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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

When I strictly stay on point with this column - which is increasingly rare – the subject is fantasy baseball rules. I share information about rules I have seen and/or experienced and offer my thoughts to you for possible use in your own leagues.

This week, the topic is the waiver wire, and specifically, the rules associated with filling roster needs. The two leagues I will compare and contrast are both well-known industry competitions – Tout Wars and League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR).

I have been a participant in the former for over a decade, but joined the latter for the first time here in 2016.

In Tout Wars, players can be moved from the active roster to the reserves and back at will – at least prior to the weekly transaction deadline of first pitch on Monday. The size of the reserve rosters was dropped from six to four players a few years back to cut down on prospect hoarding in anticipation of call-ups later in the season.

Another consideration is an unlimited disabled list, from which players can be “cashed in” for a FAAB rebate if the owner so chooses.

The Tout approach, which seems fairly standard, means that when an owner is considering a free agent acquisition each week, he has maximum flexibility. When rostering a player after winning the bidding, the owner can release a player from his active roster or from his reserves. In the latter case, an active player would be sent down to make room on the active roster for the new acquisition. (That assumes there were no openings due to a disabled list assignment.)

LABR is very different. Its rules generally do not allow active players to be reserved. The ramifications of winning a FAAB bid on a player is that he is then stuck in your lineup until injured or sent down to the minor leagues – or until the owner releases him. Streaming of pitchers, for example, is not possible.

(I said “generally” in the prior paragraph because there is a twist. The LABR reserve list of six players as set on draft day have special privileges. They alone can be shifted between active and reserves as often as needed.)

Let’s use a current example to illustrate the differences.

This past Sunday evening, I had interest in the Cincinnati closer situation. My need was especially acute in Tout, because I did not win bids on any established closers on draft day.

The leader in the Reds race to potentially succeed J.J. Hoover – at least the pitcher I perceived to have the best skill – Tony Cingrani, was already owned. That was more a testament to his overall value than a March bet on him becoming the closer. That left Blake Wood and Caleb Cotham, with the slight advantage of both being right-handed. Seeing the former used in the fifth inning the other day moved him out of my consideration.

That left Cotham, for whom I placed a $33 bid. On a basis of $1000, that was not particularly aggressive, but it reflects my shaky confidence level in him. With half the league bidding on him, Cotham went for $83, while Wood remains on the waiver wire, since his conditional-only bids were not met.

I made a conditional bid as well, putting down $12 on David Phelps of Miami, who is moving into late-inning duty, but that offer only brought me second place to the $37 winner.

These bids were placed knowing I could easily lop off my roster an underperformer from among my reserves.

In LABR, I wanted the same two pitchers. However, my decision whether or not to bid was much more difficult. None of my nine regular pitchers could be sent down and kept. The only one who was even a candidate to be released was Brandon Maurer of San Diego, whom I had just watched give up three runs in one inning to St. Louis that very day.

Still, I believe in Maurer’s skills and consider his chances of getting a closing job behind Fernando Rodney to be as good or better than Phelps’ odds of supplanting A.J. Ramos this season or Cotham becoming the man in Cincinnati.

For those reasons, I stood pat. Others among my peers must have felt similarly as Cotham drew just two bids in LABR (compared to six in Tout). Further, the winning offer was just $3 (on a basis of $100), compared to $8.30 in comparable LABR FAAB.

For Phelps, there were also just two LABR offers compared to four in Tout. Both bids were $1 versus $3.70 in equivalent LABR cash.

Both the lesser quantity of bids and the smaller amounts suggest to me the inherent limitations in weekly bidding driven by the LABR rules.

So in your league, if you would like to tamp down the weekly free agent churn and slow down the quantity of bids and their prices, consider the more limiting approach followed in LABR – specifically by requiring all players taken out of the active lineup from week to week to be released – unless injured or demoted to the minor leagues in real life.

I am still new enough with LABR to have not fully formed my opinion about this rule. My gut tells me I like the more wheeler-dealer style in Tout, but I’ve only been through three FAAB cycles to date.

In support of the LABR approach, because the inherent costs for everyone to bid are higher, I think I would have better odds of winning – when I really want a player enough to bid aggressively.

This past week, either of my losing reliever bids in Tout would have been enough to win the desired player in LABR (if on the same pricing scale).

In closing, here is the relevant section from the LABR constitution, in case you would like to consider a change to this approach for 2017.

“Teams may reserve players in one of three ways. The first is through the reserve draft on auction day. Six slots are reserved for this purpose. Players that go onto the disabled list may also be reserved on a separate list. There is no limit to the number of disabled list players that can exist on a roster. Players that are sent to the minors or who are drafted as unsigned free agents can be moved from the active roster to the reserve list as long as the reserve list does not exceed six players. A player can be dropped from the reserve list at any time.

"A player from the original reserve list (from reserve draft) can be moved from active status to the reserve list at any point during the season, provided the reserve list does not exceed six players.”

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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