ROTISSERIE: 2022 (AL-) LABR negotiations

OK, Jeopardy!-style question:

Answer: 16

Question: How many times did Edward Olivares get optioned between Kansas City and AAA Omaha last season?

OK, it’s kind of a trick question, because unless you’re in a deep league, it didn’t matter. But in AL-LABR, where players can’t be reserved unless they’re in the minors in real life (or if drafted as a reserve), it can be a major headache—especially if half of those transactions occurred on a Sunday (LABR FAAB deadline) or Monday (lineup deadline).

A change of approach

So, why did I roster Olivares at the 2021 AL-only LABR auction in the first place? Because I went with a "Stars-and Scrubs" approach—and when you spend a lot on stars, you end up with some cheap guys of the Olivares-ilk. Plenty of potential, but also the likelihood of regular 200-mile bus rides. That can result in time on the LABR reserve list when the player is active, and vice-versa. And when the team’s stars spend time on the IL (looking at you, $30 Anthony Rendon, and your $2 in earnings), AB totals take a hit, along with counting stats, and the season’s sunk.

That’s a long explanation as to why I switched tactics and went with a “Spread the Risk” strategy for the 2022 AL-only LABR squad.

The realities of early season 2022 drafts

Of course, reality threw another curveball—with the CBA still unsettled, a LOT of free agents remained at the time of the auction. Existing LABR rules allow you to roster a free agent at the time of the auction, but if the player subsequently signs in the other league—you lose him with no compensation.

In normal years, most free agents have been signed by early March; there might be a fringe player or two worth a gamble. Not this year; Freddie Freeman, Trevor Story, Clayton Kershaw, and a host of others remain on the wire. To alleviate the situation somewhat, LABR Grand Poobah Steve Gardner designed an approach to lessen the blow—the top 12 free agents (by ADP) would be ineligible in both the AL- and NL-only leagues; a live auction before the season using FAAB would determine the owners in AL-only and NL-only. Outside of those top-12, free agents were auction-eligible. The rule of lost players would still apply, but the owner would get half their value back in their FAAB pool.

Strategy for 2022

Looking at the 12 players excluded from the auction—only three were pitchers. I decided to deviate a bit from the "Spread-the-Risk" strategy by spending only $1 on a fungible or demotable hitter in the utility spot. In this way, if I win a hitter in the pre-season FAAB auction, I’d have an obvious position for them. No Shohei Ohtani (likely to be out of my comfort zone, anyway) or Franmil Reyes for the HQ team in 2022.

I adjusted the projected values by removing the 12 free agents from the player pool in Rotolab, and made sure that other free agents remained available for bid (with a big “DANGER: FA” note added for emphasis). While that rejiggered the projected values, the differences didn’t substantially change strategy.

Budget

Spreading the risk on offense, and not getting carried away on pitching, I went into the auction with the following goals for spending:

C ($11) – 7/4
CO ($52) – 20/20/12
MI ($60) – 25/20/15
OF/UT ($72) – 25/15/15/10/6/1
SP ($52) – 20/15/10/4/3
RP ($13) – 8/3/1/1

Since I love getting involved in the scrum of bidding on top players, I remained skeptical that I could carry out this plan. Could I exhibit the patience of Doug Dennis as the expensive players flew off the board? As usual, the strategy served purely as a guide, a starting point to where I would go. Auction dynamics, as usual, dictated whether this budget would work or not.

How it went

The start of AL-LABR always produces a bidding frenzy on the top stars, with many going a few dollars above projected value. This year, despite my twitchy bid tendencies, I successfully sat out the first round and a half of nominations. But when the bidding on Teoscar Hernandez settled at $30—$5 more than I projected—I still couldn’t resist hitting the “+1” button. While higher than I expected to go, his last two $30+ seasons gave me the confidence to proceed. Other than that, I did spread the wealth, with only five players in the $20-25 range. I stayed within a dollar or two of projected value, and even ended up with a few bargains, to boot.

