Free agent acquisitions are another way to improve your fantasy squad. I prefer that way. Why put yourself through all that stress when you can address a need without giving up anything of great significance? The more I play in FAAB leagues, the more I’ve become convinced that FAAB is overrated anyway, especially in leagues that use a Vickrey system, where you often end up paying a lot less for your targets than you expect. Yes, if you have a glaring weakness at a certain position or are desperate to address a certain category in a major way, trading is probably your best bet. But if not, why bother? Remember, the waiver wire is there for a reason.
Speaking of free agent acquisitions, as we approach the one-third mark of the season, I figured it was a fitting time to take a look at the transaction log in my Tout Wars Mixed Auction league to try to determine the five best pickups of the season up to this point. Note that by “best”, I’m mainly focusing on profit. In fact, all of these guys were purchased for no more than one FAAB dollar. In chronological order, here’s what I came up with.
Aaron Harang – Purchased by Fred Zinkie for $0 on 4/7
After posting a 5.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 26 starts last season, it looked as if Harang’s days as a viable big league pitcher were numbered. Apparently not. The veteran righty has gone at least six innings while allowing two runs or less in nine of his first 11 starts this year and boasts an exceptional 9.7 K/9. His ridiculously low 0.3 HR/9 is bound to go up, so maintaining his current 3.29 ERA will be a tall order. On the other hand, his strikeout rate is way up from last year and he’s cut down his hit rate, this despite a high .345 BABIP. This is somewhat of a head-scratcher, but the bottom line is that I simply can’t trust Harang considering his inconsistent career track record since 2008. Cash in while you can, though I doubt that he will net a whole lot in a trade anyway, so you might as well sit back and enjoy the ride until it’s over.
Mark Buehrle – Purchased by Zach Steinhorn for $1 on 4/7
While we’re on the Fountain of Youth theme, we must give some props to Buehrle, the 35-year-old southpaw who sports a 2.33 ERA to go along with a major league-best nine wins. As in the case of Harang, Buehrle has benefited from an unusually low home run rate (only two homers allowed in 73 1/3 innings), this from a pitcher who has always been prone to the longball. A blowup or two in the near future would not be surprising, but who knows, maybe Buehrle will pitch well enough to stay on my roster all season. I won’t be watching his starts though. Too nerve-wracking.
Jason Hammel – Purchased by Cory Schwartz for $1 on 4/7
Following a breakout 2012 campaign (3.43 ERA, 1.24 WHIP), Hammel was a major disappointment last season (4.97 ERA, 1.46 WHIP). While it would be silly to expect him to finish the year with his current 2.78 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, he does appear to be back on track, and his career-best 4.1 K/BB ratio is encouraging. Like Buehrle, Hammel could be someone worth holding onto for the remainder of the season in deeper mixed leagues.
Dallas Keuchel – Purchased by Tim Heaney for $1 on 4/21
Who would’ve thought back in March that there would actually be a mixed league relevant starting pitcher on the Astros? Over his last five starts, Keuchel is 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 31-to-4 K/BB ratio, this after registering a 5.15 ERA and 1.54 WHIP last season. Crazy stuff, right? At 26, Keuchel is still relatively young, but his minor league stats don’t exactly jump off the page. For now, I remain skeptical.
Chad Qualls – Purchased by Ray Flowers for $1 on 5/5
Considering the astronomical prices of the speculative closers acquired through FAAB in our league this year, the Qualls pickup could turn out to be a steal for Ray. Since May 16th, when Astros manager Bo Porter officially named Qualls the team’s full-time closer, he’s tossed five scoreless innings while converting all three of his save chances. Now, this is Chad Qualls we’re talking about, so a disastrous stretch could be right around the corner. But maybe not. And for one FAAB dollar, when Ronald Belisario went for $24 a few weeks later? Come on!