Not that I want to pedal someone’s product here, but I’ve said it before; Ottoneu Fantasy Baseball (powered by Fangraphs) is incredibly addicting.  You get 40-man rosters, prospects, and the entire game is Sabermetric based.  No more hoping that your high ceiling talent has runners on base when he’s hitting, and no more hoping your ace pitcher plays on a team that gives him run support.  Felix Hernandez has more fantasy value than C.C. Sabathia, which is exactly how it should be.

This past week in one of my Ottoneu leagues, I made a trade that probably wouldn’t make a ton of sense in a standard fantasy league, but in a SABR-based dynasty league it seems to me to be an ideal swap.

I drafted too many pitchers, something I planned because pitchers are generally undervalued in fantasy baseball and I knew I’d be able to spend less money acquiring high-value pitchers in the draft. When other owners needed pitching later on in the season, I could trade them for needed offensive pieces.  The problem was that all the pitchers I drafted were very good and deserving of a place in the lineup when they pitched.  Due to the 1500 innings-pitched limit in the league, this was becoming problematic as my projected innings pitched was over 1800.  The time was now to unload a pitcher.

After weeks of trying to trade Trevor Cahill, I was finally able to strike a deal, sending him off for Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew and Padres prospect right-hander Casey Kelly.  The deal not only saved me some money under the salary cap, but it brought me something I needed; immediate outfield help.

Here’s why I made the deal:

Trevor Cahill
Most of us baseball nerd-types pegged Cahill as a regression candidate heading into 2011 after a ridiculous season that saw him mentioned in Cy Young conversations.  In 2010, Cahill finished with 18 wins, and a 2.97 ERA in just under 200 innings.  What those stats didn’t reveal was that Cahill’s strikeout numbers were less-than-mediocre, and his fWAR rating was 2.2, tying him for a mere 34th among 43 qualified starting pitchers in the American League.

I grabbed Cahill in my auction draft for only $9 (about an average salary for Ottoneu players), figuring I’d be able to trade him for some value before the season started.  Well, I wasn’t able to trade him as everyone else in the league seemed to have the same opinion of him as I did.  Keep in mind, I actually play in a league with guys who work for Baseball Info Solutions, a baseball stats organization that supplies statistics to FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, and even Major League teams; they are not dumb people.

Luckily for me, Cahill got off to a terrific start and continued to increase his value; finally I was able to pull off the above mentioned trade.

Cahill has been better this year than he was last year, something that should be expected for a high-ceiling 23-year-old, but his strikeout rate is still a middling 6.88 K/9 and his walk-rate has regressed from 2.88 BB/9 in 2010 to 3.49 BB/9 in 2011.  His FIP, which was 4.19 in 2010, had only improved slightly in 2011 to 3.99.  The fact is, Cahill’s 3.18 ERA so far this year is still likely to climb as the year goes on.  In fact, he’s already started to show some cracks, going winless with a 7.25 ERA in his last four starts.  During that time he’s posted an inauspicious 1.07 K/BB ratio.

J.D. Drew
Drew is having his worst professional season (of all-time, ever) this year with Boston.  He’s been dropped to eighth in the lineup and is hitting just .227 with four homeruns in 191 plate appearances.  At 35, Drew appears to be ready to ride off into the sunset to join other aging and ineffective big leaguers.  There are, however, still reasons to be hopeful for Drew to turn things around.

Let’s face it, Drew is not the player he once was and he’s not suddenly going to start hitting like it’s 2001 when he accumulated a 5.9 fWAR in only 109 games, but he can still be a useful player.  He’s still walking a lot, almost 13% of the time in fact, and his on-base percentage is a still-effective .330.  Combine that with a lower-than-usual BABIP of .275 (his career BABIP is .312), and a lower-than-usual 8.9% HR/FB rate (his career mark is 15.4%) and you have a player who’s bound to turn things around slightly in the second half of the year.

Last year, Drew had a .257/.341/.452 batting line with a .346 wOBA; there’s no reason to think he can’t at least come close to those numbers from here on out.

All in all, I think this trade will work for me for the rest of the year, even if I may have to let Drew go at season’s end.  To me Casey Kelly, the prospect I nabbed in the deal, has about as high a ceiling as Cahill and comes at a much cheaper price.  The deal allows me to compete now and hopefully replace the lost production of Cahill down the line with Kelly.