Last week in this space, I discussed the FAAB reclaim process and rules used in Tout Wars. In a nutshell, money spent to buy a player can be completely recouped if he is disabled. The amount returned is halved after the All-Star break.
I also outlined the mid-season dilemma faced by several owners, including myself. Should we hold an injured player, waiting and hoping for a meaningful return in August or September or should we cash in and reinvest elsewhere?
An interesting angle is that once the FAAB is reclaimed for a player, he returns to the free agent pool and can be re-purchased for $1 minimum. However, the original owner only would have to at least match the amount he spent initially on the player.
As a result, I snagged Brewers starter Marco Estrada for $1 after he was dropped by another owner in return for $11 in FAAB reclaim the previous week.
Though he has been struggling with back and hamstring problems, Estrada could return in a few weeks. In hindsight, I should have bid more than $1, and with Vickrey rules, I would have had to pay just $1 more than the second-highest bid, anyway. Instead, I figured that either my peers would not notice or would not care to bid on an injured pitcher. The bottom line is that it worked for me.
The risk in adding Estrada was small. I only had to carry him on my active roster for three days (due to the shortened All-Star week). I could then move him to the (unlimited in size) disabled list and reuse the roster spot to claim another player the next week.
Seeing Mets starter Jonathon Niese in the same situation last week, I made a $1 contingent bid for him, as well. Again, thinking after the fact, I probably should have tried to get both hurlers instead of just one. Instead, I had hoped I could maximize my roster spots by taking them in consecutive weeks.
Forgetting the league rule that non-25-man active roster players require non-zero dollar bids, Derek Carty was originally awarded Niese despite having made an illegal $0 offer. The league administrators allowed Carty to keep Niese, but raised the price to $1.
In private, I was disappointed for the reason mentioned above.
It is an interesting subject for another column on another day, but such a situation can create a sticky situation for league commissioners. Should the illegal transaction be invalidated completely or is it OK to allow the dollar amount to be raised to a legal level after the fact?
My guess is that since there were no other Niese bids that week (except for my unused contingency), the latter was chosen. From a common sense perspective, I understand. However, from a league commissioner perspective, I don’t like it one bit.
The Tout Wars constitution is silent on such matters, which I consider to be a problem that should be rectified. When gray rules areas are encountered, they should be clarified in writing immediately. In this case, the rule was explained to the league as was the corrective action. Now, the document should be updated as well to fully close the loop.
Anyway, back to Carty, me, Estrada and Niese.
Within minutes of the weekly transaction deadline having passed, Carty contacted me. At the time, he was just 1.5 points behind me in the NL Tout standings.
Having missed that Estrada was available, he offered to buy the DLed Brewers hurler for $2. After all, his logic went, I had only valued Estrada at $1 and therefore should be delighted to make a quick $1 profit.
On one hand, I admired his chutzpah. On the other, I wondered how often a competing owner could ever pry a just-bought player away from his new owner for an incremental buck?
Probably not “never,” but I bet it would be a rare case, indeed.
In my situation, an additional dollar would mean almost nothing. Six owners have more FAAB than me. Further, I am already resigned to the fact that I am not going to get anyone of value in interleague trading at the end of this month.
Carty took his surprise to the public, tweeting that I was under the influence of what he says “psychologists call the ‘Endowment Effect’ - placing a greater level of value on something you own versus something you don't.”
The implication is that I was being irrational because I was disinterested in selling him Estrada for a princely $1 profit.
I chose not to engage in the 140 character-limited public forum of Twitter. I did try to provide further detail via e-mail even though it was very late and honestly, I did not owe him a lengthy explanation of why I did not accept his trade offer.
I explained that I felt he was confusing price with value. I saw the opportunity for greater value from Estrada in the future than his price indicated that day. It would be painless to stash Estrada away on the disabled list and there would be almost no downside if he fizzled out later. Obviously, Carty felt the same way about the price-value mismatch, I reasoned, since he wanted Estrada so badly.
In other words, Estrada’s real market value is not $1. It was at least $2 and perhaps more. I was satisfied that I picked up a bargain and preferred the player to what I felt was an insignificant amount of incremental FAAB.
The e-mail conversation and public tweets ended there – until I realized that his Niese bid was made in almost identical circumstances during the same transaction period.
I could not resist sending Carty a follow-up e-mail.
You guessed it. I asked him to sell me Niese for $1, since all he was willing to bid was $0.
Derek may have felt I was tweaking him, which I was, but as my earlier contingency proved, I had legitimate prior interest in Niese.
Four days passed before I received a reply. Carty seemed to enjoy the turnabout, but not enough to do the deal once the shoe was firmly on the other foot.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.