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Adam Wainwright Fantasy Keeper League Strategies

On Monday, Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals co-ace and our 2011 no. 2 overall fantasy baseball starting pitcher, underwent successful Tommy John surgery to reconstruct the elbow of his throwing shoulder. Expected recovery time is 12 to 15 months, barring any setbacks.

While it sucks to lose Wainwright from the player universe of 2011 fantasy baseball, it’s early enough in the season that most people haven’t drafted yet in one-year leagues. When it comes to Wainwright in non-keeper leagues, the rules for him in 2011 is pretty simple: don’t draft him. If you’re the type of person who participates in some leagues but autodrafts, make sure Wainwright is on your list of players to avoid during your draft. Heed this common sense advice and you should be covered from all angles in a one year league scenario to make sure you don’t end up with him in your draft.

For people in keeper leagues, handling Wainwright is going to require some strategy, because it’s not a cut and dry decision to make. For starters, let’s get one thing straight: Wainwright is a beast. Over the last few seasons, the only pitcher more reliable at keeping runners from crossing home plate is Roy Halladay, our no. 1 fantasy baseball starting pitcher. Wainwright wins games, carries a low ERA, a even lower WHIP, and eats innings. The last two seasons, he’s also struck out over 200 batters.

Below are the two most likely options for what to do with Wainwright in fantasy baseball keeper leagues, followed by advice on how to act in those two scenarios in your draft and during the preseason.

Option #1 – Stash him: If you do own Wainwright in a keeper league, you’re going to have a hard time parting ways with him. Assuming you have a DL spot available on your team, he’s got to be taking up that spot this season. You probably won’t be able to place him on the DL BEFORE you draft, though, so you’re likely going to have to sacrifice a quality pitcher to the draft to make up for keeping Wainwright. Following your draft, your flexibility with the DL spot on your team is also limited, so make sure player health plays a role in your draft day decisions. For example, stashing Wainwright all season and then building your pitching staff with guys Josh Beckett, Francisco Liriano, and Chris Young of the Mets is probably the equivalent of rotation suicide.

Option #2 – Deal him: Should you have a strong enough pitching rotation to be able to part ways with Wainwright or trade him, make sure you get something of value for him. The jury still seems to be out on Wainwright’s trade value in 2011 fantasy baseball, but it looks like most owners will be willing to trade prospects for Wainwright if you’re looking to deal him. Recent trades on have seen him dealt in 1-for-1 trades for Cole Hamels, Anibal Sanchez, Desmond Jennings, Chris Carpenter, and Billy Wagner… talk about all over the place!

If you can find someone willing to deal an SP2 like Hamels or a fantasy ace like Carpenter for an injured Wainwright, play by the mantra “it’s immoral to let a fool keep his money” and take the trade. You will be rewarded in the end. If the best you can get is an injury-prone spot starter or a retired closer, it’s probably best to just keep Wainwright on your roster. There will be better options on the free agent wire during the season for you to take a flier on.

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