I have been wrestling with how to proceed in the XFL unlike in any league in which I have ever participated (and note my mate Brian Walton and I did not discuss this week's piece any more than we discuss what we are going to wear to the Tout Wars draft).
XFL is a mixed format, with a standard 23-man roster, which holds our auction in November, at the AFL, and then just prior to the season allows a 17-man expansion draft. We are allowed 15 freezes, so many of us do indeed keep a chunk of prospects--I froze Ben Revere, Dustin Ackley, and Tyler Flowers among others last year--so the auction is really where the main refuel happens, and for where we are lacking the expansion is where we can fill holes.
In the past, I have not worried so much about drafting closers, for during the big free agent pre-season draft I have always been able to pick up a couple of stopper arms, fill out my roster, and draft a couple more prospects.
In my previous life, this mixed 15-team format was one of my strengths, but somehow, especially in the very tough XFL, I am left running for cover: something I believe I have written before.
I must confess that I always go into my auctions with very little idea of exactly what I am going to do, and that was true this past fall, when I froze Justin Morneau at $36, and Josh Johnson at $23, and otherwise picked up Carlos Quentin for $21, and after that my most expensive player is $18 (Brian Roberts).
In general, this is not a good strategy for a league that runs on the shallow side, for in my experience to build a strong team core, one must buy a couple of overpriced stars, like spending $48 on Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera to build a stat base, and fill in with a lot of undervalued players. For example, I grabbed Danny Valencia as my first expansion player, meaning had he been nominated during the November auction, I would have gotten him for a buck. Same with Rod Barajas, Nick Hundley, Justin Masterson, Erik Bedard, and Chris Denorfia.
In drafting this team I was not too sure they would challenge, but I did want to see what they would do, and also thought I would have some cheap players that might benefit me on a dump trade.
But, what I really would like to do is what two of our more successful owners in Jeff Winick, Don Drooker, Doug Dennis, and Steve Moyer have done. That is draft and trade for the best prospects I can, ride it for a couple of years, and maybe I will have a team where Michael Trout and Ackley really do become stars and also just cost a few bucks, and only go up $3 more in successive seasons. Add in as many of those monster players like Pujols to that mix, and you have a winner.
Anyway, the team has fared better than I imagined, resting in tenth place, with 72 points, 44.5 behind my mate Lord Zola.
It is also patently clear what would push me up the standings: a closer and a lead-off hitter. For, though I am in fifth place in home runs and RBI, so am I last in runs and next-to-last in swipes. On the pitching side I am last in saves, but second in wins, fourth in ERA and ratio, and sixth in whiffs. Meaning if I can pick up 30 or so points in saves, runs, and steals--for 15 steals will add ten points alone, plus carry some runs, just like ten saves would.
So, the dilemma is do I trade for these players or do I let it go for this season? And, if so, what is say Russell Martin, one of my catchers worth? I got him for $11 in the auction, and he would jump to $16 next season, which puts the catcher at value if he keeps producing. Not to mention the teams with which i have talked trade turkey want prospects, which means I have to really make a full tilt push for this year. Which pretty much ensures a less than successful 2012 in this league.
Since there is a free agent draft this weekend, I can indeed ride it out for a week or two, but then it will be crunch time.