We've reached the juncture where major league teams are talking trade on significant talents such as Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano. The deals won't start flying until after the All-Star break, but we need not show such restraint in fantasy.
Yes, fellow owners, it's time to look at the old team, make serious decisions about whether or not it's a contender and manipulate the roster accordingly. As always, this is basic buy-low, sell-high psychology. Here are some players I'll be looking to deal and some I'll be targeting.
Sell Matt Holliday: I touted this Colorado outfielder before the season, saying he'd deliver a nice range of skills for a reasonable fantasy price. He's surpassed that rosy prediction with a .352 average and 15 homers. But Holliday's previous work in the minors and majors suggests he's not really a top-10 outfielder. So unless you have him at a great price in a keeper league, he makes an excellent sell-high candidate. I'm not predicting a collapse, mind you, but a .300 average with 10 homers might be more his speed in the second half.
Buy Dave Bush: Bush, a Milwaukee starter, was a popular sleeper pick before the season. Some who nabbed him may look at the 4-6 record and the 4.81 ERA and think disappointment. But I look at the 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and the excellent 1.16 WHIP and think he's exactly the pitcher his biggest fans imagined. I expect Bush's ERA to be under 4.00 the rest of the way, and you might be able to get him as a mere throw-in to a bigger deal.
Sell Dan Uggla: Most owners probably assumed the Florida second baseman was a fluke when he jumped to a solid start. But now that we're nearing the halfway point and he's hitting .313 with 13 homers, the true believers are appearing. Uggla may be a better hitter than anyone suspected and if you have him for $1, that's a great bargain. But here's the thing to remember. Uggla may be a rookie, but at 26, he isn't young. We may have just seen the best two months of his career. If someone in your league thinks he's a phenom, take advantage and sell, sell, sell.
Buy Mark Teixeira: This is the ultimate buy-low no-brainer. Teixeira was a top-five pick in many leagues but is limping along with six home runs. The guy who owns him probably isn't stupid enough to flip him for a bucket of acorns. But it's hard not to be down on Teixeira, and he can probably be acquired for less than a first-round talent would normally draw. Such a pickup would be worthwhile because unless he's hiding an injury, the Teixeira of old should re-emerge soon.
Sell Jason Isringhausen: Izzy leads the major leagues in saves, but with 24 walks in 29 1/3 innings, he may not be the stalwart many presume. If he's your main source of saves, you probably can't trade him. But if you have another closer or two, consider moving him. He may be due for a bad fall.
Buy Felix Hernandez: Seattle's King Felix is probably a Teixeira-level disappointment for some. After all, he ranked among the top 10 starters on many preseason lists and was touted as the best young pitcher since Dwight Gooden. A 5.02 ERA and 1.39 WHIP say that's not the case. But here's the thing. Hernandez is still striking out nearly a batter per inning. His control is fine. When he doesn't overthrow, his pitches still dance all over creation. He may not be a stud this year, but he'll be better in the second half and could be everything you imagined next year or the year after.
Sell Alfonso Soriano: Soriano has made me look dumb this year. I thought he'd hit about .240 with 25 homers in cavernous RFK. But his power apparently plays in any park, and he can still run. So yes, he's a fantasy stud. But Soriano's stock will never be higher than it is right now. His name will be all over the news with the Washington Nationals looking to trade him and those reports will all tout his early surge. Fantasy owners will feel the love. Skeptical codger that I am, I expect his average to plummet into the .260s and his power pace to drop off (he'll finish the season with 40 or so homers). So I'd be looking to sell Soriano for a whole bundle of other goodies.
Buy Bobby Abreu: Maybe those goodies could include Abreu, who was a top-20 player according to most preseason lists but has only eight home runs. Look at Abreu's whole stat line. He's still good because he always gets on base, steals and scores plenty of runs. He'll have a 10-homer month at some point and by the end, will quietly rank among the game's best all-around outfielders. Like Teixeira, Abreu won't be available for a bundle of fluff. But an owner's dampened enthusiasm for him could translate to a good deal.
Buy Jake Peavy: Let's end on a second straight buy so this column seems optimistic. Peavy's shoulder problems and 4.81 ERA have owners panicking. But 92 strikeouts against 21 walks in 86 innings still scream ace. Even though he's become a risky proposition, seek some Peavy.