keyboard_arrow_uptop

Author’s Note: This column is intended for deep leagues only

It’s become increasingly clear in the last few years that fans of baseball, fantasy baseball owners included as a subset, are tolerant of essentially two modes of thought when it comes to their team and how it’s built. There’s the contending team, that makes itself known to be attempting contention for a wild card spot, if not a division crown, and the rebuilding team that isn’t competing that year so is all about future assets and long-term growth. These are accepted styles of competition in which one is either competing at the top or dwelling at the bottom with the idea of competing at the top down the line. What’s less accepted is mediocrity, or stagnancy. Move up or move down, or at least make your motives known.

This brings us to the Braves offseason thus far, which has seen them take a small step back on the field, while not quite going all out in an effort to rebuild. What they have focused on is contention in the short term, while keeping 2015 as an option. Disagreeing with this philosophy isn’t criminal or unreasonable, hedging isn’t always pretty. But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a viable option for either the Braves, or your fantasy team.

Putting a priority on contending is only natural, but the question is what to do when it’s unclear whether you’ll make it. The complete tear down is the ever-popular option because it means high-end prospects and high-end dreams. Less sexy is acquiring the post-hype option that’s ready to contribute immediately, and plugging holes with capable, if not impact options. What the latter option allows for though, is luck. Or variance, if you prefer to look at it that way. While knowing that a division or league title isn’t likely, being middling isn’t as bad as it’s cracked up to be. In non-roto leagues that have playoffs, middling teams make the playoffs with regularity, and—mirroring actual baseball—once you’re there, it’s a crapshoot. While the payoff in fantasy isn’t quite the same as in reality (there are no fans you have to worry about because nobody else cares about your fantasy team), depending on your league it can net you some cash, or prevent you from spending some. Always a good thing!

I know, a backdoor chance to get into the playoffs isn’t exactly the greatest sell job. But rebuilding on the fly allows you to be more aggressive in making a push for the playoffs the following season. Without the 2-3-year waiting period that comes with a complete teardown, you’re free to capitalize on teams that are looking to tear down and start over. Acquiring players when the shine is off the apple is the name of the game, but it doesn’t come without risk. It’s a risk the Braves were willing to take, and one the A’s were as well, in picking up Brett Lawrie. Trading for the Danny Salazars, Desmond Jennings, and Mike Minors of the world, while supplementing them with the Chris Owings, Rick Porcellos, and Wade Mileys of the world allow one to be poised to make that one move that pushes them up the win curve, rather than wait out the prospect lottery in the league-cellar.

The other thing to keep in mind when deciding to pursue such a strategy is the potential brevity for fantasy leagues. It’s almost always better to be competing, because you never know when the league will end. It’s easy to think it won’t happen to you, but rest assured, like enjoying a Taylor Swift song, it can happen to anyone.

This strategy isn’t for everyone and shouldn’t be applied without thought beforehand. Keep your wits about you though, and you can shorten your rebuild time while remaining on the periphery of contention, and who doesn’t like a good chase for the last playoff spot anyway? The core of this strategy is the core of most good ones; if everyone is zigging, zag. If everyone is contending or tanking for picks, position yourself to contend for the next year as soon as possible, and you’ve got a leg up on the rebuilders.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
sgcashmere
12/05
Play to win the game, mickey-fickey.