Articles of Configuration

The Rich Get Richer While the Poor Wise Up PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 18 April 2015 01:44
One of the realities of playing in higher-visibility leagues with industry peers is that we write about our teams and strategies. Personally, I always try to ground my writing in real-world examples.

In the case of my friends and competitors, some of them are even better writers than fantasy players, and that says a lot. In addition to enjoying their content - because they provide insight into their decisions made – I try to take advantage of the learning opportunities made available.

On one hand, no matter how good we think we are at these games, if we don't think we can gain some useful tricks from others, we will eventually fail, if for no other reason than our own arrogance.

Further, because I share leagues with many of these writers, I can gain a peek into the thought processes of my direct competitors. Consider this. In your home leagues, wouldn't it be cool if your top challengers had to submit an essay on their approach to try to beat you?

An example came up last week right here at Mastersball. While he is now a staff writer, Don Drooker has not always been "in" the industry. That does not say anything about his high level of proficiency in playing, though. As Don reminded readers in his most recent column, he has been the champion in our dynasty league, XFL or Xperts Fantasy League, four times in the last decade, including three in one recent four-year stretch – against some very tough competitors. (I am among the majority of the league still looking for a first title.)

In case you did not read Don's column, here is the link. Please check it out.

His subject was the XFL's spring supplemental draft, which follows our November auction. While Don recapped his own selections, he also considered the decisions each owner may have been faced with when his turn came up in the first couple of rounds.

That is when an old scab of mine was picked. It was nothing Don said specifically, but a rules change that is causing me pain. More on that in a moment after I set the stage.

Having blown up my team last year to re-invest for the future, I finished dead last in 2014 – a first in my decade in the league. As I have written before, I waited a year too long to step up and do it. As a result, despite a number of re-stocking trades made, the league's stats provider has my current roster in 15th place in its projected 2015 standings, as well.

Here's what got me going again now. As Don recapped the first-round selections in our supplemental draft, I re-lived exactly what I knew would happen coming in – the best investments for the future were long gone by the time my initial pick came up, 14th overall.

Any player who qualifies as a rookie when selected in this auxiliary draft will (until eventually dropped) enjoys a $3 salary increase each season instead of the usual $5 on top of a $1 base. That difference can add multiple years of control to a young player's roster runway.

Even though the household names on Baseball America's top 100 prospect list have been owned for years in this 40-man roster league, the recent influx of Cuban talent has increased the value of these initial picks in the supplemental draft.

To that end, in 2015, three of the first five players off the board were Yoan Moncada, Hector Olivera and Yasmany Tomas. Looking back to last spring, as you might expect, Jose Abreu was that number one selection. This time around, by pick 14, the best option remaining was Minnesota designated hitter Kennys Vargas – not a bad player, but not a rookie and hardly a future franchise cornerstone.

You might be wondering why if I finished in last place last season was I picking 14th of 15 teams this year.

The simple answer is that to address one problem, the league's pendulum was swung hard – perhaps too hard - in the other direction.

Traditionally, the XFL was like many leagues, including yours perhaps, in that the lower-finishing teams were given earlier draft spots the following season. This was considered a way to assist those clubs in the rebuilding process and level out league competition over time.

However, the XFL's initial approach was in fact a hybrid, in which the top five teams in the standings were moved to the end of the line the next year with prior season finishers six through 15 picking first.

This oddity was defended by some, who insisted there was viable bragging value in finishing second, third, fourth or fifth, which I never understood. Either you win or you don't, in my opinion.

That is not what led to a rules change, though. One of the teams that looked to be set to finish in fifth place one season understood the huge benefit that would be realized if he could end up in sixth place instead of fifth. It would be the difference between having the first pick the next spring versus the 11th pick.

To try to help make that happen artificially, the owner fielded a late-season lineup consisting of as many reserves and injured players as he could activate.

While this was not explicitly prohibited by the league rules, it surely was not in bounds in the field of fair play.

