Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 8b: Know Your Waiver System and Draft Rules

Let’s be realistic, when you’re rebuilding a dynasty league roster, you’re going to be near or at the bottom of the standings – and that’s the point. There’s not much to be gained by trying to sneak up an extra 10 points in the standings or eek out another 2-3 wins. In fact, it may be to your advantage not to do so.  By making that statement, I’m not saying that you should specifically tank in a way which will upset other league owners – that’s a good way to get kicked out of a league. But by knowing the constitution and settings of your league, you can take even further advantage of ways to accumulate talent.

There are two main aspects of your league rules you are looking for: rules on waiver priorities during the season and rules on determining draft order for after the season.

We’ll start with waiver priority. I’ve seen many different ways for this to be set up in long-term leagues, and first I’ll go into the league which I’m using as an example. In this particular league, waiver priority is determined by record and does not reset – that way the worst team always has the best shot at a newly minted free agent. Now, as the team with the worst record in the league (3-18 at season’s end), this is a great thing for me – and I took advantage of it. From the time of the trading deadline to the end of the season, I constantly had the #1 priority, so I used it any time a player was released by a competing team that I felt to be an upgrade over what I had. The important thing to remember when dealing with this is not to fall in love with your sleeper prospects – in fact, I had to drop a few in order to make these moves. Here are the waiver claims I made in the last two months of the season:

8/3/12 – Drop Will Venable, add Cameron Maybin
8/9/12 – Drop Travis Blackley, add Travis Snider
8/31/12 – Drop Ryan Brett, add Travis Wood
9/16/12 – Drop Ravel Santana, add Jason Hammel
10/1/12 – Drop Travis Snider, add Matt Joyce

There is no good reason at all for Cameron Maybin to be dropped in a 16-team dynasty league. Yes, he was hitting .215/.291/.319 at the time he was dropped, but he is still just 25 years old and coming off a 40 steal season. Since I picked him up, he’s hit .300/.344/.382 – still not as good as last year in the power department, but a definite improvement. And his age-27 season will be 2014 (my time horizon). I like Snider’s potential to bounce back, but Matt Joyce was a better use of a roster spot – and he will still play most of 2013 at age 28. I believe in Jason Hammel’s breakout and, as I’ve mentioned, I need arms – which brings me to my favorite transaction.

Yes, I got Travis Wood back for free after trading him for two solid pitching prospects (Kyle Crick and Victor Sanchez) in July. Timing can be everything in this game. At the time I dealt Wood (7/8), he was 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 42 K in 62 IP. In his next 7 starts, he went 0-6 with a 7.68 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and 32 K in 38 2/3 IP. That owner then decided to drop him, and I scooped him back up. It’s not that I think Travis Wood is great, but he’s a good back-end guy to have around.

Now, your league might be different than this. I’ve seen plenty of long-term leagues that just have a standard waiver system that resets each time. I’ve also seen leagues that have monthly resets to match the reverse order of the standings – point is, the more you know about your system, the better equipped you’ll be to make decisions about who to claim that can help your team over the long haul. So take the time to read how your league handles this, it will be worth it.

This brings us to draft position. Does your league have a draft order which is simply the reverse order of the previous season’s standings? Is there a lottery to determine the top picks? Do you have better odds in the draft lottery the lower you finish? Does your draft snake or follow a straight format? All of these are questions you should have answers to – and if you don’t know, ask. In this league, it happens to be a snaking draft determined by a random drawing of non-playoff teams with no odds whatsoever. I personally think this is a pretty dumb way of determining draft order, but that’s neither here nor there. The draft lottery was actually held in the middle of September and I received the 9thpick. Yes, the worst team in the league gets to pick 9th. To make it even better, the second worst team picks right behind me at #10.

Regardless of your feelings about the draft system, you have to use it to your advantage. Now, while there’s no way to use a randomized drawing to your advantage, if you have a league where finishing in last place secures you the first pick in the draft, it’s OK to inch towards that goal. Again, it sounds bad to use the word tank – and I don’t think it’s appropriate anyway – but you are well within your rights not to go out of your way to win match-ups or gain points. Especially if the off-season draft is not a snake and you get to pick early every round. You have many weapons at your disposal in order to rebuild a dynasty league roster, and it’s unwise not to use every single one of them.

For more about the draft, you’ll want to read the next installment of this series, appropriately titled “The Draft”. And for those of you in the path of Hurricane Sandy, stay safe.

Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 1: Setting the Table
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 2: Establishing Your Time Horizon
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 3: The Evaluation Stage
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 4: The Opening Trades
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 4a: Wait at Your Own Peril
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 5: The Free Agents
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 6: The Re-Evaluation Stage
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 7: The Secondary Targets
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 8: The Waiting Game
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 8a: The Challenge Trade

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