Is it too early to start thinking about my keepers? I hope not, because I think my first "draft" of my 2010 keepers was sometime around the end of September. I've filled at least one legal pad with draft keeper lists. Anyway, it's getting to crunch time with our keeper list due on March 18. For those who weren't with us last year I'll give a brief re-cap. I'm in a 10-team A.L. only roto league with 4x4 scoring (avg., HR's, RBI's, and stolen bases; era, strikeouts, wins, and saves). We use the standard 23 guys, with nine pitchers, two catchers, six infielders, five outfielders, and one DH, that has to be a hitter. We have four minor league spots for keepers (you can carry as many as you have, but can only keep four from season to season). We have no reserve spots. So after the draft/auction, you have your 23 spots, plus any minor leaguers you kept or drafted. Any player placed on the D/L can be replaced (keeping the rights to the D/L'd guy) including anyone drafted that starts the year on the D/L. But to activate a D/L guy (or a called up minor leaguer) you have to drop a guy or put someone on the D/L or in the minors (but only if he qualifies).
We have a $50.00 budget. So at the auction, you have $50.00 minus the total of your keepers. We can keep up to 14 guys, not counting the four minor leaguers. Here are my no-brainers for keepers (although feel free to comment if you disagree), with their corresponding salary:
1st base: Russell Branyan .10
2nd base: Ian Kinsler 7.40
3rd base: Evan Longoria 2.00
Crnr inf: Alex Gordon 1.00
Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo 1.00
Pitcher: Josh Beckett 7.50
Pitcher: Brian Fuentes 4.50
Pitcher: Brian Matusz 1.00
Pitcher: Phil Hughes 1.00
That's nine players for $25.50, basically half of my money for a little less than half my players. I can keep up to 14, so I can keep up to five of these other eight:
Gerald Laird 2.00
Victor Martinez 6.70
Brian Robers 6.20
Ryan Raburn 1.00
John Lackey 7.20
Matt Thornton 2.00
Jason Frasor 1.00
Brandon McCarthy 1.00
There are some other options (CC at 10.10, Sizemore and Morneau at 9.00 each, A.J. Burnett at 8.10, and Alex Rios at 7.00) but they're just too high to consider. You could argue that is also true for Beckett, but I like him on a good team that has improved a lot defensively, and he's in his contract year. To some extent you could argue this for Kinsler, too.
If the Jays hadn't signed Kevin Gregg (how stupid was that move?) I would have kept Frasor for sure because he was first in line for saves. Now, I'm not sure. I think he's still worth the $1 but I might be able to get him cheaper at auction (and that's really the issue with any keeper). Same with Raburn. Had the Tigers not signed Damon (how smart was that move?) I would have kept Raburn. Again, he's probably worth the dollar, but without a sure starting role, I might get him cheaper.
If McCarthy is in the rotation, he's probably worth a spot at $1. He's never lived up to his potential, mostly because of injuries, but has enough upside to keep should he have a role. If he doesn't crack the rotation, a) he's not worth keeping because he won't pitch enough and b) he's not worth keeping because he couldn't crack the rotation.
I would keep Thornton at $1 because he was one of the best relievers in baseball last year and would be next in line for saves (maybe, they did sign Putz) should Jenks falter or get traded. But he'll go for less than $2 at the auction unless he's installed as the closer before the 3/18 deadline (but of course then I would keep him).
Lackey is an interesting case. No question he's a valuable guy, especially now that he's in Boston. But he's been an injury risk. The Red Sox (no relation) are very risk-adverse, so the big contract they gave him should be seen as a boost to his value. But $7.20 is a lot and would take up all of my remaining pitching budget. Typically, I'll spend $20 of my $50 on pitching, and keeping Lackey would put me at $21.20 for only five guys. So I probably can't keep him.
Another factor with Lackey, last year there were only two aces in the draft (that I remember) CC and Beckett. I got Beckett first at $7.50. (I knew I needed one of the two and I wanted CC -- who didn't -- and figured the worst case scenario would be for Beckett to get called up before CC. First guy up: Beckett. I realized when the Grim Rippers bowed out early (they had a ton of money available and needed an ace) that he was going for CC no matter what, so I stayed in on Beckett knowing he was my only shot. There was no way I could bid against the GR's for CC.) CC went for $10.10. This year, however, we'll have CC, A.J. Burnett, Lackey, and Cliff Lee, Javier Vazquez, Ben Sheets, and Rich Harden (all coming over from the N.L.). So I'll have a shot at a guy like Lackey at (hopefully) a cheaper price.
This is always a tough call: how much of the budget to allot to pitching and how much to hitting. A couple of schools of thought here. Most people argue hitting is more reliable, so you should put more resources toward it in the auction to limit risk. A 30/20 split of the 50 is also a fairly even divide among all players, working out to $2.22 per pitcher and $2.14 per hitter. But the scoring is divided evenly between hitting and pitching so shouldn't the budget be also? I usually plan for 30/20 and overspend on pitching if I have to.
I don't think Laird is worth the $2.00. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but I just don't see it. Especially if Avila takes some of his playing time. But I haven't ruled him out for my 14th spot yet. The same is true for Raburn. That leaves V-Mart (at 6.70) and Roberts (at 6.20). Both are valuable guys at a scarce position. But you usually want to keep guys at that price only in they're four-category guys (although I'm keeping low average Kinsler -- hey it's tough to pass on a 30-30 candidate). Roberts has limited power and V-Mart doesn't steal bags. If I did keep those two, I'd be at 24.40 for only half of my hitters. That would leave only 5.60 for the other seven.
Another option I'm considering is the trade route. I put out feelers on some of my higher-priced guys and have one iron in the fire. (I won't analyze the offers being swapped; he reads this blog.) But the goal of the trade would be to simply get two or three keepers for a guy I'm probably not going to keep just to play the numbers game.
I'm also considering offering one of my draft picks in trade for a good keeper. I like my young guys that I have and I'm not sure I need more than a couple more. I'm already down to three of my four picks, but I think I could stand to lose one more. Which round I would trade would depend on the offer.
Any input would be appreciated. If you have any input or questions, put them in the comments section and I will respond.
Mike Mussina, Hall of Famer
4 weeks ago