Over in my mailbag, David asks:
How do you approach an auction when you're planning to dump this year and contend the following year?
I have to admit that I started trying to craft an answer to this question that would satisfy David. But - after a few stops and starts - I couldn't do it.
The short answer to David's question - for me at least - is that I don't.
This isn't to say that I have never dumped. On the contrary, I have done it several times in my 25 years...including last season in my National League home league. Don't get me wrong. I abhor doing it, feel like an abject failure when I throw in the towel, and wind up having a bad taste in my mouth until the next auction is about to get underway.
But I would answer David's question with another question:
Why do in December what you can do in late April or early May?
There isn't any discernible tactical advantage to beginning your rebuilding project for 2014 in December 2012. If anything, I would argue that dumping now is slightly worse. Right now, all 12 or 13 owners in your league are probably doing the same thing: trying to add auction value to their rosters for the upcoming auction. While your goal might be slightly different (adding value to your roster for the 2014 auction), you are still going to find yourself butting heads with every other owner in your league.
Trying to predict what is going to happen next year is difficult enough. Trying to predict what may happen 2-3 years from now is far more challenging. Are you sure that the hot phenom at AA that you just acquired is going to be a superstar in two years? He might be, but there's also a chance that he stumbles at AAA and has to fight for a job in 2014. Or there's the possibility that he does win a job in mid-2013 but isn't very good and wind up back in the minors on Opening Day 2014. I don't know what you gave up for Mr. Double-A Wonderful, but you probably got ripped off.
The only way that dumping now would be beneficial is if you're in a league that sees multiple teams dump in April. If that's the case, you might want to try and get a leg up on the competition. But this is complicated due to the dynamics of off-season trading. On April 15, your opponent might jump at the chance to trade you Miguel Sano for Robinson Cano at $40 and Adrian Beltre at $35. On December 15, adding $75 of salary to his team prior to the auction doesn't make a lot of sense.
One thing you could do if you absolutely insist on going this route is to be the one that acquires Cano and Beltre in December. Load up your team with high salary investments on par players and then buy a significant number of cheap $1-3 players to round out your roster. Not enough of the cheap players will work out to push you into contention, but you might get lucky and see 4-6 of them turn into cheap freezes. Then you can dump your expensive players for the rest of your 2014 team.
But the two-year plan is no friend of mine. Teams that attempt it often wind up in a four or five-year plan because the future is uncertain and we can't try to control what is going to happen to our fantasy teams in the present, let alone in the distant future.