Pitching Planner: Time has come to deal quantity pitching for quality

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It obviously is not the case for you, since you're reading this, but perhaps we can give you some advice on how to take advantage of your fantasy baseball league's declining attentiveness in the coming weeks:

Turn that pitching depth that has gotten you to the top and turn it into game-changing horses to get you over it down the stretch. The lockout will end and so, too, will the seasons of so many fantasy baseball players.

We can't help ourselves; fantasy football rules the world. Sure, baseball is going and has reached its crucial point for fantasy owners making their push up the standings -- and the trade deadline always provides the rumor mills and talk shows with great juice -- but it is football season soon.

Dealing depth is always a standing rule, but with the trade deadline looming a weekend from now, we might as well remind you. With fewer fantasy owners in the race, there is going to be far less competition for waiver-wire options. That means you can use the waiver wire as your virtual "bench" in fantasy leagues that allow unlimited transactions.

Take a couple of decent starting pitchers and try to deal them for one good one. And be sure to prey on the owners that are barely hanging on to hopes with their mediocre teams.

Your sales pitch should be:

"Hey, you need to throw up a Hail Mary right now. Turn your stud ace (say, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum) into two of these guys (insert names like Michael Pineda, Alexi Ogando and Anibal Sanchez). You won't lose much off the top and you'll get a scrub off the back end of your staff."

You might not be able to pull off something so coy and darned genius, but at least you started the conversation. Once your prospective trade partner realizes you're only looking out to save the hopes of his team (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), he will be far more apt to deal a player he has clung on to for months.

And, make no mistake, depth gets you to fantasy crunch time, but knockout studs win you titles.

The time to strike is now.

The trade deadline tends to get fantasy owner's juices flowing, whether they are in it to win it or not. Even those owners who haven't changed their lineups in weeks, or months, might make their way back into the trade conversations. Heck, they just want to be relevant in your league again.

Once they get you the piece you need to put your team over the top in September, they will go start their fantasy football draft preparations. You're helping do them that favor.

After all, you're just looking out their interests. They might as well punt, err, put in the mop-up man (just to use a baseball metaphor).

Here are next week's prospective two-start pitchers:

Here is how the waiver wire is turning over right now:

1. RH Jeff Niemann, Rays

Niemann was picked up in 20 percent of leagues in the past week and rewarded owners with a 2-0 record and 0.84 ERA in his past three starts. His full-season ownership remains low at 46 percent, so the odds are he could be available in your league. The fact he makes his next start against the Royals certainly helps. He is far more than a nice sleeper pickup right now. He is a must-start.

2. RH Joe Nathan, Twins

It is fairly remarkable Nathan is owned in merely two-thirds of fantasy leagues right now. That number has jumped since his return to the closer's role, which has seen him save three games in five days. The Twins are going to get him ample save chances in the second half and Nathan is about as elite of a closer as there is in fantasy when he is on. He has a 1.08 ERA in July and deserves your trust in all leagues.

3. RH Javier Vazquez, Marlins

The Marlins are going nowhere, but before Thursday's start, Vazquez looked like he was. He was trending up with his July revival and looking like he could be a piece the Marlins could use to add a prospect or two before the trade deadline. Vazquez is famously one of the streakiest -- no, actually, erratic -- pitchers in baseball. You can pick him up for the chance he winds up with a contender for the second half, but you will be playing with fire every fifth day.

4. RH Vance Worley, Phillies

It is just not fair for the Phillies to find this gem out of the minors, but fantasy owners are taking advantage. Worley is owned in 73 percent of leagues now and that number continues to go up as his ERA continues to decline. Worley has won his past four starts and has an ERA well under 1.00 and a batting-average against well under .200 in his past six. Clearly, he should be trusted in all leagues.

5. RH Jeff Karstens, Pirates

Karstens in right there with Worley in the surprise category, but he just doesn't have the elite contender giving him wins potential. Sure, the Pirates technically are a first-place team, but no one outside of Pittsburgh truly believes it is going to last. Karstens should, though. He has a 1.29 ERA in his past nine starts. Yes, nine. We couldn't believe it either when we saw it. There is certain to be some regression in the second half, but the trust issue is gone with the 28-year-old right-hander.

1. LH Barry Zito, Giants

OK, so much for questions about where Jonathan Sanchez is going to fit into the Giants rotation when he returns from the DL. Zito had a stinker of all stinkers in his past start, against the Padres no less, and found himself in the bullpen -- albeit temporarily. Zito will still get starts this season, but the fantasy trust issues have returned.

2. RH Matt Capps, Twins

Capps just isn't the closer Nathan is, and now he is completely worthless in fantasy. One of the easiest drops for owners comes when a reliever pushing a 5.00 ERA gets dropped from the closer's role. Capps needs a Nathan injury to get his save chances again. Nathan looks like he has turned the corner, healthy-wise and otherwise, though.

3. LH Brett Anderson, A's

It is a sign of the season for fantasy baseball that shows Anderson still in the top five among the most-dropped pitchers. Owners are just more slow to react. Anderson is out all of this year and most of next. The good news will be he got his Tommy John surgery out of the way at age 23. He can be a gem ages 24-27 for keeper-leaguers.

4. RH Carlos Carrasco, Indians

Carrasco was finally able to slow his waning as a breakthrough starter. Let it be the fair warning for those that have gotten mileage out of Indians and Pirates starters. They are useful now, but you should fully expect the wheels to come off. There is a reason these pitchers haven't been highly sought in fantasy. Carrasco is at least building some value for the future, though.

5. LH Andrew Miller, Red Sox

Well, the answer on who is going to lose his rotation spot once Jon Lester (lat) and Clay Buchholz (back) are both ready to come off the DL is moot now. Miller's command issues are back as he has walked 11 batters in his past two starts. Miller will be a lefty in the Red Sox bullpen down the stretch after another start or two before the trade deadline. It is possible the Red Sox use him as a bargaining chip, but he will be losing the elite contender that made him a fantasy waiver option in the first place. You could get a jump on cutting him now, but you might as well do it after he starts against the Royals next week.

Eric Mack helps you plan your pitching staff every Friday at SI.com. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice on Twitter @EricMackFantasy. Hit him up. He honestly has nothing better to do with his free time.