Rebuilding for next year in keeper leagues

by on July 23, 2010 @ 11:30:00 PDT


Paraphrasing the immortal words of BaseballHQ writer John Burnson, "you've run the spreadsheets and scouted the enemies and read the tea leaves and sacrificed the goats, and you have decided that .... it's time to throw in the towel." You have no choice but to rebuild your team for next year. Now what?

The obvious answer is to accumulate a bunch of good keepers, but just how do you do that? Here's a straightforward step-by-step guide to key rebuilding decisions:

1. Decide now: Now is the time to begin rebuilding. If you wait until your league trade deadline approaches, the best bargains for next year may be gone. In fact, some teams in competitive leagues may have seen this as a rebuilding season from the beginning, and consciously set out with next year in mind. Any further delay will only put your team further behind.

2. Separate the sheep from the goats: Sort every player assigned to a team in your league into three categories: keepers, non-keepers, and "bubbles." Keepers are those whose current salary is below their projected output for next year, as well as those high value players who would likely go for higher prices in the draft because of inflation.

Non-keepers are comprised of the remaining overpriced players, those in the final year of a fantasy league contract, and those likely to retire. These will form the bulk of the trade fodder exchanged in return for additional keepers. Bubbles, as the name implies, are players who are on the bubble for protection in next year's draft, as well as those non-keepers whose value could easily increase significantly with a change in role.

3. Look for big bargains: One great bargain can be worth more than several marginal freezes. Go for quality as well as quantity by protecting the best keepers available, not just the most keepers. And don't feel you have to freeze the maximum number of players allowed by your league; when draft time comes you should only protect legitimate keepers.

4. Compare keepers: To compare the relative value of protectable players, start by constructing a potential freeze list for your team next year. This list will undoubtedly change between now and your draft, so don't agonize over trying to generate precise projections. But completing this chart for your team will give you an idea about whom to keep and whom to trade. A

5. Prepare a target list: Now use the same techniques to identify bargain freezes on other teams. Concentrate your efforts on GMs who are still in contention, because these are the teams that will most readily trade off their future.

6. Don't tell the world: If you broadcast that you are playing for next year, it will become very difficult to get fair value in trade. The only time it makes sense to advertise that you are desperate to unload your overpriced stars is when little time remains to tailor individual trades and you need others to make an offer. Otherwise, avoid referring to dumping or rebuilding altogether. Let your opponent think they are putting one over on you.

Finally, consider these tips before participating in any rebuilding trades:

  • Don't overpay for pitchers. We know that hitters are generally more consistent than pitchers, and less susceptible to injury. That's why you shouldn't expect too much from or give up too much value for pitchers.
  • Don't expect too much from rookies or farm prospects. Few prospects will earn a $10 salary during their first MLB season. And if a rookie is not earning his salary this year, consider whether you might nab him for less in the draft.
  • Focus on opportunity for bubbles. Consider underpriced part-timers under 30 who have an opportunity to win a full-time job next year or who play behind risky front-liners.
  • Newly anointed closers are especially likely to undergo a big boost in value. But easy come, easy go; the job is a volatile one, so don't spend all your trade capital on acquiring bargain closers. On the other hand, getting a $1 set-up man as a trade throw-in can pay big dividends if a closer goes down between now and next year's draft.
  • Look for cheap injured players. Players who were injured before the draft went for cheap prices. Consider picking them up now, but also consider their injury history and projected recovery schedule.
  • Remember, higher-priced players can also be keepers when draft inflation is taken into account. Don't feel the need to trade these players unless you are getting equal or greater freeze value.
  • Focus on the number of allowable freezes in your league. The fewer the number, the more quality should be emphasized. If necessary, trade several marginal keepers for one major bargain freeze.
  • Beware of trade bait. If a player is rumored to be MLB trade bait, at least use the risk involved in such a trade to force down his price in non-carryover leagues.
  • Discount future value. If you are trading a $40 Carl Crawford, demand a lot of future profit in return. As a general rule, try for $1 in future year's profit for every $2 in current Roto stats given up.

With these ideas in mind, you can put yourself in contention for a pennant next year.

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