By Brian Walton
Two weeks ago here, I focused a column on beating myself up over my inactivity in not picking up Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon the week before he was called up to the majors. The price as a minor leaguer would have been just $1 of my $100 Free Agent Allocation Budget (FAAB) for the season.
Gordon sparked bidding war
Seven days later, even I was amazed at the bidding war for Gordon's services.
I chose not to participate in the Gordon chase in week two, either. I have already been forced to play a middle infielder at utility for much of the season. Further, I have the Cubs' Darwin Barney on the DL and Zack Cozart in waiting for his inevitable MLB debut with the Reds.
Still, for a dollar, I would have been pleased to land Gordon and deal the excess. For big money, however, no thanks. Previously, I had joked it would take at least the $15 required to win the bidding on Xavier Paul the week prior to get Gordon.
How about over four times that amount?
Ten bidders stuck a toe in the water in an attempt to secure Gordon, half of whom I would say jumped all the way in. Chris Liss tried to cash out at $43 while Scott Pianowski also bid $43, well more than half of his stash. Both came in a distant third, while Mike Gianella's seemingly-aggressive $35 only placed fifth.
Liss had a practical view of the situation.
"I just felt he was a potential game changer, and there won't be many of those until the trade deadline," Liss said. "Even in that case, you're only getting two months of the player, and in this case, you'd get nearly four. Finally, I only had $44 left, so I wasn't going to get a big player at the deadline anyway. So I just bid nearly all I had, knowing I probably wouldn't get him."
And he didn't.
The two titans who battled it out are the 2010 Tout Champion and 2009 second-place finisher, Nate Ravitz of ESPN, and MLB.com Fantasy 411's Cory Schwartz.
I asked each of these formidable competitors to share their thought processes before and after. From a standings perspective, neither was in the top half of the league. With the season approaching half complete, increased urgency was understandable.
Schwartz focused on another important factor also discussed here previously: the lack of available top prospect call-ups or even projected call-ups.
"With most of the top prospects already picked over, I didn't think there would be another good opportunity to get a potential impact player before the trade deadline," Schwartz noted. "Given my place in the standings, I didn't want to hoard my free agent money waiting for that. I'd rather spend more aggressively now than save it until it may be too late for it to help much."
No call-up, no matter highly touted he might be, is a sure thing. Yet in this case, Schwartz could see why getting Gordon would be a strong acquisition.
"While Gordon might not be an impact player, he is a very good fit for my need, given his potential to help in batting average and steals, two categories where I am particularly weak," Schwartz said.
Not getting his man was not what was hoped for, but there is also satisfaction in making your opponent pay full price.
"I didn't want to bid my entire remaining FAAB budget, but with the forgiving nature of Vickrey bidding, I did want to bid very aggressively, so I bid $65 of my remaining $73," he said. "Unfortunately though, Nate Ravitz was even more aggressive, bidding $73, so while I didn't get the player, at least I made Nate burn $66 of his FAAB budget!"
Ravitz feels it is time to make his move.
"Well, my stars-and-scrubs approach to my offense this year has been undone by injuries and under-performances, or in the case of Hanley Ramirez, an ample helping of both," the defending champion said. "I'm in desperation mode on offense, and I felt that landing a *potential* impact bat to go with recent lineup additions Anthony Rizzo/Charlie Blackmon (FAAB'd for virtual pennies several weeks ago) could make a real difference."
The winning bidder knows what he is expecting from his new acquisition.
"To me Gordon is a lottery ticket, with maybe a 50 percent shot of delivering something like a .290-0-25-50-20 line the rest of the way," Ravitz said. "But if he does that, a) it will be a major upgrade over Mike Fontenot and b) it will give me a significant edge in steals and a real trade chip. I went (almost) all in on the bid because I'm in a now-or-never position just to get back to the upper third of the league."
On Thursday, Ravitz and other Gordon owners received good news when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly left the door open to move incumbent shortstop Rafael Furcal to second base if Gordon plays well going forward.
That isn't so good for the likes of Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles, but if your season is hinging on them, well, football season will be here before you know it!
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league's 13-year history. He is a 2009 NFBC league winner and finished in the top 25 nationally in both the NFBC and NFFC that season. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.