In many leagues, the free-agent pool is governed by a system known as FAAB, which stands for Free Agent Acquisition Budget or something similar. This method allocates a fictitious budget (often $1,000) to each team for bidding on free agents for the entire season.
The effective management of your FAAB could be the difference between winning and losing. It's a long season, and your FAAB can diminish quickly if you don't handle your funds shrewdly.
How it works
Most FAAB processes take place once per week. Fantasy owners submit blind bids for free-agent players they desire by a deadline; the highest bidder is awarded the player. Leagues have tiebreakers in place in the event that there is a tie for the highest bid. Whenever a team acquires a player, the winning bid is deducted from that team's remaining budget.
Most leagues have a minimum bid of $1; some leagues allow $0 bids. You usually drop a player in correspondence with the addition of one, but in some leagues you may instead elect to move an eligible player to the disabled list to create an opening.
If you play in an AL- or NL-only league and a player moves from the other circuit to yours during the season, you'll have the chance to bid on the new player. If one of your players moves to the other league, many leagues allow you to keep the player, but some do not. In a league-specific format, check your league rules - in advance of the draft! You may decide that a player rumored to be trade bait now and through the deadline isn't worth the investment of a couple of extra dollars if you risk losing him.
When new players are added to the game in your league's software, they also come up for bid. For instance, in mixed leagues, when a major league organization calls up a player from the minors who was not previously in the free-agent pool, the player would then qualify for FAAB bidding.
What to know
First, determine approximately how much you can afford to spend. Creating a weekly budget for your team is a good way to begin. There are 26 weeks in a baseball season. In leagues with a $1,000 budget, divide $1,000 by 26 weeks. You will have a little more than $38 per week to spend on free agents.
In AL- and NL-only formats, some fantasy owners are a little stingier with their purse strings so that, in case big names switch leagues, they're in position to acquire them. The most common time for players to switch leagues is near Major League Baseball's non-waiver trading deadline (July 31). Many owners will horde half or more of their original funds until then. Determine a target number of dollars you'd feel comfortable with at that stage of the season, and adjust your projected budget accordingly.
Obviously, you won't spend the exact amount of your weekly budget every week. In some weeks, you may use a great deal more than $100 in free-agent funds. In others, you may not spend anything. It's important to update your projected budget each week.
For instance, say you are near the top of the standings. If you're ahead of your budget's pace, perhaps you can afford to slow down to ensure that you have money to later fill in necessary holes and remain in contention. If you're behind the pace, you know you have freedom to acquire hot pickups for depth or to block opponents.
Instead, what if you're bringing up the rear? If you're ahead of your budget's pace, you must be judicious with your targets when bidding. You may even have to take calculated risks like acquiring and stashing potential impact players earlier than others might consider them. If you're behind the pace, you have some money to play with to get you back in the race.
How to approach it
First, determine a baseline bid. Generally, bids on proven fantasy performers require more money than unproven players. There are often few proven commodities available, though, save for those who are injured. Examine what similar players have gone for in previous weeks or, if the data is available, seasons.
Many fantasy-relevant minor league call-ups aren't worth much more than the minimum bid in mixed leagues. However, be prepared to see prospects with a lot of buzz go for very high bids, especially in dynasty leagues and AL or NL formats. In fact, winning bids for a select few of baseball's top prospects may rival, if not exceed, those of many veterans because of their hype. It's rare that prospects return such value, but the deeper the league you're in, the more attractive their upside becomes to some bidders.
Once you determine a baseline bid, other factors affect how much you should tweak it. To determine how much to spend on a single player, try to gauge who else in your league figures to be interested as well as their level of interest. If a player at a certain position unexpectedly becomes fantasy worthy, you should know which owners in your league are hurting at that position. You also need to determine how much that prospective addition would play on your team.
If you already have a solid player at that position in place, then it might be best to just toss out a low bid in case you can add him for below market value; you may instead bypass bidding altogether. However, if your acquisition of that player would block your competition - particularly your closest competition or a team you're chasing - from adding an upgrade, you may reconsider your bid strategy.
In league-specific formats, some fantasy managers are conservative with their FAAB in preparation for players who switch leagues. That isn't necessarily a sound approach. Keep in mind that a solid player added early in the season has much more time to contribute to your team; a player scooped up after the trading deadline has two months. This can make a large difference in counting categories. There are also no guarantees you will land the impact player you desire. The later it is in the season, the less important this issue becomes.
For bids on proven players who are changing leagues, especially stars, expect to overpay if you want to acquire them. Considering how relatively shallow the talent pool is in league-specific formats, the impact that players like these have on the standings can be immense. Your fellow owners will not hesitate to blow a large chunk of their budget on them. If you can afford it, you shouldn't either.