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RotoWire Staff Keeper League Auction

The RotoWire Staff Keeper League auction took place Tuesday night - it started at 11 pm Western European Time and lasted until 4:20 am. It's an 18-team mixed league with a standard 23-man roster, seven bench spots and 10 minor leaguers. You're allowed to keep up to 15 players from the previous year with the caveat that heading into their third (C) years with your team you have to either (1) keep them at their current prices, but lose them to free agency in 2018; or (2) extend them at an additional cost of $5 per year extended. So if you had Mike Trout heading into Year 3 at $40, you could keep him this year at $40, keep him through 2018 at $45 per year, 2019 at $50 per, etc. So when you extend players they not only are more expensive in the future, they're also more expensive in the present. (This is an important point which I discuss below.)

Liss and Shoe's Dynasty, the team I share with RotoWire COO Tim Schuler (Shoe), has been a contender almost every year and won the league twice, but last year I did a poor job at the auction, and we had to tank and trade for keepers. In the end, it might have been a good thing as we reloaded with $3 Mookie Betts and $3 George Springer heading into their C years to join Nolan Arenado $13 (in his walk year) and Carlos Correa ($3 B) among others.

Here's the pre-auction roster:

2bCesar Hernandez$2
ssCarlos Correa$3
3bNolan Arenado$13
ciMatt Duffy$3
miAledmys Diaz$3
ofGeorge Springer$13
ofMookie Betts$13
utKendrys Morales$6
pIvan Nova$1
pJharel Cotton$4
pDrew Smyly$7
pJim Johnson$

Notice the three $13 superstars. They're not that price by coincidence. The rule for minor leaguers in this format is they're keepable for free indefinitely until they reach the majors and pass a threshold of time there (20 or 30 games.) The following year they show up on your roster as $3A players. So many prospects that turn into stars are initially kept at $3.

When they go into their third seasons on our team, as mentioned above, we have the choice to keep them this year for three, this year and next for $8 per, this year, next and the one after that for $13, etc. Shoe and I pretty much never extend anyone beyond three years and $13 for a few reasons:

(1) When you're a contender this year, you want to save as much present money as possible to build the strongest roster around the star players, i.e., you'd rather have a $50 profit on a player for one year than a $1 profit on him for 50 years;

(2) While player performance is always uncertain and hard to predict, it's far easier to predict 2017 than it is 2020. Every year out, you have to regress player values to the mean, yet the further out you go, the more expensive the player gets; and

(3) There's a time value to money - or enjoyment - we'd rather have a better team now and deal with 2020 when we get there - if we get there. Between the threats of environmental catastrophe, nuclear war, global economic collapse, viruses and the supervolcano, who knows? And if this strategy turns out to be wrong, we can argue hindsight is 20/20, and in 2020 our case will have particular resonance.

Seriously though, we've never gone more than 3 and $13 on a player, and we've rarely regretted it, while avoiding Carl Crawford's and Cliff Lee's abrupt collapses. Paul Goldschmidt, whom we extended to three and $13 in 2014, might put that to the test this year, but we won a title in 2015, and who knows if that would still have happened had he been $5 or $10 more expensive? I can also see a good case for making Mookie Betts an $18 2020 player rather than a $13 2019 one, though the fact that I would leave $5 on the table at this year's auction (more on that below) wasn't knowable at the time.

In any event, we had strong keepers, and heading into the auction, we had the most money ($188) to spend,  though we knew it wouldn't go that far given the high levels of inflation in keeper formats. To understand why there's so much inflation, consider we had Betts, Springer and Arenado at $13 and Correa at $3 among other bargains. If in a re-draft league, Betts would go for $40, Arenado for $38, Correa for $32 and Springer for $28, that means we're making a profit of $96 on those four alone. If we say we're $120 to the good total for all our keepers, that means we have $120 to spend on the remaining pool that we wouldn't had we simply rostered those players in a regular auction.

Even if other teams haven't amassed that much keeper equity - give them $80 on average - that's still quite a bit ($1440) when multiplied by 18 teams. In fact, there's only 18 * $260 ($4680 total), so we're talking about 31 percent of the entire budget as stashed profit. So you can imagine what's going to happen when $1440 that shouldn't be there as well as all the money that should is unleashed on the available player pool. So instead of getting Bumgarner for $30, I budgeted closer to $50, for example. (He went for $57.)