As a result of that gaming, I was among the league majority who voted in favor of a rules change.

For the last few years, only the league's winner from the prior year is placed at the end of the draft queue. As an incentive to the other owners to finish as strongly as possible, the second-place through 15th-place teams are awarded the first through 14th spots in the next season's supplemental draft.

While the incentive to take a dive was eliminated by this change, it also meant the rich get even richer while the steepness of the challenge for rebuilding teams was increased since those clubs pick even later in the auxiliary draft than before.

I admit that when I voted in favor of the change, I did not seriously consider this impact on the cellar-dwellers. I was not one then and did not expect to be one later. The real world is far crueler, however.

The aforementioned Drooker, coming off three wins in the prior four years, came in second in 2013. His reward was the right to select Abreu as the number one pick in the 2014 auxiliary draft, gaining years of the Cuban's services at a bargain rate.

Another second-place finish followed for him in 2014, so Don had his pick of this spring's litter, too, claiming Moncada. The rules helped him to reload on the fly with premium, low-cost keeper talent, while I am destined to try to rebuild my leaky roster with scrap lumber.

I honestly do not yet have "the" answer to this dilemma. Those who play consistently well should benefit. Those who cannot compete should not complain – but that does not mean all rule changes necessarily work as hoped, either.

I bring up this example here both for therapeutic purposes and to remind you to evaluate the collateral damage that rule change proposals might cause before you execute them. Consider the reality that you will have to live with both the good and bad and it just may be you in the dunking tank next time.

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 and Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 April 2015 11:20
The Bitter Taste of One’s Own Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 11 April 2015 00:00

How many times have we read or listened to people offer aggressive advice, not knowing if they would really take the necessary steps themselves?

I have. And this week, I can report that I have sampled the taste of my own medicine – gambling an entire season’s worth of free agent allocation budget (FAAB) money – and still missing out due to flawed execution.

Last week in this space, I encouraged fantasy owners - as strongly as I could in print – to make a post-draft evaluation of your rosters, analyzing weaknesses and taking corrective action at the first opportunity.

I explained that in many leagues, that window is widest during your first league transaction period. At that time, MLB roster and role decisions made in the final hours of spring training camps lead to fresh plums that were unpicked on draft day.

That story could be written convincingly since I was writing about my own blueprint for National League Tout Wars.

Part I. The Problem

Coming out of that draft, I had a strong offense, with starters at every position. However, my pitching took a hit, with four solid mid-tier starters, a good closer and four $1-type roster fillers.

Worse, in the reserve rounds, I gambled on a pair of competitors for a starting job in Arizona who both failed. Despite Trevor Cahill being traded away, my bets on Randall Delgado (bullpen) and Allen Webster (minors) did not come through.

That same transaction opened a rotation berth for top prospect Archie Bradley, who is one of the few non-Colorado NL starting options who were not claimed on Tout’s draft day. The 22-year-old has been a top-25 prospect in MLB for the last four years running, according to Baseball America.

While I would like Bradley in my lineup, I know other NL Tout warriors would, too. The fact that Cincinnati lefty Tony Cingrani fetched a winning bid of $52 early in the season two years ago - and went on to perform well - sticks in my mind as a potential benchmark.

To be honest, though, I am not sure if an unproven Bradley would be worth half a season’s FAAB - or more. He clearly has the longest runway of the NL starting options available, but Tout is a redraft league. The need is to produce now, as even reserve roster spots are precious.

After all, Bradley is far from a slam dunk. While his minor league career strikeout rate of 9.5 per nine innings is tantalizing, my excitement is diminished by his comparable walk rate of 4.5. On the latter number, the trend is heading in the wrong direction, as Bradley issued 5.1 free passes per nine last season. Add a so-so at best Diamondbacks defense behind him and a park that seems to give up a lot of runs and you can perhaps understand my trepidation.

