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April 14, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Auction Leagues and Salary/Contract Dynamics

by Mike Gianella

If you play in a keeper league, one of the most frustrating things about the start of the regular season is that there isn’t a lot of advice out there for you. Nearly all of the fantasy content generated during the regular season is geared toward the here and now. Some advice might look ahead to later in the current season, but little if any advice looks beyond this season.

In a keeper league, you should have a strong foundation not only of this year’s values but of future valuation. This applies not only if you have packed it in and are playing for 2015 but if you are playing for this year as well. Owners playing for this year probably have an even more difficult job than owners who have packed it in, as they have to figure out the best way to sell their next year assets to non-contenders in an effort to win this year.

Below are only a few considerations that owners in freeze leagues with player salaries and contracts have to take into account.

Long-Term Contracts
In leagues that allow freezes, many allow for players to be carried over for at least one more season before they have to be thrown back into the player pool. Other leagues allow for players to be kept for multiple seasons. In auction leagues, a long-term contract is typically the mechanism used to balance the desire to keep players for a few more seasons without allowing owners to keep players forever. There are two common contract rules:

  • $5 per season is added for each additional season you wish to retain a player using a one-time bump. For example, prior to the 2014 season, you had Mike Trout at $10. You gave him a $20 contract for three years. You now have him at $20 per season from 2014-2016.
  • $5 per season is added once a year right before your auction. In the example above, Mike Trout would be $15 in 2014, $20 in 2015, and $25 in 2016. This methodology seems better for a $10 player like Trout, but for a player who was purchased at auction from $1-3, he could be taken out of the auction or draft for a long, long time. For example, a four-dollar Trout could feasibly be kept from 2014 through 2019 at salaries of nine, $14, $19, $24, $29, and $34. Thirty-four dollars is market price for an in-his-prime Trout, but since the decision doesn’t have to be made until prior to the 2019 season, there is little if any risk placed on the fantasy owner. In leagues with moderate to heavy inflation, Trout theoretically can be kept out of the pool even longer.

Free Agent Salaries
In leagues that use free-agent bidding, the salary of a player usually escalates the following year if you wish to keep the player. In some leagues, the salary increases to five dollars while in others it increases to $10 or even higher. The impact of this rule can be two-fold. Lower free agent salaries can increase dumping opportunities for earlier pick-ups but can also make owners who are out of it less likely to dump for marginal players and try their luck in the free agent pool. A $10 floor makes it less likely that a free agent will turn into a future keeper gem, so the same principles apply in the other direction (harder for contenders to “find” dump chips; harder for non-contenders to pick on up via free agency).

Farm/Reserve Rules
In leagues with liberal minor-league rules, I would argue that there is almost no reason to dump for a minor-league player unless it is an elite talent like Byron Buxton or Javier Baez. If you are allowed to keep picking up minor-league players and churning all year, it makes it easy to simply pay attention to the minor leagues and pick up the hotter minor league bats and arms. Some leagues, however, don’t allow for in-season prospect speculating so it makes acquiring quality players in-season via trade more essential.

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Related Content:  Fantasy,  Keeper Leagues,  Auctions

2 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Thanks for this look at the keeper leagues! It's the game I've been playing since "the book" came out in 1984 (note: just found this link is SI's archives: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1122055/index.htm ... it's been fun!)

The variety of rules has pro's & con's ... seems like there's opportunity for standardization ... perhaps if one of the big stat services could figure out a way to incorporate a league vs league side-commpetation? Something based on league-total-stats ... or best-worst-team ... or worst-best team ... or ...

If nothing else, having someone else figure out rules would eliminate the most unpleasant aspect of my home roto league = the annual gnashing of teeth at rule change proposals.

Along those lines, this past off season was shocking ... after proposing a switch from BA to OBP for many years, this year it finally passed a vote! I can't tell if we are straying further from standard or if we are an early adopter of what will soon become standard for all ...

Apr 14, 2014 10:06 AM
rating: 0

Mike - Much as I love THE BOOK and consider it the bible for any league I run, I had to concede that the long-term contract involved a degree of planning that not all owners would embrace. Neither did I like the simple $5 a year bump. So instead I add an extra $2 for every consecutive year.
If you get Stanton for $1 (as someone did), the next year he is $6, then $13 and then $22--sure each is a bargain, but by the 4th year he isn't that much of a steal. The last year would be $33--which was enough to force his owner to toss him back...and he went for $37! We all underestimated the incredible keeper inflation in our 10 team NL. The thing I like about this system is that it's reasonably equitable, encourages choices, and is simple for even the busiest 'I don't have a ton of time to devote to draft prep' owner whom you want to keep in the league cause he buys the beer every year.

Apr 14, 2014 15:22 PM
rating: 1
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Premium Article Raising Aces: Starting... (04/11)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Sma... (04/09)
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