My goal was to get at least one star pitcher (Bumgarner, Scherzer or Strasburg), one ~$30 pitcher (hopefully Gerrit Cole), one star closer (Mark Melancon was our target), one big outfield bat (I had written Ryan Braun for $42 into the spread sheet) and another outfield bat with upside (Yasiel Puig for ~$15 was our target there.) I would skimp on catcher, the last outfield spot and the last pitching slot or two. It's good to have some low-priced players for keeper purposes too.

We were also full at MI and 3B, and Kendrys Morales was clogging our utility, so I could not even bid on middle infielders or third basemen during the auction. Moreover, once I bought a first baseman, we were also locked out of all corners in the end game, i.e., I could bid or nominate only pitchers, outfielders and catchers.

Mostly, I achieved our goals. I got Strasburg for $45 - $3 more than I guessed I'd have to pay, but I wasn't going to make the same mistake as last year when I let all the top pitchers pass me by. I got Cole for $34, again a few dollars over budget, but we had our two 200-K types (if healthy) that we needed. I got Melancon for $27, a couple dollars under budget and a good bargain after I let Aroldis Chapman go to Jeff Erickson for $37 (I was the $36 bid.)

We didn't need as much hitting, but we needed some. Ryan Braun went past my $42 target, and I let him go. Carlos Gonzalez, the backup plan in that slot, went to $47, and even Puig went to $19, and I bowed out. I settled for Carlos Santana for $26 and Carlos Gomez for $18 as our significant bats, got two cheap catchers with upside (both on the Brewers) and splurged $19 for Cam Bedrosian, perhaps my one rash move of the auction. But our other closer, Jim Johnson, is shaky, and having three closers is a big advantage in a league this deep where your last starter is as likely to hurt as help you in a given outing. I actually left $5 on the table because my target Gerardo Parra went for only $1 instead of the $5-6 for which I had budgeted him. All told, I feel good about this team, but relying on Strasburg is obviously risky, and Bedrosian was expensive for a guy who's not a lock to have the closer job.

I won't bore you with our minor league/reserve picks, except to say we got A.J. Reed who I think is a nice post-hype prospect target late in drafts:

Here are the full rosters:

