Well, at least so far. While American League fantasy players were in FAAB wars for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel two weeks ago and Huston Street either last or next weekend (depending on which stat service your league uses), there just haven’t been comparable players for National League owners to add to their teams.
And that won’t change much this coming weekend following the Chase Headley trade because Yangervis Solarte, while a great story in April for the Yankees, doesn’t rate to help the Padres as much. Yes, if they let him play third base right away, he might have some appeal in deeper NL-only leagues, but it is more likely that he will have the same limited appeal as Jordany Valdespin did this week after he was called up by the Marlins.
Valdespin was an interesting case for many leagues this week. While he will be playing second base for the Marlins, he was primarily an outfielder for the Mets last year and thus only qualifies there this year for leagues with 20+ games played eligibility rules. Thus Monday, I had to field a question from an NL Tout player about his eligibility, which would normally give a player called up from the Minors only the eligibility for the position played the most times in the Minors this year, but goes by games played last year if the player was in the big leagues for more than five games.
However, old school leagues that still play “book rules” (as defined by the original Rotisserie League Baseball written by Peter Golenbock in 1984) get to switch a player after just his first game played and thus have Valdespin at 2B/OF if they added him in FAAB this weekend.
By the way, there is a distinction that younger rotisserie players need to be aware of because while FAAB is used by most fantasy leagues to award free agents each week, including LABR and Tout as illustrated in our weekly reports in Mastersblog, the old school leagues have weekly “call ups” to fill holes and don’t use FAAB until there are players traded from the other league. Then, after the All-Star break, open FAAB allows bidding on both crossover players and players called up in that league, which is followed by free callups if there are players left who didn’t get bids.
If your AL league was allowed to bid on Street last weekend, you know what he went for – and you aren’t using CBS where his bids weren’t processed but pushed to the following week just as Samardzija and Hammel were previously. Apparently, one day to get a player’s new team listed doesn’t also register with their FAAB mechanism. If you haven’t bid on Street yet, you noted that in our LABR AL report, he went for $57 while in Tout AL, the winning bid was $36 reduced by Vickrey from the $74 bid he got.
It will be interesting to see if there are believers in a Headley turnaround in pinstripes or whether there are teams that desperate at 3B/CI to bid more than he will likely be worth.
But those NL players will likely still be waiting.
Well, unless Solarte plays every day for the Padres this week…and is as hot as he was in April.
Yes. I know most MLB teams have played over 90 games, so the All-Star break is two weeks after the real halfway point. But it is the time when you have four days with no games to watch, no league standings that change, and when you can really spend a few hours looking at the standings in each category for any/all of your teams.
Your team’s total is not the key this week. Where you stand in each category and how many points you can win – and lose in each category is the way to figure out what moves to make this week to get your team into contention.
If you are already near the top of your league, you should still be doing this to make sure you stay there or improve or protect your position in the standings.
Start by looking at the distribution in each category. How many home runs you need to pick up one point, two points or more is more important than the fact you only have three points right now. You also need to factor in the status of your players. Do you have a player on the DL who is coming back this week or at the end of the month? Look at this HR category:
Splendid Splinter League HR
|Church of Baseball||126||10|
|Hook, Line & Sinker||83||2.5|
|Here Come Da Judge||83||2.5|
That is through Sunday, July 13, but I have Mark Trumbo coming back from the DL this week, so that automatically adds 1.5 points. More importantly is can I overtake Triple Play and gain two and a half points without making a trade? Just as important is realizing that both Judge and DBalls have traded out already so if based on other categories I needed to consider trading Trumbo or another power hitter I have only one and a half points of downside at the worst and I can likely pick up half a point without him.
Do that with each category and see what you think your potential is. Then if you are in a trading league, you can better see what your options are. If you are not in a trading league – take all the NFBC style leagues, you will still have a better idea as to what type of players to look for on the free agent list or which players you can sit in certain weeks.
The other thing to take a careful look at is your current rate of HR or SB or SV per week. Are you already gaining in certain categories? In one of my NFBC leagues, I drafted Aroldis Chapman, Steve Cishek and Jose Veras as my closers. Obviously, for the first month and a half of the season, I had just Cishek and his seven saves, which put me severely behind in the category. Today, here is what the saves category looks like:
Slowly, I have made up ground and starting a few weeks ago the saves each week got me closer to the teams ahead of me or gained a point. This weekend or next week, I will pass the team ahead of me, and next up, the team with 49 has David Robertson and Zach Britton and could start to lose points if Britton were to be replaced. By the same token, I could overtake him if that didn’t happen but the Rangers trade Joakim Soria, as I recently added Neftali Feliz. To get more than two points, I would need the teams tied at 57 to lose a closer. The point in a no-trade league is to find another closer or maybe (given roster space) to add the next in line of one of those teams.
