The non-waiver trading deadline has now passed and most leagues are sorting through the deadline deals. You may even be waiting right now to see whether your hopeful free agent acquisition bids have been successful. After the dust settles, you may find that you still have FAAB dollars remaining. This essay will discuss some strategies for acquiring free agents down the stretch (and should be helpful even if you don't employ FAAB rules).
Above all, of course, you should continue to use your FAAB dollars for regular roster management: replacing injured or benched players, trying to pick up a few extra wins or RBI when those are close categories, and so on. If your league allows you to trade FAAB dollars in August or September, you can and should do so if it will help your lineup. And if your league rules allow you to carry FAABed players over to next season, you should keep your eyes open for possible bargains and keepers. One of your competitors may get rid of a player who's no keeper at his $16 salary, but if you project him at $8 for next season it's a no-risk gambit to bid $2-$3 for him.
After rosters expand on September 1, many teams will bring up prospects to audition for future playing time. These players can also be valuable pickups. However, this practice is growing somewhat less common. The Arizona Fall League is playing an increasingly important role in player development, and often gives teams the opportunity to audition players without the pressure of playing in games that count, and without having to pay them the major league minimum. Still, there will be a few prize prospects who will make appearances down the stretch, and therefore worthy candidates for FAAB bids.
Consider acquiring bench players on contending teams. Once a playoff berth is secure, many managers like to rest regulars and give their bench players extended playing time in order to help them tune up for the playoffs.
Finally, remember that MLB trades can still be made until August 31 as long as the traded players pass through waivers. (Only players on major league contracts need to pass through waivers; minor league prospects do not have to clear.) There have been many reports in the mainstream media suggesting that there will be more waiver deals than usual this year. According to these reports, virtually every team will decline to make waiver claims because no team wants to take on additional salary.
These reports need to be taken with some caution, however. If a general manager thinks that a waived player will help his team make the playoffs, he just might find a way to scrape up a few hundred thousand dollars.
There may be a few waiver deals, but it is unlikely that many of these deals will have significant pennant impact or bring major players across league lines. You may want to reserve some dollars for this eventuality, but don't let other opportunities pass you by while you hold out hope for a late trade. And don't hold back any of those dollars once the calendar hits September.
As always, earlier is better when it comes to acquiring free agents, since players make a bigger impact when they spend more time on your team. And in most leagues there's nothing to be gained by having dollars left over.
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