Chris Hermann$5cAndrew Susac$2cTravis d'Arnaud$8
Kurt Suzuki$2cJett Bandy$2cWilson Ramos$7
Chris Davis$501bCarlos Santana$261bTommy Joseph$6
Dee Gordon$452bCesar Hernandez$22bStarlin Castro$16
Andrelton Simmons$3ssCarlos Correa$3ssJose Peraza$3
Hernan Perez$33bNolan Arenado$133bRyon Healy$3
Jhonny Peralta$5ciMatt Duffy$3ciJosh Bell$3
Neil Walker$15miAledmys Diaz$3miMarcus Semien$8
Domingo Santana$3ofGeorge Springer$13ofByron Buxton$3
Giancarlo Stanton$26ofMookie Betts$13ofIan Desmond$25
Michael Saunders$4ofCarlos Gomez$18ofAndrew McCutchen$31
Adam Eaton$33ofKevin Pillar$8ofJay Bruce$17
David Peralta$11ofGerardo Parra$1ofKole Calhoun$19
Greg Bird$3utKendrys Morales$6utAmed Rosaro$2
James Paxton$3pIvan Nova$1pLance Lynn$5
Taijuan Walker$3pJharel Cotton$4pJulio Teheran$8
Robbie Ray$3pDrew Smyly$7pTanner Roark$2
Shawn Kelley$22pStephen Strasburg$45pKevin Gausman$19
Garrett Richards$14pGerrit Cole$34pMadison Bumgarner$57
Nate Karns$1pCam Bedrosian$19pTrevor Bauer$7
Chris Devenski$1pPatrick Corbin$1pA.J. Ramos$3
CC Sabathia$1pMark Melancon$27pMike Montgomery$2
Andrew Triggs$2pJim Johnson$4pEdwin Diaz$4
J.T. Realmuto$3cTyler Flowers$3cAustin Hedges$6
Mike Zunino$9cDevin Mesoraco$5cJames McCann$3
Adrian Gonzalez$251bJoe Mauer$21bFreddie Freeman$18
Brandon Phillips$72bIan Kinsler$232bRougned Odor$18
Manny Machado$18ssEduardo Nunez$4ssAsdrubal Cabrera$2
Evan Longoria$363bKris Bryant$253bJustin Turner$6
Pablo Sandoval$1ciJose Abreu$39ciTodd Frazier$31
Logan Forsythe$1miJean Segura$13miMatt Carpenter$25
A.J. Pollock$27ofBen Revere$5ofDexter Fowler$16
Keon Broxton$1ofChristian Yelich$18ofAlex Gordon$3
Michael Conforto$3ofCorey Dickerson$10ofBrandon Drury$3
Carlos Beltran$11ofNick Markakis$5ofCarlos Gonzalez$47
Nelson Cruz$25ofBrandon Moss$5ofCameron Maybin$6
Charlie Tilson$1utRaul Mondesi$3utAvisail Garcia$2
Sonny Gray$8pCollin McHugh$9pYu Darvish$15
Carlos Carrasco$11pMatt Harvey$18pDanny Salazar$9
Aaron Sanchez$5pMax Scherzer$51pBrandon Finnegan$3
Vince Velasquez$3pHuston Street$1pSteven Wright$1
Archie Bradley$3pJason Hammel$10pJon Gray$3
Tyler Anderson$1pCarter Capps$2pCody Allen$26
Zack Greinke$24pTyler Thornburg$1pJosh Tomlin$4
Kyle Hendricks$36pBrad Brach$1pKyle Barraclough$1
Blake Treinen$1pAddison Reed$3pRoberto Osuna$9
Stephen Vogt$3cFrancisco Cervelli$4cGary Sanchez$3
Geovany Soto$1cBuster Posey$40cTom Murphy$14
Joey Votto$531bTravis Shaw$11bMitch Moreland$5
Howie Kendrick$12bJose Altuve$422bJavier Baez$3
Freddy Galvis$2ssTyler Saladino$1ssCorey Seager$3
Yunel Escobar$33bJake Lamb$13bJose Reyes$13
Jonathan Villar$3ciJung Ho Kang$10ciBrandon Belt$19
Alcides Escobar$4miJoe Panik$5miZack Cozart$5
Matt Kemp$30ofAdam Duvall$5ofEnder Inciarte$1
Randal Grichuk$5ofJoc Pederson$3ofColby Rasmus$1
Ryan Braun$44ofKhris Davis$21ofTyler Naquin$3
Leonys Martin$11ofCurtis Granderson$12ofJacoby Ellsbury$19
Matt Joyce$1ofGregory Polanco$13ofMichael Brantley$11
Adrian Beltre$36utDanny Valencia$2utVictor Martinez$8
Sean Manaea$3pIan Kennedy$11pJoe Ross$3
Jerad Eickhoff$6pRich Hill$8pClayton Kershaw$74
Jose Quintana$28pTyler Skaggs$1pRaisel Iglesias$8
Junior Guerra$8pChris Sale$48pChris Archer$13
Jeremy Hellickson$7pJoe Musgrove$12pBrandon Maurer$12
Franicso Liriano$6pJaime Garcia$1pSeth Lugo$1
Chad Green$1pShelby Miller$1pLuke Weaver$1
Tony Watson$1pWade Davis$11pRyan Madson$5
Nate Jones$3pJeurys Familia$5pKenley Jansen$19
cBrian McCann$18cYasmani Grandal$16cWelington Castillo$1
cSandy Leon$6cRussell Martin$17cMiguel Montero$1
