That is the big question heading into this Memorial Day weekend. There you are sitting in front of your computer/phone deciding what to do with your fantasy baseball team. Your pondering one of three scenarios....
1. I'm at the top of the standings, how do I make my team stronger?
2. I'm in the middle of the standings, do I make a run or cut bait and rebuild
3. This league sucks! Fire Sale! On the Block - "Looking for Keepers!"
Coming up this weekend the NL King will cover this very topic and while most of his analysis relates to NL Only leagues, the same strategies really do apply to every kind of keeper league. So I'll let NL King do much of the talking this weekend and so I don't want to steal his thunder. However, I do want to add my two cents, some past experience, and what I am doing right now as I write this in hopes that you the reader will take this advice, see what you can use, and make your fantasy team a winner in 2010....or 2011.
Currently, I personally have two big money leagues, these are the two leagues I have been involved with for years and are the reason I originally started doing fantasy advice back in 2006. Much of my advice derives from these leagues as they are super competitive and involves much of the crapola we all experience on a daily basis within fantasy leagues around the world.
This is the right time for me to do this post because I have Team A in first place with a cozy lead and Team B in last place probably ready to throw in the towel and rebuild. Both leagues are 12 team, mixed, roto, auction style leagues with 14 reserve players based on a $55 budget. So that $.20 for the cheap players which is equivalent to the $1 player in normal $260 leagues. So a $10-$12 Albert Pujols is like a $50 Pujols. The difference with League A and League B is that League A is 6x6 to include OBP and IP and League B is normal 5x5. Both leagues contain many of the same players.
Team A is in first place with a lead ranging from 1 point to 12 points on any given night, its a tight race. This team is a powerhouse where we kept 8 players and I went in with Matt Kemp, Billy Butler, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, and Brian McCann as my stars and all for under $3.00 each. This left me plenty of cash advance to spend on pitching where I drafted Justin Verlander, Johan Santana, A.J. Burnett, Ricky Romero and David Price to name a few. I drafted Jon Garland in the reserve and Chris B. Young and Casey McGeHee at $.20 each....now that's value! I entered this league in 2005, won it in 2007, rebuilt in 2008, tanked again in 2009, and making a run again in 2010. So that's a little background.
While I'm off to a great start, I know I have work to do. I can't win this league without making some moves. Currently, Dontrelle Willis is my 9th SP and in a league that counts innings, he needs to be upgraded. I also have Pablo Sandoval at $3 ($5 next year) who is not hitting for power and I also just lost Asdrubal Cabrera to injury so I have Reid Brignac (Reserve pick) in there currently. So when I sat down this week to adjust my lineup for the week, these were the issues I was faced with and I decided that if I was to stay at the top, I need to address these issues quickly. This league is notorious for quitting early and dumping stars for keepers (I'm a huge culprit of that) but that's what needs to be done to win or rebuild. Usually, the best time to make that type of decision is now. So yesterday I decided to offer one of my major keepers (Butler, McCutchen, Zimmerman, Kemp, Sandoval). These guys are normally untouchable and what I have to be careful with is that I am winning with these guys so trading them for higher priced players could be pointless. In this league, we have an active salary cap that needs to stay between $70 and $100. I was at about $80 as of yesterday. Usually, one of the above players will net an expensive superstar plus one or two other solid players you can use to fill holes from a last place team that's looking to rebuild. Yesterday, I pulled a trade off where I decided to part ways with Sandoval, Alex Rios (owned for $3.80 and was a keeper) and a $.20 Chad Qualls for Ryan Howard ($11.20 and won't be kept because of price), Francisco Liriano (can't be kept), and Marco Scutaro ($.80 potential low end keeper). So Sandoval/Rios/Qualls for Howard/Liriano/Scutaro. Liriano upgrades me at SP over D-Train, Scutaro upgrades me at SS until Asdrubal Cabrera comes back and is an OBP guy, and Howard obviously upgrades me over Sandoval in every way. No brainer on my part. The key here was that I don't know if Sandoval is going to hit like we all thought because he just doesn't have the team hitting behind him, he has no protection in the lineup. Plus, everyone in this league asks for Pablo so he's had major trade value.
