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Stretching the FAAB Dollar PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 03 August 2013 07:44

I admit that in recent weeks, I have had free agent allocation budget, or FAAB, on the brain. The reason why is simple. In my most important league, National League Tout Wars – and in fact in most every industry league in which I have ever competed – making trades are extremely time-consuming and difficult.

Given the two primary methods of improving one’s roster is via trade and free agency, if the former is diminished in importance, it stands to reason that the latter becomes even more prominent.

In terms of the basics of FAAB management, there are a variety of theories. Some believe that spending early will provide the greatest benefit. After all, it only makes sense that the longer your team receives the positive benefit of a good acquisition, the better your results in the standings should be.

However, there are several big assumptions inherent in the above statement. One is that the player can be FAABed at a fair value. Another is that he actually delivers on his promise.

One owner in NL Tout, Chris Liss of Rotowire, spent heavily early on pitching and landed a couple of solid performers. Cincinnati’s Tony Cingrani ($52) and Jose Fernandez of Miami ($22) joined his roster in April.

In a very common approach, others hold back on using their FAAB, hoping to hold the most money at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Of course, this is only relevant in single-league formats and then, one has to be in the right place at the right time with the most cash.

To date in 2013, most of the early selling across MLB has been from the Chicago Cubs to the American League (Matt Garza to Texas and Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees). National League owners are still waiting for their chance to spend crazily.

In Tout Wars, there is an additional twist that FAAB can be traded. In an initiative to improve in ERA and WHIP, Phil Hertz of BaseballHQ has been dealing off his starting pitchers. In deals big and small (Taylor Jordan for $2, Carlos Martinez for $8), Hertz is also accumulating a considerable war chest of cash.

After dealing Jeff Samardzija ($25 in a multi-player deal) and Julio Teheran ($28) in the last two weeks, Hertz has added $65 of FAAB, catapulting him to the second-highest total in the league.

Hertz also added $9 by turning in Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez just before the break.

That is where my strategy comes in.

I came into this and every season with the intent to spend early, but wisely. The latter is my personal challenge as I may not have been aggressive enough.

For example, on Cingrani, I outbid five other owners by offering $32, but still came in third. Instead of taking a chance on the unproven but highly promising Fernandez in week one, I placed double-digit bids on mediocrities Kevin Slowey and Tyson Ross.

With just over half my FAAB money remaining in mid-July, I was firmly on the uncomfortable middle ground. I had not spent as much as I hoped, nor did I have enough remaining to be a trade-deadline factor.

This is the regular spot in my column in which I remind you to not be like me. While it is therapeutic to a point to write about one’s missteps, the hope is that you do not fall in the same traps.

Since a key element of my draft day strategy was to focus on reasonable injury risks, it only made sense to continue the approach in-season. Therefore, I decided to grab as many FAAB reclaim players as possible – if they seemed to have a reasonable chance of returning this season.

Along with the aforementioned Wandy Rodriguez, for whom I paid $2 on the rebound, I also added Milwaukee hurler Marco Estrada and Phillies' outfielder Ben Revere for $1 each. I tried to acquire but missed out on the Mets’ Jonathon Niese, when a $1 bid would have been enough to turn the trick.

This past week, I added James McDonald, another of the Pirates injured hurlers, for $1.

Further, perhaps in an attempt to double down on a questionable move on draft day, I kept Roy Halladay instead of reclaiming $15 FAAB. Other injured pitchers on my roster include Trevor Cahill, Ross Detwiler and Chris Carpenter.

The downside is that each of those newly-FAABed-while-injured players had to spend a week on my active roster before being placed on the unlimited-in-size disabled list.

The way I look at it is this. Even if only one or two of these guys make it back, the minimal investment would make it worthwhile. I do not know if I can mount a challenge to the league leaders in the final two months, but I expect to continue to improve in the pitching categories.

If this approach of digging through other owners’ rejects does not sicken you (and it is possible within your league rules, of course), consider it as a viable way to stretch your FAAB to the max.


