For one day at least, things went right for my team in National League Tout Wars as newcomer Derrek Lee swatted two home runs in his first game as a Pittsburgh Pirate on Monday. How Lee ended up on my roster is worth explaining in this column.
Last week, I wrote about free allocation budget (or FAAB) trading and its potential impact on fantasy league player bidding following Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. The context for the discussion was National League Tout Wars, one of fantasy’s most highly-visible leagues.
Such a trade propelled Steve Gardner, of "USA Today," to the highest FAAB total, breaking a tie with ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockcroft. On the other hand, sitting third in the money list, I failed to make a deal to either improve my team or vault over the other two teams in FAAB balance.
As is often the case, when the smoke cleared last Sunday, the few deadline deals across MLB that were actually completed paled in comparison to the scores rumored. Some National League players such as Ubaldo Jimenez moved to the American League while others like Carlos Beltran, did not cross league boundaries. Neither of those types of deals could help an NL-only league owner with FAAB to spend.
The list of truly notable imports into the NL at the deadline had just two names on it – Edwin Jackson and Derrek Lee. They are about as different as two players could be. Jackson is not yet 28 years of age, but is starting for his sixth team, a perennial contender in St. Louis. Lee, just a month away from his 36th birthday, is on the downside of a career in which he made his reputation at first base for the Cubs. Now Lee finds himself playing the role of a hired gun, moving to one of the surprises of 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As our regular Sunday night bidding exercise neared, a quick analysis of my competitors showed Gardner in need of wins and strikeouts while battling me directly in at least three of the five offensive categories. Cockcroft was strong in pitching, but near the bottom of the 13-team league in runs, home runs and RBI.
My best guess was that Gardner would win Jackson and Cockcroft would take home Lee. With several of the other new NL players such as Orlando Cabrera being middle infielders, spots in which I am already overloaded, I decided not to go there. I felt pretty sure I would come away from the weekend with nothing of substance other than becoming the new FAAB total leader. It was a time of the season when that was clearly not an admirable place to be.
Proving that one should never assume anything, Sunday’s night’s bidding unfolded differently than I expected. Gardner nabbed Jackson, beating out Cockcroft. However, Tristan decided to spread his money to other players, allocating only $65 for Lee.
Having bid $80 for both Jackson and Lee, I slipped in and won the latter for a Vickery bid of $66 (one dollar more than the second-highest bid). I was delighted. Not only did I get the best hitter available, I still have $14 remaining for rest-of-season odds and ends.
I admit that I had been tempted to bid exactly $66 for both Jackson and Lee, as that was $1 more than the fourth-place team’s FAAB total. Cockcroft knew that possibility as well, and that apparently guided his bid selection. Had we tied at $66, our relative positions in the standings meant that Lee would have joined Team ESPN instead of Team Mastersball. That would have been a most painful setback. Here is to going all-in!
Lee will provide me some additional ammunition in my head-to-head battle with the hard-charging Gardner in runs, home runs and RBI. In fact, he already has.
With Lee having delivered in his very first evening both with Pittsburgh and on my active roster, I could feel good for one night at least. As fate would have it, I did not need to make a potentially-controversial FAAB trade to have a successful deadline.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.