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The Justin Morneau draft dilemma

Andy Behrens
Roto Arcade

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Justin Morneau, with his fantasy stalker (US Presswire-Roto Arcade)

It's a scene that's played out in at least two industry auctions so far, AL LABR and AL Tout Wars: Chris Liss tosses a $7 opening bid for Justin Morneau, and ... nothing. Crickets. Uncomfortable laughter. No bidding.

Nobody in the room has been willing to risk $8 on a guy who hit .345 in  a partial season in 2010, and who won an MVP in 2006. Morneau has three 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons on his resume, but...

"Going once...going twice...sold. Chris Liss, $7."

And that's that. First bid is the final bid.

There's nothing wrong with a shock-and-awe nomination in a fantasy auction, obviously, as long as you don't exceed your price target on a player. We can't say what might have happened if Morneau opened at $3 or $5. Maybe someone goes plus-one, momentum builds, and the bidding tops seven bucks. If Liss thinks that $10 (or more) is the right amount, then he got a bargain. And if Morneau manages to reach something like 450 at-bats this season, then $7 will look like a filthy steal.

Before you judge, listen to Chris discuss bid strategy with Jeff Erickson on SiriusXM.

As Brad Evans tweeted on Wednesday (igniting a multi-expert catfight), Morneau has been locked-in over his last five spring games, going 8-for-17 with three homers and nine RBIs. That's the good news. But the flip side is that we're only talking five games, and Morneau's spring totals aren't really so impressive: .220/.278/.440, 3 HR, 3 BB, 10 K.

Then again, spring stats are often full of lies/noise, and, with Morneau, the most important fact is that he's actually playing at all. This is a guy with a history of multiple concussions, who recently said of his recovery, "I don't know where I'm at yet," and who isn't sure exactly how much exertion he can tolerate.

Here's Morneau himself, via the Pioneer Press:

"Not to get into the medical stuff too much, but (the doctors) said before that if my body gets worn down too much, I'm more vulnerable to having the symptoms reoccur," Morneau said Monday after playing his eighth straight game as designated hitter.

[...]

"The chance of going backwards is when I get worn down," Morneau said. "I can have the fogginess and the headaches, and all that stuff can return if my system gets too worn down. Then I'm in a vulnerable position."

So ultimately, the reason no one ever tops these $7 Liss bids on Morneau is that we're dealing with a player who presents clear risk at any price, particularly in a league like LABR or Tout where the post-auction free agent pool is disgusting. In a mixed format — like the Friends & Family league, for example, where Liss took Morneau in Round 15 — it isn't too tricky to replace a first baseman who breaks down. But in AL/NL-only leagues, every spot is difficult to backfill.

I've got no firm answers for you on Morneau today, but I think it's worth having the conversation. Maybe we can establish the right price in comments. Health is clearly the dominant issue here — not the spring numbers, not last year's numbers, not last week's numbers, not age, not the lousy home park. If you were able to guarantee a healthy-ish season, I'd bid well past $7.

But of course you can't. Chris can't. Morneau can't. No one can. We're trying to set a single price on a wide range of possible outcomes.

If Morneau is anything like the 2006-2010 version of himself in 2012, then Liss may have a shot at an industry Triple Crown (which, if it happens, would be a disaster for anyone who has to interact with Chris, ever). It's an impressive multi-league gamble. At Morneau's current Yahoo! ADP (234.7), I'll concede that he's basically a no-risk selection for mixed leaguers. I haven't invested yet, but I've got a pair of drafts upcoming where A) Chris isn't involved, and B) the settings make Morneau a reasonable flier. It's easy enough to pair him with Chris Parmelee for respectable production at modest cost.

So: Let's get some some Morneau projections from the commenting community, please. Maybe he's on your no-draft list, or maybe you're buying up all the shares you can. Either way, you have an opinion and we have a comments section...

(And yeah, I know. Awful Photoshop. Shut up. I'm looking for an intern, but it's a process).

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