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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 August 2013 08:17
 
Good for the FAAB Goose is Not Always Good for the Gander PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:00

Last week in this space, I discussed the FAAB reclaim process and rules used in Tout Wars. In a nutshell, money spent to buy a player can be completely recouped if he is disabled. The amount returned is halved after the All-Star break.

I also outlined the mid-season dilemma faced by several owners, including myself. Should we hold an injured player, waiting and hoping for a meaningful return in August or September or should we cash in and reinvest elsewhere?

An interesting angle is that once the FAAB is reclaimed for a player, he returns to the free agent pool and can be re-purchased for $1 minimum. However, the original owner only would have to at least match the amount he spent initially on the player.

As a result, I snagged Brewers starter Marco Estrada for $1 after he was dropped by another owner in return for $11 in FAAB reclaim the previous week.

Though he has been struggling with back and hamstring problems, Estrada could return in a few weeks. In hindsight, I should have bid more than $1, and with Vickrey rules, I would have had to pay just $1 more than the second-highest bid, anyway. Instead, I figured that either my peers would not notice or would not care to bid on an injured pitcher. The bottom line is that it worked for me.

The risk in adding Estrada was small. I only had to carry him on my active roster for three days (due to the shortened All-Star week). I could then move him to the (unlimited in size) disabled list and reuse the roster spot to claim another player the next week.

Seeing Mets starter Jonathon Niese in the same situation last week, I made a $1 contingent bid for him, as well. Again, thinking after the fact, I probably should have tried to get both hurlers instead of just one. Instead, I had hoped I could maximize my roster spots by taking them in consecutive weeks.

Forgetting the league rule that non-25-man active roster players require non-zero dollar bids, Derek Carty was originally awarded Niese despite having made an illegal $0 offer. The league administrators allowed Carty to keep Niese, but raised the price to $1.

In private, I was disappointed for the reason mentioned above.

It is an interesting subject for another column on another day, but such a situation can create a sticky situation for league commissioners. Should the illegal transaction be invalidated completely or is it OK to allow the dollar amount to be raised to a legal level after the fact?

My guess is that since there were no other Niese bids that week (except for my unused contingency), the latter was chosen. From a common sense perspective, I understand. However, from a league commissioner perspective, I don’t like it one bit.

The Tout Wars constitution is silent on such matters, which I consider to be a problem that should be rectified. When gray rules areas are encountered, they should be clarified in writing immediately. In this case, the rule was explained to the league as was the corrective action. Now, the document should be updated as well to fully close the loop.

Anyway, back to Carty, me, Estrada and Niese.

Within minutes of the weekly transaction deadline having passed, Carty contacted me. At the time, he was just 1.5 points behind me in the NL Tout standings.

Having missed that Estrada was available, he offered to buy the DLed Brewers hurler for $2. After all, his logic went, I had only valued Estrada at $1 and therefore should be delighted to make a quick $1 profit.

On one hand, I admired his chutzpah. On the other, I wondered how often a competing owner could ever pry a just-bought player away from his new owner for an incremental buck?

Probably not “never,” but I bet it would be a rare case, indeed.

In my situation, an additional dollar would mean almost nothing. Six owners have more FAAB than me. Further, I am already resigned to the fact that I am not going to get anyone of value in interleague trading at the end of this month.

Carty took his surprise to the public, tweeting that I was under the influence of what he says “psychologists call the ‘Endowment Effect’ - placing a greater level of value on something you own versus something you don't.”

The implication is that I was being irrational because I was disinterested in selling him Estrada for a princely $1 profit.

I chose not to engage in the 140 character-limited public forum of Twitter. I did try to provide further detail via e-mail even though it was very late and honestly, I did not owe him a lengthy explanation of why I did not accept his trade offer.