That may seem difficult, but what is the alternative?
You need to put in some real work to improve your chances of cashing. Yes, I need 15 or 20 points to cash in those two leagues.
But that is well worth playing for, and gaining a point or two or more in each category is possible.
But only if you try.
The trade last Friday that sent Cubs pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the AL West leading Oakland Athletics did a lot more than make the A’s clear favorites to win the division and increase their chances of getting to the World Series.
It also created huge bidding in AL-only leagues where competing teams had a chance to dramatically improve their pitching staffs without trading away any players.
Here are two AL-only keeper league examples where the difference in price is determined by league rules which may be very similar to your league. If you play in an AL-only redraft league, you may want to look at the bidding in LABR’s AL league and the Tout AL league posted in MastersBlog.
In my 11-team AL keeper league, we did have lower FAAB balances than we normally do when several of the teams tend to save their FAAB dollars for interleague trades which might deliver stud crossover players from the NL. There were only three teams that had more than $63 available last Saturday, two of those being contending teams this year and one being a team that has already sold off expiring players and rebuilding who would have no interest in a crossover player who couldn’t be traded or kept for next season. There would have been a third team, a contender that normally hoards FAAB, but they had spent $68 to acquire Kendrys Morales when he was signed by Minnesota.
There was also a contender who had $59 left, so the two contending teams both correctly bid $60 on both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The funny thing was that one has Samardzija first while the other preferred Hammel, so they both got the pitcher they wanted.
Now in this league, players traded from the NL as well as players like Morales or Stephen Drew, or even Tony Sipp, who weren’t available in either the auction or minor league draft are not eligible to be kept next year or to be traded within the league for the balance of this year.
Crossover players don’t have the typical free agent salary against our in season $300 cap of $5 but are assigned a salary based on their FAAB price as shown below:
a. FA Bids $1-5 $5 (like normal Free Agents)
b. FA Bids $6-19 $X (the bid amount)
c. FA Bids $20+ $20 against the cap
But some leagues like Don Drooker’s AL Bowling League use the original “Rotisserie League Handbook” rules where the crossover player’s FAAB amount is their salary (against a $310 cap) and their contract for 2015 if they are kept. In addition, winning bids over ten dollars guarantee a two-year contract at that price (unless bought out).
In that league, the winning bid for Samardzija was $29, with underbids of 26, 23, 19, 15 and 10. The winning bid for Hammel was $20 with underbids of 19, 15, 13, 10, 10 and 7. Also in that league, normal free agents are $10 against the cap instead of the $5 my league uses and are acquired as weekly callups, so FAAB is only used for crossover bids or players like Morales.
Hopefully, this helps you judge prices in your league, whether for the new Oakland pitchers or for future players traded from the National League.
This is another area of roster management that can present fantasy owners with tough decisions.
We looked earlier at setting up minor league drafts to acquire your “Farm” players. But each league is different about how and when you can or have to activate them if they are called up to their major league team.
I strongly favor activation rules that give the fantasy owner a long enough time period to decide whether the player might have enough impact to help them this year, but I would not allow owners to keep the player as a minor leaguer if he is up most of the year.
In my AL keeper league, teams can activate called up minor leaguers as soon as possible (immediately if they have a natural opening – player on the DL or sent to the Minors even if that is a midweek move or on the next Monday when lineups are set for the week) or they can wait a reasonable period of time to make sure the minor leaguer is going to stick with the big club and not just sent down with the next set of roster moves.
We used to use 30 days of continuous major league service (before September) as the trigger for a required decision on activating the player to your active or reserve roster or releasing them to the free agent pool. Last year, we unanimously agreed to change the 30-day rule to the first half of the season, so if a Farm player was activated by his major league club after the All-Star break, our owners could still activate them if they wanted to but no longer had to activate the minor league for that season.
The danger if there is a quick activation rule is that the player may be sent back down to the minor leagues when you had to activate him. The following year, he would then be in his second year and have to be frozen as a minor leaguer whether he made the opening day roster or not. Our new rules offer teams the best balance.
In the NL keeper league in Los Angeles that I play in, the activation rule is more lenient. If a player is activated in April, the 30-day rule applies, but if activated after May 1, the team does not have to activate him for the rest of the year – but of course may do so if they choose. In that league, I have a good shot to finish in 5th place, which would be the first minor league draft pick next year. But if one of the top four teams were to have enough misfortune to fall, I could conceivably still cash. So this April, one of my minor league draft picks was San Diego RHP Jesse Hahn, who I had planned on drafting in the AL until Tampa Bay traded him to San Diego in the Logan Forsythe deal. With such a thin chance to cash, it doesn’t pay for me to activate Hahn to a strong pitching staff led by Jeff Samardzija, Hyun-Jin Ryu and my best buy of the auction, a $3 Josh Beckett.