Yet, all things considered, I saw Bradley as the pick of this NL starting pitcher litter:

  1. Archie Bradley

Trevor Cahill – Traded with $6.5 million pinned to his shirt and $5.5 million more coming from his new club, looking for a fresh start with the rebuilding Braves.

  1. David Buchanan – A very impressive spring for the (gulp) Philadelphia Phillies while coming off a nice 2014 MLB debut.
  2. Jordan Lyles – Despite 10 walks in 22 1/3 spring innings, a WHIP under 1.00. There is that little Colorado thing to worry about, however.
  3. Eric Stults – After eight years in the league, what Atlanta’s fifth starter can offer is known. Yawn.
  4. Eddie Butler – In addition to pitching for the Rockies, the rookie has had shoulder trouble this spring. Do I really need another Jaime Garcia? Pass.

Part II. The Plan

With as many as three roster openings, and given I felt the top three pitchers stood above the other three listed above, I decided to bid as aggressively as possible.

Due to a below-par finish last season, I began 2014 with $93 of FAAB. Unable to make primary bids in a greater amount than my total, here is where I landed:

  1. Bradley $41
  2. Cahill $26
  3. Buchanan $26

Contingencies were included with the above to ensure I was not shut out if I was outbid for any of the three. In reality, I expected to lose out on Bradley, but at least force his new owner to pay handsomely, and win Cahill, Buchanan and Lyles or possibly Stults. The latter two were given $11 contingent bids.

While the three primary bid amounts may seem random, they are not. Totaling them, you can see that I had put my entire season’s FAAB budget on the line this first week. However, the Vickrey bidding process deployed in Tout provided some potential protection from myself. In that system, the winning amount paid for a player is reduced to $1 more than the second-highest offer.

So, in my dream world, I would secure all three starters and have $10 or $20 bucks remaining to stretch over the remainder of the season. More realistically, I would get my #2, #3 and #4 choices and still have at least $30 left in the bank.

Knowing any three pitchers will probably all not work out, at least I would have plenty of time to evaluate their respective performances before having to develop a far more modest in scope Plan B.

Part III. The Execution

As I am responsible to recap the weekly NL Tout bidding for Mastersball, I like to write my section as soon as the results are posted at midnight Eastern Time Sunday night/Monday morning.

Given the size of my bets, I admit that I approached this deadline with greater trepidation than usual, however.

As it turned out, by 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, I was crushed by my greediness, not getting any of my three top choices. Making the failure even more painful is the fact that I came in second in the bidding on all three, missing out on Bradley by just $4.

I say “greediness” because I had originally decided to focus on Bradley and Cahill only. However, when reviewing free agents, Buchanan’s stealthy success interested me, too. By trying to spread my $93 across three pitchers instead of two, I fell short on all three.

Ending up with Lyles and Stults at the minimum $1 each actually smelled ok – for one day at least. The Rockies opened at Milwaukee, where Lyles threw six innings of two-run ball.

To see the bidding results for all Tout Wars leagues in detail as well as for the LABR leagues, remember to check out each Monday morning all season long.

Part IV. In Closing

What can you learn from this?

Well, first of all, I don’t just pontificate here. I definitely taste my own medicine, even when bitter. We’ll have to see over the upcoming weeks and months if I can devise a Plan B that shores up my staff after this failed initial attempt.

Second, and far more importantly, there is still time for all of us. Even if you did not chase free agents aggressively in week one, get after it in week two. The Cingrani example mentioned above actually occurred in the second week in 2013.

Even if you do not have a Vickrey bidding buffer, take some risk and do not fall just short in your bidding as I did in this example. Hoarding FAAB while waiting for potential mid-season trades in “only”-leagues is just not worth it.

Whatever you do, take action early to improve your fantasy roster!

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 and Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 April 2015 08:27
Maintain Your Draft Momentum PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 04 April 2015 00:00

If you are like me, you are much closer to the conclusion of your spring draft season than the start. In fact, in my case, my first draft was way back in early November, and for that league, the XFL, or Xperts Fantasy League, we have already held our second, auxiliary draft. I am down to just one local league draft remaining.

