Just this week, an arguably more interesting scenario played out in the FanGraphs Staff League Two, when a $62 Giancarlo Stanton was kicked to the curb, and a there are a number of lessons to learn from it.
The turn of events started on July 7, when Cody Wiewandt’s Dr. Frasier Crane team acquired Stanton (along with $3 Amed Rosario and $1 Travis Shaw from Marc Hulet’s Huligans for $40 Jose Bautista, $24 Yu Darvish, and $2 Pedro Strop. Once the trade went through on July 9 (literally within 12 minutes), Wiewandt cut Stanton, who he had presumably acquired specifically to clear cap space, rather than to add the slugger.
No one made a waiver claim on Stanton but almost as soon as the waiver period went through, Hulet started an auction for Stanton (this very well may have been part of the deal – an agreement that Stanton would get cut and immediately re-auctioned).
As everyone was preparing their bids, Brad Johnson jumped onto the message board with this:
even though nobody has the money, I’m placing a bid on Stanton for $55. You have a couple days to find a 56th dollar. Chad has an easy path to it. A couple others could match.
It set off a storm of commentary, mostly between Brad and me. I argued that the right move was to bid $54 and call Brad’s bluff. He had only $1 of cap room and so winning a $55 Stanton would force him to make some serious cuts. He said he would just cut Stanton and live with being over the cap until someone re-auctioned him. I suggested that it would be in everyone’s best interest to let him do that and let Stanton linger on the wire as long as possible.
From there, the clock ticked down on the auction. I started shopping my cap space (I had made a trade that cleared the $56 of space needed) to anyone who wanted Stanton and got a couple offers – $29 Max Scherzer or $18 J.D. Martinez. In the end, I made a significant miscalculation.
I went team-by-team and basically decided no one really benefitted from outbidding Brad, and since I had already publicly stated my intention to call his bluff and bid $54, I expected no one else would match. I decided to let it play out, make Brad make a cut, and then eventually end up winning Stanton at a later date anyway, at which time I could make a trade.
The auction ended and Brad had, in fact, bluffed, having lowered his bid to $49. But my $54 bid was not alone – Colin Zarzycki had also bid $54, and by virtue of his lower score on the season, he won the tie-breaker and a $54 Stanton.
He ended up cutting some assets that are not at all worthless – $29 Adam Jones, $15 Kole Calhoun, $4 Brandon Nimmo, $5 Andre Ethier, $12 Andrew Cashner, and $5 Clay Buchholz – but also no one with the value of Stanton.
After those cuts, Calhoun and Nimmo were both claimed off waivers by Hulet, putting him $17 over the cap – but he got under by cutting $27 Gio Gonzalez, $6 Darren O’Day and $4 Mike Minor. Jones has also hit the market via auction, and will be added to a new team on Friday.
In the end, instead of taking my best shot at Stanton, I am left with basically scraps on the market. Jones is interesting. O’Day could be in this format. Ethier perhaps. But really, this is not a pretty situation.
There are a few lessons here, as mentioned. Not to be cliche, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – by holding back, I hoped to force Brad’s hand into multiple cuts, making my cap space that much more valuable by having multiple pieces to hunt. Instead, I lost Stanton, or a trade for JDM or Scherzer, all because I tried to optimize instead of taking a good opportunity when it was sitting there.
Colin, on the other hand, offers up a lesson in what you SHOULD do. People have a tendency to overvalue their own assets and to feel like they should not cut assets that are worth owning. Both of these are problematic. Colin saw a chance to add a better asset, and even though the guys he cut, particularly Jones and Calhoun, were not really guys who needed to be cut, that does not mean you are better off keeping them than you are adding Stanton.
I see teams do this all the time with prospects and back-of-the-bench types in ottoneu. They want to clear space to add a prospect (say, a guy like Eloy Jimenez, as he breaks out). The try to shop their 9th OF (maybe a John Jaso type) and another prospect or two (maybe Aaron Judge, or someone like that), fail to do so and pass on Jimenez cause they don’t have a guy worth dropping. But the real question is only if Jimenez is more valuable to you than Judge or Jaso or whoever. Even if you think those two are worth owning (and they probably are), you can still cut them if it means adding a piece with greater value.
Anyway, I am off to make a bid on Adam Jones, in the hopes I don’t come up completely empty in what has turned into a bit of a debacle for me.
Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.