I explained that I felt he was confusing price with value. I saw the opportunity for greater value from Estrada in the future than his price indicated that day. It would be painless to stash Estrada away on the disabled list and there would be almost no downside if he fizzled out later. Obviously, Carty felt the same way about the price-value mismatch, I reasoned, since he wanted Estrada so badly.

In other words, Estrada’s real market value is not $1. It was at least $2 and perhaps more. I was satisfied that I picked up a bargain and preferred the player to what I felt was an insignificant amount of incremental FAAB.

The e-mail conversation and public tweets ended there – until I realized that his Niese bid was made in almost identical circumstances during the same transaction period.

I could not resist sending Carty a follow-up e-mail.

You guessed it. I asked him to sell me Niese for $1, since all he was willing to bid was $0.

Derek may have felt I was tweaking him, which I was, but as my earlier contingency proved, I had legitimate prior interest in Niese.

Four days passed before I received a reply. Carty seemed to enjoy the turnabout, but not enough to do the deal once the shoe was firmly on the other foot.

 

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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 July 2013 10:04
 
Using FAAB Reclaim to a Secondary Advantage PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 20 July 2013 00:00

One of the most interesting features in the Tout Wars leagues is in the area of reclaiming FAAB.

The rule was once tied to a 60-day disabled list stint for an injured player. This caused great frustration for owners who had a player that was clearly out for the year but whose major league team did not qualify for the use of a 60-day DL slot.

Fortunately, the rule was changed (the mark of a good league is to adapt). Now, any player on any disabled list – seven-day, 15-day or 60-day – can be dropped. If the FAAB reclaim request is made before the All-Star break, 100 percent of the amount originally paid can be recouped. If the request is made in the second half, only 50 percent of the original spend can be recovered.

Of course, that money can then be re-used to acquire a replacement – after a one-week wait.

To be honest, I think 100 percent is too rich. Getting the benefit of up to a half-season of stats from a player, then getting back all of the money initially paid – still in time for the non-waiver trade deadline flurry – seems an over-compensation.

If I was setting up the league, I might consider 2/3 reimbursement prior to the break and 1/3 after, or something like that.

At any rate, this inflection point of the All-Star break led to some interesting strategy decisions for Tout warriors.

Many of us asked ourselves, “Should I wait for an injured player to return during the second half or should I take the full 100 percent reimbursement while I can?”

A variety of different approaches were taken.

As the placer of an ill-advised, successful $15 bid for Roy Halladay on draft day, I was among this group. Perhaps it was an emotional position, but I could envision Doc riding back out of the sunset to contribute before the season is out.

Just to increase my odds, I also have his friend and former Blue Jays teammate Chris Carpenter sitting on my DL. Perhaps one of the two might come through, but I paid just $1 for Carp.

To be completely honest, I didn’t value that $15 FAAB very much. I still have $52 FAAB remaining from my initial $100. That is enough to buy what I will probably need, while $67 wouldn’t be enough to win any of the big names that might come across from the American League at the deadline, anyway.

Currently, even without the most recent FAAB reclaims credited, half the league – six owners to be exact – have 75 or more dollars remaining. Some of them are almost surely going to spend more than me while the others will either leave money on the table or be forced to overspend for marginal talent.

BaseballHQ’s Phil Hertz was another owner who had a FAAB reclaim decision to make. He could have recouped $9 for injured Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez. Always the creative thinker, Hertz dangled Rodriguez to the league, explaining his dilemma.

Hertz received no takers, perhaps because his price for Wandy was perceived to be too high. He asked for “a combination of FAAB and a good middle reliever as well as more than the $9 FAAB; or a hitting upgrade from one of my ‘adequate’ guys.”

What Phil failed to take into account, in my opinion, is the reality that if he returned Wandy to the pool, only he would have to spend as much as $9 to purchase the player as a free agent.

The rules are correctly set up to ensure an owner cannot game the system by reclaiming the full FAAB, only to re-acquire the player as a free agent the next week for $1.

However, the rest of the owners could do just that.

