I admit that in recent weeks, I have had free agent allocation budget, or FAAB, on the brain. The reason why is simple. In my most important league, National League Tout Wars – and in fact in most every industry league in which I have ever competed – making trades are extremely time-consuming and difficult.
Given the two primary methods of improving one’s roster is via trade and free agency, if the former is diminished in importance, it stands to reason that the latter becomes even more prominent.
In terms of the basics of FAAB management, there are a variety of theories. Some believe that spending early will provide the greatest benefit. After all, it only makes sense that the longer your team receives the positive benefit of a good acquisition, the better your results in the standings should be.
However, there are several big assumptions inherent in the above statement. One is that the player can be FAABed at a fair value. Another is that he actually delivers on his promise.
One owner in NL Tout, Chris Liss of Rotowire, spent heavily early on pitching and landed a couple of solid performers. Cincinnati’s Tony Cingrani ($52) and Jose Fernandez of Miami ($22) joined his roster in April.
In a very common approach, others hold back on using their FAAB, hoping to hold the most money at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Of course, this is only relevant in single-league formats and then, one has to be in the right place at the right time with the most cash.
To date in 2013, most of the early selling across MLB has been from the Chicago Cubs to the American League (Matt Garza to Texas and Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees). National League owners are still waiting for their chance to spend crazily.
In Tout Wars, there is an additional twist that FAAB can be traded. In an initiative to improve in ERA and WHIP, Phil Hertz of BaseballHQ has been dealing off his starting pitchers. In deals big and small (Taylor Jordan for $2, Carlos Martinez for $8), Hertz is also accumulating a considerable war chest of cash.
Hertz also added $9 by turning in Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez just before the break.
That is where my strategy comes in.
I came into this and every season with the intent to spend early, but wisely. The latter is my personal challenge as I may not have been aggressive enough.
For example, on Cingrani, I outbid five other owners by offering $32, but still came in third. Instead of taking a chance on the unproven but highly promising Fernandez in week one, I placed double-digit bids on mediocrities Kevin Slowey and Tyson Ross.
With just over half my FAAB money remaining in mid-July, I was firmly on the uncomfortable middle ground. I had not spent as much as I hoped, nor did I have enough remaining to be a trade-deadline factor.
This is the regular spot in my column in which I remind you to not be like me. While it is therapeutic to a point to write about one’s missteps, the hope is that you do not fall in the same traps.
Since a key element of my draft day strategy was to focus on reasonable injury risks, it only made sense to continue the approach in-season. Therefore, I decided to grab as many FAAB reclaim players as possible – if they seemed to have a reasonable chance of returning this season.
Along with the aforementioned Wandy Rodriguez, for whom I paid $2 on the rebound, I also added Milwaukee hurler Marco Estrada and Phillies' outfielder Ben Revere for $1 each. I tried to acquire but missed out on the Mets’ Jonathon Niese, when a $1 bid would have been enough to turn the trick.
This past week, I added James McDonald, another of the Pirates injured hurlers, for $1.
Further, perhaps in an attempt to double down on a questionable move on draft day, I kept Roy Halladay instead of reclaiming $15 FAAB. Other injured pitchers on my roster include Trevor Cahill, Ross Detwiler and Chris Carpenter.
The downside is that each of those newly-FAABed-while-injured players had to spend a week on my active roster before being placed on the unlimited-in-size disabled list.
The way I look at it is this. Even if only one or two of these guys make it back, the minimal investment would make it worthwhile. I do not know if I can mount a challenge to the league leaders in the final two months, but I expect to continue to improve in the pitching categories.
If this approach of digging through other owners’ rejects does not sicken you (and it is possible within your league rules, of course), consider it as a viable way to stretch your FAAB to the max.
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.