1bHanley Ramirez$271bWil Myers$81bJustin Bour$3
2bRobinson Cano$342bJonathan Schoop$32bDJ LeMahieu$26
ssTim Beckham$1ssOrlando Arcia$3ssTrevor Story$3
3bAlex Bregman$33bMiguel Sano$33bAnthony Rendon$8
ciC.J. Cron$3ciYoan Moncada$20ciYuli Gurriel$7
miKolten Wong$5miBrad Miller$14miDidi Gregorius$7
ofJ.D. Martinez$21ofAndrew Benintendi$3ofCharlie Blackmon$12
ofJorge Soler$3ofNomar Mazara$3ofMike Trout$28
ofRajai Davis$8ofStephen Piscotty$3ofJustin Upton$35
ofAndrew Toles$1ofEric Thames$25ofShin-Soo Choo$8
ofMitch Haniger$1ofKevin Kiermaier$18ofChris Owings$5
utPaul Goldschmidt$61utMelky Cabrera$13utTrevor Plouffe2
pCorey Kluber$14pBlake Snell$11pAlex Cobb$5
pMatt Moore$11pCarlos Rodon$14pAdam Conley$1
pMichael Fulmer$3pDaniel Norris$3pMarcus Stroman$3
pDylan Bundy$3pMatt Andriese$1pDallas Keuchel$13
pAdam Wainwright$16pDanny Duffy$32pJohnny Cueto$44
pDan Straily$8pMichael Pineda$12pAroldis Chapman$37
pGreg Holland$6pJeff Samardzjia$21pEduardo Rodriguez$3
pSean Doolittle$2pKelvin Herrera$1pHector Neris$3
pAlex Colome$5pCarl Edwards Jr.$1pNeftali Feliz$5
cTony Wolters$2cJonathan Lucroy$22cMatt Wieters$13
cNick Hundley$2cWillson Contreras$1cCameron Rupp$7
1bChris Carter$31bEdwin Encarnacion$471bAlbert Pujols$22
2bDustin Pedroia$162bJason Kipnis$212bDevon Travis$3
ssTim Anderson$3ssAddison Russell$3ssDansby Swanson$3
3bKyle Seager$153bMaikel Franco$33bNick Castellanos$8
ciLucas Duda$1ciAdonis Garcia$1ciJurickson Profar$5
miFrancisco Lindor$3miElvis Andrus$21miBen Zobrist$17
ofKyle Schwarber$3ofOdubel Herrera$5ofLorenzo Cain$11
ofTrea Turner$3ofAaron Judge$3ofSteven Souza Jr.$8
ofJason Heyward$23ofDavid Dahl$3ofYasiel Puig$19
ofStarling Marte$13ofYoenis Cespedes$49ofYasmany Tomas$15
ofBryce Harper$60ofMatt Holliday$6ofMarcell Ozuna$19
utMike Moustakas$11utChelsor Cuthbert$1utJoey Gallo$1
pAaron Nola$3pNoah Syndergaard$3pMichael Wacha$8
pLuis Severino$3pRick Porcello$1pGio Gonzalez$13
pMasahiro Tanaka$30pSteven Matz$3pLance McCullers$13
pRobert Gsellman$8pMatt Shoemaker$6pJustin Verlander$25
pCarlos Martinez$8pJake Arrieta$23pHisashi Iwakuma$11
pDavid Price$29pJacob deGrom$20pFelix Hernandez$25
pDellin Betances$11pKoda Glover$1pJeanmar Gomez$11
pFrancisco Rodriguez$5pAdam Ottavino$5pZack Wheeler$1
pSeung Hwan Oh$2pKen Giles$8pDrew Hutchison$1
cYan Gomes$4cBruce Maxwell$1cYadier Molina$11
cJason Castro$2cMartin Maldonado$1cSalvador Perez$27
1bMike Napoli$41bAnthony Rizzo$591bEric Hosmer$18
2bRyan Schrimpf$12bJedd Gyorko$92bBrian Dozier$10
ssBrandon Crawford$4ssXander Bogaerts$18ssJorge Polanco$3
3bJose Ramirez$113bYangervis Solarte$53bJosh Donaldson$13
ciMiguel Cabrera$53ciNick Senzel$2ciEugenio Suarez$1
miJosh Harrison$16miTroy Tulowitzki$19miDaniel Murphy$17
ofRaimel Tapia$3ofJackie Bradley$5ofJarrod Dyson$1
ofMark Trumbo$18ofMax Kepler$11ofEddie Rosario$3
ofBilly Hamilton$13ofAdam Jones$33ofHunter Pence$22
ofJose Bautista$30ofJosh Reddick$8ofBrett Gardner$9
ofDenard Span$6ofTravis Jankowski$2ofJayson Werth$8
utMartin Prado$6utBlake Swihart$1utEvan Gattis$20
pZach Davies$1pJ.A. Happ$2pMike Foltynewicz$6
pJohn Lackey$20pBartolo Colon$1pErvin Santana$8
pMarco Estrada$3pKenta Maeda$31pAnthony DeSclafani$1
pJake Odorizzi$8pClay Buchholz$1pDrew Pomeranz$5
pJon Lester$44pEdinson Volquez$1pZach Britton$34
pScott Kazmir$2pCharlie Morton$1pCole Hamels$27
pWei-Yin Chen$5pCraig Kimbrel$31pBrandon Kintzler$8
pSam Dyson$4pAndrew Miller$6pJordan Zimmermann$6
pFernando Rodney$2pDavid Robertson$11pMatt Strahm$2