Results

Here’s how the 2022 Baseball HQ AL-LABR team looks.

Pos      Name           Team    MM CODE   Sal   $R   
===  ===============    ====    ========  ===   == 
C    Garver, Mitch       MIN    4035 DDF   10   15 
C    Jansen, Danny       TOR    3043 CDA    6    8
1B   Walsh, Jared        LAA    4145 BAD   21   20
3B   Espinal, Santiago   TOR    0345 ACB    6   11
CO   Dalbec, Bobby       BOS    5235 AAD   16   18
2B   Lowe, Brandon       TAM    4345 BAB   25   24
SS   Seager, Corey       TEX    3155 FAB   23   23
MI   Villar, Johnathan   FA     2323 BAC    5    8
OF   Hernandez, Teoscar  TOR    4445 AAC   31   25
OF   Grossman, Robbie    DET    2335 AAB   16   15
OF   Baddoo, Akil        DET    3525 ACF   20   21
OF   Garcia, Leury       CHW    1445 CAB    7   14
OF   Cameron, Daz        DET    3523 BCC    1    4
UT   Pratto, Nick        KC     4313 ABF    1    5
SP   Lynn, Lance         CHW    3305 CAA   22   21
SP   Means, John         BAL    1203 DBB   13   14
SP   McCullers, Lance    HOU    4403 FBA   10   17
SP   Greinke, Zach       FA     2103 CAA    4   11
SP   Dunning, Dane       TEX    2203 BCA    4    4
RP   Kittredge, Andrew   TAM    5420 DDC    9    7
RP   Castillo, Diego     SEA    5420 CCB    5    5
RP   Rosenthal, Trevor   OAK    4520 FDF    3    4
RP   Neris, Hector       HOU    4511 ABC    2    6
RES  Taveras, Leody      TEX    1413 ABB    0    4
RES  Jax, Griffin        MIN    0001 ADB    0   -9
RES  Paredes, Isaac      DET    1333 BBD    0    0
RES  Winn, Cole          TEX    3301 AFF    0    8
RES  Bummer, Aaron       CHW    5410 DDA    0    6
RES  Hall, DL            BAL    4500 AFF    0   -1

Followed the plan?

At the auction: Other than the Hernandez buy, the plan worked well. For all other rostered players, I stuck close to their projected values or ended up with a slight bargain. Walsh, Seager, Lowe, and Baddoo—along with Hernandez—form a nice offensive core to work with.

How did the budgeting go? I was mostly able to avoid $1 players. But with a $72 staff, I did spend a bit more than planned on pitching. That actually turned out to be the case with many LABR teams, as the high cost of established closers put some pitching budgets over $100.

Offense: This squad should do well, with Rotolab projecting 10+ points in each category, for a total of 54 points. While risk still exists, it’s spread out rather than concentrated on a player or two.

Pitching: Not as successful as in hitting, at 48 projected points. Top team in Ratio and ERA, but wins and Ks need work. Saves are projected to give 10 points, but the lack of an established closer on the squad makes it folly; it’s all guess-work until roles are established as the season starts. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for a closer on the FAAB wire or go after Kenley Jansen if he ends up in the AL. And there are too many F and D health grades to place trust in much of this staff.

Free agent risks: I took a shot at three free agents in the end-game. If Johnathan Villar ends up in the AL, that $4 buy could produce some steals, or act as a trade chip for a more reliable pitcher. While Zach Greinke seems to be fading, at $4, he was worth a shot. End-gamer Trevor Rosenthal’s a longshot after missing last year, but given the chance, some saves could come. At worst, I get a few bucks of FAAB back.

Overview

While Rotolab likes this squad, there’s still much to happen before the season even gets underway. But by flattening the cost distribution and spreading the risk,  I’ve hopefully set up the Baseball HQ AL-LABR squad to emerge as a contender when the season gets under way.


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