At this point, it is natural to be focused on your remaining drafts, or if they are complete, to enjoy the pleasant distractions that the early spring weather is offering in many parts of the country - but please, do not lose focus now.

You spent days and weeks readying for your drafts. You have your teams – and are likely pleased with them. Well, you shouldn’t be.

Now is not the time to sit back. Instead, take the initiative to sit down and carefully and objectively analyze the roster you assembled on draft day. Do it – right now!

OK, where are its strengths and weaknesses? What positions do you need to address? Be honest, please!

Do not only consider the obvious needs – starters who are opening the season on the disabled list. Also evaluate your reserves. Do you have someone to slot into the infield in the case of an injury, for example?

Keep an eye on the timing of announcements by MLB clubs of players actually being placed on the disabled list. The moves can be made at any time, even retroactively, but not all teams act at the same time. Some may wait until their own opening day. And of course, your stats provider cannot and will not reflect such a move until it is actually made.

Most leagues have some kind of disabled list. Maybe yours has only a spot or two or perhaps your leagues are like Tout Wars, with an unlimited DL. Either way, you should establish a plan to backfill those spots immediately.

For example, take my National League Tout roster. I bought into the Jaime Garcia optimism for $4 and also took Homer Bailey for $12, knowing full well I would not get an opening day start from the latter.

The Cardinals placed Garcia on the DL this past week, while the Reds are still waiting to officially make the moves they have already announced, including Bailey. So, Garcia can also move to the Tout DL and a replacement can be added but Bailey may take up a roster spot for another week.

Why this is important is the real reason I am writing this story. You should already know when your league’s first waiver period begins, but if you don’t, stop reading this right now, go and find out. I will still be here. I promise.

No matter when your draft was held, MLB teams have since made changes that either impact your fantasy roster directly or created opportunity for you to secure additional upside players for your squad.

Now is the time to strike to fill those roster gaps you have identified, because if you don’t, someone else in your league surely will.

Perhaps you are short of speed. Likely when you drafted, no one in your league had even heard of Odubel Herrera. Now the rookie has become the starting centerfielder in Philadelphia with a chance for 20+ steals.

Players undrafted in many leagues are receiving the opportunity to join major league rotations, too. Take St. Louis, where there had been a spirited three-way battle for one rotation spot as recently as a week ago. Garcia’s injury and the decision to send impressive prospect Marco Gonzales to Triple-A has since completely cleared the way for Carlos Martinez’ starting berth.

Or take Arizona, where veteran Trevor Cahill was dealt away to Atlanta to create a rotation spot for top prospect Archie Bradley.

These are just a few examples that quickly come to mind from literally dozens of late-breaking situations that have come to pass across MLB in the last few days.

Yet, I understand that not everyone has the time to keep up on all these moves. Here is a tip on how to check quickly for up-to-date information on who has jobs and who doesn’t.

The folks at, formerly MLB Depth Charts, maintain a handy grid of starters, bench players, rotations and relief corps for all 30 teams, as well as which players appear to be DL-bound.

A quick scan of that grid can help you quickly identify new names, who should become possible acquisition targets.

Remember, now is the time to act. Maintain that momentum from your draft. Be aggressive. Make the moves to try to close your gaps in your very first transaction period and good luck this season!

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 and Follow Brian on Twitter.


Last Updated on Saturday, 04 April 2015 10:43
The Waiting is the Hardest Part PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 00:00

Along with my Mastersball colleagues Lawr Michaels, Todd Zola, Rob Leibowitz and Zach Steinhorn, I participated in the Tout Wars industry league drafts this past weekend in New York City.

The annual events, with four drafts spread over a two-day weekend, include American and National League-only drafts, a mixed league auction and a new format based on the monthly games introduced by last summer.

