Wednesday, March 23, 2011


posted by Scootron
This coming weekend marks the deadline for a lot of keeper leagues to turn in their freeze lists. This deadline is often accompanied by a profusion of trade activity, in addition to owner anguish over whether to keep this hitter or that pitcher as the last freeze. Many of these are as simple as knowing and applying your league rules. Let’s review a few important last-minute items which can help you make sure your keeper list is the best it can be.

1. Opening Day Roster Issues. Sounds simple, but many of us play in multiple leagues, all with different rules, and some of us are in new leagues this year. Rules regarding keepers vary significantly from league to league. Here are some things you should consider in making your final freeze list.

a) What if you freeze a player who doesn’t wind up on the Opening Day roster? Some leagues let you cut him. Some make you keep him, charging you with his slot and salary toward your 23/260. Some more liberal leagues allow you to move him to your reserve with no penalty. What does your league do?

b) What if you freeze a player who is seriously hurt between freeze day and Opening Day? Again, leagues differ. Some allow you to cut him. Some allow you to fill the slot with another player, but charge you his salary. There may be other variations. Which approach does your league follow?

2. Freezing minor leaguers. Many leagues have rules which allow you to keep a small number of “minor leaguers” in addition to your frozen active players. Minor leaguers are typically defined in the same manner MLB determines who is eligible for rookie status, namely pitchers who have thrown no more than 50 innings, had no more than 130 at bats, and accumulated no more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club during the period of the 25-player limit (excluding D.L. time and military service). Many leagues also require the player must not have appeared on an active league roster at any time prior. Many questions, however, can arise:

a) Say you have fewer than the maximum number of active roster freezes, plus some minor league freezes. Say further that after the freeze date, one of your minor league freezes makes the big club and is on the opening day roster. What are your options? Some leagues make you, prior to the auction, either activate the player or waive him. If you activate him, his slot and player salary count against your 23/260. Others allow you to leave him on your reserve, with no penalty.

b) Say you have a situation similar to that above, except you have frozen the maximum number of active roster freezes. Then one of your minor leaguers makes the OD roster. What are your options? Some leagues hold that since you cannot have over the maximum number of active freezes, you must either waive the minor league freeze, or waive one of your active roster freezes and promote the minor leaguer to the active roster. However, some leagues will simply allow you to leave that minor league freeze on your reserve roster.

3. Aging of contracts. Again, leagues differ on this crucial point. It is generally accepted that the contracts of all roster players, minor leaguers or active players, age each year. However, some leagues do not begin aging minor league contracts until the minor leaguer is activated by his owner or loses minor league status under the MLB rookie rules outlined above. How your league approaches this can be critically important, as it can substantially impact your choices of who to freeze as minor leaguers.

4. Oddball rules. There are some oddball rules around, some of which I add interest to the game. One example is the rule which allows each owner, on the day of the auction, to waive any single player layers from his/her freeze list, without penalty. In other words, if you wind up regretting that freeze of Hanley Ramirez at $57, you can simply drop him back into the pool, adding a roster slot and some serious cash back to your auction arsenal. Other non-standard rules include “topper” rights. If your league uses these, make sure you know how they work and how they can help you best structure your freeze list. Does your league have any unusual rules that can help or hurt you?

5. Freeze deadlines and extensions. All too often I see owners who either do not know or simply forget the deadline for keeper lists. Things can come up at the last minute, but we can plan for contingencies by having our lists as finalized as possible in advance. Personally, I send the commissioner an email a few days before the freeze deadline saying that “subject to last minute changes, these are my freezes”. Should I be unconscious in a ditch, at least I will have submitted my keeper list. When is your league’s freeze date?

Bear in mind that the deadline for submitting keeper lists is usually the deadline for submitting contract extensions. This is sometimes forgotten in the excitement of getting those freezes in. Be aware, or you might find that your cheap superstar is playing out his option year for you when he should have been anchoring your team for at least another couple of years.

(While on the subject of extensions, let me briefly climb upon the soapbox. I think they are overused. Too often, owners fall in love with their players and sign them to huge long-term contracts. In most leagues, the extended contract salary begins immediately. So, that $10 stud you sign for three extra years becomes $25 for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Unless your guy is Babe Ruth reincarnate, hitting and pitching for you, such an extension would likely suck the profit right out of your guy, now and in future years. Plus, depending upon league rules, an extension like this could put you in a serious bind in the event of a sudden lack of effectiveness. I’ve been in leagues where dropping a player with a long-term contract reduced your auction budget by the amount of the contract, a harsh penalty indeed. So, my advice is to make sure you know all the rules on contract extensions, and to use them sparingly, enjoying your profits while you can.)

6. Keep working until the very end. A diligent owner will continue to explore ways to improve his/her freeze list until the last possible opportunity. The keys are hard work and persistence. For example, I start my serious work in January, assessing the player pool, analyzing the other team’s winter rosters, and projecting potential freeze lists for each team. This year, based upon built-in profit expectations, I found my own freeze list to rank well toward the bottom of the league. I had a lot of work to do. Starting in February, I began negotiating and finalizing trades, upgrading players and draft picks whenever possible. I made a total of 15 trades in seven weeks. How can that be done? We all know that different owners view players differently. This means a guy who is not a keeper for you may be just what another owner needs. But you have to get out there and do the legwork. In the old days, you had to negotiate all your trades by telephone. It’s easier today with email and instant messaging.

As a result of all this trading, I now have my maximum ten freezes plus two minor leaguers and some excellent draft picks. Only three of those twelve players were on my roster in January. It is now a team I believe to be much improved, and with a strong auction I should be in a position to contend.

Be persistent. Know what the other owner needs, and show him how the trade helps him. Pick up a better draft pick when you can. If you can avoid it, don’t do anything to strengthen a contender. Keep plugging until the end. My league’s keeper deadline is Friday night. And even though I‘m pretty sure I have my ten keepers, you can bet I‘ll be working the trade routes until the last minute, trying to pick up another draft pick or a better minor leaguer. Whatever the outcome, I‘ll know that I did everything I could to build the core of a competitive team…one that I‘ll have to live with for the next six months.

I hope something in here can help you, either this year or next, as you wind down to the freeze deadline in your keeper league. Not all of these suggestions are easy to follow, but all have been proven to be effective.

And now for something completely different….

DEAD TO ME. I kept seeing articles here and there talking about players who were designated as DTM. I had no idea what that meant. Finally my daughter explained the meaning: Dead To Me. This doesn‘t imply that you wish for harm to befall this person, merely that you finally refuse to acknowledge their very existence. Yet, somehow, you just can’t shake that fascination.

In fantasy baseball, there are a number of players who certainly would fit into that category, from back in the day until the present season. I guess my current King of DTM would have to be my old buddy, Alex Gordon. Truly, the man has been my nemesis for years, my Moriarty. How man times will he have to pull that football away at the last minute before I finally figure this out?

But hey, I hear he looks really good in Spring Training this year….

Want to vent? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section…who is dead to you? Who are the players you can’t avoid, but who continue to break your heart.

Well, that’s the article for this week. I hope you have enjoyed it, and hope that you enjoy the site. Jon puts an awful lot of work into AFB, so if it adds to your knowledge base or enjoyment of our hobby, be sure to tell your friends about us.

Good luck, and have fun!

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Blogger Jon said...

Another great piece!

I don't have many players that are DTM, just lucky I guess. But I do have a few players that are special to me that other owners probably hate, such as Luis Castillo. I traded a rookie Kris Benson for Castillo and won my NL-only that season. So yeah, he gets a pass from me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 6:42:00 PM EDT  

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