But you never know when there are decisions to be made. Yesterday in the AL league, I had Houston outfielder Domingo Santana brought up from Triple-A Oklahoma City, where in 319 at-bats, he hit .304 with 13 home runs, 52 RBI and five stolen bases. The 21-year-old fly chaser from the Dominican Republic was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, but he came to the Astros in 2011 as part of the Hunter Pence trade. Santana does strike out a fair amount – 99 times this year with 40 walks – and as a result has been compared to fellow Astros rookie George Springer.
But if he looks like he will be even close to as productive as Springer and stay in left field in Houston, I will have an extra hitter for my attempt to be in the money this year. Actually, like my trade for Ellsbury, it may give me multiple options – simply replace Endy Chavez as my sixth outfielder/UT or allow me to trade Adam Jones, who has an expiring contract this year, for some pitching or middle infield help.
First, let’s see if he can stick with the Astros.
It is almost halfway through the season and in many leagues it is decision time for fantasy baseball teams. Make a trade to try and cash this year or sell off an expiring contract or overvalued player for a good young player, or minor league prospects, and/or a higher minor league draft pick next spring?
I had this decision with my AL-only league over the last few weeks and finally made a trade to try and improve my chances this year but with a plan that might well be viable for your fantasy teams as well.
In the 11-team Great American Rotisseleague, I just moved into 6th place last week with 57 points. As of Monday, that is five points behind the 5th place team, 11.5 points behind the 4th place team and 13 points behind the current 2nd place team. The current league leader – not entirely but largely because he won the bid for Masahiro Tanaka at $31 on draft day – is now well clear of the pack with 85.5 points.
So why would I give up my 2nd round pick in the 2015 minor league draft and Tommy Milone, won at auction this spring, for just $3 when I could stand pat and be the favorite to stay in sixth and get the second pick in the first round of next year’s minor league draft?
First, I think acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury for Milone and the draft pick swap (2nd for 4th) gives me the potential to pick up enough points to compete for 4th place or better. Todd’s ROS projections for Ellsbury – 48 R, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 25 SB and a .289 BA would give him the third highest value amongst American League hitters – conveniently right between two of my other outfielders, Mike Trout and Adam Jones.
Conservatively, my team should gain 9-10 points if Ellsbury stays healthy (BA+2, R+2, HR+1, RBI+1-2, SB+3), so you can see why I think I have that upside. Also, Ellsbury is replacing an empty Ichiro slot in my outfield. I should also get a boost to the offense if/when Trevor Plouffe gets back to work and maybe if Justin Smoak can return and crack my lineup.
But there is another possibility with making this trade now.
I don’t doubt that some of my competitors ahead of me will make a trade to improve (the team in 5th place traded for Robinson Cano this weekend while I was getting Ellsbury). So if in late July I am not on target to move up in the standings, I will have put some additional points between my team and the group behind me and would be able to trade Adam Jones, who is in the last year of his contract, and/or Plouffe, who is also headed back into the auction pool next year, to a contender looking for some offensive help. I should have little downside at that point – at worst a drop from fifth to sixth, which translates into the first or second minor league pick next year. I also have an expiring contract on Fernando Rodney and could move him for assets for next year or beyond. Heck I could also deal Ellsbury if I got the right offer.
Billy Beane once said the season is divided into three parts, and while he was talking about his major league club, it is not much different for your fantasy team.
Part I is April and May, where you find out exactly what you have and what your expectations should be.
Part II is June and July, when you make the moves to improve where you need to for a run at the pennant (or get an early start on rebuilding).
Part III is August and September, where your decisions allow your roster to compete, perhaps adding a player in September – my league does allow roster expansion, adding a 24th active player.
Part III is also where final trades are made for the finishing run.
Or for restocking the cupboard.
But making a solid trade now, even if you are not yet contending, can give you two ways to improve – get to a spot to contend/cash this year or create the need for the contending teams to try and improve their rosters, giving you more trading partners in July/August.
One caveat in talking about any kind of trades is the need for clear cut trade regulations for the league. Without those, there will always be problems – some big enough to destroy a league.
FARM players, minor league prospects, require additional rules for the draft/activations/salaries etc. We looked at some of those last week, but one additional rule is that each team gets a specified number of minor league draft picks each year. So a team can’t just trade for an extra draft pick. There always needs to be an even exchange of draft picks in any trade.
While any individual league can use whatever system its members agree to, there are two formats used in the majority of keeper leagues.
The first is as discussed last week where each team gets a specified number of minor league draft picks each year – whether that is five, as I discussed in my league, or three or any other number.
