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Reality Check: Solving the Timmy, Roy riddle

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It seemed like such a good idea at the time, drafting Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum on the cheap, hoping they could deliver ace numbers for a fraction of the price.

But how soon you wanted out of it.

You didn't necessarily want to purge them from your roster, locking in your bad decision by swapping out a ninth-, 10th- or 11th-round pick for waiver fodder. You just didn't want to be the one to take the chance on them anymore.

But neither did anyone else.

That's not true for every pitcher off to a slow start, of course. Matt Cain fetches as much as ever on the trade market even though he has a 7.15 ERA through four starts.

The difference for Halladay and Lincecum is that their poor starts only reinforced what perception had already decided: With their velocities down and their walk rates up, they're no longer the pitchers they used to be.

So what are they? It's a guessing game at this point, which is sort of the problem. Having seen their spring struggles carry over to the regular season, most Fantasy owners assumed the worst. Only the dimwits who drafted them continued to see the upside in them.

I consider myself one of those dimwits.

I understand the concerns. I understand a drop in velocity gives a pitcher less margin for error, but Halladay never relied on pure power to put hitters away. He's a control artist with a varied enough arsenal that, provided he overcomes the mechanical flaws that developed when he tried to pitch through a strained muscle in his upper back last season, can still be a consistent winner for the Phillies.

Mechanical flaws, you say?

"Today was as close as I've felt to where I want to be," Halladay said after his start against the Cardinals Friday, when he allowed two runs on two hits with two walks and six strikeouts in seven innings. "When I stay within myself and execute the mechanics the way they should be done, I feel good where I'm at."

I also understand a loss of control leads to an increase in baserunners, both because of walks and because the pitcher constantly puts himself in hitter's counts, but it's not like this latest rendition of Lincecum is incapable of throwing strikes. He threw them in the postseason last year, issuing just five walks in 17 2/3 innings, and the result was a 2.55 ERA and 0.79 WHIP, not to mention a World Series championship for the Giants. If he can regain the focus he had during that high-pressure situation and translate it to regular-season games, his reduced stuff should more than hold up, as his strikeout rate also shows.

Regain the focus, you say?

"I just went out there today with purpose and knowing that every pitch has got a meaning to it," Lincecum said after his start against the Padres Saturday, when he allowed no runs on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. "When I can go out there and do that and you can stick to your game plan and know that it's going to work, it gives you something like a springboard to jump off of, instead of kind of going out there aimlessly."

True, it's just one isolated start for Halladay and one isolated start for Lincecum, but if you buy into arguments that aren't entirely numbers-based -- since pitchers are people, after all, and not machines -- then each did in his one start exactly what he needs to do to make the most of what he has left. And the results speak for themselves.

Most Traded Players (as of 4/23)
Player Name # of trades
1. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers 178
2. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants 148
3. Zack Greinke, SP, Dodgers 147
4. Mark Trumbo, OF, Angels 146
5. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies 146
6. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees 143
7. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees 139
8. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels 137
9. B.J. Upton, OF, Braves 136
10. Josh Johnson, SP, Blue Jays 134

More importantly, though, Halladay's and Lincecum's best starts were their last starts, which means, for the time being, they've regained some small sliver of the value they lost in between Draft Day and their first starts. Once again, Fantasy owners have reason to question if Halladay and Lincecum are really washed up. Perception has changed, if only slightly, making these two-time Cy Young winners potentially tradable again.

And if you genuinely believe Halladay and Lincecum are toast, the time to trade them is now, before they remind everyone how bad they are.

Understand I'm not saying they're toast -- not this dimwit -- but plenty of people believe they are. And if you consider yourself among that group, now is your golden opportunity to get something more in return than whatever retread or shot in the dark you could pluck off the waiver wire.