Bottomline, this team was built to win, but I had to make a move using one of my major chips to help upgrade and plug holes and did it with a team that had no use for Ryan Howard except to rebuild. Plus, I was able to plug all my holes without trading my $.20 McGeHee, Chris Young, Derek Holland, or Chris Tillman. I can save those guys for later.
My philosophy is .... who cares about the future if you can win now...especially in a money league. This league nets the winner $1500+ so its worth it. Plus, in the off season, you'll always have trade chips to move for the next year. Last years winner traded all its keepers and was in first all year until the end and lost in the last few weeks. He made a few moves in the off season for cheap keepers like a $.40 Ian Stewart, $.40 Colby Rasmus, $.20 Stephen Strassburg, made moves for some young studs in the auction and is currently a few points away from being in the money. If he can do it, so can you! You just have to be trade savvy! Trading in fantasy baseball is an art.
Team B has not been so lucky and this league was started in 2006. Its been a learning experience and it seems I just haven't found the right mix of players I guess. So this year, I've decided to tank and rebuild for 2011. I mean I'm completely gutting this team out and building around two players, Robinson Cano and Pablo Sandoval. However, the plan is to tank without looking like I'm tanking. Problem is, every just says I'm tanking because this is what I do every year. It's a vicious cycle. I won't go into huge detail but lets just say I went into the season with an outfield of Nate McLouth, Jason Kubel, Drew Stubbs, Carlos Quentin and a $5.00 overpaid John Lackey as my bottom five keepers. That should explain it all right there. We keep 10 in this league, same set up as League A with a $70-$100 active salary cap. My stars going in were a $4 Robbie Cano, $3.00 Pablo Sandoval, and a $6 B.J. Upton who I stupidly flipped for Denard Span and Brian Matusz the second week of the season. Either way, this team sucks! I have decided that my only goal is to steal keepers away at any and all costs. Currently, I still have Cano and Sandoval. I traded my $12 Ryan Howard for a $2 Kendry Morales who I can keep next year for $4, but, I had to package a $2 Ricky Romero ($4 next year) to get him. No brainer for me. I traded Johnny Cueto and Gavin Floyd for Phenom Mike Stanton ($2.00) and a pitcher who I can't remember. Then I traded Julio Bourbon for Kevin Slowey ($1.00) and traded Trevor Hoffman for Rick Porcello ($1.40) and started to build up some young pitching. Then today, I unleashed Mike Pelfrey (flipped Denard Span for him), Mike Leake (waiver wire grab), and Casey McGeHee (reserve pick) for a $2 Justin Verlander ($4 next year), $1.00 Jorge Posada who I can stash while on the DL, and a $2 Ian Desmond.
My goal is to get the best keeper talent at the best prices. Right now for Team B, my 2011 keeper list looks like this....
We keep 10
Kendry Morales $4.00
Robbie Cano $6.00
Pablo Sandoval $5.00
Justin Verlander $4.00
Jonathon Sanchez $1.00 (Same stats as Verlander for less than half the price)
Kevin Slowey $1.00
Mike Stanton $2.00 (slightly overpriced and if he stinks, I can drop)
Ike Davis $2.00 (grabbed him in the reserve)
Players I've picked up in trades since opening day
Felipe Paulino $.20
Players picked from the waiver wire (One every two weeks at $2.00)Mike Leake
Players I've traded or flipped
See what I mean? Team B is and was terrible and the decision at this time is to tank and rebuild. Team A is a powerhouse and the decision is to go for it without losing my nucleus of Butler, McCutchen, Kemp and Zimmerman... unless a great offer to help me win presents itself.
So I hope this has been a bit educational. I just wanted you to see my thought process in a big money fantasy league. I hope this helps! It's tough to win a league without making moves whether it's for this year or next. If you have a chance to win, go for it! Sometimes bragging rights is just as valuable as money!
The Fantasy Man