With Memorial Day here, bail season has officially opened. No matter how true the assertion that 75 percent of the season remains, everyone treats this time of the season as the one to stop making fair offers to teams in the bottom third of the standings. Whether those four teams think so or not, forces are aligned to make their bailing a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Because the top teams know bailing is near, the teams at the bottom cannot make trades to deal from their strengths to address their weaknesses because those top teams sense the fire sale on the horizon and don’t want to be stuck making an even swap when just a little more patience will yield two or three times as much in a bail trade.
A week passes, and the worst teams find themselves frustrated at their inability to complete a trade. On top of this frustration, there was the previous two months of angst and doubt about their floundering squad. So where does that leave a bottom team? Entertaining the idea of bailing despite the fact that two thirds of the season remains.
Once the first bail trade is executed, the chances for the other teams to compete just became harder as they are less likely to overcome a team who just juiced himself on a three-for-one deal: an out-of-time Ryan Howard, Michael Bourn and Brad Lidge for a super cheap Colby Rasmus, Garret Mock and Travis Ishikawa. As a result, those teams begin prodding the other bottom feeders for their own three-for-one bail trade.
That first bail trade is key. Once consummated, the teams competing against the lucky bail recipient now want their own bail trades. How can the other bottom teams improve after one of their own just broke their cartel and cut the best deal it could? They can’t. So another team bails. Two of the top teams are now juicing. And so on.
Within a couple of weeks of Memorial Day, the hopes of teams waiting for their players to regress to their mean in a positive fashion while seeing those above them in the standings regress the other way have been dashed with just a third of the season completed. The juiced teams have locked in those gains and have set themselves up to continue the status quo.
What can the few teams that are competing do against the juiced ones? Hope their league rules are set-up to allow teams that finish just out of the money to get first dibs on minor leaguers recalled during the season or selected in the 2010 drafts.
What if your league does a worst-to-first free agent pick-up and the Washington Nationals bring Steven Strasburg to the majors this season? Well, the teams the bailed first and won the race to the bottom squeeze those unjuiced middle teams. They are not in position to grab Strasburg this year but can’t compete against the bail recipients this season on free agent priority.
The view is glum for those fantasy teams who find themselves in the bottom tier of their leagues, but a final four months of mediocrity looms thanks to all that bail season wrought. Except for me. My place in the cellar is only temporary.
Last Week: I wrote about keeping an eye on some players who have been worthless so far, but stand to gain their pre-season expected value with a “fortuitous” turn of events. None of the players are yet to get that “Pierre Opportunity.” If I were bailing, I’d try to get those players are the roster filler portions of the deal.