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The Z Files: Trade Deadline FAAB Strategies

Todd Zola

Todd has been writing about fantasy baseball since 1997. He's the defending champion in NL Tout Wars and Mixed LABR as well as a multi-time league winner in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. Todd is now setting his sights even higher: The Rotowire Staff League. Lord Zola, as he's known in the industry, won the 2013 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year award and was nominated for the 2015 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

The trade deadline has come and gone but because of the odd timing, most fantasy leagues have a week to stew on their FAAB bids. In addition, there have been a slew of bullpen scenarios that may avail new closers as well as a few top minor league prospects that have been promoted, all of which will be lumped in with the crossover players in single-league formats. You donít need me to tell you to go all-in on Jonathan Lucroy in American League only, or that Matt Moore and Rich Hill are in favorable situations in the senior circuit. However, I do have some unique philosophies with respect to bidding as well as some under-the-radar players to keep in mind come your next FAAB cycle.

Letís begin with some big-picture approaches to FAAB bidding. The biggest mistake made is setting bids based on rest-of-season rankings or projections. With a little less than two months left in the season, your focus should be one of these three lines of thinking.

1. Specific Category Management

This is straightforward. If you need steals, you bid on Raul Mondesi, Hernan Perez or maybe even Billy Burns if he was dropped. Donít get hung up on how many steals. Decide whoíll get the most and bid. The same goes for power. Identify the players most likely to hit the ball out of the yard. Maybe itís Scott Schebler or Jabari Blash in deep leagues. Donít get married to a number. Who do you think will hit the most homers?

2. Upside Potential

It doesnít matter how an MLE-driven projection system ranks Alex Bregman or Andrew Benintendi. If they have more upside than the dregs left on the waiver wire, then bid. If youíre not going to win by picking up Max Muncy or Taylor Motter, shoot the moon. So Bregman and Benintendi cost you points instead of leading you to victory. The premise is you werenít going to win unless they played to their upside.

3. Playing Time

Playing time obviously ties into the first two but more importantly it should be the currency for bids instead of a projected dollar value or ranking. Thereís so much variance with respect to outcomes in a two-month sample that the concentration should be on playing time Ė be it innings or plate appearances. It seems like a copout answer but when asked who I like better, Jones or Smith, itís the one I feel will play more. Iím not looking to avoid being wrong with a projection, I want the guy with the greater opportunity.

Here are some other considerations when making bids or adjusting lineups.

Donít get hung up on park factors

With the exception of pitchers moving from one extreme to the other, like Francisco Liriano, Drew Hutchison and Ivan Nova, donít base a decision on a park index. Obviously, leaving PNC Park for the Rogers Centre will hurt Liriano, just as Nova is a much better fit for PNC than he was in Yankee Stadium. However, despite the fact that Camden Yards is a better hitters park than Tropicana Field, Steve Pearce isnít now suddenly Boog Powell. Even the most prolific home run hitters should be expected to hit maybe 13 or 14 the rest of the way. So where does that put Pearce, maybe seven or eight as compared to six or seven with Tampa?

If you arenít getting a difference maker, donít bid just to get someone

There will still be waiver deals and prospects called up to fortify single-league squads. Sometimes having the hammer after the deadline is almost as important as having it this week. Most leagues have an impending trade deadline of their own so rosters become stagnant, making it easier to know exactly how to attack the categories. Depending on how things flesh out, as well as the activity of your league mates, youíll often have the funds to fill several holes while others are picking up the scraps.

Along those lines, perhaps you were set to pick up someone this week but doing so would drain your funds so youíre out of the running for the better players that join the player pool the rest of the season. Maybe the better play is to focus on filling a hole with a lower-level player then taking the big stack into the final seven weeks.

Donít forget about the lesser lights

Weíll conclude todayís episode with a bunch of lower-level players that could be available. Everyone will likely be covered in our weekly FAAB reviews this weekend but to help you get a head start, hereís a quick note on each team to consider while crafting bids. Theyíre not all directly about players but also general scenarios that could influence who you replace on your roster.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Snakes were sellers with the major move being Jake Barrett becoming closer. Thereís a chance spring favorite Silvino Bracho is given another look. Brachoís been closing in Triple-A Reno but hasnít looked very good in the bigsÖ yet. Also keep in mind A.J. Pollock will begin rehab games this weekend and could be back late August.

Atlanta Braves: If you expect to need a little help in steals, keep in mind Mallex Smith aims to return in September. Other than that, recent call-up Rob Whalen was impressing on the mound at Triple-A Gwinnett while Aaron Blair is in line to join Whalen in the rotation.

Chicago Cubs: Other than warning Chris Coghlan owners it appears the lefty swinger may not even get strong-side-of-the-platoon at-bats going forward, thereís not much to see.

Cincinnati Reds: If you thought the trade of Jay Bruce would clear some playing time for Jose Peraza, sorry. Instead, Scott Schebler was summoned to fill the spot. You may recall the initial plans were for Schebler and Adam Duvall to platoon in left field. Schebler is now ticketed for full time duty in left with Duvall shifting to right. In Triple-A Louisville, Schebler registered a cool 934 OPS so heís not a bad consolation prize in NL-only and could be in play in mixed leagues too. As for Peraza, perhaps the club wants him to work with his eventual keystone partner, the newly acquired Dilson Herrera.

Colorado Rockies: David Dahl has no doubt been scooped up but Daniel Descalso and Christian Adames are in play with Trevor Story unfortunately having his season cut short.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Curiously, Josh Reddick sat against southpaw Tyler Anderson on Wednesday, which is good news for Scott Van Slyke owners if this continues. Enrique Hernandez is back to platoon with Joc Pederson. That said, if I was counting on Van Slyke, Iíd look to upgrade.

