HQ VAULT: Budgeting your FAAB

Over 20+ years that BaseballHQ.com has been in existence, and going back another decade to the Baseball Forecaster newsletter, we have accumulated hundreds of articles on fantasy strategy. These reside in the Strategy Library section of the site, and many include timeless tips on all aspects of fantasy league play, at various times in the fantasy league calendar. In a series to run occasionally throughout the season, we will be highlighting selected articles from the Library as part of a HQVAULT series. We welcome reader interaction with these older articles in the comments section below. Enjoy! —Ed.

by Scott Monroe

There are often posts in the BaseballHQ.com subscriber forums when an MLB trade between leagues occur and owners try to figure out how much to bid on these players.  However, everyone's league is different, and league rules regarding roster size, keeper rules, or min-max on FAAB bids vary a great deal, thus making a general recommendation on how much to bid on a given player irrelevant to many leagues.

But, even though a general dollar recommendation probably isn't helpful, there are some guidelines that you can follow to determine how much to bid in for a given free agent in an AL- or NL-only league. They are, in no particular order:

Know your owners and their tendencies

It doesn't take long to get a general idea about which owners will place FAAB bids each week, and which owners might be hoarding their FAAB for trade deadline deals. You would expect the latter owners to have bid on any impact players who cross leagues. But for general weekly bidding before the trade activity heats up, you can usually assume correctly that those owners will not bid.

Know who's looking for what

After identifying which owners you will likely be bidding against, you need to determine which players they're likely to be bidding for. If you analyze each team's standing in any given category weighed against any available free agents, you should be able to determine the players that will be a priority for each owner.

Know how much FAAB $$ each owner has available

This might seem elementary, but you'd be surprised. This will come into play more as the trade activity heats up. By knowing how much each owner can spend, you can determine if you can trump their maximum bids on a given player.

Bid for this year, with an eye towards next

You're playing for this year, so make that your priority. Don't worry too much about whether the player whom you bid on will make a good keeper next year. If you don't expect much or any activity on a given player, then by all means bid minimally. But under normal circumstances, don't be afraid to go the extra $1 if it means acquiring an impact free agent right now. Even if you're already playing for next year, if you have FAAB available you should use it. If you can acquire an impact player at a high salary who you would not keep the following year, use him as trade bait. Otherwise, make minimum bids on any potential callup who might make a decent keeper.

Spend more on hitting than pitching

Generally, since each owner has to start 14 or 15 hitters each week, as opposed to only 9 or 10 pitchers, there will always be a more plentiful selection of available free agent pitchers each week. If an impact hitter is traded into your league, teams with any weaknesses in hitting should be prepared to jump on him.

Spend early, spend often

Many owners prefer to hoard their FAAB money, waiting for the superstar players to be traded on or about July 31. While there generally are a few star players who cross leagues via trades, remember that you are typically bidding against the rest of your league for those players, and that you can generally land only one of this type of player. Recall also that a player acquired with four months left in the season will contribute twice as much to your team as that same player acquired on July 31. And of course, just like at the auction, you can't take it with you, so spend it!

Know the rules of your league

This is also obvious, but many owners don't take advantage of rule quirks. Your league may have a bid ceiling for free agents which either limits what you can spend on any given player, or allows you to bid over that amount only if you have to keep the player at that salary the following year. If that's the case, don't go bidding $50 for some weak-hitting outfielder if you have to keep him at that salary next season. Also, look for any loopholes in the rules. For example, in some rotisserie leagues a player's salary (or draft status) is reset if that player is cut or waived, and the player's free agent salary would apply. Owners who have the most FAAB dollars can use that to their advantage, dropping a star player and then FAABing him back the following week. This obviously doesn't help them win in the current year, but gives them a pretty valuable keeper for the following year.

If you devote a little time and energy to your weekly FAAB bidding, you will find that you can anticipate other owners' moves much easier, and revise your own bids accordingly.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.