You may have built the foundation for a championship fantasy campaign via the draft, but with the regular season having begun, even the best-laid plans can change direction faster than an Adam Wainwright curveball. Fortunately, you can have fun and crush the competition by employing the strategies below.
Take a cue from the actions of Major League general managers throughout the league during the past winter: Even fantasy owners who are content with their rosters should constantly look to make trades. While there's a fine line between being active and annoying, winning owners walk it carefully while being mindful of the following approaches.
Make offers, and plenty of them: In a 12-team league, different valuations of each player exist, and those create buying opportunities. Send out simultaneous offers to identify which owners are interested. Make direct offers rather than posting a message that reads, "Looking to trade David Wright; email if interested," on a message board. If a note sits, owners will know that there wasn't much interest, which creates a buyer's market. Maintain communication so that a trade rarely occurs without you having had a chance to discuss the players involved.
No player should be off limits: Many owners limit trade opportunities by refusing to part with certain players. Negotiations can cease before they begin when an owner makes a comment like: "Clayton Kershaw is my ace, and he's not going anywhere." Another owner may covet Kershaw to such a degree that the return could include David Price and Josh Donaldson. Kershaw is more valuable than Price, but a hitter like Donaldson more than makes up the difference.
In the first half, trade for value; in the second half, trade for need: Many things can change during the season. Try to ignore positional and skill-specific needs in the first half and look to come out of every trade with an increase in overall roster value. At times, owners may need to create lopsided lineups by making great first-half trades with an eye toward balancing them in subsequent deals.
Each season, several studs emerge from the waiver wire. Owners should be intimately familiar with free-agent options and have a game plan for obtaining the right assets at the right time.
Remain objective: Some owners see their free-agent acquisition budget (FAAB) for waiver-wire priority as found money. Effective use of the waiver wire is key to a winning formula, though, so owners should consider the following when analyzing free agents:
• Is the player likely to maintain a prominent role on his Major League team?
• Can he join the active lineup of the fantasy team in the near future, and will he stay there?
• Does he address a position or category need?
• Can he post the owner's desired stats?
Players who meet all four criteria warrant a large investment. Don't forget that the bid is just one component of a long season that will require many investments.
Handle rookies with kid gloves: Owners are constantly in search of the next hot-shot youngster, but for every Jacob deGrom, plenty of top prospects like Trevor Bauer or Andrew Heaney don't immediately impact fantasy squads. Evaluate rookies diligently.
Pace yourself: In leagues that use FAAB, spend aggressively but carefully during the first half. Since early-season pickups have the opportunity to help for longer periods of time, it's fine to drain about 60-70 percent of a FAAB budget before the All-Star break. Some rosters undergo major changes in July and August, which creates free-agent options for those who have retained funds. Owners in a race for first place will be happy to have at least 10 percent left to fill holes for the stretch run.
RESOLVING ROSTER RIDDLES
Obtaining talented players is only part of the battle. Winning owners will maximize the return on their investments by getting the right players into the active lineup at the right time.
Reliable relievers reduce risk: Two-start pitchers are like stuffed burritos -- tempting on the menu but sometimes regrettable. Make liberal use of high-volume starters and mitigate risk by filling two lineup spots each week with an extra two-start pitcher and a low-ratio reliever to yield a similar number of wins and more K's. A reliever who can throw two or three dominant innings per week can offset the occasional clunker that comes from two-start options.
Pitchers-o-plenty: Fantasy league bench sizes vary, but regardless of format, smart owners fill roughly two-thirds of their bench space with pitchers, who can be streamed based on matchups. Ideally, owners will obtain batsmen with multi-position eligibility, such as Ben Zobrist or Josh Harrison, which will allow them to keep just one or two hitters on the bench and remake their lineups when necessary.
Fred Zinkie is a senior fantasy writer for MLB.com. To keep up with emerging fantasy news throughout the season, visit MLB.com/fantasy and follow @fantasy411 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.