Miami Marlins: The Fish are looking internally to replace Colin Rea, who they sent back to San Diego, while David Phelps is being stretched out. If available, heís not a bad flyer for the stretch run.

Milwaukee Brewers: Orlando Arcia is up and could help in steals, though his ability to get on base is an issue. Jonathan Villar will shift to third which puts the kibosh on Will Middlebrooks getting another shot once healthy. Hernan Perez continues his Eduardo Nunez impersonation in the outfield.

New York Mets: Past the acquisition of Jay Bruce, the biggest news is Lucas Duda may not play again this season.

Philadelphia Phillies: Jeremy Hellickson could still move via a waiver deal. On the outside chance Aaron Altherr is available Ė GET HIM! There hasnít been a lot of J.R. Crawford talk lately. He may still get a September look but donít count on it.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Both Ivan Nova and Drew Hutchison are very intriguing options on the hill. PNC is a great place to pitch and the Bucs outfield can chase them down. It's entirely plausible that Nova outpitches Rich Hill and Matt Moore the rest of the season.

San Diego Padres: Jabari Blash is an interesting power source as heís been tabbed to take Matt Kempís spot. If you havenít noticed, Travis Jankowski is running wild and could really help if heís somehow slipped through the cracks. Many expect Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot to be up in September. Theyíre the type you can snag if you still have FAAB in the kitty.

San Francisco Giants: As alluded to earlier, Matt Moore joins the Giants rotation and will require a hefty bid. If you think you need more than Moore, this is a chance to target Nova instead and leave something in the wallet for help down the road.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Redbirds were quiet at the deadline so thereís really not much that affects FAAB thinking.

Washington Nationals: Another team that didnít do much other than shore up the bullpen with Mark Melancon.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Baltimore Orioles: Steve Pearce looks to lose playing time, at least early on, unless the club decides to give up on Pedro Alvarez entirely. Itís going to be hard to find at-bats for both Pearce and Nolan Reimold other than when the team is facing a southpaw so if you have Reimold, thatís a spot to upgrade. If you need some wins and have a ratio buffer, you could do worse than chase them with Wade Miley.

Boston Red Sox: The initial plan is for Andrew Benintendi and Bryce Brentz to platoon in left field with Brock Holt assuming the utility role. Chris Young hopes to return by the end of the month which impacts Brentz. Originally I didnít think there was any chance Yoan Moncada saw Fenway Park this season; now Iím not so sure.

Chicago White Sox: Nothing of interest other than Tyler Saladino getting most of the time at second base with Brett Lawrie out. Heís the type of filler to go after if you want to save some funds for more pickups in the next several weeks.

Cleveland Indians: Thereís nothing much to note on offense other than Jose Ramirez is now definitely mixed league worthy since heíll be full time at the hot corner after Juan Uribe was released. Brandon Guyer looks to be Lonnie Chisenhallís platoon partner. Cody Allen owners may get another handful of saves, but when push comes to shove, Andrew Miller will get the call.

Detroit Tigers: Welcome back, J.D. Martinez, signaling the end of Mike Aviles' and Tyler Collins' extra playing time. The club will still find at-bats for Aviles but if Iím using Collins, Iím looking to upgrade.

Houston Astros: So many moving parts. Alex Bregman is struggling while Yulieski Gurriel is on the way. If you have Bregman in mixed leagues, start looking for an exit strategy.

Kansas City Royals: Billy Burns is back in the bigs but with Paulo Orlando still producing, thereís not an immediate path to at-bats, especially since Burns and Jarred Dyson are clones. Still, if you need steals and have a buffer in the power categories, Burns can only do one thing Ė run.

Los Angeles Angels: The Cam Bedrosian secret is out of the bag. Past that, the only question is how much playing time Johnny Giavotella loses to Cliff Pennington as Giavotella is relevant in deep mixed leagues.

Minnesota Twins: Jorge Polanco is interesting so long as Trevor Plouffe remains out, but he may also take some of the run at shortstop. Heís another target for those looking to conserve funds for bigger fish.

New York Yankees: The word in the Bronx is Luis Severino will stay in the bullpen but thatís what Baltimore said about Dylan Bundy. Some feel Alex Rodriguez has played his last game in pinstripes, rendering Gary Sanchez mixed league worthy if he has catcher eligibility in your league. Aaron Hicks is the immediate beneficiary after the Carlos Beltran trade with the expectation Aaron Judge gets a look when healthy.

Oakland Athletics: The Aís have a lot of moving parts to fill the Josh Reddick gap but none are really future pieces so, unless Arismendy Alcantara get the call, the only real repercussion is that Ryon Healy is virtually assured of regular duty. Danny Valencia may need to be replaced in mixed leagues if he loses playing time.

Seattle Mariners: If you didnít know about Edwin Diaz, you do now after he closed out the Red Sox in consecutive contests. Guillermo Heredia isnít a top prospect but heís been leading off versus southpaws, which makes him AL-only relevant as filler.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays had so many moving parts that thereís still a bit of a logjam even after trading Pearce and Brandon Guyer. Short term, Desmond Jennings and Nick Franklin are back to being AL-only relevant, with Taylor Motter back too. When healthy, Matt Duffy is slated to play shortstop, pushing Brad Miller to first base which will impact Franklin.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers are loaded for bear, fortifying themselves up and down the roster. Obviously Jonathan Lucroy is an all-in player with Carlos Beltran close, if not also in the max bid category. Thereís a good chance Ryan Rua and Nomar Mazara fall into a regular platoon which could push Mazara off mixed league rosters.

Toronto Blue Jays: I wouldnít touch Francisco Liriano with a ten-meter poll. That is all.

If you have questions, please feel free to post in the comments. That said, I canít tell you how much to bid. Thereís too many factors contextual to your league.