The Saber's Edge: FAAB Strategy

The Saber's Edge: FAAB Strategy

This article is part of our The Saber's Edge series.

Every league has a system to acquire free agents. Of the various methods, leagues with a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) are the toughest to navigate. Identical approaches don't work for each league, so each owner must come up with an approach and generally stick to it.

With FAAB, most league leagues give a team $100 to spend on acquiring players. This amount can vary (it is $1,000 in Tout Wars), but it is a finite amount. Here is a look at several variables to take into account when thinking about how to allocate FAAB dollars over the course of a season.

The Trade Deadline in AL/NL-Only Leagues

The biggest difference between mixed leagues and "only" leagues is how they handle real-life inter-league trades. While mixed leagues generally allow teams to acquire and lose players traded between the AL and NL, some AL/NL-only leagues do not. For those that do, however, the MLB trade deadline gives owners hope to add an All-Star midseason. In an "only" league, a team must decide at the season's start how it will approach the trade deadline. Here are some approaches.

1. Have the most FAAB and get the best player.
These owners are easily spotted about a month into the season. They know they want a game changer and will sit on their cash. Sometimes these owners may eventually spend big on a rookie callup or closer, but they are content to wait until trades start and then get the best player coming from

Every league has a system to acquire free agents. Of the various methods, leagues with a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) are the toughest to navigate. Identical approaches don't work for each league, so each owner must come up with an approach and generally stick to it.

With FAAB, most league leagues give a team $100 to spend on acquiring players. This amount can vary (it is $1,000 in Tout Wars), but it is a finite amount. Here is a look at several variables to take into account when thinking about how to allocate FAAB dollars over the course of a season.

The Trade Deadline in AL/NL-Only Leagues

The biggest difference between mixed leagues and "only" leagues is how they handle real-life inter-league trades. While mixed leagues generally allow teams to acquire and lose players traded between the AL and NL, some AL/NL-only leagues do not. For those that do, however, the MLB trade deadline gives owners hope to add an All-Star midseason. In an "only" league, a team must decide at the season's start how it will approach the trade deadline. Here are some approaches.

1. Have the most FAAB and get the best player.
These owners are easily spotted about a month into the season. They know they want a game changer and will sit on their cash. Sometimes these owners may eventually spend big on a rookie callup or closer, but they are content to wait until trades start and then get the best player coming from the opposite league.

Sometimes it is tough to know how many trades will actually happen, but waiting for a Troy Tulowitzki-like trade is what these owners are hoping for. The problem with this approach is a major trade might never happen or the valuable players might be going to the other league.

But if an owner is aiming for the top player, he should spend enough FAAB to win the player. Don't get fancy at this point. Don't split your budget with two-thirds going to the top guy and a third to the No. 2 player. If you use this split approach, you might not end up with either player.

2. Go hard after the first trade.
I did this approach in an AL-only league last year when Mark Trumbo was traded a couple weeks before everyone else. I needed power. There was no power on the waiver wire, so I pounced on him. It didn't work out, but at least I used my budget.

Most owners with large FAAB budgets are looking for a big fish. Get the early smaller fish and be happy. An owner might be priced out of later moves, so he needs to get what he can.

3. Non-stars.
With all the players traded at the deadline, even teams with a smaller budget might get a useful player. Analyze all traded players and look for any who might improve your team. Last season, Geraldo Parra could have helped my AL-only team when he was traded at the deadline, but I was after bigger fish with a small budget thanks to the Trumbo acquisition. I could have ended up with Parra but didn't concentrate enough resources on him. I didn't get anyone, and Parra would have been nice.

4. Concentrate on new roles.
Jobs will open on teams that trade players. Look for players gaining new roles and go after them. The future is never 100 percent clear, but taking risks now while other teams are scrambling for the top new players often pays off.

With mix leagues, the only above rule that applies is roles caveat (No. 4).

$0 vs. $1 Minimum Bid Leagues

The differences between these two leagues are great, and both have unique features. The biggest difference, in my opinion, is that in $1 leagues, teams need to allocate $10 to $25 just to make small roster moves. Some owners like to stream starting pitchers off the waiver wire, for example. Doing only one a week will cost a team $25. That doesn't even count moves because of injuries or subpar play.

Also having to spend on players in August and September will keep some teams in mixed leagues from going all in at the trade deadline. How few moves a team expects to make in the final two months is a question owners need to ask.

With a $0 FAAB minimum, teams can be a little more aggressive in the number of moves they make. If a team wants to pick up a two-start pitcher a week early or an under-the-radar prospect, it likely will not cost anything. With a $0 minimum, a team can go all in at the trade deadline and still be able to make transactions in the final two months.

