“Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called ‘The Pledge’. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called ‘The Turn’. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige’.” – Cutter
This quote may not exactly be about managing a dynasty league roster, but there is a parallel here. Turning your team into a contender is a nice trick, but keeping your team a contender over many seasons is the hardest part, and what I’m referring to here as “The Prestige”. Anyone can contend for a season, or even two – building a perennial contender requires two continuing skills which we’ve been working on throughout this entire series. The first is the ability to restock the minor league cupboard without (for the most part) dealing away major league talent. The second is the ability to know your team’s weaknesses and act swiftly and decisively to remedy them. In order to give a real-life example of this, I’ll infuse some examples from the same 18-team dynasty league I’ve been referring to the last few posts which is now in the contention stage.
Since this whole process has been from a bottom-up approach, let’s start by how to approach your minor league roster while you’re faced with contention. Some owners have the inclination to stock their farm systems with fire extinguishers – as in, high-minors or major league talent without much upside who can step in at a moment’s notice and fill a hole. Break open in case of injury types. However, this is the easiest way to shrink the length of your team’s contention. If you want to be able to compete for a long-time, you need to hit on breakout prospects – and since you likely emptied at least some of your farm system to make the run to contention, you should have some room to play with.
Whether it’s in the draft or free agency, I’m constantly looking for players who I think can make the jump to the next level – meaning, players who are at lower-levels of the minors but have big upside. For example, I started to take this approach in the 2012 draft which I talked about in the last post. As we got towards the end of the draft, I took a number of players who had yet to play in full-season ball: Brian Goodwin, Trevor Story, Ronald Guzman and Daniel Norris. All were available in the fourth round or later, so they don’t require a huge investment. I also used free agency to grab some other potential breakout players like Gregory Polanco, Yordano Ventura and Clay Blackburn and Rougned Odor. They won’t always work out, but with extra roster spots, you can take more chances – and you can always throw back the guys that don’t work out. Of the eight players I picked up, four of them look like they could be potential impact guys for my team going forward – Goodwin, Story, Polanco and Ventura. And by impact guys, I mean either as players who will help my team themselves or will help my team as trade chips.
At the same time you’re trying to keep your farm system shelved with riskier, potential impact players, you’re also analyzing your major league roster from every angle. That includes from a positional standpoint, a categorical standpoint (for roto leagues) and an aging curve standpoint. The positional and categorical ones are pretty straightforward and they’ve been covered in previous parts of this series, so I’ll bring up one trade I made during the season to talk about how to fill a hole on the fly. I went into the season with Jason Bay as my Util, hoping that he would turn things around enough for him to be playable. Unfortunately, he was not, and while I was filling his spot admirably while he occupied the DL, as it got closer to playoff time, I wanted to try to catch lightning in a bottle for a deep run. So in early August, I made the following trade:
I dealt Yordano Ventura, Henderson Alvarez and Jason Bay for David Ortiz.
Yes, I took the calculated risk of dealing for Papi when he was on the DL because I thought he’d be back in time for the playoffs. The reason I ended up pulling the trigger is that I need a real utility guy for 2013 anyway and there’s no way his price would be this low in the off-season, even if he missed the whole year. In the end, he missed the whole year, but it didn’t cost my active roster anything – and though I like Ventura and Alvarez, Ortiz should be able to provide enough value next year to compensate me for dealing them away.
The ironic thing is that I was on the opposite end of a team trying to make an aging curve transaction – I just felt the value was too good to pass up. The essence of this type of analysis is trying to put yourself in a position where you can avoid the final decline phase of a player’s career. The one where he essentially brings you nothing in return. That owner was trying to get out from the end of Ortiz’s career, but in my opinion, he didn’t get enough considering how good he was during 2012. And therein lays the difficulty of this analysis.
There are many owners who will look to trade a player as soon as he reaches his post-prime years, as said owner feels like they can replace the aging player with a shiny new prospect. This makes sense if you’re a non-contending team, but if you’re fighting for a title, you need to be a little more careful. For example, I have Adrian Beltre on this team, who is 33 years old. I have no thoughts about trading him right now because I need him to contend, but if I were still rebuilding, I’d be looking to deal him for a ransom. And that’s a good rule of thumb – if you can get at least a mild ransom for a post-prime member of your team, it’s probably too early to deal him away unless you have a young major leaguer, who has already had success in the show, ready to take over the position. And even that has its own issues, as any owner who traded away a veteran to make room for Eric Hosmer or Brett Lawrie last year can attest to.
If you continue to do your due diligence with your minor league and major league roster once you get to contention, you can be stay contention year after year. And that’s really the end goal of being in a league like this – to create a team which is worthy of the designation you use to describe it: a dynasty.
So, that’s finally it. We’ve gotten to the end of this series. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read any part of this 16,000+ word saga, and I hope it was at least mildly helpful for you. As always, if you have any specific questions about your team, you can always either leave it in the comments section or send me an e-mail at dynastyguru [at] gmail [dot] com (or if it’s quick, hit me up on Twitter at @dynastyguru).
But don’t be sad – with the end of one large project comes the start of another. This January, I will release my 2013 dynasty league rankings package, which will include positional breakdowns and two different prospect lists (an overall top-150 and a top-50 2012 signees). Stay tuned over the next week or two for a full lineup of what’s to come and the official schedule for its release. I’ve been hard at work on these for the last two months and really look forward to sharing them with everyone.
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
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 8b: Know Your Waiver System and Draft Rules
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 9: The Draft
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 10: The Turn
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 10a: The Makings of the Turn
Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 11: Pushing In Your Chips