Has there ever been a more volatile opening weekend for closers? Mariano Rivera, Jose Valverde, Heath Bell, Chris Perez, Carlos Marmol, and Alfredo Aceves all failed to close the deal at least once. Plenty of setup men took their lumps as well. These situations may create buying opportunities in the coming weeks, but only if you are prepared to spend like a madman.
The first week of FAAB saw some very aggressive spending, with newly anointed closer Hector Santiago leading the way, followed by quasi-closer Fernando Rodney. In the live Las Vegas Main Event leagues the bidding looked like this: Santiago: 565, 565, 515, 410, 407, 342, 337, 309, 258. Rodney: 250, 250, 227, 214, 202, 198, 180, 179, 152. As expected, the heavy bidding fueled some playful jibes on the Message Boards. If you are the proud owner of the green White Sox closer, most likely you are seen as a little crazy by some of your league mates, and that you are. Crazy, like a fox.
There are twenty-six weeks in the baseball season. Twenty-five and one-half of which occur after the first FAAB period. As each week passes the efficacy of each FAAB dollar decreases by roughly 4%. A $1,000 FAAB budget maintained and untapped all season in late September is the equivalent of about $40 spent during the first FAAB period. Another way to look at it is if you spent $0 on Sunday, saved all of your money, the effective spending power (in terms of how it can impact you in the roto standings) is now $960. In other words, if you are sane, you will join in the ‘insanity’ of early FAAB spending. I’ve tried the conservative approach. That approach yields a large FAAB money bag at midseason coupled with persistent lineup holes that remain unplugged and a deficit in the standings that can’t be made up no matter how good the July waiver acquisitions are.
I drafted Addison Reed, so I had my eye set on purchasing the services of Hector Santiago. The twenty-three year old has all the makings of a shaky closer option. His save in the Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday was not only his first in the majors, but also his first above High-A ball. The deck is slightly stacked against him as a lefty with plenty of adequate right-handed alternatives in the White Sox pen. None of that changes the fact that he’s a biped that’s been named the closer. You have to blow your cash to acquire those guys no matter how crappy they are. And, unless you plan on punting saves, if you don’t have 2 closers on your team right now, get out your wallet and spend or you will be punting a category in short order. The only alternative is to get a cheap closer in waiting who’s fallen out of favor (Joel Peralta) or under the radar (J.P. Howell). Of course the obvious downside is that you have to hope that the competition implodes and that the manager has faith in your chosen one (ask Tyler Clippard owners how they feel about being shunned for Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez).
I figured that Hector was worth about $155, so that’s what I bid initially, but ruminating on it, I realized that it would take a ‘crazy’ bid twice that amount to nab the south side lefty. I raised it to $324. I didn’t get crazy enough. In Las Vegas League 4, a $407 claimed the prize. And, now I regret not climbing into the $400’s. Even if Santiago loses the job before the end of April, going all-in to roster him was the right move. If he fails, so what? You still have plenty of money to pick up cheap set-up men, which is the only alternative those eschewing expensive FAAB closers have anyway.
The consolation prize was Fernando Rodney. A $214 dent was the cost. Rodney is as volatile as they come. He racked up 37 Saves closing for the Tigers back in 2009, but that came with an ugly 1.47 WHIP. Still, he has that experience that managers love, and Joe Madden’s usage patterns early on suggest that the mohawk-sporting skipper favors Rodney over other options in the Rays pen. On Friday, Joel Peralta was brought in during the 8th inning with the Rays trailing the Yankees 6-5. He retired Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano before laboring through the rest of the inning. Peralta walked Alex Rodriguez and then Mark Teixeira showed off his light tower power by crushing a Peralta fastball that sailed just about one foot to the right of the right field foul pole. Teixeira eventually worked a walk before Joel made Nick Swisher look bad; with tardy swings the OSU buckeye was unable to catch up to Peralta’s heat.
In the 9th Fernando Rodney had an easy 1-2-3 inning. Saturday the Rays held a commanding 8-2 lead heading into the 9th. Youngster Josh Lueke couldn’t command the ball well and gave way to Joel, who would try to put Friday’s lackluster showing behind him. After striking out Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher crushed a mistake pitch and this day Joel would not get away with it. Jake McGee would come on to walk a batter before Rodney came in for a one out save. When Jeremy Hellickson came one out away from closing the deal on Sunday, once again it was Fernando that got the nod and notched his second save of the young season.
So, get out your FAAB checkbooks now. Spend early and often. Spend heavy now and save your cheap fliers for later, unless you are in my Las Vegas Main Event League 4.