My enjoyment of the evening festivities in the Big Apple, catching up with long-time competitors and friends, are self-truncated due to the reality that the National League draft, of which I am a part, occurs last, on Sunday morning.

That offers a second challenge for me, which is being patient. Waiting until the final day, after the other three drafts are on the books, is tough.

As it turned out, being patient was a requirement for me once the draft finally began as well. My general approach is to spread the wealth, in which I keep spending on any individual player below $30 and often cases $25, in order to acquire a more balanced team and hopefully, one that is more injury resistant.

I had established a budget by position for planning purposes, with a hitting-pitching mix of $182/$78. While I was not a slave to these values, I managed the two allocations separately until late in the draft. Prior to the draft, I had looked at a variety of combinations of about six different players at each of the 23 roster spots.

Given my self-imposed pricing limitations, I had expected to remain on the sidelines during the first five or six rounds of nominations. That almost was not the case as I wanted to test the market on young players with a throw of Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. I went to $19, but unsure how much farther the bidding might go, I stopped there, and Segura went for $20.

I did pick up some cheap speed early when a competitor nominated new Braves leadoff man Eric Young, Jr. Paying $8 was a fair price for his expected 25-30 bags. That also kept me from the appearance of having done nothing in the draft, though the external chatter, if there was any, did not bother me one way or the other.

My second acquisition was a player I had not specifically targeted, Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco. When the bidding slowed in the teens for a player I feel has a mid-20’s value, I got in. Polanco was mine for $19.

As the first break approached, the SiriusXM broadcasters singled me out from among the 12 NL Touts to come on the air to review the draft to that point. Perhaps my acquisition of players, which likely appeared slow to some, drew the attention.

As it turned out, I dulled many of those questions by spending over $80 in the last moments before the intermission, first gobbling up Marlins closer Steve Cishek for $16. With an improving Miami team, I think Cishek could approach the top tier of NL closers in value at a mid-tier closer price.

I also struck in the corner infield and outfield with a batch of low-20s players in Brandon Belt and Mark Trumbo ($23) along with Matt Holliday at $22. During the on-air interview, Rotowire’s Chris Liss questioned the Trumbo acquisition due to a low on-base mark. (Tout is an OBP format.)

I agreed that Trumbo is a drag in that category, but I also consider his 30 home run/100 RBI potential to be very real. About how many other NL players could we have that aggressive of a forecast? With a consistent .370-.380 OBP player in Holliday also safely on my roster, I felt I hadn’t sacrificed OBP terribly with Trumbo. I did avoid the Pedro Alvarezes the rest of the way, but accomplished one objective for this draft – which was to not get caught short on power – one of the league’s most precious commodities.

In 2014, I ended up with too much speed as my past concerns over the general inability to trade steals (and stolen bases) during the season were confirmed. Everyone seems to want to add power and strikeouts along the way, offering up speed and closers in trade. As a result, my lower-tier team finished with roughly two dozen more steals than the second-place team, a stat that I am not proud of.

In the middle of the draft, I dropped down into the teens for my acquisitions of the middle of the Dodgers’ infield in Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins for $19 each. Snagging Adam Lind, who in my view is like a Holliday-lite, for $17 completed my core offensive group.

I went cheap at third base with a $6 Jake Lamb, who looks to be the starter to open the season for Arizona, and backed him up with another third baseman also in a good position to earn a job in San Diego’s Will Middlebrooks at $5.

Behind the plate, I joined my $11 Daniel Norris with Welington Castillo at $2. In hindsight, perhaps I should have gotten Arizona starter Tuffy Gosewisch for the same price or went a couple of bucks more for another starter in Francisco Cervelli of the Pirates. My hope is that the Cubs will trade Castillo into a starting role elsewhere.

With the exception of the aforementioned Polanco, I had considered every one of my 14 hitters in pre-draft scenario planning.