The one issue I see with some teams in leagues with a $0 minimum, is they never spend more than $0. Now, some might be waiting for later in the season to spend FAAB, but in deep mixed leagues, the only players who might pop up later are closers. If the league is deep enough, probably all the setup men are already owned. If an owner wants/needs a player, don't be cheap, go get him. Disappointment is easier to swallow if you were outbid, but it is worse if you didn't really bid at all.

Deep/Dynasty Leagues vs. Shallow Leagues

In deep leagues, I find the best approach is to spend money quickly. Most players who can make a difference are already owned. All the later free-agent pickups involve rookies or setup men becoming closers. But most of these players are already owned, so quite a bit of FAAB money just goes to waste. Most playing time surprises happen early in the season, so be active early on.

Also, the amount of FAAB in a 20-team league is obviously twice that in a 10-team league. And there is more demand for the small amount of talent available. A team might get only one or two OK players a season in a high-demand, high-resource environment. Teams should not be afraid to spend when they see a player they can use. Opportunities become fewer as the season goes on.

Some Dynasty leagues have different rules with international players, so teams might want to save money for July 2 signings. I don't like to go after players who are five years from the majors, but others covet these players, and they can be used later in trading.

Closers

Chasing saves can seem like an impossible task for an owner who lost a closer to injury or suckitude. Also, I know some owners who punt saves in their drafts or auctions. They take their chances with a few setup men but plan to spend their FAAB budget on closers. The problem is that several owners likely will need saves and bidding will go high.

If I need Saves, I will spend aggressively on saves and never punt the category (even though it might seem that way). An additional 10-20 saves could move an owner up quite a bit in the rankings. This approach is especially true in larger or only leagues where teams have one or two closers at most.

The one time I like to speculate on saves is two to three weeks before the trade deadline. Find the MLB teams who are out of the race and looking to sell. Get the backup closers on these teams early. Speculate early (and cheaper) on setup men rather than waiting for the trade that makes them the closer.

Vickery

Vickery FAAB is becoming a little more common. In this system, the winning bid is always $1 more than the next-highest bid. For example, if the two highest bids on a player are $10 and $5, the team with the $10 bid will win the player but get him for $6. This allows teams to bid aggressively for players they really want; they can bid $95 on a $5 player. However, someone else might be thinking the same thing and bid $80, leaving you with an $81 winning bid for a $5 player.

The key with Vickery is being able to live with a high bid if someone else also goes high. Getting stuck with an $81 bid early in the season in a league with $1 minimums will handcuff a team. I will be a little aggressive with my bidding knowing some of my bids amounts will come back, but I can't ruin the rest of my season with a crazy-high bid.

Trading FAAB

I am all for leagues that allow FAAB to be traded. Many trades can be finalized with a just a few FAAB dollars thrown into one side or the other. As a rule, I don't like to be the team receiving FAAB because I likely will be giving up players with the most value for the chance of future value. The only time I will accept receiving FAAB is if I have a surplus at a position (usually from an injured player returning) and am looking for anything in return.

Streaming Pitchers

In shallow leagues, some teams will allocate a set amount each week to get a two-start pitcher (usually around $1 to $2). Identify these owners and increase the bid a dollar or two for an obvious choice to throw them off. The owner making these moves will then have to think if he will spend more to keep this streaming going.

Conclusion

League rules will determine which of the above FAAB options are applicable, but each owner should come up with a plan and stick with it. If the plan is to punt saves in the draft, owners will need to be aggressive with FAAB and go after closers. They may need to spend $5 to $10 more than they would like, but they need to get the closer. If the plan is to save FAAB until the trade deadline, the team might need to pass on opportunities to make itself better to have the biggest bankroll later.

Now, teams might need to change plans if, for example, they lose a closer in an only league and need to get his replacement. If you change plans, stick with the move and don't go back to an unworkable plan. Like in the example of needing a closer unexpectantly, teams that change plans won't have the most cash at the trade deadline. Instead, they may move to streaming pitchers or aiming for cheaper targets once the deadline trades start.

Allocating and using FAAB dollars can be a tough unknown part of fantasy baseball with most bids nothing but gut calls. The key is to set a plan early in the season and stick to it. Finally, I am sure I didn't cover some aspect of spending FAAB dollars, so let me know in the comments.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only MLB Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire MLB fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Zimmerman
Zimmerman writes analytics-focused baseball and football articles for RotoWire. He is a three-time FSWA award winner, including the Football Writer of the Year and Best Football Print Article awards in 2016. The 2017 Tout Wars Mixed Auction champion and 2016 Tout Wars Head-to-Head champ, Zimmerman also contributes to FanGraphs.com, BaseballHQ and Baseball America.
Spring Training Job Battles: NL East
Spring Training Job Battles: NL East
MLB Futures: Player Totals Prop Bets 2024
MLB Futures: Player Totals Prop Bets 2024
Spring Training Job Battles: AL East
Spring Training Job Battles: AL East
Collette Calls: Plans B and Beyond
Collette Calls: Plans B and Beyond