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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 – “It’s tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that’s right on time. It’s tricky” —Run D.M.C.

(I’m just using this space to troll George Bissell at this point)

LABR Mixed

Domonic Brown $11. Other bids: $1, $1. Player released: Danny Santana
Has the soon-to-be-28-year-old outfielder finally turned a corner? It’s certainly possible. The talent has never been in question; it has mostly been a matter of translating that talent into tangible on-the-field performance. Brown is slashing 282/311/493 in his last 74 plate appearances, with four home runs and 15 RBI. The low walk rate makes me believe that the contact issues will reemerge at some point, but in a deep mixed format, it’s worth riding the hot hand—as well as hoping that the Phillies lineup stays hot (it won’t) and that Brown continues to benefit in the RBI department (he won’t).

Luis Severino $6. Other bids: $3, $2, $1, $1, $1. Player released: None.
Ben Carsley was on point in his writeup of Severino, and the results in Severino’s initial start against the Red Sox were solid. The drop in K/9 at Triple-A is likely indicative of a lower whiff rate than in his debut, but the wins potential makes Severino a worthy streamer in mixed formats. It’s possible the Yankees reduce his workload in September, but for now Severino should be added in deeper mixed and AL-only.

Tommy Kahnle $6. Other bids: $2, $1, $1. Player released: Jake Smolinski
Kahnle will get an opportunity in the short term to close out games for the Rockies, so he obviously is worth rostering in all but the shallowest of formats. He looked kind of shaky against the Nationals on Sunday, but he still converted the save. It wouldn’t be surprising if John Axford eventually flip-flopped again with Kahnle. Steve Gardner of USA Today/Sports Weekly grabbed Kahnle. Gardner has slipped down to fourth after a rough couple of weeks in his post-Giancarlo Stanton reality, so we’ll have to stop referring to him as “friend of Baseball Prospectus/hated enemy of our LABR team Steve Gardner”… at least for now.

Yangervis Solarte $5. Other bids: $3, $1. Player released: Michael Bolsinger
With Will Middlebrooks a distant memory in San Diego, Solarte has entrenched his hold on the third base job for the Friars. Even though he isn’t any kind of long-term solution at the position, he should hold the job for the rest of the year and is an OK third corner option in deeper mixed. Razzball’s Rudy Gamble grabbed Brown and Solarte, and is starting to use some of his pile of FAAB as he makes a push for the top of the heap. Entering the week, Gamble’s squad had rallied to third place. His biggest needs are in home runs and stolen bases, but one of the challenges he has is that it is difficult to grab an impact player in a deeper mixed league at this late date.

Henry Owens $3. Player dropped: None
Daniel Norris $3.
Other bid: $1. Player released: Jason Motte
In terms of return on investment, Owens and Norris are the kind of mid-August plays that are similar to Severino. I would probably lean Norris over Owens based on the potential, but there is enough variability with all three pitchers that you could rank them in any order in terms of where you believe they’ll land earnings-wise at the end of the season. All of these plays are fine in a league like LABR, where you have a six-man reserve list, and the ability to stream becomes more and more vital as the season progresses.

Jake Peavy $1. Other bids: $1, $1. Player dropped: None
On the other side of the spectrum of the rookies mentioned above is Peavy: a reliable veteran workhorse whose ceiling isn’t particularly high but who doesn’t have a low floor either. Peavy was solid in a losing effort against the Cubs on Sunday. The Giants schedule is brutal in August, but they have a September that is loaded up with non-contenders until the end of that month, when they get the Dodgers. Stashing Peavy and waiting for that September run of “easy” opponents is the kind of sneaky play that I like.

Gregor Blanco $1. Player released: Kelly Johnson
Matt Garza $1. Player released: None
Carlos Sanchez $1. Player released: Chris Parmelee

The $1 stabs in mixed leagues are often a matter of preference. Despite his part-time status, I’d prefer Johnson to Blanco, and while Sanchez is certainly better than Parmelee at this point, he likely won’t be a significant upgrade. At this point of the season, it is difficult to find replacements, but there is too much time between now and September 1 to wait for the call-ups to provide help for that final push down the stretch.

Tout Wars NL

Nick Swisher $46 ($61). Other bids: $45, $37, $32, $25. Player released: Dan Johnson
Michael Bourn $46 ($74). Other bids: $45, $37, $32, $25, $8. Player released: Jason Bourgeois.
August waiver trades across leagues generally don’t net the kind of return for NL or AL-only owners that the non-waiver deadline trades does, and the Indians/Braves trade is the “typical” kind of trade you should expect this as August progresses.

