Art McGee on valuation: Managing your FAAB

by on April 8, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT


How many dollars were left unspent at the end of your Rotisserie league's draft this year? If your league is like most, the answer is less than one percent of the total dollars available. Almost any Roto owner understands that money not spent at the draft is money wasted, and he leaves the draft unhappy if he somehow miscalculated and ended up with more than a dollar or two unspent.

On the other hand, how many FAAB dollars were left unspent at the end of your league's past season? In most leagues, the percentage is substantial, sometimes as much as 50% or more. And yet, the rationale for spending FAAB dollars is the same as for dollars in the draft. Every team starts with an equal amount of FAAB dollars available, and any team that doesn't spend its total puts itself at a disadvantage to its competitors.

Of all the statements that can be made about managing your FAAB, the most important -- and apparently still not widely understood -- is: Spend your FAAB dollars!

Many league rules affect FAAB bidding, including the number of teams, the size of rosters, whether or not players can be carried over to the next season, and minimums or maximums on allowable bids. Because these rules vary widely across Rotisserie leagues, making recommendations on how much to bid on particular players is almost impossible. There are, however, a few general guidelines on bidding.

Valuable free agents typically become available during the season from two sources: players traded from the other major league (for Roto leagues that use only the AL or NL) and players brought up from the minors who are not already on a reserve roster in your Roto league. If you look at the transaction wires in any recent season, very few valuable players arrive from the other league during the season. When these productive players do become available, be prepared to bid aggressively.

Generalizing about the second source of free agents, minor leaguer call-ups, is more difficult because their availability depends greatly on the number of teams in a Roto league and the size of each team's roster. In a full-fledged Ultra league with 12 or more teams and 40-man rosters (including reserve lists), valuable free agent call-ups will be few and far between. Most rookie call-ups will require time to adjust to major league competition, but savvy owners will not wait until a promising player proves himself before placing a bid on him. Rather, they are likely to bid on a prospect as soon as he becomes available, particularly in leagues with reserve lists.

In leagues with fewer teams or smaller rosters, more players will be available in the free agent pool. In fact, if you compete in such a league, you may even find opportunities to pick up major leaguers who were passed over in the draft. Keep in mind, though, that a player worth bidding on in a 12-team league may not be good enough to justify a bid in a 10-team league, where the rosters do not reach as far into the talent pool.

Many owners make the mistake of saving their FAAB dollars, waiting for that one star player who will make a major impact on their team. Granted, NL owners who were able to purchase Randy Johnson in 1999 when he was traded to Houston got a large boost. But generally, free agents with that kind of impact come along less than once per season in a given league. Furthermore, it's not always obvious who these players are when they arrive -- Johnson was 9-10 with a 4.33 ERA for Seattle before he was traded. And finally, only one team in a Roto league could get Johnson. Other owners who tried to horde FAAB dollars were left with lots of money and with too little time and available talent to spend it.

Instead of trying to save up for the big FAAB purchase, it is recommended that you bid early in the season and bid aggressively. A player acquired with four months left in the season contributes twice as much to your team as the same player acquired with two months left. And better to spend all your money before the All-Star Game, purchasing moderately valuable players, than to end up with half your FAAB unspent at the end of the season.

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