Managing the FAAB bidding process is perhaps toughest at this time of year. Player roles are still being sorted out. Small statistical samples are distorting our perceptions, both of the players on our rosters, and those in the free agent pool.
With seemingly very few certainties and many variables to consider, the potential for FAAB mistakes is multiplied. In an attempt to help clarify the process a bit, here are some guidelines to consider when weighing your FAAB options:
I. Strategic considerations
Complete your early assessment of your team: FAAB bids should not happen in a vacuum. Hopefully you have already made an early assessment of your team's strengths and weaknesses. Such an assessment, of course, should be based on player projections rather than the 60 ABs worth of statistics that are available at this point in the season.
At any rate, this assessment should help you to highlight your team's strengths and weaknesses, thus shaping your FAAB priorities. For instance, if you are projected for a poor finish in the saves category, you should be sensitive to that weakness in your FAAB bidding. As a result, you might be inclined to make a substantial bid on a potential saves source rather than on an offensive player.
Consider your league's player universe: Is there a benefit to hoarding your FAAB? In an AL-only or NL-only league, players traded into the league can be FAABed. This provides justification for holding back on early FAAB spending. Conversely, a mixed-league format does not offer the dangling carrot of a superstar entering your player pool.
Similarly, if your league has rules allowing minor-league keepers or any sort of minor-league reserve system, any impact rookie arriving in the majors will likely be rostered already, which again will decrease the need to store FAAB away for later in the year.
Consider your league's FAAB policies: Your league's rules surrounding the FAAB process also should affect your bidding plans. Questions like "Are $0 bids allowed," "Are there mechanisms to increase my FAAB during the season?", and "Does this league use a standard FAAB auction, or a variation like the Vickrey format?" will help determine the aggressiveness of your bids. Affirmative answers to any of the above questions would indicate that a large, early FAAB expenditure would be less restrictive over the balance of the season.
II. Player-specific considerations
Consider your roster structure: Consider the built-in flexibility of your own roster. If your roster is built for flexibility already, and you can easily re-arrange players to cover for an injury at almost any position, this again is another factor which encourages aggressive FAAB moves.
Consider short and long-term upside and opportunity: This is seemingly a simple consideration, but sometimes lost among other data. What is the window of opportunity for the player being bid on? If the player in question is an injury replacement for a major leaguer scheduled to return within a few weeks -- a small window of opportunity -- and the FAAB bid should be made accordingly.
Consider the effect on projected standings: It is a straightforward exercise to determine the potential standings benefit of a FAAB acquisition. Simply add the new acquisition's projected numbers to your teams projected category totals, and recalculate your projected standings. Remember to subtract the projected impact of the player you will be releasing. For a more detailed look at this process, reference the Determining Optimal FAAB Bids essay here on BaseballHQ.com.
Early season FAAB moves are a high-risk play, with potentially high rewards. By sorting out the noise and focusing on the relevant considerations, you can make early moves that will improve your team's chances, while your opponents are still evaluating auction results.
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