It's time to take a good hard look at your fantasy team, and make an important decision: Are you the Boston Red Sox or the Cincinnati Reds?
Just as in real baseball, the trade deadline is approaching quickly for most fantasy leagues. Determining whether you have a shot to win is the first step in putting together a trade deadline strategy.
This is where leagues are won and lost.
Unlike real baseball, where the Red Sox are expected to be buyers and the Reds sellers in the final days of July, standard rotisserie owners won't be buying or selling unless they are in a keeper league. Most leagues have rules against collusion, so teams out of contention won't dump their good players.
Instead, the question is whether you have an honest shot of winning your league.
If you do, and you're in a league that uses the standard 10 categories (average, runs, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, wins, saves, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP), take a look at saves and steals. Can you afford to dump a good closer or speedster without dropping too many points?
Those two categories are the easiest to dump, because they are less connected to others than, say, homers or wins. And dumping a category, if done right, could help you win your league.
Let's say you only have one closer - Trevor Hoffman - and you're near the bottom of your league in saves. Hoffman is unlikely to help you add many points, so your choices are to add a closer by trade, or dump Hoffman, who would have a lot of value to a team in the running in saves.
Could he be worth a standout starting pitcher? Someone like Carlos Zambrano or Erik Bedard could help you in four categories.
Each situation is different. Do the math, pick a strategy, and follow through.
Your September fantasy enjoyment depends on it.
Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays
Helton and Trevor Hoffman, and while that may seem like I overpaid, I think Wells could easily hit twice as many home runs as Helton in the second half while hitting for a similar batting average.
Albert Pujols, OF, Cardinals
I got about five trade offers in the first half for Pujols and pretty much rejected them regardless of content. It was just a matter of time before King Albert started looking like himself again, and he's proved me right, breaking out with four homers in the first three games of the second half. A colleague has an opportunity to dump steals and saves, trading Jose Reyes and Mariano Rivera for Pujols or Justin Morneau and Adrian Beltre. The question is, Morneau or Pujols? It's easy to forget why Albert was just about a consensus top pick coming into the year. Morneau is first rate, but I like Pujols to outperform the Twins first baseman the rest of the way. Twenty more homers in his final 70 games is hardly out of the question, and an average well above .300 is a gimme.
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox
set with steals, need power and someone wants to trade you him for Willy Taveras, that's a trade to take. I envision another 14 home runs, 50 RBIs and an average higher than .300.
QUICK HITS: OF Corey Patterson has started July looking like the guy who carried fantasy teams last year, with four homers and five steals in his first 48 at-bats. He's available in most leagues and could give your team a nice lift. ... OF Jerry Owens of the White Sox is a good stealth option for steals. He's playing a lot and has eight steals in 95 at-bats, five so far in July. ... 1B Carlos Pena of the Devil Rays just keeps on hitting. It's time to bite the bullet and consider him a prime power source for your corner infield spot. ... To trust Boston LHP Kason Gabbard, or not to trust him - that is the question. After his first complete game, a shutout of the Royals on Monday, many owners are snapping him up. Careful, he could lose his spot in the rotation with a bad start or two and the return of Curt Schilling.

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