My original focus in writing this article was to delve into the FAAB chess game played among owners in two National League-only industry leagues as the result of the first major interleague trade of the summer, with lefty Jose Quintana moving from the White Sox to the Cubs.
While that will still occur and will hopefully be illustrative, I want to begin with an admission from a veteran winner of many such competitions, including NL LABR 2016. Derek Carty came into this past weekend with the most FAAB in both NL LABR and NL Tout Wars. In another oddity, in both industry leagues, Carty was exactly 35 points out of a share of the lead.
So, the question was, with the FAAB hammer, does he swing now, or hope for an even better prize in a week or two?
It appeared that Carty’s strategy was the latter, as he did not bid on Quintana in either league.
However, the reason was not what I expected it would be, but let’s be honest, we have all been there – or we are liars.
“Kind of afraid to admit it, but I don't have Quintana right now because I dropped the ball,” Carty explained. The combination of his birthday celebration and taking his first weekend off from work since February led to him losing track of time. As a result, he did not get any bids in.
So, with Carty out of the picture, what happened with Quintana in each league and why?
Let’s look at the top bidders in the context of each league’s standings and their remaining FAAB as of this past Sunday.
NL Tout Wars
The only teams with a realistic chance to win are:
Gray Albright: 105 points
Tristan H. Cockcroft: 95.5 points
Scott Wilderman: 83.5 points
Everyone else: 70 points or less.
Owners with the most FAAB coming into the weekend:
Mike Gianella: $880
Scott Wilderman: $861
Other than Cockcroft, the names are a mismatch, but I was sure that industry league winners Carty and Gianella were not about to let Tristan H. snatch the prize. I was half right.
While there were a number of triple-digit bids, the real battle was between Gianella and Cockcroft. The former bid $866, just enough to edge the latter’s best-possible offer. With Cockcroft second in the league standings, Gianella did all of his mates a favor by the keep-away. Of course, having Quintana on his staff is not a bad result for Mike, either.
Gianella had motivation, but it was not blocking on his mind.
“I'm not going to win, but I do want to avoid the FAAB penalty,” Gianella said.
Mike is referring to Tout Wars’ stick, used to keep owners engaged all season long. Those who finish with less than 60 points in the league standings are docked FAAB money the next season. The amount withheld is $10 per point under 60, on a base stipend of $1000.
Gianella went on to explain further.
“With Johnny Cueto and Kyle Hendricks out and with most of the injured hitters and Starling Marte back, pitching seemed like the best place to put my resources. There are no guarantees that anyone better than Quintana will be traded over, so I took my shot,” the NL 2014 champion concluded.
The situation was similar here as in Tout, in that three teams are head and shoulders above the others in the standings:
Steve Gardner: 97 points
Eric Karabell: 90 points
Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf: 89.5 points
Everyone else: 67 points or less.
Owners with the most FAAB coming into the weekend:
Dalton Del Don: $109
Colton and Wolf: $90
So, the question coming into the bidding was whether Carty or Del Don - or both - would block Quintana from landing on the Karabell or Colton/Wolf rosters.
With the second-most FAAB in NL LABR at $109, Dalton Del Don got his man. “Only” 10 of the league’s 12 owners placed offers.
Not knowing that Carty would be sitting it out, Del Don bid his entire kitty, when $92 would have been enough to beat everyone other than Carty - even Karabell on the tiebreaker.
The by-product of his aggressive winning offer will be costly for Del Don. Currently in last place, 10 ½ points out of 11th, he lost his ability to add any further free agents to plug gaps for the entire remainder of the season. This is due to LABR’s $1 minimum bid rule.
Well, that wouldn’t necessarily be true. If one of his drafted players is injured for the season, he could cash him in, which is how he got over the $100 starting point in the first place. However, it is too late for Del Don - and everyone else. One LABR-unique rule is that no FAAB rebates are offered after the All-Star break.
Further, FAAB cannot be traded in LABR, leaving him in a tough spot with no way to replenish his free agent kitty. That lost $17 was valuable, but he does own Quintana, so there’s that.
Del Don was primarily focused on getting the best player in the here and now.
“As anyone who plays in ‘only’ leagues knows, the waiver wire is always barren,” Del Don said in an understatement. “After losing out on a couple of bids early this year, I decided to hoard my FAAB and wait for the trade deadline and nab an American League player coming over to the NL. My team is in a lot of trouble, whether it be due to injuries or my poor auctioning, so I'm fairly desperate, especially in pitching.
“Quintana has a long track record of success despite his slow start this year, and a move to the NL and the Cubs should help (his first start was a 12:0 K:BB ratio gem). And more importantly, I love grabbing a player now as opposed to the trade deadline, as I'll get a few extra starts, which was one of the main factors in me bidding 100% of my FAAB,” he concluded.
Playing 'What If?'
I couldn’t help but ask Carty what he would have done had last weekend been a regular one in his life.
“I probably would have just gone +1 on the next highest possible and then fished around for trades, since I'm fairly well set for pitching in both leagues,” Carty said.
In other words, in both NL Tout and LABR, Quintana would have moved from the real trade market to the fantasy one!
In closing, thanks to Gianella, Del Don and Carty for sharing their motivations with this league competitor – and all of you.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-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. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.