For MLB.com lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie, life often feels a bit like, well, a fantasy.
Zinkie's job is to live, breathe, break down and play fantasy baseball. And he does so as well as anyone in the world.
But before you get green with envy, understand this: Zinkie, 38, is as down to earth as they come.
A father of two, Zinkie rises before the crack of dawn each morning -- often sending work emails around 5 a.m. -- before his kids, ages 3 and 5, wake up for school.
Living in a Canadian town with fewer than 5,000 residents, Zinkie last week made his annual trip to New York City with his wife, Sarah. His mission: draft a winning team in Tout Wars on Saturday.
Tout Wars is the big leagues of fantasy baseball, where all the participants are considered experts. Zinkie plays in the mixed-league auction format, meaning he has to know every player in the Majors, inside and out.
"It was a goal of mine to get into a league like [Tout Wars] for many years, so when I got in, I was so excited to be a part of it," Zinkie said.
"To be successful, though, you have to monitor your team every day, and keep track of every transaction. You never want to miss out an opportunity to get even the slightest bit better with your squad."
Zinkie burst onto the Tout Wars scene in 2011, his first year as a writer for MLB.com. In the five years since, he has won three titles -- including last year's. In Zinkie's two non-championship seasons, he came in second -- finishing a hair shy of the crown -- and fourth.
"Being the reigning champion definitely puts a bullseye right on you," Zinkie added. "You do feel like people are gunning for you.
"I have not [won back-to-back championships] yet, so my goal this year is to win the league twice in a row. In general, you still keep the same strategy [as defending champ], as people really have to manage their own teams when it all comes down to it. But you do feel like other owners are keeping a little extra track of what you are doing."
For many fantasy players, biannual first-place finishes would be too much for the ego. But Zinkie has not let his success go to his head, said Cory Schwartz, MLB.com's VP of Stats and Zinkie's Tout Wars league mate.
"In addition to being one of the most respected fantasy players in Tout Wars, thanks to his tremendous success there, Fred is also one of the most liked, because he doesn't read his press clippings," Schwartz said.
"He'll trade any player at any time, never assumes he's better than the opposition, and is always fun to talk baseball with."
Schwartz is not the lone Tout Wars league member to have picked up on Zinkie's proclivity to deal. According to Nando Di Fino of the FNTSY Sports Network, the reigning Tout Wars champ is unrivaled in the way he proffers players to his competitors.
"The thing with Fred, when he offers you a trade, you have to be wary because he wins so many of these trades," Di Fino said. "But he's actually always fair. And he presents it in a perfect way; he's researched your team better than you have.
"Just the way he presents it on a nice little silver platter … it makes you want to do the trade. … You feel like you are walking out a winner, pretty much every time. And you don't, but you feel like it."
Zinkie is aware of his reputation as a busy barterer.
"I am kind of known around the industry as the most active trader," he conceded.
"I am always looking for little ways to improve my roster. And I am always looking to interact with everyone else in my league. So if I see a player I want, or if I feel like I have added depth in a certain area and I can deal away, then I am not shy about making a trade offer."
But in spite of the stakes associated with dealing on the regular -- a bad trade can sink an owner's season -- Zinkie manages to keep the game in perspective.
"I tend not to have a lot regrets about trades after they're finished," he said. "It's fun. It's fantasy baseball. It's supposed to be loose.
"But without having a set plan, I will often end up making 20 or 30 trades in a league during a season."
Zinkie did not complete any swaps during Saturday's draft, instead focusing his efforts on building the base of his squad. And when all was said and done, he was quite pleased with what he constructed.
"I was really happy with how the draft went," Zinkie said. "My pitching staff is very strong at the top. I have Jake Arrieta. I have Gerrit Cole. I have Dallas Keuchel. I have Cody Allen to start me off with saves.
"Jose Bautista is my big hitter, and I am pretty happy about that. And then I filled in with a lot of depth. Guys like Jason Heyward and Matt Kemp. Jacoby Ellsbury. Alex Gordon. Guys who aren't early-round picks in a draft, but productive guys who will get you a lot of stats in a lot of categories."
Those interested in reviewing Zinkie's entire team can do so. But beware: A player owned by Zinkie today may be gone tomorrow.
"I'll be taking offers for Heyward immediately after the draft," Zinkie joked after selecting the Cubs outfielder with his first pick Saturday.
The entire room, among Zinkie's closest friends -- competition notwithstanding -- burst into laughter.
Zachary Finkelstein is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.