The biggest misconception out there about a dynasty league format is that you need to go young to win. This is absolutely not true. Age certainly comes into play with how you value players both on your roster and not, but once you’ve established the value, continuing to hold how long a player has been on the Earth against him is a feeble exercise. Derek Jeter is old. Derek Jeter has real value in a dynasty league. Those two statements are not mutually exclusive.
Even if you are an owner who is going through a rebuilding stretch, taking chances on cheap veterans with high levels of past performance can be a great way to build value for your team. Picking up the next Xander Bogaerts is fantastic (and is probably going to be more helpful in the long run), but if you can pick up a Kelly Johnson or a Lance Berkman with a spare roster spot, they can potentially bring a decent return from a contending team if they pan out. And this ties in perfectly with one of the areas of focus here at The Dynasty Guru over the next month and a half. The “Bouncing Back” series will cover players who are being overlooked due to age, injury or recent poor performance. Players who could reasonably rebound to a high level of performance.
And this isn’t just a trend among less experienced dynasty leaguers either. I was listening to a podcast earlier this week, which shall remain nameless, that delved into dynasty league drafts and strategies there-in. All of a sudden I heard a person who I respect on the subject say that when he’s doing an initial dynasty league draft, he wipes all players over the age of 30 off his draft board entirely. I understand that everyone has different strategies, but to throw out a blanket statement like that about thirty-something major leaguers is just bonkers. Are we really supposed to believe that there’s no spot reasonable enough to take both Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre (both 33 years old), among others?
Honestly, I understand the reasoning that went into that statement; it’s just the statement that I do not agree with. The reasoning is that as a player ages, their trade value diminishes in a dynasty league. That much is obvious, as you’d probably get a good amount more for Anthony Rizzo than Paul Konerko in your league if you put both on the block. However, the point that people sometimes miss is that there continues to be value to owning a diminishing player.
Take Konerko as an example. Konerko will turn 37 before the season starts and his value is lower than it was last season. And as you would expect, that value is lower than it was the season before. But say you own him in a dynasty format right now and have a reasonable long-term replacement – what would you accept for him in a trade? Back in mid-season 2010, Konerko was traded for a then 20-year old Brett Lawrie (when he was at Double-A) straight up in one of my longest running dynasty leagues. He was just outside the top-50 prospects in baseball at the time. Two and a half years later, would you even be able to get a top-150 prospect for him? Would you be able to get a draft pick? (Honestly, I’d really like to know – if you either own Konerko or have seen him dealt recently in your league, let me know what you think on the subject in the comments).
This gets to the heart of the whole “trade your oldest guys before they lose all value” stance. There is value to holding onto a player with the intention of milking every last drop of value from him if you don’t get an offer that makes sense for you. Unless you’re rebuilding, an unexciting prospect or a mid-round draft pick is unlikely to be worth dealing a player who could have legitimate value in the coming season and help you take that step towards a title. Sure, the A-ball pitcher who needs to refine his control and learn a change-up to avoid a career in the bullpen might work out – but Konerko also might be a top-10 1B in 2013.
The point is, age is a factor in determining value, but not the sole determining factor. So while it’s hard to compare the tangible value of having another solid season or two out of your veteran to the potential of having a high-ceiling teenager with a large chance of flaming out, it’s important to remember that there’s value in both. This isn’t Mesopotamia. You won’t lose a hand if you hold onto your veteran until he either retires or his value is kicked.