TDG Roundtable: Tips on rebuilding your dynasty roster
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week, our staff discusses rebuilding a dynasty league team.
Taking over a team in need of a rebuild
If you are taking over a Dynasty league team, more than likely the team is not great (at least that has been my experience) and there are two main things that I recommend doing (and learned the hard way). Number One, be honest with your assessment of your team. Number Two, examine the rosters of the teams that won the league the prior season. These two go hand-in-hand. I made the mistake of doing #1 and not also doing #2. My first Dynasty team was a takeover; the team had some good veteran pieces and also a few minor leaguers ready to come up. If everything fell right, the team could compete immediately and I (mistakenly) traded picks and pieces in order to compete right out of the gate. What I failed to do was examine the really good teams’ rosters. If I would have done that, I would have seen that they had bench players better than 80% of my starters, and would have reassessed my roster (again). I was instead stuck with a middling team for two seasons, and then once I read and solicited advice from experts I realized it was time for a teardown with two seasons wasted. Lastly, never hesitate to ask friends, other managers from other leagues, experts, and whoever will help to give you an honest assessment of your team.
Improve your Major League Roster Throughout the Process
Having two dynasty teams exiting rebuilds, one hopefully competing this year, and one taking a step forward, I do have a strategy that I’m glad I followed. That strategy is to NOT gut your major league roster. In a rebuild, many owners want to fill their minor league system with the best prospects at any cost and go from there. The problem is many dynasty leagues are not set up with enough minor league rosters spots, to build a competitive team just from your minor league system. Not only do the prospects you acquire graduate to the big stage at different times, but some will be effective right away, and some will need several seasons before they can help you win. Let’s face it even the best prospect pundits are going to be outright wrong on some of their favorite prospect crushes, and time will be invested in players who never get regular playing time at the major league level. One of my main goals is to not make the rebuild too long, I want prospects who are expected to graduate in two and a half seasons or less. I don’t mind taking a chance on teenage prospects, but I don’t want to give away strong players to trade for them. Then keep some of your major league talent if they’re fairly young, say 24 to 27 years old. These are guys who should still be good players when your team is emerging. Also, try to buy low on young players who are not being effective or are injured, and wait them out. Hopefully, you can hit on at least three or four, adding even more major league talent to your team. Then when your minor league rebuild starts to flourish, two seasons or so down the line, you already have some pieces in place to compliment them. If you’re not making use of every roster spot in a rebuild, there are opportunities to make your team better passing you by.
How to Rebuild a Dynasty Team in 10 Days
Disclaimer: This process may take more than ten days.
There are several phases to a fantasy manager coming to the realization that it’s time to tear a roster down and rebuild. What I hope to provide here is a glimpse into some of those phases with some simple dos and don’ts.
The early phases of this process are not pretty. Initially, there is the, “I can win with this team” phase or the denial phase as I like to call it. Trust me, if the same roster hasn’t shown enough life to finish anywhere near the top of the standings in a few seasons, it’s time for a change. Just because you have a player like Juan Soto rostered with a bunch of “scrubs” doesn’t make you an automatic contender. And before you even think it, no you cannot trade away your bench players and “Quad A” prospects for legit players, so don’t waste your time.
Once the denial phase is over, it’s time for the rebuild. Again, this is not necessarily a short phase, and it really shouldn’t be rushed. I would recommend looking at your roster and grouping your players into categories based on their value to your team and its future. The two easiest groups to identify should be the “droppables” and the “untouchables.” The first group is the players on your roster that are not contributing and garner no interest in the trade market. Also in this group would be prospects who have essentially run their course in the minor leagues and no longer hold much hope for a future as a major league contributor. You need to do nothing more with these players other than thank them for their time and release them to the wilds of the waiver wire. The second group is the players that you want to build the future of your roster around. These are the players you will not be looking to trade and should not unless you receive an offer that you simply cannot refuse. Some players just shouldn’t be traded away in dynasty leagues, so don’t be pressured into parting with your superstars despite being in a rebuilding phase.