That is exactly what happened with Marco Estrada of the Brewers and Jon Niese of the Mets. Their original owners took the FAAB reclaim, $11 and $14, respectively.

With Estrada then sitting on the waiver wire, I placed a $1 claim, with Niese as my contingency. I made two mistakes. First of all, I should have bid more. Second of all, I should have tried to get both pitchers.

As it was, I scored Estrada with Derek Carty adding Niese. The only cost to me beyond the $1 is that I have to carry Estrada on my active roster for three days – this Friday through Sunday. Then I can place him on the DL and pick up another pitcher next week.

It is an extremely small price to pay for considerable potential upside. And if Estrada cannot make it back, then the loss was minimal. More on that next week.


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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 July 2013 10:05
 
International League All-Star Names to Know PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 13 July 2013 00:00

Last week, we looked at some of the 2013 Pacific Coast League All-Stars. This time around, their opponents from the International League will be the target. The two circuits will face off in the annual Triple-A All-Star Game in Reno on Wednesday, July 17.

Since the event began a quarter century ago, 77 Triple-A All-Stars have gone on to play in the Major League All-Star Game, or an average of just over three from each year’s teams.

The reality here is that our sights are set much lower, but also more immediate. We are looking for International League stars that may be able to contribute in the Majors during the second half of this season.

The IL player with perhaps the highest profile is Louisville (Reds) outfielder Billy Hamilton. After all, setting the all-time minor league record last season with 155 stolen bases will do that. This season, “all” Hamilton has accomplished is 50 swipes in 61 attempts. Still, a .640 OPS indicates more time in the Minors may be best.

The premier offensive player in the league during the first half is undoubtedly Chris Colabello of Rochester (Twins). The first baseman leads the league in batting (.357), slugging (.650), OPS (1.086) and RBI (69) and is second in OBP (.436) and home runs (22).

Colabello is an interesting story. Already 29 years of age, he spent seven years in the Can-Am Association before signing with Minnesota prior to last season. In 2012, the right-handed hitter led the Double-A Eastern League in doubles (37), was second in RBI (98), fourth in runs scored (78) and tied for fourth in home runs (19). It is not as if the Twins have an excess of offense, so why not give Colabello an extended look? (He went 2-for-15 in a brief trial earlier in the season).

Though he is listed as the starter at third base, Durham’s (Rays) Vince Belnome also has experience at second and first. That is good for the IL’s on-base leader (at .444) given the hot corner in Tampa should be manned by Evan Longoria for many years to come. Belnome, a 25-year-old left-handed hitter, is third in the league in runs scored (55), but is also in the top-10 in RBI (54 – T7th).

The IL leader in long balls with 24 is first baseman Mauro Gomez of Buffalo (Blue Jays). The starting designated hitter in the All-Star Game is batting just .239, however, and has just 13 doubles. Gomez, 28, is a former Red Sox prospect claimed off waivers in April.

Catcher Tony Sanchez of Indianapolis had a very brief stint with Pittsburgh last month and has a solid line of .294/.378/.526/.904 with the Indians. However, as long as Russell Martin remains healthy, the 25-year-old seems destined to pad his IL numbers in the second half.

Outfielder/third baseman Nick Castellanos of Toledo (Tigers) was named to the squad, but will not be playing in Reno. He will be returning home to be with his wife, who is expecting the couple's first child. Castellanos is tied for second in the league with 105 hits and 28 doubles. The 21-year-old may not have a clear job in Detroit, but could be traded as the Tigers try to improve elsewhere.

The announced starting pitcher for the IL is a familiar name. The second overall pick by Colorado in 2006, Greg Reynolds, had an undistinguished MLB introduction with the 2011 Rockies. The 28-year-old signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati this spring and had an opt-out clause last month that he decided not to exercise.

The right-hander has posted a league-leading 10 wins and an IL-best 2.62 ERA. His 1.12 WHIP and 76/21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 120 1/3 innings at Louisville indicates promise – if the Reds eventually make the call.