Gene McCaffrey of Wise Guy Baseball and Brian Walton of Mastersball had the highest and second highest amounts of FAAB remaining and bid accordingly, with Walton grabbing Bourn and McCaffrey getting Swisher. Both fantasy managers obtained their first choice. Walton has a pretty solid offense in HR/RBI/runs, but could jump up in steals if Bourn runs. McCaffrey is a dead duck in offense, but is so far behind in steals that a gamble on Swisher made way more sense than Bourn would have.

Four other owners bid on both Bourn and Swisher, with their first and second choices as follows:

  • Scott Wilderman, On Roto. $60 left. Bid $32. First choice Swisher.
  • Tristan Cockcroft, ESPN. $53 left. Bid $45. First choice Bourn.
  • Steve Gardner, USA Today/Sports Weekly. $44 left. Bid $37. First choice Bourn.
  • Ray Guilfoyle, Fake Teams. $42 left. Bid $25. First choice Bourn

Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman), bid $8 on Bourn and did not bid on Swisher.

Nearly every fantasy manager who bid preferred Bourn to Swisher. Wilderman is nearly in the same position as McCaffrey; he is dead across the board on offense and a dead cat bounce from Swisher could give him a late offensive boost. Of the three fantasy managers who made Bourn their first choice, all of them are in a dogfight or at the bottom of a clump in steals and could make a big move with Bourn.

The reasons people bid on Bourn or Swisher are fairly straightforward. I am more intrigued by why: 1) teams didn’t bid all of their remaining FAAB on both players and 2) why some teams didn’t bid at all.

Starting with the second question first (an annoying conceit, I know), I didn’t bid because my offense is strong top-to-bottom after acquiring Jose Reyes last week via FAAB. Bourn theoretically could be a boost over Kelly Johnson or Freddy Galvis, but unless a catcher crosses over from the American League, I don’t have a particularly strong need for a hitter. I have so much strength on offense that I was able to shore up my pitching by trading Addison Russell along with Jeremy Hellickson to Phil Hertz of Baseball HQ for Shelby Miller.

The other four teams that didn’t bid all had the least FAAB remaining. Bret Sayre and I talked last week on Flags Fly Forever about how you should bid even if you don’t have the most FAAB, but our example applied more to the chaotic AL-only landscape last week where multiple players crossed over and there were several different opinions on who the “best “acquisition was among the crossover players. Here, with only two players crossing over, the odds were poor that any of the teams in the bottom half of FAAB would get Bourn or Swisher and, indeed, I was the only fantasy manager who could have bid higher than one of the top five bidders.

As for as why some teams didn’t bid all of their FAAB on Bourn or Swisher, with eight weeks left in the regular season there is still plenty of time for moves to be made, and neither Bourn nor Swisher should be the kind of impact players who will swing the standings. Cashing out on either Bourn or Swisher isn’t the greatest play, so while Wilderman could have shut out McCaffrey with his $60 or remaining FAAB and forced McCaffrey into zero FAAB, Wilderman decided that it wasn’t worth the risk if McCaffrey bid $60. It is quite possible that more waiver acquisitions come into the National League this month, and while they likely won’t be as good as Reyes or Yoenis Cespedes, it is quite possible that they will be better than Bourn or Swisher.

Brad Hand $9 ($12). Other bid: $8. Player released: Hector Gomez.
With Jose Fernandez down for the count and Mat Latos traded to the Dodgers, the Marlins rotation looks incredibly ugly. Hand is certainly worth starting in NL-only in spots, but with the Cardinals on tap this week in Busch, I would avoid him, even though the Cardinals are a surprisingly weak-hitting team against southpaws. Hand should munch innings for the Fish down the stretch, but with a pedestrian K/9 rate, Hand may have difficulty providing positive fantasy value, even in NL-only.

David Holmberg $7 ($11). Other bids: $6, $4. Player reserved: Clint Robinson.
I had the second highest bid on Holmberg, but Hertz beat me out with his somewhat aggressive $11 bid, reduced to $7 by Vickrey. Holmberg was a fairly decent prospect before the Diamondbacks traded him to the Reds, but has struggled thus far as a professional. The ceiling is higher than Hand’s, but with a tough NL Central-oriented schedule coming down-the-stretch, Holmberg is more of a short-term add than a season-long play. After flipping me Miller and trading Cole to Lenny Melnick of RotoExperts, Hertz is rolling out there this week with Holmberg, Mike Foltynewicz, Hellickson, Raisel Iglesias, Jonathon Niese, and Colin Rea. This is a fairly radical departure from Hertz’s strategy in prior years of divesting from starting pitching and going with almost an entirely relief-based team down the stretch. It could work (any strategy can work), but chasing wins with a staff like this often ends in unmitigated disaster.