Of course, shopping them isn't such a bad course of action for the dimwits either. Hoping to provide some context for when they should and shouldn't pull the trigger, I petitioned my Twitter (@CBSScottWhite) followers to send examples of trades involving Halladay or Lincecum -- ones they were considering or had already made.

Let's take a look.

I got Asdrubal Cabrera straight-up for Lincecum. I needed a shortstop. -- @xVITALOGYx

That works for me. Both were drafted in about the ninth or 10th round in Fantasy. If that one good start was enough to get Lincecum's value back to where it started, you should probably capitalize, especially if it fills a need.

I offered Halladay for Wilin Rosario. Still waiting to hear back. -- @natzingg

Same situation as the first one, except with Halladay. In leagues where each team starts only one catcher, the position is deep enough that I wouldn't be in a rush to make this deal, but if I had been trying to get by with some Jason Castro type, I'd probably pull the trigger.

I'm thinking about offering Ross Detwiler for Lincecum. -- @Hjalmar02

And I'm thinking you just fell off the turnip truck. Wasn't Detwiler on the waiver wire just last week? Why not just drop Lincecum for the next flavor of the week instead of gift-wrapping him for someone else? Unless you're the world's biggest Detwiler believer -- and if you were, you would have claimed him first -- I don't see how you can justify this deal.

I was offered Lincecum and Will Middlebrooks for Alex Cobb. -- ‏@TylerHuck

Whoa. If someone else is willing to sell low on two early-season underachievers, don't try to talk him out of it. Personally, I feel like Middlebrooks alone is too much for Cobb, and I'm a proponent of Cobb.

In a keeper league, I offered Halladay for Marco Estrada. --@gabeisaacson

I'm also a believer in Estrada, so I hesitate here. I'm tempted to do it just to make the headache someone else's, but I feel like Estrada has peaked as a middle-of-the-rotation option at age 29, and Halladay still has a chance for more than that.

Hypothetically, I think I could see Lincecum for Jayson Werth. Or Halladay for Michael Bourn if someone wants to deal for a DL guy. -- @PeteSmick

I like those hypotheticals. I'd probably agree to both unless I was loaded in the outfield.

I got offered Josh Johnson for Lincecum. -- @DanMitchell23

Take it. No concerns over Johnson's velocity (apart from that 35-degree affair in Detroit).

I've been offered Lincecum for Jason Heyward. -- @BrettHensley1

Just because Lincecum was the first to put up usable numbers? Come on. Heyward's concerns still pale in comparison.

Halladay and Jedd Gyorko for Michael Young and A.J. Griffin. -- ‏@KJDiorio

The infielders more or less cancel each other out. Griffin, hot start at all, still doesn't measure up to Halladay in terms of upside.

Got offered Angel Pagan for Lincecum. I declined. Also got offered Yoenis Cespedes for Lincecum and Desmond Jennings. Declined as well. -- @aka_MR_FANTASY

Good call on the first one. You might regret the second one if Cespedes ends up doing what everyone thinks he can do, but if you're lacking in pitching depth and consider Jennings a breakout candidate (like I do), passing on it is defensible.

I traded Halladay straight-up for Mark Reynolds in a 14-team mixed league. -- ‏@joshilles

Then you fell right into your opponent's trap. I think we all know where Reynolds will end up. Even with power numbers in shorter supply these days, I'd rather take my chances with a declining Halladay than a one-trick pony.

As you can probably tell by some of my responses, I'm a little more open to trading Lincecum than Halladay. Halladay is coming off two good starts as opposed to one, had an actual injury to blame for his struggles last year and wasn't terrible even then. Plus, his velocity seems to be trending upward ever so slightly.

But the bottom line is I'm encouraged enough by both that I'm not looking to dump either at my first opportunity to do so. If someone else is willing to take on more risk than I am or offers to fill an obvious need, I'll surely listen, but considering I still rank Halladay 34th at starting pitcher and Lincecum 38th, I'll likely stick with them for now and hope I don't look back at this date as a missed opportunity.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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