Last year I decided to pay full value for steals and drafted Scott Podsednik at $30. I knew all of the arguments against drafting him at $30. His groin and shoulder were acting up. He's a crappy baseball player who has built a major league career based on an 822 OPS in 2003 for Milwaukee but has been a 700 OPS guy ever since. His Patton $ salary scan was pointed down.
However, I had no steals on my roster, Crawford, Figgins, Gathright and Ichiro were all frozen, and I needed the steals.
Fortunately, every one else thought the same thing, which is why I got him for only $30. He earned $21. I can't say I'm completely unhappy with the 40 SB Pods put up. 60 would have been nice. But I do feel like I would have been better off punting the category.
The $30 I spent on Pods could have been put to better use elsewhere. Nick Punto went for $2, stole 17 bases, and earned $14. The odds that I get Punto were completely random (he's not a guy I would have targeted in April). But if I don't get Punto, I lose out on one category. Pods barely did anything in HR/RBI and he was a slight drag in average.
My league's power equivalent to Punto was Ty Wigginton. For $1, his owner was rewarded with a 24/79/4/.275 season and $17 in earnings. However, if I had paid the full $37 sticker price for Gary Sheffield, I wouldn't feel burned. Or, if I did, it wouldn't matter. I'd need 10 Wiggintons to compete in HR, 12 to compete in R BI, and 10-12 Ty Wigginton's aren't floating around in the auction.
Steals is similar to saves on the other side of the ledger. One $12 Chone Figgins changes the landscape quickly. You're stuck paying full sticker price for Podsednik while your opponent has another $18 to spend on other categories. If you commit to the steal game, you have also committed to an $18 hole. It's more prevalent with closers. This year, an owner in my league will have Putz for $1. If you don't have a closer and you pay $42 for Mariano Rivera, you're in a $41 hole. Assume that Mariano will outearn Putz by $10 and you're still in a $31 hole.
Steals are a little different. The odds of a Chone Figgins falling into the free agent pool are very slim. But the end result on freeze day is the same. A handful of cheap steal guys put you in the hole if you decide to compete in the category. You might win the category, but you're robbing Peter to pay yesterday's interest to Paul.