The teens is where I wanted to be in pitching, as well. My focus was to acquire four upper middle tier pitchers with good strikeout totals to match up with closer Cishek. That was accomplished with Gio Gonzalez and Julio Teheran ($16), Francisco Liriano ($13) and Homer Bailey ($12) joining my roster.

As my fellow drafter Mike Gianella from Baseball Prospectus noted afterward, the average NL Tout owner spent $6.25 more on pitching above the NL LABR average. Of course, that was reflected in individual player prices, as well.

As the draft neared its close, I still had three pitching spots and two offensive slots to fill, but also had enough money to go $3 or $4 on several players. A wise strategy would have been to add the extra dollar hammer on a few promising starters, as my offense was already pretty well lined up.

Especially with Bailey starting 2015 on the disabled list, getting some additional pitching would have been smart. Instead, I filled my middle infield position with Brandon Crawford at $5. While that is a good pick in a vacuum, it left me with $1 selections the rest of the way.

More than any selection in my draft, that seemingly innocuous $5 spent on Crawford hurt, as it took away my bidding hammer. As I watched a series of desired hurlers go for a dollar more than I could spend, my agony was increased when I was able to snare a decent middle infield alternative, Dan Uggla, in the second reserve round. By then, the Crawford buy was already ancient history, but I was still feeling its impact.

Other than take a boatload of bad starting pitchers, after getting Jaime Garcia for $4 (I think he will be starting somewhere) and Jeremy Hellickson for $1, I had added setup men Pedro Strop and Jordan Walden to complete my nine arms.

My advice to you is this. Make sure you allocate some time to think about the end game, and specifically, your strategy in it. You cannot really prepare for this in advance, which makes it more challenging, other than perhaps to have a group of preferred $2-$3 pitchers and hitters identified. During your draft, there may not be time for a break at the right moment and with players being taken faster and faster in the latter phase of an auction, think time between picks is shortened.

Still, it behooves you to find a way to do take a brief step back. In this example, I should have realized my roster’s strengths and weaknesses and placed my end-game focus on pitching instead of beefing up an already solid group of hitters.

All in all, I believe I have a competitive offense and a very good pitching base. I ended up spending $180/$80 on hitting and pitching, but the overall higher pitching prices probably meant less average value for that $80. Looking ahead, I will put more emphasis in finding the 2015 version of a Jose Fernandez or two and whoever they turn out to be, to get them on my roster.

Now, the fun begins!

P.S. My team follows, with the link to all the Tout Wars rosters and winning bids. Good luck in your drafts and I hope you can glean some value from ours.


Derek Norris C $11
Gio Gonzalez P $16
Welington Castillo C $2
Julio Teheran P $16
Brandon Belt 1B $23
Francisco Liriano P $13
Jake Lamb 3B $6
Homer Bailey P $12
Adam Lind CI $17
Jaime Garcia P $4
Howie Kendrick 2B $19
Jeremy Hellickson P $1
Jimmy Rollins SS $19
Pedro Strop P $1
Brandon Crawford MI $5
Jordan Walden P $1
Mark Trumbo OF $23
Steve Cishek P $16
Matt Holliday OF $22

Gregory Polanco OF $19

Eric Young, Jr. OF $8

Will Middlebrooks DH $5

Jonny Gomes SW $1


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 and Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 08:03
Think Ahead About Potential Interleague Trades PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 21 March 2015 00:00

If you are like me, you are paying very close attention to spring training results as battles rage on for starting spots, rotation positions and in some cases, assessing how position shifts are working out.

Let’s take the Arizona Diamondbacks, for example. While early reports are that Cuban Yasmany Tomas is not showing proficiency at third base to put it mildly, a move to the outfield would only complicate an already crowded situation.

While prospect Jake Lamb could step in at the hot corner, that doesn’t help the outfield logjam. Without Tomas, the club already has five starter-quality outfielders in A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Mark Trumbo, Ender Inciarte and Cody Ross.

