My first auction

I decided this year that I wanted to take advantage of the dynasty potential of fantasy baseball by playing in a league much more complex than my typical ‘friends’ Yahoo league. My friend and college roommate, the esteemed Judd Slivka, talked me into joining Game Day Ritual. If you want the rules, read here. It’s a contract auction league with a salary cap.

Originally we shot for 12 owners, but we got bold and expanded to 16. I know three of these people. A 16-team league means that position scarcity will be in full effect. Since I don’t know most of these people, anticipating trends and personalities will be impossible. We just started our Free Agent Blitz last night. Here’s how it works. Every six minutes a new owner gets to ‘introduce’ a free agent, which is any player not currently on the market. The owner makes an initial bid on the player. If other owners have a bid on that player, they get points added to their GM rating. Yes, we have a GM rating. The better the rating, the more information you get on potential free agents. The FAB started at 7 p.m. last night and ended around 2 a.m. this morning. The five players I ‘introduced’ are Jake Peavy, Chad Cordero, Joe Mauer, Noah Lowry, and Grady Sizemore.

Let’s talk contracts. You get 50 contract years to play with during the FAB. Most teams end up with 22 to 28 players. You also get three no-trade clauses, which add value to the contract from the player’s point of view. I’m a bit fuzzy on what happens when two owners have the same offer, but that will clear up as we go. I dumped Peavy on the market because I knew he’d be one of the most coveted young pitchers. I offered three years at 12 million per with a no-trade contract. That was good for a yellow one (how good your bid is affects how many more bids you’ll be able to make). Cordero and Mauer were yellows as well. Lowry started as a green (best offer by far) but soon moved to yellow. Sizemore was out too late for me to see.

Naturally the first thing you want to do is bid like crazy. Each team is allowed to throw out 150 million in contract offers. I put out a bid on Pujols for the GM point even though I know I’m not getting him. He’ll go for at least 16 million a year. Ideally the ‘smart’ thing to do would be to hold off on major bidding until a few owners spent themselves silly. It’s hard because an auction format is different from a draft in that astute owners throw out sleepers (like Lowry) and low-end guys (like Yorvit Torrealba) to try to sneak in a cheap bid. If you hold off on bidding, you pass up some solid guys.

I bid on Carlos Zambrano (3, 10, NT) and Bobby Crosby (3, 6) as well. These were guys introduced by other owners. My bids were great to start but owners quickly caught up. This is the first wave of five, with a total of 80 players out there, so in theory each team should get five guys a wave. That won’t happen, but a few Steinbrenners will spend themselves out by the second wave, and us Moneyballers will pick up the scraps, in theory.

One thing to consider is that the FAB is not the end of player acquisition. Once the FAB is over each team gets an additional 10 million on salary cap room to pick up free agents. These free agents get one-year deals. Due to the rules of the league guys who haven’t made a major-league debut are ineligible for the FAB. Japanese catcher Kenji Jojima is an exception. Guys like Jesse Barfield and Ian Kinsler, who haven’t made their major-league debut, are on the waiting list. Stud prospects like Delmon Young are in the same camp. There is a minor-league draft in June. Yes, this version is an actual draft based on how the teams are doing at that point.

In the end all teams should have a functional 40-man roster. This means I have to pay attention to every player in the big leagues, which is no small task. I think I’m up to the challenge. The league is fun because it’s something new, just like my initial Zealots league draft nearly two years ago. Also it allows me to stay in better contact with my college buddy. He has his second child on the way and is working as a freelance reporter, which means that he’s constantly in sales mode. I think fantasy sports helped keep me and my dad closer, which is nice. I also enjoy the rolling of the eyes from Alison every time I start to bring this league up. Not everyone can understand.

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