Fernandez; they’re merely listening to offers, which explains the bananas price-tag on the guy. Still, I can’t help but think that had the Diamondbacks not gone out and swiped the title of That Guy of the 2015-16 offseason out from under the Red Sox noses (remember, Boston traded four prospects for Craig Kimbrel and ponied up a lot of dough for Price), maybe the Marlins would be a little more receptive to a realistic trade offer.
- Having said all of that about Arizona, I’ll give them credit; they’re going all in on the Paul Goldschmidt era. They know they have maybe the best first baseman in baseball (depending on how you feel about Joey Votto) and another terrific player in outfielder A.J. Pollock. I get the logic that they have only a 2-3 year window to compete for a title and it’s now or never. Who knows? With Greinke and Goldschmidt, anything is possible.
- Speaking of title windows, the Cubs won 97 games last year. They signed John Lackey earlier in the week to a short-term deal, and then today inked Jason Heyward to an eight year, $184 million contract. It’s a lot of money for a player that is one of the most divisive in recent memory (advanced metrics love him, but the standard numbers are a lot less impressive), but Heyward actually took less to sign with Chicago, declining bigger offers from the Nationals and the Cardinals. Regardless, the Cubs’ lineup going forward is both young and STACKED, as ESPN’s Buster Olney points out. It sure looks like Theo Epstein is building another juggernaut.
- Another nugget from the Gammons column I cited earlier: Johnny Cueto’s number one choice was Boston because his hero was Pedro Martinez. I was almost definitely in the minority of Red Sox fans who would have been fired up for Cueto in a Red Sox uniform, and this news made me a little bummed that they didn’t end up with him. I still think he would have been great in Boston, at least for the beginning of his contract, and that his favorite pitcher is Martinez only makes him go up a notch in my book.
- The Dodgers traded for Aroldis Chapman on Monday…and then backed out at the last second due to domestic violence allegations against the Reds closer that cropped up in October. Apparently it was these accusations that caused the Red Sox to stop pursuing Chapman and switch gears to Kimbrel earlier this fall. It’s unclear what’s going to happen with Chapman, but the Dodgers are done trying to trade for him, at least until the situation sorts itself out. The MLB revamped its domestic violence policy earlier this year, and it’s getting tested now, with stars like Chapman, Yasiel Puig, and Jose Reyes being implicated over the past few months. Hopefully, they’ll deal with these issues a little bit better than the NFL has.
- Going back to Cueto for a second, his agent really must be sweating out this offseason now. Dominoes are falling, and after Cueto turned down a six-year, $126 million offer from Arizona earlier in the offseason he’s seen his list of potential suitors dwindle. A team could still absolutely fork over the kind of dough his party is looking for (I hear the Dodgers are looking for starting pitching), but only a certain number of teams have the resources and are in the position to make that type of commitment. Stay tuned.
- The Cardinals are oh-fer so far this offseason, first getting outbid on Price, then watching Lackey and Heyward go to a divisional rival, the latter for less money, and now they’re faced with potentially overpaying for Cueto, who’s had his fair share of run-ins with St. Louis in the past. The Cards have a knack for replacing guys, but at some point you have to wonder if the magic will run out.
One more bonus, non-baseball related point: As I write this, the Celtics just lost to the still-unbeaten Warriors in double OT 124-119. It was an awesome game, and the Celtics more than held their own (cue all the Warriors fans saying that they were missing Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, completely forgetting the 2015 NBA Finals). The C’s haven’t had a truly relevant game since Game 5 of their 2013 playoff series against the Knicks, aka “The Funeral Game” (no, I don’t count last year’s series against the Cavs), so it was great to see them playing against maybe the greatest team of all time and fearlessly going toe-to-toe. Their rebuild is still trudging along, and they still lack a bonafide star, but I think it’s safe to say that this Celtics team is really, legitimately good, and getting better. Now, it’s just a matter of taking that next step. The Celtics, like the Red Sox, are on the cusp of something special. Here’s to hoping that they reach their potential.