Colin Rea $1 ($10). Player reserved: Pedro Strop.
Ehire Adrianza $1 ($6).
Other bid: $0. Player released: Travis Ishikawa.
Joey Terdloslavich $1 ($4). Player released: Matt DenDekker.
Elian Herrera $1 ($2).
Other bid: $0. Player reserved: Tommy Hunter.
Tyler Cravy $1.
Other bid: $1. Player released: Charlie Morton.
Jeff Mathis $1. Player reserved: Andrew Susac.
Justin Nicolino $1. Player reserved: Carter Capps.
Zack Davies $1. Player reserved: Jorge De La Rosa.

Kelby Tomlinson $0. Player reserved: Daniel Castro.
Jerome Williams $0. Player released: David Aardsma.
Ryan Lavarnway $0. Player released: Jose Lobaton

Rea is slated to get a spot start today against the Reds. It is difficult to get a read on pitchers like this who were considered borderline prospects entering the year but made significant strides once the season started. Rea’s control/command improved a great deal in Double A, but then he struggled with said command in Triple-A (albeit in a limited sample) after his promotion. The matchup is a borderline one even in NL-only, but if you are playing in a keeper league Rea is worth considering for a long-term stash. His groundball tendencies don’t help him with the infield defense the Padres are rolling out there as much as they would help him with another team.

I bid a dollar on Cravy (he was my first choice over Holmberg) but lost out to McCaffrey. I know Morton’s overall numbers have been bad the last three weeks, but even so I was mildly surprised that McCaffrey released him outright. Morton’s overall DRA is poor, but he has hasn’t allowed a home run in his last three starts and has whiffed over a batter an inning. He gets the Mets at Citi Field this week; despite the improved Mets offense, this is still a decent play in NL-only.

After missing out on Cravy and Holmberg, I grabbed Davies. I don’t know if he’ll be up for the Brewers this year, but as a $1 spec play in NL-only, he is a decent enough starter speculation ROS.

Tout Wars AL

Abraham Almonte $10 ($12). Other bids: $9, $9, $7, $0. Player released: Ryan Rua.
With the trade of Bourn to the Braves, Almonte should get a decent shot to crack the Indians’ lineup for the rest of the season. He has always had decent power/speed potential, but has not capitalized yet in his handful of opportunities in the majors. He is an instant add in AL-only; owners in other formats can hold off unless they are desperate. Almonte has the most favorable opportunity in terms of his home park that he has ever had, but there is a good chance he will not stick yet again if he can’t cut down on his whiff rate.

Jose Ramirez $10 ($16). Other bids: $9, $7, $7, $6, $5, $1. Player reserved: Danny Santana.
These are some fairly aggressive bids if it turns out that Jason Kipnis’ injury isn’t serious, but Ramirez has flashed serious stolen base ability when he has played, and a starting middle infielder is worth bidding on in AL-only. The hope is that the batting average is a BABIP fluke and not a sign of things to come. Ramirez is OK at this price, and the seven bidders show that middle infield is always at a premium in mono leagues.

Matt Boyd $8 ($16). Other bids: $7, $7, $6, $5. Player reserved: Aaron Sanchez
Boyd had a solid outing against the Royals his last time out, but his professional profile doesn’t lend itself to a great deal of confidence. While it is unlikely he repeats his horrid performance against the Red Sox, Boyd’s lack of a dominant offering makes it him potentially combustible in any given outing. You certainly can and should consider him in any AL-only start, but the risk here is considerable, regardless of the format.

Jean Machi $1 ($3). Player reserved: Lance McCullers
Mark Lowe $1 ($2). Player released: Blaine Boyer
Trayce Thompson $1. Player reserved: Junichi Tazawa.
Drew Pomeranz $1.
Other bid: $0. Player reserved: Edward Mujica
Jose Alvarez $0. Player reserved: Jason Kipnis
Steven Geltz $0. Player reserved: Cody Anderson.
Tyler Collins $0. Player reserved: Eric Sogard

At the time of the bidding, Koji Uehara’s injury wasn’t a season ender, and it seemed possible that Junichi Tazawa would be the temporary closer. It turns out that Uehara will be out for the year and the Red Sox are going with Machi. He isn’t the most formidable option but saves are saves, and this is a slick add at a minimum bid. I feel like Pomeranz, Geltz, and Collins get picked up in Tout Wars AL every other week. Maybe I’m wrong, but maybe the Tout AL owners are trolling me.