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Charging the Mound: Keeper League Thoughts

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 10:22am
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Charging


Let's talk about keeper league trades this week. Specifically, I want to cover trades that involve future considerations, be it in terms of prospects, draft picks, FAAB money or in the rare leagues that allow it, auction dollars. There's less of a consensus on what constitutes value for those types of consideration, and because of that, there's more opportunity for a savvy fantasy owner to profit, both buyer and seller alike.

You and I just completed a trade during Monday's show that had such considerations. I'm contending, you're rebuilding, so when I lost Mike Napoli to the DL, you acted upon my misfortune and offered a similarly-priced Matt Wieters as well as Francisco Liriano and $10 in FAAB in exchange for Napoli, with you netting a reserve draft pick for your efforts. I sent you a first-round pick in the deal, which may seem pretty high for a seven-week rental. But it's an 18-team league, and as you pointed out that means at best it's the 16th pick in the round. Factor in our deep minor league roster (during the season each team can have up to 10 minor leaguers) and the ability to buy the elite minor leaguers in the auction, and that pick isn't as valuable as it sounds.

But I don't think we have a really good scale of what that pick is worth. Sure, we have years of trades in the league, but (a) I would guess not too many people go through those trade logs to get an idea of pick value, and (b) the trades that have happened are all over the map. Plus, there's a certain economy of scale - a team like mine that has a really good chance to win but suffers an injury to a key scarce player has to address it through the trade market most likely, rather than the free agent wire at this time of the season.

So how do you value a reserve/minor league pick in this league? What factors do you apply? How about FAAB money? What considerations did you have as a rebuilding team in valuing these types of compensation? Can you give any other hints for rebuilding teams in keeper leagues?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 5:32pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


That trade you and I made was unique in that you were probably the only team that needed Wieters, but your season was on the line, and you really didn't have the luxury of sending emails out to everyone and bargaining for two or three weeks to get an ideal trade done. On the flip side, a late first-round reserve pick lands you a B+ prospect typically or a player who would go for about $3 or $4 in AL or NL LABR or Tout. Those guys can wind up being very useful on occasion - Cliff Lee was one of those for me a few years back - but I'm not even sure Lee was a first-round reserve. In other words, there's not a huge difference between a late first-round reserve and a third-round reserve in terms of how often they end up panning out. So you gave up something of value, but not all that much and got someone who's particularly useful to your team only. We also threw in an unkeepable Liriano - who could help you if used judiciously - and $10 in FAAB which doesn't matter to us as we have enough left for $1 and $2 keeper pickups and will never need to break the bank for a newly minted closer in September. Essentially we gave up nothing and got a little. You gave up a little and got something. That's why the trade worked.

In a vacuum, I think you look more to what players have been drafted in those slots than what those slots have fetch in trades. The sample size of trades is smaller, and people make too many mistakes in valuing picks and FAAB. Moreover, this was a unique case where we knew almost exactly where you'd finish and hence what draft pick it would be. If you trade me a first round pick in April, there's more variability in where that pick might land. FAAB is slightly more difficult to evaluate as you can spend it a lot of different ways - a huge purchase on a newly minted closer, or a piecemeal on speculative $1 and $2 plays hoping for some keeper value. (I think the latter is actually the way to go in a keeper league except in rare cases).

But again, this was a unique case in that we didn't need the extra FAAB that much with six weeks to go and plenty left. In April, that $10 in FAAB would have a different value, too.

One underrated factor people miss in that league is that when you draft prospects or draft picks, you get a free pick back at the end of the draft. In other words, you could trade away all 17 of your reserve picks and minor leaguers for this year, and you'd still get to refill your roster after everyone was done drafting. It's obviously pretty picked through at that point, but there are a lot of minor leaguers in professional baseball from which to choose. A savvy drafter could probably find some gems among minor leaguers 111-120 on our list. (I'm assuming 100 are on minor league rosters and another 10 picked up in the auction. So it's not as though you get nothing in return. That's why unless someone's offering me a top-25 prospect, I'm usually not that interested.

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 9:36pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Re: Charging


You're right about the unique nature of the trade. The other factor is time - I'd be far less inclined to trade away that first-round pick for an upgrade of an adequate player, when the payoff is just six weeks. But when it's a total void for at least two weeks and maybe more, and the replacement value is so low, it makes a lot more sense.

And the $10 in FAAB meant a lot more to me than you. I was down to $1 remaining in FAAB, and simply needed the extra to make it through the next six weeks as the next injuries come down the line. You had quite a buffer remaining, and you're not in the business of fixing leaks. You're about speculating on guys that might be worth something later on - either in a trade over the next couple of weeks, or maybe stumbling on an extra keeper. That's how you and Shoe netted a $4 Jim Johnson late last year - a late FAAB. So that extra made it worth it to me to give up that pick, when it's most likely you would have $10 in unspent FAAB at the end of the year.

The other point to make is one I made on the air on Monday after we made the trade. As a seller in this market, it's just as important to be aggressive and find opportunities to trade as it is when you're a buyer. You saw that I had an acute need and didn't hesitate - including making the first offer. One other party had a catcher, but had no concrete offer, just a "let me know if you want to deal" communique. When time is scarce around the weekly deadlines, you don't have time to dilly-dally, and you certainly shouldn't wait for others to come to you. The easier it is to deal the more you get done - a truism, to be sure, but often ignored anyhow. Don't be a pain at the trade table. That extra pick is about as good as it gets for you in this situation, and going home without trading a non-keepable yet valuable asset now is a high-crime in keeper leagues.

Anyhow, my laptop is almost out of juice, and we're about to descend into Myrtle Beach anyhow, so I'll keep this short. Take it home.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:15am
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


I couldn't agree more, and actually made many of those points in our TV segment on trade etiquette. Always make the first offer if you want something from the other person - in this case some future consideration for a market-value-at-best Wieters who I wouldn't keep, an unkeepable Liriano and $10 in FAAB that as you pointed out I'd never use. The "look over my roster and let me know" is so half-assed and lazy, you'll rarely get a deal done that way unless you happen to be holding a commodity that's in huge demand. I had some worthless keepers that were of value to one or two teams at most. It was on me to give you a good offer right away, and so I did.

Now I'm just hoping Napoli comes back in a week or two and hits a couple bombs, and I'll peddle him to someone else - or even back to you if one of your other players gets hurt.