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Monday 22nd Jan 2018

Writing my columns for publication late in the week can be good for the reader – if you pick up some ideas you can deploy quickly in your weekly free agent process. The timing isn’t always great for me, however, as the previous deadline-related activity can often seem like old news.

Such is the case this week, following the first FAAB period of 2012 for Tout Wars. My intention was to spin a variation on the annual single-league article theme of the pros and cons of spending freely early versus holding money for the trade deadline.

I was discouraged from doing this, as one of my fellow NL Tout competitors, Derek Carty of Baseball Prospectus, already covered that ground exceptionally thoroughly and well on Monday, as did our own Greg Morgan on Tuesday in the context of the mixed-league NFBC. The core points are the potential to fill gaps quickly and the declining value of FAAB over the course of the season.

Still, I have some personal thoughts and observations along this general theme that I’d like to share.

As I wrote about last week, there was a pent-up demand in Tout to acquire players that dates all the way back to draft day and included the first few days of the regular season.

As a result, this past weekend, the 13 NL Tout warriors siphoned another 28 players out of the already-shallow NL pool, averaging more than two per team. Most were additions to cover players on the disabled lists of their respective clubs. I had three such openings.

The most obvious area to consider is the early closer shifts. Unfortunately, that action has been mostly AL-focused in the early going. To that end, over on the American League side of Tout, Jeff Erickson of RotoWire dropped half of his full-season FAAB allocation on Hector Santiago of the White Sox, for example.

Fernando Rodney of Tampa Bay also seems to be Joe Maddon’s current choice after closing two consecutive games last weekend, picking up saves in each. The ultimate resolution to the situation in Boston is anyone’s guess at this point, with neither Mark Melancon nor Alfredo Aceves seemingly able to hold onto the hot potato. Jonathan Broxton and Joe Nathan are also struggling in the early going.

Here in the NL, there were no such obvious closer targets. Despite that, two owners, Phil Hertz of BaseballHQ and our own Todd Zola, spent over 20 percent of their respective 2012 FAAB stipends out of the gate. Todd made it very clear that he didn’t want to get in a hole so he went after “decent talent” early.

Hertz snagged Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis ($12) and Nationals starter Ross Detwiler ($14 Vickrey bid reduced to $10). Lord Zola purchased Braves utilityman Eric Hinske ($11 Vickrey bid reduced to $10), Cubs reliever Rafael Dolis ($7) and Cardinals reliever Kyle McClellan ($7).

I bid on Nieuwenhuis myself, as he holds the good side of what looks to be a centerfield platoon with Scott Hairston. My interest level was increased because I own the injured player, Andres Torres, whose trip to the disabled list created the opportunity.

At this point, we don’t know how long Torres’ re-injured calf will keep him out. I only went $2 in my losing bid on Nieuwenhuis, perhaps hoping it won’t be long.

Hertz believes Nieuwenhuis can hold the job if he hits .260. With the Vickrey rules closing the difference between his $8 perceived value and his $12 bid, Hertz went for the higher amount. Good thing he did, as he tied another Tout owner higher in the standings at that price.

Instead, I spent $1 on Justin Maxwell. Claimed off waivers by the Astros from the Yankees, Maxwell is out of options so should remain in the majors. The outfielder showed promise with the Nationals in the past and could take advantage of opportunity in Houston. A pinch-hit two-run home run in his first game with the club was a nice start.

Zola preferred Hinske in a big way over Nieuwenhuis as he waits for Allen Craig’s return, but Todd didn’t bite on Maxwell. The ongoing injury situation in Atlanta represents potential opportunity to Todd.

Detwiler and Houston’s Lucas Harrell ($6) were the only active starting pitchers to draw cash bids in NL Tout this week. The Astros’ hurler seems to have a relatively secure rotation spot but may have been at peak value coming off a seven-inning shutout 2012 debut prior to the bidding deadline.

Not having great confidence in the 26-year-old Harrell, I went only $3, knowing I would probably miss out. Instead, I snagged Anthony Bass of San Diego for $0. Bass’ big opportunity may be limited to how long Tim Stauffer and Dustin Moseley are out, but I see him as having little difference from Harrell one week ago. Bass made a nice initial start for San Diego Thursday night. Had it not been for shaky defense behind him, the 25-year-old right-hander would have remained around long enough to collect a win.

Hertz recounted that he intended to snag Detwiler in the reserve rounds on draft day, but simply forgot. That is a very easy thing to happen, especially given the breakneck pace of the Tout draft. When Detwiler went high in his local Washington league last weekend, Hertz decided to ensure he got his man in Tout.

In hindsight, I should have been in on Detwiler too. After all, holding down a roster spot until Chien-Ming Wang is ready could end up being a career-long assignment. The reality is I would have lost out in the bidding to Hertz, anyway.

Though the Cubs’ ninth-inning situation is under some pressure due to the inconsistencies of Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood, it isn’t clear any major changes are coming. Zola wanted to be ready as he hopped all over Dolis. Because he felt the greater free agent strength was in pitching this past week, Zola made Dolis his swing man. For seven dollars less ($0), I opted for a less-shiny closer-in-waiting in Wilton Lopez of the Astros.

Obviously, the common thread among Maxwell, Harrell and Lopez is the woeful Astros, a club where jobs could more easily be opened if some stumble and others step forward. Of course, any save opportunities are going to be fewer and farther between.

I honestly don’t know if spending one-fifth to one-quarter of one’s money the first week will prove to be good or bad in the case of this league, in this season. I am not for hoarding cash, but also want to ensure I receive value for my money. I just didn’t see it this past week. Next time could be a different story.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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