Tied to that is whatever limit on total minor league players your league does or does not specify. Again, in my AL keeper league, we draft five each year but can keep as many as we want (to pay for as each frozen minor leaguer from last year is five dollars to the prize fun). But in the NL keeper league I play in, you can retain a maximum of eight minor league players (and have to pay ten dollars for each one).
There are also some leagues that have only three minor league slots. So if next year you have two you want to keep, you can only make one draft pick. On the other hand, you may have promoted or traded or released all three of last year’s minor leaguers and thus get three new players.
In keeper leagues with FARM players, it is not only the current minor league players but next year’s draft picks that are the currency of the realm in most trades. That makes perfect sense since a team that is in contention this year probably can’t afford to trade good players from its roster – it needs them to compete. If they are light on minor leaguers or don’t have FARM players the rest of the league values, then they are going to have to pay with next year’s 1st or maybe 2nd round ML draft pick.
Here is an example from an AL league last year – Team A trades its 2014 1st round ML draft pick to Team B for Prince Fielder (51D12) and its 2014 5th round ML draft pick. Obviously, Team B wasn’t going to keep Fielder at that price and turned the acquired pick into Texas second baseman Rougned Odor at April’s minor league draft this year.
Sometimes, the draft pick upgrade is not as great but needed to satisfy both teams with the final trade, as seen by another 2013 trade – Team C trading Jose Bautista (13C14), Jon Lester (25D12), Addison Reed (7D12) and a 2014 4th round ML draft pick to Team D for Manny Machado (5D13), Brian Matusz (5F13), ML player Nick Franklin and 2014’s 3rd round ML draft pick.
And it doesn’t always have to be the competing team that gives up the higher draft pick. Here is an example of that this year with both teams getting creative to achieve their objectives – Team E traded Hiroki Kuroda (7D12), Sean Rodriguez (10F14) and their 2015 1st round ML pick to Team F for Matt Wieters (21D14), Aaron Crow (10F14) and their 2015 3rd round ML draft pick. This allowed Team F to add another serviceable SP and get a two round draft upgrade next year while Team E bet on the fact that Wieters will be ready to go as the Orioles DH next year but still qualify at catcher (22 games this year before leaving).
I mentioned earlier the teams with only three minor league player slots. Our sports memorabilia columnist and expert Don Drooker plays in an old school NL-only league with that format. As a result of earlier trades, Don had picks #3 and #15 in his minor league draft this spring. In March, he traded Brandon Beachy and those two picks for the #1 pick in the draft with which he selected Cubs prospect Kris Bryant.
My league also allows trading multiple draft picks (although as I said an equal number) and often times it is both upgrades that allow teams to agree on a deal. The only thing we don’t allow is the trading of draft picks for more than the following year.
All of these aspects of having a minor league draft and being able to trade draft picks as well as players allows more fun and strategies in building your franchise.
I think your league would really like it, and here or on the message boards, I will be glad to answer any questions or help craft the rules your league will need.
I had several questions about last week’s log about draft picks with people wanting to know how to set up a minor league draft for their league. So let’s get to work.
While these suggestions are mainly for AL, NL or even mixed keeper leagues, you can certainly use them for a redraft league with easy modifications.
First, the salaries for your “FARM” must complement your auction and free agent salaries. In “normal” $260 auction leagues, I strongly maintain that all free agents (and reserve picks if you use those at the draft) should have a $10 retention salary, which in my shorthand would be 10F14 – a ten dollar free agent acquired in 2014. In keeper leagues where a drafted or free agent player is kept for three years at the same price, you want your minor league players to have a lower salary than a major league player you are acquiring via either FAAB or waivers or whatever your league uses.
Speaking of FAAB, I am strongly against using the FAAB acquisition price to determine a player's retention salary. It just makes no sense – if the player is keepable (in my league that would mean being on an AL roster or on an AL team’s minor league roster), then if you spend $100 in desperation, that player couldn’t possibly be retained. By the same token, teams lower in the standings can’t be adding players for one dollar and carrying those salaries forward. Just use $10 like the founding fathers did.
Another note for keeper leagues is the difference between the player’s retention salary (price he would be kept for next year) and his salary against the salary cap, which all auction keeper leagues should have. I am old school there, using a $300 cap for a $260 league. Yes, you can use $325 or even $350 but that much room is just asking for problems with dump trades that you mitigate with a tighter salary cap. Free agents should count $5 this year against the salary cap but have a $10 salary if kept for next year.
The AL and NL keeper leagues that I have played in for over 25 years both use a $5 salary for drafted minor leaguers. Actually, my GAR AL league splits that to $5 for hitters and $3 for pitchers, which helps balance the minor league drafts.
