Coming into Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, my FAAB total in National League Tout Wars left me in a tenuous position.
Of the 12 league competitors, I had the third-most money. It was not necessarily my plan. I just hadn’t won enough bids this season to spend more. The fact that Joe Panik at $18 is my biggest buy to date says it better than I can.
Of my original $100, I had used $54, but received $6 in reclaim for an injured, dropped player, leaving me with $52. I said that was third-most, but in reality, I was tied with Seth Trachtman at that amount. Since he is higher in the standings, I would win any tiebreakers between us.
That was clearly not the problem, or should I say, problems.
First of all, there is Mike Gianella. In early June, my friend from Baseball Prospectus engineered a trade in which he acquired $50 in FAAB. The beauty of the deal was that Mike gave up Kris Bryant, a player he had earlier acquired as a free agent for just $1. As you know, two months later, Bryant is still in the Minors and Tout is a re-draft league.
Even with normal spending during the season, Gianella came into the deadline period with a huge hammer - $122. In what seemed unusual to me, no other owner hung around the $90-$100 range.
In fact, the next largest total was just $66, held by Steve Gardner of USA TODAY.
You can quickly do the math. Gianella was in a position that he could bid $67 to win one player and $55 on another. That would be enough to take the first- and third-best free agent – assuming maximum bids are made.
That means in reality that I was in fourth, not third, in the league FAAB pecking order.
Here is where it gets really ugly for me.
Despite the flurry of trade activity across MLB, only three prime players came over to the Senior Circuit this past week.
The third is possibly damaged goods – a 2013 American League All-Star followed by a disappointing first half and most recently, coming off a disabled list stint due to a knee problem. Oh yes, and Justin Masterson’s velocity is down this season, too.
So the question is whether the other new member of the Cardinals rotation was worth my maximum bid. Normally, I would say, “probably not.” But the reality is that if I somehow managed to escape the Gianella-Gardner gauntlet, not only does Trachtman also hold $52, Phil Hertz was right behind at $51.
Speaking of Hertz, I have to digress for a moment.
Phil is the master of the “sweetener,” a process in which he asks for a few dollars of FAAB ostensibly to balance out a trade. Of the four league deals this season in which FAAB has changed hands, Phil was the cash recipient in three. (The other was the aforementioned Gianella windfall.)
To top it off, Hertz made a trade on Sunday afternoon, eight hours before the deadline. He dumped Chris Young for $3 FAAB. My spirits dropped upon reading the deal was done.
I have been conditioned to receive a note from Phil every weekend, offering the guys he plans to drop that night in trade. In this case, he got a bite.
I feared the $3 would allow Hertz to leap ahead of me in the FAAB queue this week, but alas, the money cannot be used in the same week in which it changes hands.
If Gianella, Gardner and Gianella nab Lackey, Cabrera and Masterson, Phil would have the hammer next week – or would he?
There is another factor that would give me the edge going forward for any waiver wire trades into the NL, or so I thought. With Cliff Lee apparently out for the season, I decided to put in a Sunday night FAAB reclaim.
Had Lee cratered before the All-Star Game, I could have recovered all $27 I spent on draft day. Unfortunately, in the second half, I get back only half, rounded down, or $13. (To be honest, half of the money back in the second half is more than fair. I think the league policy is too liberal, but right now, I will take the cash.)
Even if I would spend $52 on Masterson, $13 would give me enough pocket money for minor acquisitions for the remainder of the season. Otherwise, I might carry the FAAB hammer myself.
So I bid $52 for all three players: Lackey, then Cabrera, then Masterson. I got none of them, with all going for exactly $53 each. Cabrera went to Gardner with the other two joining Gianella, just as I expected.
Even my FAAB reclaim gambit fell short. While I now have $65, it still isn’t the maximum amount. Turns out that Trachtman pulled his own Cliff Lee move with a more costly player out for the year, Paul Goldschmidt. As a result, Trachtman added $19 to his war chest and currently has me outflanked by $4.
In other words, I have to hope for at least two waiver trades of decent players from the American League into the National League during the same week. Otherwise, I will have wasted a boatload of cash by not having bid aggressively enough during the first two-thirds of the season – or holding more money for the non-waiver deadline.
The worst place to be is caught in between, where I currently reside. No one put me there, however. I did it to myself. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes better than I can. I sure hope so.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.