July 9, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
Making the Most of Midseason Free Agents
Welcome to the All-Star break, fantasy players. If you’re reading this right now, chances are you still have a pretty good chance of winning your league, so congratulations! Today, I wanted to talk about a good value proposition that usually presents itself around this time of year.
If you’ve followed my early-season advice of being aggressive with your FAAB budget, chances are you’re sitting somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of FAAB remaining. You’ve made a few buys, many of which have hopefully worked out, but several of your competitors have been pinching pennies in anticipation of MLB’s trade deadline while a few others have blown their stakes early. In Tout Wars and LABR, I find myself in this exact position:
LABR NL — Remaining FAAB
Tout Wars NL — Remaining FAAB
This can actually be a very advantageous position to find yourself in at this time of the year. Obviously it would be preferable to have $109 like Yahoo!’s Brandon Funston does (if you’re wondering, he has over $100 because he got compensation for losing Wilson Ramos to injury), but given that having less means you spent early and have subsequently been accruing stats for months, being in the middle here is a great spot to be. Right now, the beginning of July, is basically the eye of the storm. We’ve passed the primary minor-league call-up period—the Bryce Harpers and Mike Trouts of the world have already been recalled—but we’re not yet at the trade deadline—so the specters of Zack Greinke and Brandon McCarthy league-switches still loom. But right now, all is calm.
What we’ll see now are a couple of straggler call-ups and a minor-ish trade or two in advance of the deadline. This year, two such examples of this are Jim Thome crossing to the American League and Starling Marte on the verge of being recalled by the Pirates. This is great news for you middle-of-the-pack-FAABers. These players often can have significant value—not Greinke value, but far more than the usual Wilson Valdez and Matt Diaz riff-raff you’ll find on the waiver wire—and you’re in prime position to scoop it up.
You see, those who are at the top of the FAAB list are jockeying for position, keeping their eye on the prizes of the July 31 deadline. They are unlikely to be spending much as they prepare for a hectic round of dib-calling on the elite league-crossers. None of these guys at the top are going to bow out of the Cole Hamels sweepstakes to take a shot at Jim Thome. They’ve waited this long; they feel they can afford to wait another two or three weeks and hope to hit the lottery.
And, of course, those who have already spent their FAAB and are below you in the pecking order aren’t much of a threat, since you cover them (this is especially true in leagues with Vickrey bidding) and since they may be reluctant to spend the rest of their few remaining dollars when we’re still only halfway through the year.
Once you come to terms with the fact that you won’t be getting Shane Victorino or Matt Garza, you can find great joy in acquiring a guy like Starling Marte right now. Described by Kevin Goldstein in his Pirates Top 11 as a “potential stud,” Marte could be a five-category fantasy contributor if given regular at-bats, which seems pretty likely following Jose Tabata’s demotion. And because the bidding for this kind of guys is likely to be much less intense than if he’d been called up even a month ago, you not only get the benefit of spending early on the April and May studs and accruing their stats for the bulk of the season, but you also get a discount on these good-but-not-great July roto-league joiners as well. Just make sure you outbid those lower than you. You may wind up with only a few bucks left to spend over the rest of the season, but this could be your last chance to acquire an impact player, so make it count.