How to handle league-switchers in AL and NL-only leagues

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Is DeRosa the star you should hitch your fantasy team’s wagon to, or should you keep waiting for another Manny or CC? (Icon/SMI)

Those who played in an NL-only league last year know the kind of impact a Manny Ramirez or CC Sabathia can have when they enter the player pool mid-season. But what about a guy like Mark DeRosa?

Over the weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals shipped reliever Chris Perez (and a PTBNL) to the Indians for the everywhere-eligible DeRosa. The question many NL-only leaguers will be asking themselves this week is, “How much should I bid on Mark DeRosa” (or its close cousin, “Should I use my waiver priority on DeRosa?”).

While DeRosa is a solid player, he’s a far cry from a guy like Manny or CC. At this point, FAAB dollars are generally running low, and putting in the necessary bid to win DeRosa will all but eliminate a team from the competition to acquire any future league-switchers.

So what’s an NL-only leaguer to do? There’s no clear-cut answer, as is often the case in fantasy baseball, but there are some factors to consider that can lead us to a sound decision.

The DeRosa Factors

Note: All dollar amounts mentioned are on a $100 scale. Adjust as necessary to your specific league.

The league’s normal “big bid”: What does a big bid look like in your specific league? Did Adam Rosales go for $28 or just $8? Did Chris Coghlan top $30? This will determine, in part, how much you’ll be bidding on DeRosa and other league-switchers. Holding all else constant, the smaller the required bid, the more favorable bidding on DeRosa is. Also keep in mind that the normal “big bid” will change throughout the year as teams start running low on cash. Evaluate your own league as need be.

My team’s remaining FAAB: How much FAAB does your team have left? If you’re following Scott Swanay’s FAAB schedule I copied in my early season article on FAAB, you might only have $20 or $25 left right now. If you’re low on cash, I would consider a bid unfavorable. While aggressive bidding is encouraged, leaving yourself with only a couple bucks to spend over the final 55 percent of the season will surely cause problems for you. If you have a medium or high total, I would consider a bid favorable since you will, at the very least, have some money left over to spend on hole-plugging role players the rest of the way.

Minimum bid: Does your league allow $0 bids, or is $1 the minimum? If it allows $0 bids, consider a DeRosa bid favorable since you can still acquire fill-in players even if you end up running out of cash.

Is FAAB tradeable?: If it is, a bid would be more favorable since you could still realistically acquire more, even if you run low.

Other teams’ remaining FAAB: Perhaps the most important factor. If there are several teams with a lot of money left to spend, or a few teams who at least have you covered, a bid on DeRosa would be very favorable. Sure, it’ll take you out of the running for subsequent league-switchers, but were you even in the running to begin with if Team X still has $90 left and is saving up for just this occasion? Make your bid now, and if you win DeRosa, great. If you don’t, at least some team will have less FAAB the next time around. Waiting could be catastrophic if teams have a lot of FAAB left. You’ll bid $35 on the guy who comes available next and Team X will bid $55.

My team’s needs: Does this player fill specific needs or is it simply a value bid? Both are valid reasons to bid, but fantasy owners must always remember that the ultimate goal is to win the league, regardless of what shape that takes. If DeRosa fills a specific need for you, a bid is more favorable than if he would simply be a trade chip, especially as we get closer to August and the end of the season (and since owners will temper their offers with the hope they can land a better player via FAAB in a couple of weeks).

Who will he be replacing: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous factor. The worse your current player is, the more favorable a bid becomes. You’re certainly not going to bid $30 on a guy if he’s only going to be a marginal upgrade. In DeRosa’s case, because he can play so many positions, he’s likely a sizeable upgrade for just about every team in the league at some position.

How much work does my team need?: Would your team be better served with one big player (like DeRosa) or by acquiring a greater quantity of less-talented role players over the next month and a half? The less work it needs, the more favorable a bid is.

Quality of other potential league-switchers: Who else could be switching leagues this year? Is there another Manny coming, or will the remaining players simply be solid contributors in the DeRosa mold? Plus, we must consider the fact that we have no idea which players will actually be traded, much less whether they’ll be traded into the NL (as opposed to an AL team dealing with another AL team). While there probably won’t be anyone of Manny or CC’s caliber this year, there are some appealing guys like Matt Holliday and Jermaine Dye, as well as some DeRosa-level guys like Aubrey Huff, Brad Penny, Jhonny Peralta, and Mark Teahen.

Unless you feel like you have enough money to make a serious run at a guy like Holliday, I’d say it’s a pretty favorable year to make a bid on DeRosa. There’s no guarantee who else will be traded or when, and getting DeRosa now will offer more value than a guy like Huff will in a few more weeks (not to mention the fact that bidding will improve your chances of ultimately ending up with someone instead of being left out in the cold).

Quantity of other potential league-switchers: Even if there aren’t any superstar league-switchers, simply having a lot of them would drain FAAB funds and would likely make for some bargains later on. This factor should be considered in conjunction with the remaining FAAB of the other teams. Overall, though, I would lean towards bidding on DeRosa rather than waiting. Even if a lot of guys do get traded over (far from a sure thing), you’d likely have to wait until the end of July for the bargains and miss out on a whole month of production from DeRosa.

Standings fallout: Consider who the top pursuers will be and ask yourself this question: if DeRosa lands on another team, would it be the worst thing in the world? Maybe the 9th place team really needs a middle infielder, has a lot of money to spend, and is bunched up in home runs with a few teams who are near the top of the standings overall. If he were to win DeRosa, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It would drain some FAAB from the pool and take some points away from your competitors. Just make sure to weight this against the likelihood that said team actually wins DeRosa and compare against how DeRosa would directly help your team if you were to win him.

What are your trade options?: While many would rather give up FAAB than talent for a quality player, others may not have that luxury. Or perhaps it would actually be cheaper to trade for a slumping hitter who will produce similar numbers to DeRosa (Garrett Atkins, maybe?). Every league will differ, but this is an option that should at least be considered.

Concluding thoughts

If you evaluate all of these factors within the context of your own league, hopefully you will have a pretty clear decision laid out for you — or at least you won’t be completely bidding in the dark. As always, feel free to send any comments or questions to me via e-mail or the comments section below.

What do you guys think? Did I miss any factors that you consider? What players could be switching leagues that would have an impact on your decision?

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