Most leagues I am familiar with restrict the minor league pool to players who are under a minor league contract. Some specify they must still have Rookie of the Year eligibility. Personally, I favor a wide open policy there, especially if you are going to allow an unlimited number of FARM players, which really gives teams the ability to build a good franchise. Your league will have to define those parameters when you codify all of this to add to your league rules.
Again, I favor excluding all players from foreign leagues (there is one exception as some players in the Mexican League are allowed to play there even though they are under contract to minor league teams in the US). Your mileage may vary – have to keep the lawyers happy especially as I bury a Happy 17th Birthday greeting to my granddaughter Raven Nicole Mills in Bothell, Washington.
Okay, you have defined the player pool for your minor league draft and the salaries they will have once they are activated in your league. In my league, if they are still FARM players, I try and use a M13 designation which would mean they were drafted as a minor leaguer in 2013, for example. Once they are activated, that would be changed to 5DYr for drafted in that year at a five dollar salary. Most of the stat services have an easy way to establish and amend those designations just like auction/free agent salaries. To go back a minute to free agent salaries, you don’t want those cheaper FAAB bids to subvert the pricing of your minor league players, thus the $10 retention salary.
Activation rules differ widely. Obviously, if a FARM player makes an opening day roster, he must be activated to a team’s freeze list at the auction. If they are activated after opening day, here are two suggestions:
1. If the player is activated to the major leagues prior to the All-Star break, they must be transacted (activated, reserved or waived) the transaction (Monday) day after 30 consecutive days on a ML roster. If they are brought up any time after the beginning of the break, they can be held as a FARM player but of course could be activated if their owner wanted to start their salary clock.
2. If the player is activated in April, the same 30 days (you don’t want to have to activate a player if he is only up for a week or two and then sent down) applies. But if they are activated in May or any time later in the year, they can be retained as a FARM player until the following year.
September roster expansion must be dealt with because you don’t want unowned minor leaguers up for just a month to be added as free agents when they should be in the minor league draft the following April. We assign all September free agents a $25 retention salary (25S13) which keeps that from happening.
Okay, we have everything now except the procedures to get your draft order. What I do not want to use is the lazy worst-to-first route. You want all the teams in your league to manage their roster as best they can. Sure, they may be in rebuilding mode, but they should still have an “active” roster, because if even one team's roster is filled with DL and ML players and not accumulating stats, they are distorting the stats in categories where the teams fighting to cash are trying for more points. You don’t want that to affect your league's pennant race.
What you should do is give the first pick in next year’s minor league draft (always held after opening day, which hopefully your auction is as well but a player must be clearly defined as to whether he is actually in the major leagues or in the minors) to the team that is the first team not to cash in your league. So if you pay four places, that would be the team that finishes in fifth place.
In a 12-team league, then your draft order would be 5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-4-3-2-1.
Next week, we will look at trading minor league draft picks.
While most of the people interested in minor league prospects are in AL or NL-only keeper leagues, there are some redraft leagues that allow teams to pick three minor league players after their auction and then if those players are not activated, they can carry them over to the next season.
This is a nice idea to blend in a little forward looking twist for team management and it also gives some rationale for trades which are often hard to make in redraft leagues. You should broach it to your league mates if you feel your redraft league is getting a little stale.
Another idea to help keep people interested in the top minor league prospects or even a non-prospect at the beginning of the year that might soon be able to help your fantasy team is to allow teams to acquire minor leaguers via FAAB. This is best saved for larger leagues with very short benches because then there is so much value for the roster slot that teams at the top of the league will have a hard time adding a Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Dylan Bundy or Micah Johnson. But the teams lower in the standings might take a shot on one of them, hoping that if they come up soon they could help them move up in the standings.
But keeper leagues are where minor leaguers have the most value, and I thought as we are now in Super 2 days with Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals young outfielder, and Houston first baseman Jon Singleton recently called up, I would look at the last two seasons of first-round draft picks in an AL-only league.
Mind you, this league has very deep FARM rosters with teams able to keep minor league prospects previously acquired for five dollars each year and then drafting five new players each year. So it is not unusual for a team to have a stable of 20 American League prospects (although the average is probably 10-12). Teams in this league can and often do draft top college and high school prospects, hoping to catch a Carlos Correa in the process but knowing they lose the player if drafted by an NL team.
In 2013, here was the first round:
1.01 Addison Russell, SS, Oakland
1.02 Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston
1.03 George Springer, OF, Houston
1.04 Trevor Bauer, P, Cleveland
1.05 Courtney Hawkins, OF, Chicago
1.06 Delino Deshields, 2B, Houston
1.07 Austin Wilson, OF, College
1.08 Bruce Rondon, P, Detroit
1.09 Anthony Gose, OF, Toronto
1.10 Kyle Zimmer, P, Kansas City
1.11 Adalberto Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City
Bauer, Springer and Gose were already activated by their teams in this league and Singleton (if not traded this week) likely will be activated next week.
