Last month, I gave NSH some advice about handing out contracts. The summation of said advice? Be conservative.
weapon1 didn't necessarily agree.
I'd bump (Danny) Valencia and maybe (Robinson) Cano, on the theory that I want some players who can be kept for next year at reasonable prices as trade chips. If there are three teams with tons of money and who don't have strong freeze lists, they are unlikely to compete this year. You may be able to turn a Valencia into a (Evan) Longoria come June, but not if Valencia can't be kept next year.
What is the impact of contracts on dump trades? I thought I'd take a look at what my A.L. home league did last year and see how long-term contracts may or may not have helped push a team toward the pennant.
1st Place. Contracts: Jacoby Ellsbury $20, Denard Span $15. Other dump chips: Matt Wieters $10, Matt LaPorta $10, Ben Zobrist $1, Elvis Andrus $10. Optioned out: Ryan Sweeney $1, Scott Baker $8, J.P. Howell $1, Francisco Liriano $10.
Trades: 1) May 17. Trade Hector Ambriz, Dustin Ackley, Ellsbury, LaPorta, and Dustin McGowan for Justin Morneau, Jon Papelbon, and Ichiro Suzuki.
2) May 24. Trade Andrus, Josh Bell, Mark Grudzielanek, Juan Miranda, Jesus Montero, and Span for Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, Johnny Damon, and Miguel Tejada.
3) June 14. Trade Eddie Bonine, Damon, Jeremy Hellickson, Sweeney and Ben Zobrist for Julio Borbon, Trevor Cahill, Adam Lind, and B.J. Upton.
4) June 28. Trade Lind, Tejada, Wieters, and Joel Zumaya for Alex Gonzalez, Cliff Lee, Carlos Quentin and Kelly Shoppach.
This team made 15 trades in total, but these were the four big dump trades that stood out. Ellsbury and Span loomed large in both of these trades, but I don't believe that either trade #1 or trade #2 would have happened without the prospects or some of the other chips involved either. Notice that the players who weren't option players until the end of 2010 loomed large here as well. Andrus, LaPorta, Wieters and Zobrist all were moved as well. Frankly, when a team is loaded the way this squad was, it's probably irrelevant whether or not you hand out a contract to Francisco Liriano or not.
Second Place. Contracts: Kendry Morales $15, Alexei Ramirez $7. Other dump chips: David Aardsma $2, Jose Bautista $1, John Buck $3, Aaron Hill $15. Optioned out: A.J. Pierzynski $13, Carlos Quentin $15, Fernando Rodney $1, Joe Saunders $8, Kevin Slowey $6.
Trades: 1) May 24 Trade Gabe Gross, Morales, Ramirez, and Mitch Talbot for Robinson Cano, Mitch Maier, Juan Pierre and Jered Weaver.
2) June 21 Trade Jeremy Bonderman, Hill, Mark Kotsay, Quentin, Alfredo Simon, and Dayan Viciedo for Kevin Gregg, Torii Hunter, Derek Jeter, Brad Kilby, J.J. Putz and Ty Wigginton.
3) August 1 Trade Bautista, Hunter, and Rodney for Clay Buchholz, Adam Jones, and Suzuki.
Not as much to dump here, but the contracts for Morales and Ramirez ultimately loomed large. Bautista turned into a huge dump chip, but that was offset by the fact that Buck and Aardsma didn't generate any interest in the trade market. This team definitely was able to get more for less than the 1st place squad; Viciedo was the only prospect to go in any of these deals. Rodney is the only pitcher I see here who perhaps could have received a contract, but as a $6 pitcher he probably wouldn't have generated much interest.
Third Place. Contracts: Shin-Soo Choo $15, Chris Davis $15. Other dump chips: Phil Hughes $10, Shaun Marcum $1, Jeff Niemann $1. Optioned: Justin Duchscherer $10, Jon Lester $10, David Murphy $2.
Trades: 1) May 24 Trade Joba Chamberlain and Niemann for Mariano Rivera and Ervin Santana.
2) July 11 Trade Choo, Marcum and Koji Uehara for David DeJesus, Frank Francisco, Rich Harden and Joe Mauer.
This team is run very conservatively and cherishes its players to a fault. The Davis contract was an unfortunate by product of this mentality. I would have kept Davis entering 2010, but only as an option player. Duchscherer is someone I would have thrown back without hesitating. Here, we see two clear examples of where an owner kept players at what he thought were reasonable prices for future trade that didn't work out. The $25 wasted on Davis/Duchscherer would have been spent far better in the auction.
Tenth place. Contract: Adam Lind $15. Other dump chips: Brett Anderson $8, Andrew Bailey $10, Julio Borbon $10, Wade Davis $10, Brian Matusz $10, Travis Snider $10, Brandon Wood $10. Optioned: Ryan Raburn $1, Joakim Soria $25.
Trades: 1) June 14. See first place team's #3 trade.
2) June 28. Trade Willy Aybar, Russ Branyan, Davis, Johnny Damon, Felix Hernandez, Dustin Pedroia, and Soria for Erick Aybar, A.J. Burnett, Matt Guerrier, Eric Hosmer, Evan Longoria, Chris Ray and Josh Wilson.
This team had one of the four strongest projected teams entering the auction (along with the other three teams listed). As you can see, it didn't exactly work out, and this squad wound up going the other way in June. Lind didn't work out, but I certainly can't fault the contract without the benefit of hindsight. Raburn was a part-timer last spring and certainly wouldn't have been worth a contract. You could probably make an argument against keeping Matusz and/or Wood at $10 last year, but Wood went for over $10 in more than a few leagues in 2010.
One of the biggest arguments against giving out contracts isn't against the contracts themselves but rather the significant uphill climb you have to make in a carryover league. While the eventual winner's freeze list is certainly stronger than usual, it's not uncommon to see a lot of players in the second year of their deals (pre-contract) as the biggest chits, not the players who get long-term deals. Elvis Andrus and Ben Zobrist had at least as significant an impact on the fate of this league as Denard Span or Jacoby Ellsbury did, if not more so.