Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Doling out Player Contracts

Frank faces a decision on one of his better players that all of us serious Rotisserie players face every spring:
I've had (Dustin) Pedroia at $10 in one keeper league for the past two years...I have an excellent keeper list, and I'm questioning whether I should extend Pedroia for one year or two. I'm not hung up on whether Pedroia will be worth $20 per year for the next three years because, barring injury, I think he will be, but because I think I can win the league this year, I wonder if I should settle for two more years of Pedroia at $15 in order to save that extra $5 for the auction. When you have a legit shot at your league title, does it make sense to sacrifice some future value in order to maximize current value?
Since Pedroia's value is somewhere in the $27-32 range, Frank is correct that Pedroia's value isn't really a factor in the decision on whether or not to give him a $15 L2 or a $20 L3 contract. But I think giving Pedroia the L3 deal is probably a no brainer. Here's why.

TeamSalaryValue$ to SpendAuction
Total $
Team 1$125$196$135$111$307
Team 2$113$172$147$121$293
Team 3 $143$196$117$96$292
Team 4$112$145$148$122$267
Team 5$117$146$143$118$264
Team 6$74$105$186$153$258
Team 7$126$144$134$110$254
Team 8$100$115$160$132$247
Team 9$85$102$175$144$246
Team 10$155$147$105$86$233
Team 11$83$85$177$145$230
Team 12$68$72$192$158$230

This chart is from one of my older posts about figuring out how good each team in your league is when you factor in each team's freezes and the projected inflation rate. Since I don't know what any of your league's freezes are outside of Pedroia, I'll have to use this chart as a reference point. That's OK; this broad example will illustrate my point nicely.

Let's pretend you're team #1 and that salary/value includes Pedroia at $15. If you bump him up to $20, you'll now have $130 worth of salary for $196 worth of value, and $130 to spend that will net you $107 worth of auction value. Your $307 team is now a $303 team. But you still have a first place team.

If you've read my previous posts, you might think that giving up $4 worth of value is a bad play no matter where your team ranks going into the auction. However, I actually believe in giving a $20 L3 to Pedroia because:

1) He's a great player at a weak position. Well, he might not be great, but he earned $30+ at 2B in 2008. If I push him up to $20, he's still going to turn a strong profit. If he doesn't and only earns $25, I'm still getting a bargain at $20 from a middle infielder.
2) He's a great dump chip. As a $20 L3, I believe that the non-contenders in my league will come a calling for Pedroia come June.

Eugene highlights this point as well.
If a 3 year Pedroia contract at $20 means that you can get upgrades over a lot of your roster, but a $15 Pedroia means fewer upgrades, then by all means extend him and trade him as soon as someone with enough quality upgrades is willing to dump.
As you might imagine, this depends entirely on your league.

In my league, there was a time when L3 contracts were fairly common, and owners wouldn't think twice about giving contracts, even if they were mostly based on potential. Those days are clearly over; the only player in my A.L. who got an L3 last year was Nick Markakis ($14 L3).

The owner who won last year had four players I thought he could have given contracts to: Zack Greinke ($1 heading into option year), Jon Papelbon ($12), B.J. Upton ($10), and Chien-Ming Wang ($4). I thought that Papelbon and Upton were no-brainer L3s and that an argument could have been made for giving Wang a $14 L3 as well (I wouldn't have, but I thought the argument could have been made).

It turned out that this owner gave all four of those players L2 deals.

The strategy worked brilliantly. Since there was only one L3 contract in the entire league, Upton and Papelbon kept much of their value despite "only" being L2s. Upton and Wang were shipped out on May 12 for Roy Halladay, Troy Percival, Adrian Beltre, Orlando Cabrera, and Mark Ellis, while Papelbon was traded on June 23 for Scott Kazmir and Huston Street.

And Markakis? He was traded on May 26 (with Elvis Andrus) for Jermaine Dye, Rich Harden, and Joe Blanton.


As I always advise, this is where your own judgment will need to come into play. You know your league better than I do, so you should know the difference between what a $15 L2 Pedroia and a $20 L3 Pedroia will fetch in the dump market - if there is a difference at all.

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