Here are the minor league picks from this April:
1.01 Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas
1.02 Trea Turner, SS, College
1.03 Johan Santana, P, MIN (>BAL)
1.04 Colby Lewis, P, Texas
1.05 Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago
1.06 D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle
1.07 Alex Jackson, OF, High School
1.08 Henry Owens, P, Boston
1.09 Kohl Stewart, P, Minnesota
1.10 Scott Diamond, P, Minnesota
1.11 Devon Travis, 2B, Detroit
Yes, you read some of those older names right – the flip side to those looking younger are owners who are specifically looking for help this year and hoping a veteran pitcher who is on a minor league contract (not on DL or in extended spring training without a contract) will be brought up and bolster a roster or be a nice keeper for next year.
As the Trea Turner and Alex Jackson owners can attest, it will also make this Thursday a bit like Christmas morning – well as long as their player doesn’t wind up being an NLump of coal.
Many years ago, between the Mastersballs, I introduced readers to “Rotisserie Baseball Math.”
No, not another sabermetric stat for Brian Kenney to proselytize, but a different way to maximize the value of rotisserie baseball trades.
In many leagues where trading is allowed, it does affect auction/draft strategies in that should you be unable to get enough of any counting stat(s) at the draft but happen to accumulate a strong surplus in another category, you know that you will be able to translate the surplus even if you are dealing for cents on the dollar value wise.
So if you failed to get a good closer at your draft, you aren’t restricted to spending all your FAAB to get one of the new (usually temporary) closers in season, but can trade your extra stolen bases for some saves. Thus many trades are need for need.
But I want you to look deeper than just getting more points in the category you are trading for. While there are some instances where you just have one good prospective trading partner, it is far more likely that you will have several suitors for your Dee Gordon this year. Sure, you want to see what the best return for the Dodger speedster is, but I want you to look at the category positions of your trading partners. If you do it right, you may be able to “double the category points” in your trade.
In its simplest form, it is a variation of "Addition by Subtraction" for rotisserie scoring for your team. The premise is that while more points in a given category for your team results in a higher place in the league standings, so too are fewer points for one or more of your opponents in one or more categories.
Here is an outdated but still strong example of this type of trade:
Here were standings for the Cannonball Run III American League.
|1||Pt. Loma Quahogs||82|
|7||Beverly Hills Coyotes||65|
|12||Silver Lake Lookouts||41.5|
Note how close the teams are, especially from 9th at 62 points all the way up to 2nd at 76.0. And of course some of the categories are so close that point totals and places can shift from day to day.
Now let’s look at two categories – Strikeouts
If St. Paul could trade one of his premier closers (they were Mariano Rivera or Joakim Soria but could just as easily be David Robertson and Greg Holland today) and trade him to Scarsdale for a SP who would add a decent amount of strikeouts, he could not only gain four-plus points in K (and take away a point each from Framingham and Cape Cod), but Scarsdale, with the additional saves, would take away another point from Framingham and Kilbourne. With any additional improvement in other categories, this one trade would put him in a battle for 2nd place in the league with only one point of downside.
There is also the possibility of making a trade which doesn’t gain your team any categorical points but improves your position in the league standings!
Yes, you read that correctly. If your main competition loses points, you will have more of a lead or gain ground on a team ahead of you, even if you don’t gain points. The way you can do that is to find a specific trading partner. Let’s say you can trade saves for stolen bases in your league. If you trade your saves to a team that is currently behind your targeted opponent so that they may overtake them in the standings, you will have a net gain even if your side of the trade does not produce a gain in the SB category.
Let’s go back to Dee Gordon and his current 30 stolen bases. Here are the standings from a 2014 league, as of Monday.
And now the stolen base category where Hippos own Dee Gordon.
Look how much flexibility there is in considering where to trade Gordon. Any team below Canadian Bacon would work in terms of not only taking a point away from him or preventing him from gaining a point. Hippos can gain points in several categories – HR (and only one home run ahead of the Canadian), Runs (4th but only four behind Canadian in 2nd), Saves (tied for 5th with Canadian), or Wins (4th with 32 but three-way tie for 1-2-3 with 33 including Canadian and Flush). So lots of choices to help the aqueous hog hold onto first place.
So when you make trades in your leagues, look beyond the ability to add points in one category – you may be able to “gain” in two or more categories just by picking the right team to trade with.
Simple “Rotisserie” Math.
You may have seen an observation attributed to Ron Shandler that the teams in 1st through 4th place in leagues at the beginning of May are 80% likely to finish as the leaders at the end of the season.
