What Does It Mean to Buy Low?

Shortly after my dynasty names to buy low post, we received an email with an interesting question: what do you consider a buy low on prospects?

When most of us think buy low, traditionally we think of buying someone who’s been struggling on the field. His numbers are such that they’ve deflated the value of a player enough that a buying window is created. Using my above link as an example, Diamondbacks shortstop Jazz Chisholm screams buy low.

Chisholm’s numbers have been very rough. He has a 34 K% and is hitting .169/.282/.427 in 49 games at Double-A. OK, time for the good news. His .179 BABIP is in the bottom two percent in the minors. He’s hitting for a ton of extra-base hits (.258 ISO), a trend that’s continued as he’s climbed the minors. He’s got an excellent 44 Hard Hit% according to Rotowire’s Leaderboards. And to top it off, he’s three years younger than his average competition. He was one of nine minor leaguers I said could be the top prospect in baseball one day. There are significant strides to make for Chisholm to right the ship, but the twitchy shortstop has a lot of underlying factors favoring him.

So why is Chisholm a buy low? It’s because of the tools he flashes on the field. if you were around for our AFL coverage, you’ll remember the high praise he received from Jason Pennini. Here’s an excerpt from his Top 25 AFL prospects:

In a league full of premium athletes Jazz was arguably the best one. Everything he does is smooth. His defense was very twitchy, and he made several standout plays. There is serious power in his bat, which is largely the product of amazing hands and wrists. Chisholm’s offensive approach can be overly aggressive and get him into trouble, but the raw tools are top of the scale. He has potential to be a true five-tool player. The risk for Jazz relates to how his hit tool will translate at the highest level. I do not love the present swing mechanics or approach at the plate but when in doubt, bet on the athlete.

So here we have two things at odds that enable Chisholm to be a buy low candidate. This is someone who has excellent traits that have clearly shown themselves on the field, but haven’t quite manifested in the statline. In this sense, that’s what makes him a buy low. It’s a belief that his value is nowhere near his peak.

There are multiple iterations of buy lows. When a player is injured for an extended period of time a buy low window presents itself solely on the basis of uncertainty upon return. Michael Kopech, Jesus Luzardo and AJ Puk are all in buy low windows right now thanks to their significant arm injuries. There’s an underlying fear that some of the stuff might be gone, command might be worse and they won’t be the same pitcher upon return that they were when they ranked inside the top 25 in the preseason. Capitalize on these as well. Remember that the high rankings were there for a reason. Do you incur a risk when you buy low on injured players? Certainly. That’s the trade off for a lower price.

Finally there’s the buy low on players who’ve regained a tool that they had lost. This occurs most often with pitchers and finding velocity again. Michael Baez and Mitch White are examples of this in 2019. For hitters it’s likely to be a mechanical adjustment that allows them to unlock something. More often than not it’s power. These are the ones that can pay strong dividends but you have to act fairly quick before a player’s numbers become deafening.

So now on to the hard part. How do you buy low? First thing is to understand your opponent’s roster and goals. I wish it were as easy as chump dumping a few players for one Jazz Chisholm, but you give yourself away doing that and even worse, you start negotiations off on the wrong foot. Once you zero in on a player, ask yourself the following:

  • What is your trading partner trying to achieve? Is he/she trying to win in the current year? Are they in a complete teardown? Are they one year away from contending? This is the first thing to consider because it informs you on what type of offer you’re making. If a player just tore down his team, Mike Minor isn’t going to be of much value, no matter how well he’s doing.

  • Do they value the player the same as you? One of the best tricks I’ve learned when trying to complete any trade — not just buy low ones — is asking your partner to rank a subsection of his players and for you to do the same. For example, I was approached by a manager in a home dynasty league who wanted an outfielder. I ranked my seven outfielders, with Avisail Garcia coming in last. That’s actually the guy he wanted and we worked out a deal where we were both satisfied. (For the record I landed Mike Minor in the swap). This works even better for prospects because values shift from manager to manager. The goal here is to properly understand how your trade partner views your buy low candidate. Maybe he’s the least valuable in his eyes. Maybe he’s the most valuable.

  • Would you accept your own offer? There’s no easy catch all answer to formulating a trade offer. There are too many league variables like size, categories, salary and then extra factors like homerism by a manager or personal preferences (Tip to my leaguemates: sell me on the OBP). Would YOU accept your own offer if it was proposed? I think it’s fair to assume the opening salvo won’t be the final offer, but don’t be too insulting.

  • Does the final offer make you a little uneasy? If you’ve gone through negotiations and are hesitant about pulling the trigger, then that’s normally the sign of a fair trade. One party shouldn’t make out like a bandit. It happens and if you manage it, congratulations! You’ll draw the sweet, delicious ire of your league. But more often than not it shouldn’t be that easy.

When you target a player you want to buy low, also be cognizant of how the industry views him. Often times your league mates are reading the same sites you are for information on a player. This is especially important during rankings season. Within the next month we’ll see an avalanche of midseason top 100 posts come out. Those will artificially inflate/deflate names, so keep that in mind. Perhaps your preferred source of information is really high on guys while other publications aren’t or vice versa. If you know what your league likes to read, that’s one advantage you have.

Very rarely do I single out a prospect to a manager and say “I want to trade for this guy”. That’s a dead giveaway and sometimes you immediately inflate the price of someone just by making it known you want him. Instead, you might approach a manager and say you want to revamp your minor league farm system and ask who’s available. Or perhaps aim high and “settle” for whom you wanted the entire time.

Buying low is an art. Both parties know what’s going on and what you’re trying to achieve. But if you follow the above steps, it should get you to the finish line.

And if all else fails and worse comes to worst, just tell your leaguemate to find me on Twitter and for $5 I’ll tell him what he wants to hear. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