The offseason sucks, right? If you aren’t a fan of the Nouveau Rich Angels or Marlins, ain’t much happening.
Sure you stay up on all the news and get excited when your squad picks up a new (malcontented) outfielder – or a stud Cuban who might actually be eligible for social security benefits (if he was a citizen, you know) – or one of the Molina Brothers.
For the most part, however, there is very little to keep fantasy players engaged through the long winter months. Lucky for you, I’ve got a solution: Hot Stove Fantasy Baseball.
The league’s set up is really quite simple. Each owner is allotted $230 to build his team. The player universe is everyone that filed for free agency following the season (including those desperate (smart?) few who accepted arbitration). There is a handy list at Baseball Reference every year: http://www.baseball-reference.com/friv/2011-free-agents.shtml.
Each team starts 10 hitters (normal spots plus two utilities), four SPs, three RPs and three general Ps. You cannot make any moves (other than trades) during the regular season and must fill each roster spot with a body (but you could always use Troy Glaus if you want!).
As I touched on very briefly earlier, the caveat here is that you lock players up for multiple years.
For example, one offseason, Jason Bay ultimately went for $30 per year over the next seven years (yikes). This means that his owner must pay that price tag every year for the duration of his contract.
Just in case things go sour, however, there is also a buy-out clause for every pick – 75% of the dollars and 75% of the years, rounded up. So, while you can get out of paying full price for a Jason Bay-like signing, you are never let fully off the hook for it.
Once you are done with the auction, load the rosters into your favorite online league and watch as your team produces. Because no roster changes are allowed, this is the perfect league for those armchair GM’s who applaud or complain about moves in December, only to completely reverse their position come July. And, while we run the league as a strict 5×5 roto experience, you can mold it to whatever format you want – SABR, run quantifier, h2h, points, etc. As such, this league helps bridge the gap between the end of fantasy football and that beautiful day when pitchers and catchers report.
In terms of strategy, it looks like the old stars and scrubs works pretty well. I’d rank the free agents:
1. Prince Fielder – he’s younger than the #2 guy and should cost less.
2. Albert Pujols
3. Jose Reyes – it’s near impossible to lock up a solid SS in this type of league. Reyes is worth breaking the bank for, but could leave you hurting when he gets injured.
4. Aramis Ramirez – like SS, 3B is a tough position to wrangle. Ramirez should be a solid producer for at least three years.
5. Carlos Beltran
6. Edwin Jackson – I just like the guy – he should be relatively cheap and you could get him for several years on a low impact contract
7. Michael Cuddyer – as long as you don’t break the bank, he could provide some flexibility and slot in decently at a number of positions.
8. Jimmy Rollins
9. David Ortiz
10. Hiroki Kuroda – a small gamble whether he plays for a few more years or not and where, but dude is solid.
11. Javier Vazquez – a huge gamble based on whether or not he plays this season, but he has the skills to lead a staff.
12. Ryan Madson –
13. Jonathan Papelbon – I worry that he’ll be more expensive than Madson, I’ll take the cheap reliever every day.
14. Kelly Johnson – I’ve always liked Johnson and think he can be a fine contributor, especially in Toronto’s impressive line-up.
15. Josh Willingham – he’s a bit old, but there isn’t much outfield talent to be had.
16. Heath Bell- age and trends worrisome.
17. Ryan Doumit – as long as he qualifies at catcher, he’s a good get. However, I wonder if he’ll qualify after 2012.
18. Ramon Hernandez – he won’t play much, but he won’t hurt you either – you could do a lot worse at catcher.
19. Joe Nathan – old, but an underrated save play.
20. Jason Kubel – dude can mash if given the opportunity.
21. Grady Sizemore – This could either be a huge windfall signing or a complete money suck – there isn’t much in-between.
