Understanding your league rules - as well as unwritten practices - can pay off.
This past week, a combination of stalling on my part and a fortunate trap door opening enabled me to secure a FAAB rebate on an injured player who looked to be out for the season, but had not yet been placed on the disabled list.
Late in the National League Tout Wars draft - held in late March after I had been to both Arizona and Florida to catch as many spring training games as possible - I threw out Phillies starter Clay Buchholz for a dollar and got crickets. After all, most at the table had probably been burned once or more during his prior life with the Boston Red Sox.
In making my dollar bid, I rationalized the choice by noting that Buchholz’ Grapefruit League ERA was just 2/3 of a run worse that staff “ace” Jeremy Hellickson, all the while ignoring the fact the actual numbers were 6.63 and 5.92 respectively.
Given the reality of the situation, I just could not bear to start Buchholz this season. That proved wise after he flamed out to a 12.71 ERA through two starts. But by keeping him, I left myself with no in-week flexibility.
Tout allows mid-week substitutions, so when Junior Guerra went down on Opening Day, I could have replaced him the next day. However, Buchholz was my only reserve and I could not bring myself to activate him. (In all honesty, I created this limitation myself because I used three of my four reserve spots on minor league prospects, but that is a different story for another day.)
Just before I was going to finalize my decision to cut Buchholz, he was injured. The injury occurred last Tuesday, so I was fine to hold him for a few days until I could pick up a $10 FAAB rebate. However, five days later, the Phillies had still not placed him on the disabled list, the requirement for a FAAB claim.
As the weekly deadline approached, Buchholz was still in limbo. His injury appeared to be severe, a torn flexor tendon, yet the team had not made its roster move. I was in a bind, as I needed to get Colorado’s Tyler Anderson (8.59 ERA) out of my lineup with starts ahead this week against the Dodgers and Nationals.
But I had no one to plug in without acquiring a pitcher via the weekly free agent bidding process. I decided to go for it and if I had to burn my $10 FAAB reclaim and drop Buchholz before he went on the DL, so be it.
I had a way to buy myself more time, though. Tout allows free agent bids to be placed on Sunday night without contingent releases being defined. Owners are allowed until Monday’s first pitch to make their rosters right.
During the day on Monday, an opening was created for me when the Marlins designated Tyler Moore for assignment. The bad news is that he was my corner infielder. The good news is that I could temporarily fill his spot with one of my minor league stashes, Cody Bellinger. I made Moore my immediate drop, enabling me to hold onto Buchholz and bench Anderson as well.
Sure enough, on day seven, the Phils finally put Buchholz on the DL. Though the move was retroactive to April 15, it did not help me, as my weekly deadline had passed. In the new week, I released him and put in my claim, with $10 coming back to me after next week’s FAAB bidding, per league rule.
I will get zero stats from Bellinger this week (unless the unlikely occurs and he is called up), but now that Buchholz is out of my life, I can acquire a replacement corner infielder next weekend and move the Dodgers prospect back to my bench.
Hey, it is only $10, but that could be the difference later on between winning and losing a key free agent bid. I was able to get my money back by being patient and creative as well as fortunate.
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 and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.