The remaining players now need to be evaluated for engaging in trades with the other managers in your league. This is a process that will take patience and some savvy timing to make sure the trades you make are the best for your roster. Send out fair trade offers, even if it is not accepted it promotes a friendly market that may instead dry up quickly with a few low ball offers. Also, you don’t need to trade everyone at once and you certainly don’t have to accept the first offer you receive. Patience and timing come into play by understanding when to move a player and when to hold. Move players when they are on hot streaks and most attractive to other managers in order to maximize your return. Target players in return that you like and fit your roster constructions and needs. Also, identify and see if you can get “throw in” players in deals that can be bench or prospect stashes that you think may be under the radar players that can develop and contribute in the future. Make trades throughout the season- you aren’t rebuilding to contribute by the end of the year, it’s for the following year or two. Don’t trade just to trade, make sure you are getting back players you think put your team in a better position for future success.
Losing stinks, no two ways about it, but a re-build can be fun. Trading is a very fun aspect of fantasy baseball that can allow you to restructure your roster with players you like and are excited to follow their performance. So if/when you find yourself with a roster in need of a shakeup, embrace the rebuild and think how much sweeter those future winning seasons will be knowing you were the mastermind behind the roster construction.
ABC: Always Be Competitive
Here’s the dirty little secret that league winners already know: rebuilding is for fools. If Kyle MacDonald can execute a series of trades to go from one red paperclip to a 2-story farmhouse in 12 months, then you can turn a losing roster into a winning franchise in one offseason.
The single most important factor in developing a winning team is player evaluation. I’m not talking about baseball players; you need to learn the other players in your league inside and out. What’s their favorite team? Who’s their favorite player? How do they construct their roster? How frequently do they tinker with their roster? Do they have any pets? Do they have any allergies? No detail is too small to gain a negotiating advantage.
With this information in hand, you can begin discussions about making moves. Always have a conversation before making an offer. If you blindly make an offer that’s too generous, they’ll instantly accept and you’ll be left wondering if you could’ve acquired more talent. If you make an offer that insults your prospective bartering buddy, then they may increase their demands as penance for the perceived disrespect. Instigating a dialogue to garner an understanding of your opponent’s value of both your roster and theirs will establish your credibility as a trading partner now and in the future.
If you are coming off a losing season, then your only priority should be to acquire promise. Most fantasy players equate promise with prospects and young players. They are willing to pay a premium for that youth. Promise comes in all shapes and sizes, though. Bet on that injury bounceback. Take a flier on a post-hype sleeper. Grab that innings eating 4th starter for a mediocre team. Pick up a boring but consistent contributor. If you took that approach going into 2020, you could have been riding the performances of Marcell Ozuna, Teoscar Hernandez, Zach Davies, and Kole Calhoun to the trophy presentation stage.
If you understand your goals and your leaguemates’ philosophies, then you can play the value game to maneuver your way to the top in just a few moves. In just a single 22 minute episode of The Office, Dwight Schrute was able to trade his way from a thumbtack to a telescope. You can have that type of quick success, too. Just be sure to steer clear of the baseball version of Professor Copperfield’s Miracle Legumes: pitching prospects.
Embrace the Abandoned Franchise
If you asked me the question, “Where did you first learn about The Dynasty Guru?” I could easily identify the scenario. I’m not sure exactly what I typed into Google, but it was something along the lines of “I’ve never played dynasty baseball before, I’ve been handed the worst dynasty team of all time, how do I rebuild this piece of trash?” Fortunately, the top search brought me to this series of articles, the first and only of its kind at the time by the great Bret Sayre.
Just about all of the dynasty teams that I manage were handed to me, as opposed to drafted as a start-up. This may be hard to believe, but none of the teams I took over were in good shape at the time. “Championship contender” and “available franchise” usually don’t find themselves in the same sentence in this format. Once I accept that my entry fee won’t be seen again, I like to look at it as a mini-project that I can pick up at any time throughout the season and try to move the team forward for the long term. While I wouldn’t recommend having more than one team in a full rebuild at once, I enjoy the challenge of having one each season. Though the Sayre series has the best advice for identifying the key pieces to build around, knowing your competitive window, making the turn, and of course, pushing in your chips, here are six quick thoughts that I try to keep in mind.
