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Depending on how long you have been a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, welcome or welcome back to the Expert FAAB Review. Every week, I’m going to take a look at the players and the process behind the expert bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and Tout Wars AL. Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I will provide insights behind the reasoning on some the bids. Budgets in all three leagues start at $100 at the beginning of the season.

Tout Wars uses a Vickrey Auction system. A basic description of the Vickrey bidding system can be found here.

Random Quote of the Week – “I’m going to ride my llama. From Peru to Texarkana.” –Neil Young

In both LABR AL and Tout Wars AL, Johnny Cueto was not available to bid on this week. I am not sure if this is the explanation that applies in Tout Wars, but here is part of the email I received from Steve Gardner shortly after the midnight deadline in LABR:

From RTS: We actually did not receive the official transaction from our stats provider until just now. We do not update player teams and status on Sundays after 1 pm in order to try and keep things fair and give everybody ample time to make waiver moves on Sunday. We don’t have the ability to change Cueto’s team and make him eligible in only the LABR AL league without making him eligible in all of our AL leagues.

If Cueto had been available in LABR or Tout AL, he would have likely drawn the highest bid from Brandon Funston of Yahoo (in LABR) and Robert Leibowitz of Mastersball (in Tout Wars). In some seasons, categorical need may have given either fantasy expert pause, but with what appears to be a soft/uncertain hitting market, it would have made no sense for either Funston or Leibowitz to sit on their cash and wait for next week’s trade deadline imports. At best, Cole Hamels would be a push with Cueto, and unless Carlos Gomez or Justin Upton gets moved to the AL, Cueto is likely to be the best of the players crossing leagues.

Of course, then the surprise blockbuster swap between the Rockies and Blue Jays was reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports late last night/early this morning. Would Funston/Leibowitz have been better off waiting for Troy Tulowitzki? Perhaps—depending upon their categorical needs—but playing the guessing game only to lose out at the end is often a pointless exercise.

LABR Mixed

Nathan Eovaldi $4. Other bids: $2, $2, $1. Player released: None.
I thought some new faces in the majors would get the highest bids this week (see below), but instead an old (well, relatively old) face garnered the highest bid this week in LABR mixed. He is racking up the wins for the high flying Yankees, but his ERA remains over four, which is partially due to the park he pitches in but also due to the inconsistency Eovaldi displays from start to start and sometimes from inning to inning. Eovaldi is a great example of where Baseball Prospectus’ shiny new DRA metric is a better gauge of pitcher performance than FIP. Eovaldi’s FIP sits 0.75 lower than his ERA this year and was 1.00 lower than his ERA in 2014. However, his DRA of 4.19 is barely below his ERA of 4.27. Maybe Eovaldi deserves a little more luck, but not much. For fantasy, given his batted-ball profile, home park, and relatively meh strikeout rate, he is borderline in 15-team mixed.

Aaron Nola $3. Other bids: $3, $2, $1, $1. Player released: None.
While Eovaldi might get the wins, here is the guy I would have wanted if Bret Sayre and I hadn’t spent our last $6 of FAAB last week to nab Kyle Schwarber. Nola had an impressive debut against the Rays, and while his follow-up start against the Cubs wasn’t quite so terrific, he managed to pitch seven solid innings before surrendering an Addison Russell home run when Nola seemed gassed at the end of the outing. Nola’s stuff is probably going to play more like it did at Wrigley: good, but with some occasional bumps in the road as he makes the biggest adjustment there is to make in professional ball. As noted above, the wins aren’t likely to be there; however, the Phillies do get a healthy diet of NL East down the stretch, which will definitely help Nola’s rate numbers. He gets the Braves at home this week, which was a tasty matchup even before Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe were flipped to the Mets.

Jake Smolinski $2. Player released: Fernando Rodney.
Stephen Piscotty $1. Player released: Tim Hudson.
Michael Conforto $1. Player released: None.
Caleb Joseph $1. Player released: Rene Rivera.

This was another quiet week in LABR mixed for transactions. Unlike in the mono league formats, there will not be any fun and exciting prizes waiting for the expert owners next Sunday at midnight after the MLB trade deadline. Piscotty and Conforto are the most interesting plays here. Both are in crowded situations for their respective teams, but both are talented enough to force the playing time issue if they perform. They could get sent down, though, if their major-league team makes a trade. Joseph is on the other side of this coin. There is some talk that the Orioles might sell, and if they do Matt Wieters would most certainly be available. Joseph could be a prime candidate for a post-trade bump in playing time. If you are wondering why there weren’t more pickups like this, the beneficiaries of additional playing time after real life trades typically aren’t that appealing in mixed leagues. Hernan Perez will be useful in NL-only; he won’t be of any use in mixed formats, in all likelihood.

Tout Wars NL

Zachary Godley $7 ($12). Other bids: $6, $4. Player reserved: Jeremy Jeffress.
Tout Wars NL had the same ennui that LABR mixed did, with Godley the only player generating multiple bids of two dollars or more. I had the six dollar bid on Godley, but lost out to Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ. Hertz was particularly aggressive this week, with a $12 bid on Adonis Garcia (what a name!) and a six-dollar bid on John Lamb; both bids were reduced to one dollar by Vickrey.

Godley was acquired by the Diamondbacks as part of the Miguel Montero deal with the Cubs. As Christopher Crawford wrote yesterday, Godley is a back-end-of-rotation guy at best, but Godley could survive a few turns with decent numbers. He is at the Mariners tonight against Hisashi Iwakuma; I bid $6 because I liked the fresh young pitcher in that park as a matchup play. $6 may seem like a lot for a matchup play, but follow me to the bottom of this section to get more insights on my thinking, both with Godley as well as my FAAB strategy from this point forward.

