How is a fantasy owner's relationship with his team similar to a food truck's relationship with its customers? A fantasy owner drafts a team, while a food truck brings waffles or brownies or meat not made of horse to its client base. A rapport develops. The customer comes to expect that the waffle topped with ice cream and strawberries (er, I mean the "outfielder") will be in his lineup every day.
It rarely lasts. The owners and the trucks can't help but motor to another neighborhood, hoping to sell their wares for a better return. Why? Does my money carry less value than the guy's 15 blocks away? Is the hot-hitting catcher worth dealing for the slow-starting left fielder?
Fantasy players should avoid hasty decisions. Baseball slumps and food truck service improve with the weather. But for those owners determined to make a move, here are our latest trade thoughts:
? Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves: Atlanta's interim catcher has a heartwarming story (he made it to the majors after working as a janitor) and a growing group of supporters who dress in polar bear costumes to pay tribute to his "El Oso Blanco" moniker. But beyond that, Gattis has shown enough pop to force the Braves to keep him in the lineup even if Brian McCann returns (and more than a few reports suggest McCann may be out much of this season). With eligibility already set at catcher and soon to be at first base, it's hard to imagine that, with a .942 OPS, six homers and 13 RBI in his first 16 games, he can't help most fantasy teams.
? Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays: Look, even I could probably hit .138 if I were 23 years old and hadn't convinced myself that eating a dozen doughnuts in a half-hour was a good way to win money from people. Lawrie is an elite athlete with the ability to hit for power and average and steal bases, but he's gotten off to a slow start after missing most of spring training and the first part of the season. If the Lawrie owner in your league is worried, target him. Try sweetening the pot with a middling third baseman of your own and nab Lawrie before he turbo-charges the Blue Jays.
? Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: A hitter this talented can't help but improve from a dismal start, but the ceiling is low in Miami. The vibe is anything but cool with the Marlins, and the lineup is worse. Teams continue to pitch around Stanton in order to go after his less gifted teammates. There's something very Hanley Ramirez-like about Stanton's situation. Though younger than Ramirez was when he soured on the Marlins, Stanton wasn't happy about the Marlins' offseason fire sale and can't be happy about toiling away for the worst team in the majors. Stanton is only 23, so Miami isn't likely to deal him, but he is likely to pout his way to a poor season. His power potential and name still carry plenty of value in fantasy, and if an owner can deal him for a solid hitter and middle-of-the-rotation starter, the return should be worth the price.
? Travis Hafner, New York Yankees: More than a few fantasy owners picked Hafner off waivers or drafted him as an endgame flier, and now it's time to deal him while the going is good. After struggling the last five seasons with injuries (playing an average of 86 games per year) and power (hitting 12 homers per), Hafner has powered a beat-up Yankees offense to the tune of five homers, 10 RBI and a .319 average. While the Indians supporter in me wishes Pronk well, I can tell you from experience that Hafner's production is due for a dip. Maybe the dip won't be off the cliff, but it will be enough to saddle him to a fantasy owner's bench, especially when he hits .227 in June or .248 in July, as he has the past three seasons. Find the Yankees fan in your league or find the owner desperate for pop and strike a deal for someone with more staying power.
? R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays: Among the struggling Blue Jays starters, the reigning NL Cy Young winner holds the best potential to right his poor start. The walk rate is up, and opponents have taken notice. But some of his underlying numbers (K/9, batting average against) have not fallen off, which suggests a return to solid starter status is just a handful of controlled knuckleballs away. Don't expect a Cy Young showing, and know that until he proves otherwise Dickey should be used as a matchup play only, but there's evidence to support a turnaround.
? Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals: A .617 OPS start may have many wondering if the preseason breakout candidate is broken. Too much hype, perhaps? One thing's for sure -- the catcher doesn't have enough patience, as he hasn't taken a walk in his first 66 at-bats. But we'd like to preach that his owners have a little patience with him. Though he has played over parts of the past three seasons, Perez has yet to log a full season. Overall, his production has been pretty toothless, but he still has at least one hit in 14 of the 16 games he's played. In other words, Perez's bat is working, which is the primary worry with any hitter. With a player this talented at a position this thin, it's worth taking a chance that those hits will start carrying a bit more punch soon.