Two years ago I was invited to take over an abandoned roster in a 30-team dynasty league. It looked like what I imagine most abandoned dynasty teams look like – a couple of good players with good contracts, a couple of decent players with bad contracts, and a bunch of horses***. Each roster is capped at 75 players, so there are over 2,200 players owned. There are probably readers out there who scoff at that kind of depth, but for me it was by far the deepest fantasy league I’d ever been in. The biggest problem with righting the ship was the state of the farm. It was just a handful of non-prospects. The previous owner didn’t use all of their available roster slots, so there was no new blood coming in via minor league signing bonuses, etc. Additionally, all of the supplemental draft picks in the prior year were traded in acquiring a “bad” major league contract. I don’t write these details to crap on the previous owner – I don’t even know them and I’m sure they’re a cool person – but rather to illustrate the state of the team and to relate to some of my readers who also find themselves trying to revive a dead roster. So how did I tackle this particular rebuild?
- Step 1 – I took a match to the major league roster and burned that sucker to the ground. Any player on my team with a decent contract drawing interest in trades was going to be sold, because this was going to be at least a two-year rebuild and there was no sense in “holding” good players on a bad team. In trades, I went after a quantity of specs…as good as I could get my hands on. I needed to start filling up those available roster slots. One example is moving a decent Adam Jones contract for Lewis Brinson, Taylor Guerrieri, Trey Ball, and Miguel Andujar. I know, nothing mind-blowing there except for maybe Brinson, but in my position I liked the return.
- Step 2 – Cleared up cap space with a target year for competing. It was going to take two years to buy out the bad contracts that were virtually untradeable, so I set my sights on 2017 as the first year I could realistically compete. That meant that I would need to have all of the albatrosses off the books by then. It gave me a year to play with. Knowing that 2016 would be a wash took some of the pressure off of signing more major leaguers and possibly compounding my bad contract issues. I dumped salary where I could, but also took on bad one-year deals from competitive teams who were bumping the cap. The cost for taking out their garbage? A prospect. Taking on somebody else’s problem for a year actually netted me a few decent specs.
- Step 3 – Landed a bunch of draft picks and used all of my allotted signing bonus money to get bodies on the roster. Sometimes players come “out of nowhere” so I didn’t thumb my nose at any prospects, even if they weren’t in a team’s top ten. If another team was looking to do a four-for-one deal because they had a roster crunch, I was their man. Same thing with picks. I’ll take ’em. Beggars can’t be choosers. This league also allows me $5 million dollars to spend mid-season on minor leaguers, and I’ve been using every cent of it.
- Step 4 – Used the picks I did have to trade up in the draft. I climbed the ladder all the way to #1 in last year’s draft and got Yoan Moncada. He’s the kind of impact prospect I needed to headline my farm. I think I ended up with four or five picks in the first three rounds when it was all said and done, which helped bring in some better talent without actually trading anything decent away. It was mostly picks for picks.
- Step 5 – Wait. This might be the hardest part. I now have a good farm and I’m set up to pick in the top three overall again. A few of my prospects have graduated and are filling out my major league roster. But 2016 isn’t my target year and there are still two contracts that need to come off the books. So I need to stay patient and wait for my turn. In 2017, I’ll have a very young MLB roster making the league minimum, and almost all of my $110 million budget to spend in free agency. At that point, I’m hoping the two-year rebuild will have been worth it.
Your league may be set up differently, making it a quicker turnaround for you. But at any rate rebuilding is hard, especially when you start out with somebody else’s problems. I hope that there are strategies to glean from this post for deeper dynasty players, namely: choose a target year to compete, stay patient, stay open-minded to all types of offers, and get creative with what you have.