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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

I’ve said it many times before, and I am certainly not the first – or the last - to make the point. In leagues with free agent allocation budgets (FAAB), spend aggressively early. You know the reason – the sooner you can start accumulating results, the better.

It is easy to say but more difficult to do - effectively.

For example, in National League Tout Wars this season, here are the most expensive April acquisitions, along with the results they have delivered since.

Archie Bradley, $42: 2-3, 5.80 ERA, 1.626 WHIP

Kevin Plawecki, $32: .228, two home runs, 18 RBI

David Buchanan, $27: 2-7, 9.00 ERA, 1.959 WHIP

Trevor Cahill, $27: 0-3. 7.52 ERA, 1.785 WHIP

Now, just to be clear, I am not throwing stones. I readily admit that I placed bids on all three of the above pitchers, but fortunately, others were willing to pay more.

As one would expect, as the season got underway, there was money to spend and owners willing to spend, as indicated in the above. At least in 2015, however, there just weren’t good players to buy.

Or were there?

The real trick is not overspending on long-shots, but instead identifying diamonds in the rough. First-month NL Tout bargain buys included:

Matt Duffy, $4: .342 OBP, 10 home runs, 60 RBI, eight steals, 61 runs

A.J. Ramos, $1: 23 saves, 2.70 ERA, 0.988 WHIP

They don’t even have to be sexy.

Jeff Francoeur, $1: .300 OBP, 12 home runs, 42 RBI

After all, you can have the opportunity to make a lot of $1 mistakes and still not spend $42.

Granted, the main reason the league leaders are in those positions is due to the quality of their draft day selections, but I also do not believe it is coincidence that the first and second-place teams are the ones who added Duffy, Ramos and Francoeur in April. And they cost Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus and Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN a grand total of $6.

It should go without saying that the top-scoring teams avoided the early big-money mistakes.

Fast forward to the interleague trade deadline. Partially because Tout owners had rostered most of the top prospects in the NL long before they were called up, there was still a lot of FAAB remaining on the table in July.

Here is where the big money went, along with July-August results since joining their new NL teams:

Yoenis Cespedes, $78: .331 OBP, eight home runs, 23 RBI, four steals, 20 runs

Jose Reyes, $78: .287 OBP, three home runs, 12 RBI, five steals, 10 runs

Brandon Moss, $75: .347 OBP, two home runs, four RBI

Nick Swisher, $46: .362 OBP, three home runs, 11 RBI

Michael Bourn, $46: .228 OBP, no home runs, one RBI, two steals, no runs

Sadly, the poorest performer, Bourn, was my big purchase, but this article isn’t about me.

Other than Cespedes playing out of his mind in his first month as a New York Met, Reyes delivered the best August counting stats from among this group of pricey acquisitions.

Reyes’ owner is none other than Gianella. By spending his money smartly early, picking up bargains like Ramos and Francoeur, but not wasting it during the season, he was able to conserve enough cash to add a strong contributor in Reyes for the home stretch.

Is it surprising that Gianella has been in first place for months?

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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