22. Roy Oswalt – a total gamble, but one worth making – he’ll either be good and healthy or hurt and not playing.
23. Erik Bedard – Ditto.
24. Aaron Hill – a good gamble on a long-term, low money deal.
25. Mark Buehrle
26. Rafael Furcal – hey, you need a SS.
27. Matt Capps
28. Freddy Garcia
29. Wilson Betemit
30. Aaron Harang
31. Cody Ross – getting 20 HRs is no laughing matter.
32. Frank Francisco – if only he could stay healthy.
33. Chris Capuano
34. Joe Saunders
35. Bartolo Colon
36. Francisco Cordero – hard to rank until we know where he ends up.
37. David DeJesus – here’s hoping the switch to the easier league will benefit him. There’s a chance his disastrous 2011 was fluky.
38. Paul Maholm – solid guy, rotation depth is necessary.
39. Bruce Chen – ditto.
40. Coco Crisp – could win you SBs single-handedly.
41. Carlos Pena – might destroy your batting average, but if you miss out on Fielder/Pujols, you’ll need power
42. Jon Rauch
43. Johnny Damon – a solid contributor, won’t kill you anywhere, 10 HR/10 SB guys are hard to come by.
44. Francisco Rodriguez – middle relievers aren’t all that useful, but he should sport some decent ratios.
45. Kelly Shoppach – should benefit strongly from a platoon in Boston
46. Jeff Francis
47. Hideki Matsui
48. Jamey Carroll
49. Ryan Ludwick
50. Juan Pierre
51. Jerry Hairston, Jr.
52. Alex Gonzalez
53. Juan Rivera
54. Clay Hensley
55. Luke Scott – a decent gamble
56. LaTroy Hawkins
57. Lyle Overbay
58. Rich Harden
59. Rick Ankiel
60. Kerry Wood
61. Derrek Lee
62. Jose Lopez
63. Casey Kotchman
64. Mike Gonzalez
65. Adam Kennedy
66. Rod Barajas
67. Willie Bloomquist
68. Dontrelle Willis
69. Clint Barmes
70. Mark Ellis
71. Jon Garland
72. Ryan Theriot
73. Jonathan Broxton
74. Jeff Keppinger
75. Takashi Saito
76. Darren Oliver
77. Chien-Ming Wang
78. Octavio Dotel
79. Hong-Chih Kuo
80. Raul Ibanez
81. Andy Sonnastine
82. Jose Molina
83. Dan Wheeler
84. Andrew Brackman – might as well take a gamble.
85. Zach Duke
86. Todd Coffey
87. Matt Treanor
88. Brad Penny
89. Brad Lidge
90. Gerald Laird
91. Micah Owings
92. Tim Wakefield
93. Jason Marquis
94. Carlos Guillen
95. Ronny Cedeno – hey you need a SS.
96. Henry Blanco
97. JC Romero
98. Peter Moylan – more as a long-term low cost contract – good reliever when healthy.
99. Scott Linebrink
100. Pat Burrell
101. Brooks Conrad
102. Fred Lewis
103. Andruw Jones – puts up decent numbers in a platoon – not bad for this format.
104. Ryan Spilborghs
105. John McDonald
106. Joel Pineiro
107. Vlad Guerrero
108. Jim Thome – similar to Andruw Jones, might find playing time harder to come by.
109. Scott Hairston
110. Aaron Cook
111. John Grabow
112. Chad Qualls
113. Aaron Laffey
114. Brandon Webb
115. Endy Chavez
116. Kosuke Fukudome
117. Kevin Millwood
118. Livan Hernandez
119. Chris Snyder
120. JD Drew
121. Josh Bard
122. Edgar Renteria
123. Craig Counsell
124. Eric Chavez
125. Ronny Paulino
126. Jorge Posada
127. Omar Vizquel
128. Jason Kendall
129. Ivan Rodriguez
130. Just fill-in your roster with someone alive.
Post a comment if you have any questions. I’d be happy to help you set up this type of league with your friends/officemates.