I am not here to argue Ron’s “research” (although I would love to see it) but suggest it might only apply to non-mixed leagues where there is no trading. Even then, some slow starters coupled with one key crossover player could easily move a team from the second division to a money spot.
More importantly, let’s look at the ways you can significantly improve your team in a keeper league.
And in doing this I am going to suggest it can’t be a 1984 “Rotisserie League Baseball” book rules league, where you can’t bench a player or drop or replace (unless he is on the DL) for weekly lineup changes.
1. Realistic Team Evaluation – you can’t really decide on how to get someplace unless you know where you want to get to and how you are going to get there. Not that May category standings are etched in stone, but you do need to know where you really need help. If you are very low in stolen bases but have Mike Trout and almost any other minor SB threat on your team, you are going to improve in swipes. If you have players who have started very slowly but have a track record and are not dealing with an injury, you have some regression upward coming.
2. A Little Math Work – no, you don’t have to know calculus or be an Excel wizard but you do have to break down weekly numbers in your league (and by the way, I can’t really help because every league is radically different) to see how many points you might be able to add. Take Strikeouts for one example – How many SP vs RP are you currently playing? If you trotting out seven starting pitchers each week and are still buried in strikeouts, you have too many Kyle Lohses or Mark Buehrles on your staff. So don’t trade for Clayton Kershaw and try to pick up five points in that category (unless it is very tightly bunched – see #1). By the way, in looking at the categories this way you should completely leave BA, ERA and WHIP alone – you are either going to improve in those categories or you are not. Sure, you can do simple math – we are one-quarter through the season and your ERA is 4.900 – What do you need to get to 3.60? Well, you would need to have about a 3.17 ERA for the rest of the year. Reasonable? Probably not, so
3. Accumulate All the Counting Stats You Can – Either you can get enough points in HR/R/RBI/SB/W/SV/K to add in whatever you get in the ratio columns to win your league. And in keeper leagues, you can trade off your excess late in the season to help bolster another category. Even if you take ten cents on the dollar for extra stolen bases, it may be a small amount of RBI that will gain you another point or two (yes, back to the math work which must be continually reviewed).
Okay, I know you knew all those, but please read them again later because 95% of players don’t remember to remember them (Yogi Berra).
4. Spend your FAAB – down to whatever minimal levels you need in your particular league. There is no guarantee that even if you have enough FAAB units left, you would win the best crossover player to your AL or NL-only league. First, there is always the guy who hoards his units. Second, you do not have (and nobody else does either) any idea when that player is going to arrive or if the first one is really the one you need. Right now, you can make significant changes in your roster via free agents. Let’s stop to take a look at what I mean.
American League Examples
Weekend before May 5 - you could have added Steve Pearce, Eduardo Escobar or Grant Green. Pearce was a monster for that one week; Escobar still playing most every day and at SS or 3B; Green qualified at second base but will add outfield and may survive Kole Calhoun’s imminent arrival or be reservable.
Weekend before May 12 – you could have added Robbie Ray, James Jones or Erik Bedard. Again, Ray was great the week before (if you could add minor league players – can’t in my AL) but good that week and gets another start this week. Jones is contributing good average and some swipes for a weak outfield slot and Bedard has been excellent lately (not originally when I picked him up and then had to drop him).
Weekend before May 19 – you could have added Nick Tepesch, Kyle Blanks or Chase Whitley. Tepesch, who showed a little something last year, had been lights out in the Minors this year and for now has a spot in the Rangers rotation. Blanks, even on the short end of a first base platoon, could get 300 at-bats and double-digit home runs. I don’t know about Whitley, but that was a nice first outing and a starting pitcher you can add at this point is silver, if not gold, if they pan out.
Weekend before May 26 – Stephen Drew may be available this weekend, if not the next. (Note I don’t think he is as good as others do, but he is better than many of the players that AL-only owners have in their SS/MI slot).
Allegorically, I added at least one of those players each week and have moved from 11th place to 8th and if I just add a point or two each week, I will end up in the money in a very tough AL-only league.
Save a dollar for each week left to play. Or better yet, get your league to allow zero dollar bids after you use all your FAAB – you won’t get the best players but will always be able to add a catcher to replace an injured player or a middle reliever to use, and this really lets all the teams in the league compete all year long.
5. Trade for What You Now Need - if you do a good job with #4 early when trades are harder to make, you are much better positioned to make both minor and major trades to bolster weak positions in your lineup or bolster a specific category. Some of these early pickups may not be the players you need for the finish but may look much better as keepers to the teams you need to trade with.
6. Trade to Take Points Away – the column in the archives is Addition by Subtraction (if you can’t find it, don’t worry, it will be the subject of next week’s column).