In the same division, the National League West, during the off-season, the new-look San Diego Padres loaded up on outfield talent via trade. New GM A.J. Preller became a household name in part through acquiring three new starters in stars Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton.

Those moves bumped last year’s incumbent starters to the bench in Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable. Will Middlebrooks should be on the roster, but there seems no room. Then there are prospects like Tommy Medica, Abraham Almonte and Rymer Liriano who will also apparently have to wait, making for a strong Triple-A club, at least.

Up the coast in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have some high priced talent with no place to put them. Outfielder Andre Ethier has at least three years to go on a huge contract with at least $56 million remaining, but has no place to play. Cuban infield signee Alex Guerrero’s contract states he does not have to be sent down to the Minors, yet there does not even seem a spot for him on Los Angeles’ bench.

The St. Louis Cardinals have injury questions with their rotation, but one of the healthy starters so far this spring is veteran Jaime Garcia. Despite his great stuff and good results in Grapefruit League action, the lefty could be the club’s number seven starter with youngsters Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales also looking good in the fight for the final rotation spot. It is difficult to envision the Cardinals paying Garcia $9.25 million to idle in the bullpen.

The Chicago Cubs have a quality starting catcher in Welington Castillo who has been displaced by trade acquisition Miguel Montero. Though Castillo is slated to make “only” $2.1 million this season, his value would be considerably higher to a number of teams with lesser starting backstops.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Against that backdrop - or would backstop be more appropriate? – consider it likely that as Opening Day approaches, some trades are coming.

There seems a better than 50-50 chance that if they occur, they will be interleague trades. The reason I say that is quite simple math. Of the 29 possible trade partners for any team, 15 are in the other league. The odds are tipped further in that direction since many clubs are very reluctant to even consider deals with division rivals for obvious competitive reasons.

So, where am I getting with this?

If you are like me and compete in a mono league with an early draft, the potential of these interleague deals occurring after draft day but before the season begins should be causing concern.

Do I draft a player if there is a risk of a trade that could knock him out of my league’s eligibility pool before he even plays a game? How much do I discount him because of the possibility?

Of course, the level of concern all depends on your league constitution.

Let’s use Tout Wars as an example. We will be drafting this weekend, at least two weeks prior to the season opener. The longer than usual gap has been created by a combination of an earlier draft and a later MLB Opening Day.

Here is the relevant sentence in the league rules, with the emphasis mine:

“Performance stats of a player shall be assigned to a Tout Wars team only when he is on the active roster of that team and on the active roster of a major league team in the appropriate league (or if in season he has been traded away from that league to the other major league).”

So, there is the rub. Exactly when does “in season” start?

The Major League Baseball schedule says Sunday, April 5. Yet, a common-sense interpretation would be to include the post-draft time in the period covered by the rule. In other words, one might assume that a drafted National League player dealt to an American League team on March 31 would still be NL-eligible this season.

In this specific example, a simple constitution change from “in season” to “post draft” solved the matter – but only because I brought it forward and my recommendation was quickly accepted.

Here is my general advice to you. Do not assume anything. Do not wait until you are stuck in a jam to find out how your league commissioner would rule on a gray area matter such as this and potentially cause broken glass in an ugly dispute.

After all, losing a $10 David Peralta in a trade to the AL before the season starts, for example, would be equally as painful as your $10 Zack Wheeler going down for Tommy John surgery. Instead, wouldn’t you rather know about this eligibility exposure before you decide whether or not to draft Peralta in the first place? (Sorry, I can’t help you if you own Wheeler!)

Understand that your situation does not have to mirror this particular one. There are many other potential rules murky areas waiting to be uncovered.

If you find one that could impact your draft, get the rule clarified up front. Don’t forget that once you do, make sure your constitution is upgraded to remove the ambiguity. Insist it be done right then, before it is forgotten. I have been in too many situations in which good intentions are ruined by poor execution, again leading to unnecessary and avoidable league strife.


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 and Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 March 2015 08:34
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