1) These aren’t “your guys.” The best part about taking over someone else’s team is that you didn’t draft them and have very little connection to them. You can turn the whole thing over in one calendar year if you really set your mind to it.
2) When you first join the league, wait to make your first trade. As the new guy or gal at the poker table, you’ll get a bunch of offers in the first couple of days and many of them will be obscene. “Welcome to the league! Now trade me Vlad.” Take time to understand the league and constitution … Keep Forever? Contracts? OBP vs. BA? Is there one Minor League draft per year, or can you churn and burn prospects as you see fit? Look at past trades in the league to see what kind of a return is expected for major and minor pieces. Maybe even start with a small trade to get on the board.
3) Don’t make trades just for the sake of making trades. Once you make one trade, the rest of the league starts swarming like sharks and assumes you want to trade all of your good players. If a trade doesn’t feel right during the offseason, walk away. Politely decline, you don’t owe anybody anything. You can always trade these players for a better return shortly after the season starts once half the league gets hurt and other teams get desperate, as we’ve seen this year. I always look and back at my rebuilds and regret one trade that happened simply because I had Trade Fever.
4) Keep an active roster of major league players, in order to put your “best team on the field” and not irritate the other managers. However, make sure that every other roster spot has a purpose. If your entire bench (in addition to any IL spots) are full of injured players, that’s fine. If not, they should be minor leaguers or cheap fliers that could help you next year. If a solid player goes on the IL, I want to trade for them. I can wait months if I have to, you can’t.
5) Get your Waivers/FAAB Bids in every single week. If a closer is available, prioritize them in waivers and then trade them to the competing team who’s last in saves. If not, look for $1 players who may have an opportunity down the line. Always check to see who is released when waivers go through. You will likely be willing to have a lot more patience than the team who dropped them.
6) Lastly, embrace the rebuild! Once you’ve sent the entry fee (donation) and accepted a loss for this year, the fun begins from there. Challenge yourself to make at least one trade every month, and, in busy times like the First Year Player Draft, Trade Deadline, or the start of the league’s offseason, make a trade every week. Trades as small as sending out a bullpen arm for next year’s 5th rounder in the minors draft add up over time. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to make The Turn.
Rebuild Very Aggressively, With Great Haste
The Anti-Rebuild crowd will tell you never to commit this heinous sin under any circumstances. While it is possible to win without ever rebuilding — there are many paths to victory — there are advantages to rebuilding that make it a worthwhile option. Plus, as anyone rebuilding will tell you, it’s super fun, and makes one feel like a renaissance sculptor. The main strategic advantage is that it prioritizes something other than competing and justifies ignoring fleeting, contextual factors – like MLB roster construction and position eligibility, saves and holds, and playing time – in favor of pursuit of long-term talents. Receiving a high draft pick is a nice bonus, though it is secondary to the other benefits as the top FYPD players are rarely generational enough to justify a rebuild on their own, especially when it’s uncertain that you’ll even land them (others are always rebuilding too!). Having stated my pro-rebuild sentiments, I almost never rebuild for longer than a year—it is too time-consuming and expensive, with greatly diminished returns after a year—one year is plenty. My main rule of thumb in rebuild years will not surprise you: I focus exclusively on landing players I’m the “high man,” on, and on trading everyone I’m not the “high man” on, as well as all shorter-term talents. Sometimes this requires multiple trades: I’ll trade for someone I don’t love whom I think others love, then flip them again. I also tend to be as aggressive as possible on the waiver wire: there’s always money in the banana stand, and it’s easy enough to flip waiver wire adds for future-oriented stuff. After a year is up, I’ll change gears to building a competitive roster around my new core, this time giving proper due to fleeting, contextual factors.