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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

Now and then in this column, I actually touch on its intended purpose – to discuss interesting rules variations. Whether or not you use them in your leagues, you may come across some ideas to consider for the future.

One very topical area right now is free agent allocation budget (or FAAB) reclaim. As deployed in Tout Wars, the basics are as follows, taken from the league’s online constitution.

“If a player who was bought in the auction is placed on a major league disabled list, 7-day, 15-day or 60-day, his Tout Wars team may release him and ask his SWAT to add the player’s auction salary back to this year’s FAAB.”

(If you clicked on the above link to check out the Tout constitution, don’t mind all the red ink there. It isn’t all my blood spilled, though some of it probably is. The red text denotes changes made for the 2015 season. Even with a long-running group like Tout, the rules are continually kept fresh. So it should be in your leagues, too.)

Here is why the subject is pertinent now, especially in non-mixed leagues. Player reclaim values just dropped in half. Says the constitution…

“If the redemption occurs prior to Thursday 5 pm EDT of the All Star Break, the team may reclaim 100 percent of the player’s salary. If the transaction occurs after Thursday, 5 pm EDT of the All Star break, the team may reclaim 50 percent of the player’s salary.”

The timing works out well. Even though owners have to wait a week before re-using their FAAB, there is still time to build one’s cash reserves before the flurry of interleague trading creates some heated bidding wars. Per the league rules:

“FAAB units acquired in this manner cannot be used for bidding purposes until the following week’s transaction period.”

One of the National League owners, BaseballHQ’s Phil Hertz, bought a very solid team at auction, but one that has since been badly bitten by the injury bug. Still, he was just 16 points out of a share of the lead at the All-Star break.

“I came out of the NL Tout draft lacking starting pitchers,” Hertz said. “As a result, I literally wasted half my budget before the season began acquiring starters (Trevor Cahill and David Buchanan) who were out of the rotation by May. Then I got hit with more serious injuries than I can remember before.”

San Diego’s Wil Myers went onto the disabled list in mid-June for the second time. The outfielder elected surgery to remove bone spurs in his wrist. An eight-week diagnosis meant a second-half August return at best. There would be no guarantee as recovery from wrist problems can be slow.

As a result, Hertz decided to reclaim his $16 paid for Myers.

Here is where it gets interesting. Back to the Tout constitution:

“If a DLed player is released in this manner, he will be placed back in the free agent pool and will be available for FAAB acquisition.”

With Father’s Day festivities taking my time, I missed a nice opportunity, but both Tristan H. Cockcroft and Peter Kreutzer noticed Myers on the waiver wire. The two were willing to take a week of zero stats in order to stash the outfielder on the DL starting the following period – until he comes back. Cockcroft made the more aggressive bid, $8, but only had to pay $2 to win. This move could pay off down the road, and even if not, the risk is minuscule.

Once Hertz noticed this, he decided to insert an extra step into the process when he lost another top contributor, Josh Harrison. Knowing he was assured of an $18 reclaim and suspecting another bidding war ahead when Harrison became a free agent, Hertz offered Harrison for sale himself first. Collectively, the league has considerable cash remaining, and sure enough, USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner landed Harrison for $20 FAAB sent to Hertz.

Down with a thumb ligament, Harrison is going to be out until at least late-August, giving Gardner a month of the infielder’s services at best. Still, compared to other alternatives, Gardner likes his move.

“The reason I was willing to do it is two-fold,” he explained. “First, I don’t have as much FAAB as several other owners in our league, so I’m far enough down in the pecking order that my chances of landing an impact player are slim. The second reason is that I don’t see a major influx of talent coming over from the AL at this year’s trade deadline anyway. There are maybe three AL teams you could consider ‘sellers’ at the deadline this year, compared to as many as eight in the NL.

“Getting Harrison for $20 (of my $65 remaining) is a good deal for me because I know he’ll play regularly when he comes off the disabled list, hopefully in another month. Plus, he qualifies at second base, third base and outfield,” Gardner said.

In other words, this has the early appearance of a win-win for both owners.

They say bad luck comes in threes. That seems the case for Hertz’ 2015 NL Tout squad. His third major bad-luck player, David Wright, originally cost $25. The rest of the league is apparently too wary of the third baseman’s back problems, officially spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column – to pay at least $26 to Hertz. As a result, Wright was cashed out.

Surprisingly, Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus made the only bid on the new free agent Wright this week and secured his services for a paltry $1.

In all three cases, Hertz decided to let others take the risk.

“In each of the three cuts, I was reacting not only to the length of time missed, but also to whether the injuries would impact the player when (if?) he returned,” Hertz said. “Information available indicated that performance would be significantly impacted when they were activated.”

In your leagues, if you haven’t considered FAAB reclaim, please do. However, before you jump in the water, also think through how and when they should be allowed.


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-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.

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