Do every single one of these things and I guarantee you more fun in managing your team. I can’t guarantee you finish in the money, but you will have a much better chance to do so if you play hard.
Look, you can’t win every year. Your team is often not as good as you thought at the end of the auction, but you can always manage aggressively and try and contend. And in a keeper league, you always have the fallback option of trading assets to the contending teams in July to bolster your 2015 roster.
Not all leagues are the same, so while in fact I say should have been picked up, I am for the most part referring to non-mixed leagues. But, if you play in big money mixed leagues, I am going to suggest you would be much better with in-season pickups if you played in one of each mono league.
The reason is that with much greater penetration into the player pool, you are actually watching every time the Minnesota Twins change shortstops – okay, you aren’t going to bid on everyone, but the point is that being that familiar with the AL and NL player pools would put some potential mixed league free agents on your radar before you need to bid on them in the mixed leagues.
Let’s look at some free agents who were picked up last weekend who I hope are already on your teams or that you will consider adding this coming weekend.
Robbie Ray, SP, Detroit Tigers – Ray was the key minor leaguer that the Tigers got from Washington in the Doug Fister trade. Not highly regarded as a pitching prospect, the Tigers had played against him in 2013 and not fared well, which put him on their radar. Their trading for him should have at least made us question what they saw, and his start this year at Triple-A Toledo – 3-2 with a 1.59 ERA with just five walks in 28+ innings while striking out 21 batters gave them the reason to bring him up last week for his first major league start, filling in for Anibal Sanchez. Ray performed pretty well in that game, giving up just one earned run over 5 1/3 innings while striking out five, walking one and getting the victory. That was good enough to get another start on Sunday (six scoreless innings giving up just four hits and a walk while striking out two), and while there were several who might not have added him last weekend, I tried to, believing he would get one more start this week. And even though he will likely be sent down after that, it is an AL-only league where he will be reservable, and he will be back. By the way, while many of you play in leagues where he would not have been a legal pickup on Sat-Sun May 3-4, others are not, and in a 16-team mixed league where minor leaguers can be added, my team did just that with not many starters available.
Steve Pearce, 1B, Baltimore Orioles – Pearce was back on the Orioles' active roster on May 1, so I added him that weekend in an AL-only league and he rewarded my team with three home runs. Yes, he may have a tough time finding at-bats with Chris Davis back. No, I am not suggesting you would have added him over C.J. Cron in mixed leagues. But, we do need to be aware of some of these quick fixes.
Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays – Odorizzi was dropped in many mixed leagues and in some AL leagues where I would have suggested more patience if he was reservable or if you had better options on your free agent list or your roster. But, he did respond very well to the threat of losing his spot in the Rays’ rotation and left last week’s game against the Cleveland Indians leading 2-0 with a chance for the W after giving up only five hits and two walks in those five shutout innings while striking out a career high 11 batters. Of course, that many strikeouts forced him to throw a lot of pitches, which led to his early exit, but you still have to like the effort and look at the possibility he may be worth the add.
Danny Santana, SS, Minnesota Twins – Santana was just a 23-year-old infield prospect coming into spring training this year, and while he had improved his batting average each of the last three minor league seasons, it was his 30 stolen bases that made him worth a note. Santana was only hitting .268 at Triple-A Rochester with no home runs, seven RBI and four swipes. But, he was hitting .384 in his first five games when I bid on him Saturday in an AL-only keeper league. Admittedly, while I will play him only as long as he keeps hitting or stays up, with that speed he could be a keeper in that league if he were the starting shortstop for the Twins next March. I don’t see him as a mixed league add unless he starts running a lot for Minnesota, but even then, you would need a pretty weak SS/MI slot to roster him.
James Jones, OF, Seattle Mariners - Jones is back up for his second tour with the big club after Seattle sent Abraham Almonte to the Minors to see if he could get fixed. Jones, meanwhile, gives the Mariners a better defender in centerfield and adds his best tool, speed, to the lineup. Jones has stolen 20+ bases in three of his last four minor league seasons, usually with half a dozen home runs. He was claimed this week in both keeper and redraft AL leagues but would not be a candidate for mixed leagues.
Frank Francisco, RP, Chicago White Sox – Well, those with leagues running FAAB on Saturdays were denied the opportunity to add potential closer Francisco as he wasn’t in some databases or wasn’t updated to reflect his callup. Those on Sunday had access to him in many leagues. As I said on the message board, Frank Frank was very effective in his limited appearances at Triple-A Charlotte but hadn’t given up a run and had a 6/1 K/BB ratio when I looked. Matt Lindstrom certainly isn’t going to keep Francisco from getting a shot and Nate Jones will be out for quite awhile longer.