Let's go back to the idea that Santana earned $37 in 4x4 formats and Eric can keep Johan at $41. With a 20% inflation rate, Johan's inflation price would be $44. By keeping Santana, Eric would get a $3 bargain, at least within the context of an inflation league.
That sounds good. One of the reasons I recommended keeping Santana was that he's pretty solid, and that even in an off year a $30 season might not be an unreasonable expectation. But what would happen to your team if he completely fell of the map and earned $10?
Given Santana's level of performance, it's unlikely. But it could happen. Ask anyone who owned Greg Maddux in 1999, Pedro Martinez in 2001, or Roy Halladay in 2004 about what happened to their teams when these pitchers cratered.
The question to ask, then, isn't if Santana might have a bad year. That's possible for any pitcher. The question to ask is can my team afford a bad year by Santana?
Within this question are several subtexts.
1) What does the rest of my freeze list look like?
It might seem like a paradox, but the stronger your freeze list is, the better off you are with an expensive horse like Santana anchoring your rotation.
Let's look at two teams. Team A rebuilt last year and has players locked up for $75 worth of salary who are projected to earn $140. Team B also has $75 worth of players who are only worth $100.
Now let's add Santana to each team, and let's assume that this league has the 20% inflation rate I've been talking about:
Team A: Total in salary/value with Santana: $116/$177. Total projected salary/value with inflation (post auction): $297.
Team B: Total in salary/value with Santana: $116/$137. Total projected salary/value with inflation (post auction): $257.
Even with inflation sucking value out of Team A, this owner still would have nearly a $300 team, which would probably put him at or near the top in most competitive leagues. Team B would be a middle of the pack squad.
Why does this matter?
If Santana tanks for Team A, he'll go from being a top team to a middle of the pack team. Recovering from a $37 pitcher tanking would sting, but it still might be possible. Team B, though, would be sunk if Santana earned $10. He'd fall deep into the second division and would probably wind up dumping early.
In Rotisserie, there are three types of players in the off-season. The first two types are obvious freezes and obvious throwbacks, and we don't spend much time dwelling on these guys. If you have Dustin Pedroia at $15 going into next year, you're going to keep him, and you're not considering tossing him overboard. If you have Travis Hafner at $30, he's going back into the pool. It's the guys like Santana who keep you up at night.
Santana is what I call an inflation keep: a guy who is worth keeping in leagues with inflation. However, not all inflation keeps should necessarily be kept. Besides the relative strength or weakness of your freeze list, some other factors to consider are:
- Strength of your league: How tough is your league? Can you use the $41 you might have spent on Santana to snatch up bargains because no one knows who Joey Votto is? Or is your league tough when it comes to pricing?
- How money is spent on hitting vs. pitching: If your league spends $100 per team on pitching, $41 for Santana is quite reasonable. If your league goes $60 per team for pitchers, grabbing Santana at $41 might be folly if you can grab three second-tier pitchers at $15 apiece.
- Can you dump a category (or two)?: Keeping Santana at $41 if your freeze list is weak or mediocre might limit your options to compete across all eight categories. Can you dump a category like saves and make it work, or is it difficult to compete in your league if you are only playing a seven category game.