by Brian Walton
$66 FAAB for 18 at-bats.
Such is the hand the other National League owners and I have been dealt when we hopped on the "Derrek Lee as the potential solution to late-season offensive cravings." Three weeks ago, the former Cubs star was the biggest bat to move from the American League to the NL at the trading deadline.
Now, Lee has a fractured bone in his left wrist that may keep him out four weeks. Much longer and he may as well rest up for 2012. Further, he finds himself on another roster of a team rapidly going nowhere, having moved from Baltimore to Pittsburgh.
Around the time of the trade, the Pirates were on the upswing. They had actually tasted first place in the National League Central for three days following the All-Star break.
The hangover came quick and hard. Despite the additions of veterans Lee and outfielder Ryan Ludwick, the Bucs headed into an immediate and fatal downward spin that continues to this day.
Venable to make Walton venerable?
Engaged in a dogfight in NL Tout Wars with USA Today's Steve Gardner, I ended up purchasing Lee to join my roster at the deadline after Steve opted to pick up new St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Edwin Jackson. For a while at least, I might have been ahead getting no at-bats from Lee as Jackson allowed 10 earned runs in his first start for Steve but the former White Sox hurler has picked it up a bit since.
Though it was not part of my plan this season, I ended up with three closers for contending clubs on my roster.
I drafted Brad Lidge ($14) and Craig Kimbrel. Jonny Venters went to another owner for the same $8 as I paid for Kimbrel, while I tossed out another $4 to handcuff Ryan Madson to "Lights Out."
Knowing the shakiness of then-St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin, I avoided him like the plague. When the man I believed to have been his heir apparent, Eduardo Sanchez, was promoted from Triple-A, I bid what I thought was an aggressive $2.
Turns out my friend and Tout competitor Phil Hertz bid the same. As I looked at the standings that Monday morning (after the midnight deadline), I saw Phil was just ahead of me. Under the tiebreaker, I thought I had won Sanchez's services.
Fate was not on my side as the SWAT used Sunday's standings, not Monday's, in breaking ties. Phil had several starters going on Sunday but his good pitching day that flipped us in the standings was a day too late for me.
With the league constitution silent as to which day's standings are to be used to break ties, I appealed to the gods. I was voted down. Their take was that the Sunday standings should be used as they are the most recent ones known to all when making their bids.
Though I did not like the outcome, I understood it. Now, I just wish they would clarify the constitution to avoid the same vagaries in the future.
Actually, it worked out OK for me as Sanchez spit the closer's bit after just a week trial. In the interim, I picked up the less-heralded Cardinals reliever Fernando Salas on a $0 bid. His stuff does not rival Sanchez's, but his six different stints with St. Louis in 2010 and a perfect 19-for-19 record in saves in Triple-A last year gave me comfort that Salas would not be spooked by the job.
Despite Madson's time out and the short-term emergence of Antonio Bastardo and the return of Lidge from the DL, the Philly closer continued to produce as well. With Kimbrel being dominant, I racked up a huge lead in saves.
Not surprisingly, I wanted to move a closer, and hoped to shore up my weakest category, stolen bases, while adding an outfielder. Ironically, Hertz, along with the team of Lenny Melnick and Paul Greco, seemed to offer the best fit in terms of standings and players.
However, trading saves anytime, and especially at this stretch of the season, is difficult to do. In fact, Lenny and Paul had been offering Houston closer Mark Melancon for weeks with no apparent bites, so my confidence level in them reversing direction on the saves category felt like a low-odds proposition.
I was shoved into action when three of my offensive players went on the DL the same day last Saturday: Lee, Giants outfielder Andres Torres and Diamondbacks first baseman-outfielder Xavier Nady. Torres had been one of my best hopes for a strong finish in steals.
I did speak with Lenny and Paul and as I expected, they still wanted to move Melancon. I could see no sense in taking on a fourth closer, even on an interim basis while searching for a three-way deal. I quickly decided to move on.
The day before, in response to a query on my part, Hertz suggested he would need two closers to consider trading Padres outfielder Will Venable, my trade target. Initially, I scoffed, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to act.
I was willing to risk taking a bit of a risk in WHIP and ERA in hopes of help in runs and steals. There are always setup men available with comparable or slightly lesser contributions to closers in WHIP, ERA and strikeouts.
After more analysis, however, Hertz decided two closers would not give his team enough oomph. Fortunately, rather than end the discussion, Hertz came back with a modified proposal of Salas plus Laynce Nix for Venable.
I would give up power in Nix, but I was uncertain about the playing time situation in Washington. Since Phil lives there, I knew he knew more about that than I did. The deal seemed right for me, so I accepted.
As the fight in NL Tout gets tighter by the day, I can only hope my new addition becomes a difference-maker. After all, I didn't add Venable to become more vulnerable!
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.