Not this season, but 25-year-old reliever Vic Black of Indianapolis (Pirates) could one day take the job of a National League All-Star, Jason Grilli. A hard-throwing 6-foot-4 right-hander, Black has fanned 44 and walked just 11 in 32 innings. He is holding IL batters to a collective .152 average and has a 1.97 ERA.

To watch all 60 Triple-A All-Stars in live action, be sure to catch the game, televised nationally on MLB Network on Wednesday evening, July 17.

 

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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 July 2013 07:40
 
Checking the PCL All-Star Roster for Second Half Help PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 06 July 2013 00:00

As writers, we typically select column subjects for a limited number of reasons. Perhaps we want to get mistakes off our chests (a regular of mine), we have theory to impart or as in this case, information to share.

Always on the lookout for potential pickups before they reach the Majors, this week I perused the roster of the Pacific Coast League All-Star Team. My mission was to identify a few players - whether prospects or non-prospects - who might sneak onto a major league roster during the second half.

The 30-man PCL All-Star squad is made up of 13 players voted in by coaches, front office officials, media and fans plus 17 others selected by the league office.

Starting at first base is an interesting power bat in Brock Peterson. The 29-year-old has hit safely in 34 of his last 47 games at a .345 clip (61-for-177) and leads the Memphis Redbirds with 29 multi-hit games. Peterson leads the PCL in home runs (20) and extra-base hits (42), ranks third in total bases (175), RBI (61), and OPS (.972), fourth in slugging (.583) and is tied for seventh in doubles (22).

The downside is that Peterson is a first base-only player in a Cardinals organization that cannot use a designated hitter and has another, better prospect in his way in Matt Adams. As a result, it is hard to see how Peterson could fit in the Cardinals’ picture this season without help.

Mets prospect Wilmer Flores is another interesting PCL All-Star. Having seemingly been around forever, yet still just 21 years of age, the right-handed hitter has rocketed ahead in the last 12 months after his career had seemed stalled. This time last year, Flores was still in high-A, where he had been for two years.

Now, the Venezuelan leads the PCL in RBI with 64 in his first 82 games at Triple-A. Flores began as a shortstop, was moved to third and is now playing second base. It would seem there is little to block Flores from making his way to Citi Field in the second half.

Another 21-year-old is shortstop Chris Owings of Reno. The Diamondbacks’ first-rounder in 2009 is leading the PCL in hits with 131 and runs scored with 70. Alongside Owings on the Aces and with the PCL All-Stars is third baseman Matt Davidson, taken six picks ahead of Owings in the same draft.

Even though there appears no room for either in Arizona, one or both could be packaged as part of a deal for a front-line starting pitcher. Major league opportunity could immediately open up with a new organization.

Another former first-rounder (2010) yet to make his MLB debut is Michael Choice of Sacramento. In his first taste of Triple-A, the centerfielder has 11 home runs and 53 RBI for the River Cats. Yet unless something happens to Coco Crisp, Choice currently appears to be blocked in Oakland.

With a very young (Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily all from 24 to 26 years of age) and very old (40-year-old Bartolo Colon) rotation, the first-place A’s don’t seem to have immediate room for the PCL’s starting pitcher, Sonny Gray, either. The right-hander is 7-5 with a 3.02 ERA for the River Cats and leads the league with 98 strikeouts.

Among other PCL All-Stars to watch include designated hitter Brett Pill of Fresno (Giants), Oklahoma City (Astros) pitcher Jarred Cosart, outfielder Carlos Peguero of Tacoma (Mariners) and Memphis pitcher Michael Wacha (Cardinals).

All of these players and many more would likely say that they can only do what is within their power – to influence their own play. An All-Star berth is indication of a job well done to date. What might happen around them is out of their control, but excelling is necessary - even if not sufficient - to secure that break in the Majors.


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. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 July 2013 06:52
 
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