Fantasy Baseball Trade Analyzer: Is it time to sell high on Aaron Nola?

Although we have reached the point in the fantasy baseball season where managers start to see their frustration boil over, the reality is that this remains the early days of the campaign. Teams have played roughly 12% of their full schedule, and we are still at the stage where one good or bad week can completely reverse the outlook on any player. The panic levels are especially unnecessary regarding pitchers, who have typically made between 3-8 appearances, depending on their role.

This week’s list of trade candidates is fully focused on hurlers, and as always, the advice here is the check the Yahoo Trade Market page to determine the popular opinion on players who are involved in your trade talks.

Who to Buy Low

Luis Castillo (SP, Seattle Mariners)

Wise managers will hold this advice for a few days, with a goal of sending out a Castillo trade offer after he starts in Coors Field on Saturday. The right-hander enjoyed his best start of the season last time out (6 IP, 2 ER), but he has taken the loss in all four of his outings and owns bloated ratios (5.82 ERA, 1.66 WHIP) that are far from what was expected when he was selected as a fantasy ace. But when looking beyond the surface stats, we see that nothing is wrong with Castillo. His 27:4 K:BB ratio is an outstanding mark, and his 2.87 xFIP ranks 10th among qualified pitchers. I would be happy to acquire this durable ace (one career IL stint) for a slight discount.

Josh Hader (RP, Houston Astros)

Buying low on good closers who have an unimpressive April saves total is one of the oldest tricks in the trading playbook. Hader fits the bill right now, as he has collected just one save while posting a 9.39 ERA. His managers haven’t even been awarded with a vulture win for their troubles. The left-hander remains one of the top relievers in baseball, but he has been held back by the Astros' poor record (6-13) and a blown save that came when he was one pitch away from ending the game. My plan is to acquire Hader for a reliever who was significantly less valuable during draft season but now has a higher saves total.

Who to Buy High

Kyle Finnegan (RP, Washington Nationals)

To be clear, the “high” value of Finnegan is still a mark that is fairly low. There are few fantasy managers who believe in the right-hander, as most of those who have him rostered will cite his late-round draft status as the reason he’s on their team. Still, saves are saves, and Finnegan is getting them right now.

My trade offer for Finnegan would say something like, “We all know that Hunter Harvey is a much better pitcher and will eventually be the Nats closer, but I’m desperate for saves right now, so I’m hoping that Finnegan can help me out for a few weeks.”

Truthfully, the Nats already know that Harvey is the better pitcher, but they choose to use Finnegan in the ninth inning anyways. There is a scenario where Harvey spends the entire season dominating the most dangerous spots in the opposing lineup during the seventh and eighth innings while Finnegan plods along to a 3.75 ERA and 30 saves.

Who to Sell Low

Triston McKenzie (SP, Cleveland Guardians)

Managers should be willing to take anything they can get for McKenzie, who clearly isn’t the same pitcher who made a massive fantasy impact in 2022. The arm injuries from last season seem to have taken a permanent toll on him, as his average fastball velocity is down to 91.0 mph, which is 1.4 mph lower than his career mark. He is struggling to put batters away (4.0 K/9 rate) and is issuing walks at a high rate after previously excelling in that area. I’m willing to trade McKenzie for any player whom I can envision remaining on my roster for more than one month.

Who to Sell High

Ryan Helsley (RP, St. Louis Cardinals)

Helsley is an excellent reliever who is enjoying a terrific start to the season. His seven saves lead MLB, and his 12:1 K:BB ratio is an outstanding mark. However, there were durability concerns regarding the right-hander that caused him to fall in drafts, and those concerns cannot be alleviated by a few good weeks. Helsley managers may be able to get Hader and a second (less valuable) player for Helsley, which seemed unfathomable during draft season.

Aaron Nola (SP, Philadelphia Phillies)

There is a window to sell high on Nola after he dominated an inept Rockies lineup in his last start. When offering out the right-hander in trade, I would refer to his poor initial start against a dominant Braves lineup as an anomaly. After all, he has earned a win in two of his past three outings while allowing three runs across 19 innings.

My truthful view of Nola, however, is that I’m worried.

He collected the same number of strikeouts as walks in his two appearances prior to the Rockies start, which is never a good sign. His average fastball velocity is down 1.7 mph, and his 5.54 FIP suggests that his 3.47 ERA could be much worse. Nola still carries plenty of name value, and I would use that to my advantage when exploring his trade market.