Adonis Garcia $1 ($12). Player reserved: Eury Perez.
Brandon Finnegan $1 ($10). Player reserved: Randall Delgado.
Jacob Lamb $1 ($6). Player reserved: Aaron Barrett.
LaTroy Hawkins $1 ($3). Player reserved: Jenrry Mejia.
Wilmer Difo $1 ($2). Player reserved: Will Middlebrooks.
Matt den Dekker $1. Player reserved: Jon Jay.
Hector Sanchez $1. Player reserved. Miguel Montero.
Dan Johnson $1. Player reserved: Corey Hart.
Robert Stephenson $1. Player reserved: Brett Wallace.
Pedro Ciriaco $0. Player reserved: Joey Terdoslavich.

The popular parlor game this week was “guess who the next starting pitcher for the Reds will be.” Brian Walton of Mastersball grabbed Finnegan, Hertz got Lamb, while Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN took a stab on Stephenson. It could also be “none of the above”, but at a dollar, it isn’t particularly important if all three of these experts are wrong.

This is also the time of year for speculating on the next position player starter once a trade vacates a position. Besides the Reds, the other big place for guesswork was the Braves. The Johnson/Uribe trade opened up two slots, and Garcia and Ciriaco are the plays du jour in an NL-only. Ciriaco is a known commodity. He might steal a few bases but won’t do much else, and you hope he doesn’t hurt the batting average. Garcia is a Cuban import who defected to the United States way back in 2011, but didn’t too much in the minors in the last two seasons. He’s now 30 years old. There’s a window for him, but the depth chart still has him on the Braves’ bench.

I wound up with Hawkins as a consolation prize for Godley. With John Axford rumored to be on the block, it’s possible that Hawkins winds up back in the closer’s role for the Rockies. Hawkins has pitched very well since coming off the DL, and with the Rockies on the road this entire week, I figured I could take the gamble. If Axford isn’t traded, chances are excellent I cut Hawkins on Sunday.

Hawkins is included in the Tulo/Jose Reyes deal, so my speculation was for naught. Oh well.

The bigger piece of the FAAB puzzle for me than Hawkins is that I enter this week with the most FAAB in the league.

Table One: FAAB Left, Tout Wars National League

Owner

FAAB Left

Mike Gianella

$106

Lenny Melnick

$82

Derek Carty

$77

Brian Walton

$75

Gene McCaffrey

$69

Tristan Cockcroft

$69

Ray Guilfoyle

$68

Scott Wilderman

$62

Steve Gardner

$45

Phil Hertz

$44

Todd Zola

$39

Peter Kreutzer

$24

I think I ran this chart in an earlier Expert FAAB Review. Then again, maybe I didn’t. All of this is starting to bleed together a little bit. In any event, just in case you don’t print every one of these columns out and wallpaper your den with them the takeaway is that I have barely spent any of my FAAB this year. This wasn’t a strategy entering 2015, but happened because I didn’t have that many holes. On offense, the only players I have replaced have been Devin Mesoraco, Peter Bourjos, and Angel Hechavarria. This is a fairly stable model for an NL-only team, and didn’t put me in a position where I needed to make many aggressive bids. While I did turn over five pitchers, nearly all of the replacements were cheap. In particular, grabbing Addison Russell during the reserve phase of the draft and Aaron Nola and Stephen Piscotty for one dollar Vickrey bids has worked out in my favor.

As a result, I have a $24 cushion on Melnick in FAAB ($23 in actuality, since I would lose a tiebreaker). Some have asked why I haven’t started getting more aggressive with my FAAB, but when I do spend big on an NL-import, I will have only $23 left to spend the rest of the season. If an import doesn’t come in, I will have a pile of FAAB burning a hole in my pocket, but this is an acceptable risk to me given my position in the standings (first place by seven points as I write this).

Regardless of whoever else comes over to the National League in trade, I already won this gambit if the Tulo/Reyes trade does come to fruition. Reyes would be a big upgrade in Coors Field over my worst player on offense, Freddy Galvis. It is possible that the Rockies flip Reyes again between now and Friday, but at the moment my strategy looks like it will pay off significantly.

Tout AL

Coco Crisp $7. Other bids: $6, $5. Player released: Aaron Judge.
Wait, I’m confused. Crisp was purchased for $0 last week and now he’s going for $7? Why would this happen? Once you purchase a player isn’t he yours? Since Crisp was on the DL, couldn’t he just be stashed? What did I miss? You know what, never mind. Don’t answer this. I don’t want to know. I’m sure the answer is some awful procedural Tout Wars rule that will make my ears bleed.

The health news on Crisp seems slightly more promising this week than it did last week, which would explain the slightly more aggressive bids. If he plays—and if he’s healthy—he could even have deeper mixed league value. This is the rub.

Jemile Weeks $1 ($20). Player reserved: Dustin Pedroia
Erik Johnson $1. Player released: Shane Greene.
Brad Brach $0. Player reserved: Henry Owens.
Joe Blanton $0. Player released: Neftali Feliz.

It is likely that more talent is moving over to the AL from the NL than the other way around, so the AL Tout Warriors were even more conservative than their NL counterparts. Weeks could play some second base, particularly on days where superstar, All-Star Brock Holt is spelling someone else in the lineup. Johnson is a nifty play if Jeff Samardzija gets traded; he could slot in as the White Sox fifth starter. There is a good chance Blanton is DFAed once Johnny Cueto is added to the roster.