No Stars, Just Talent.
It’s the tagline to Robert Altman’s 1992 release, The Player — a movie about making movies. It’s also become, through the years, one of my favorite roster construction themes. I took it to market in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction 10 days ago, willing to roster plenty of strong, established players, but shying away from the top-shelf guys when the early bids proved aggressive.
The world wants to hit driver, and there I am with a 3-wood. Maybe we can win with a roster of boring vets and B+ guys.
One advantage to this second-level shopping is that you’re likely to avoid $1 players, and in this auction, that felt like a luxury. By quick count, a whopping 71 players went for the singleton price, most of them when the auction shifted into draft mode at the end. Hey, any strategy can work if you pick the right players, but I felt the guys in the $2-6 range were enough of an upgrade that they were worth budgeting for.
Will this make up for my lack of A-Listers? Hopefully, we’ll have a season and find out.
1B Paul Goldschmidt, STL, $29
3B Gio Urshela, NYY, $3
CI Anthony Rizzo, CHC, $31
I was toying with a “Freddie Freeman, no matter what” strategy, but I got cold feet in the early 40s. This is when my draft really pivoted to the “no stars, just talent” theme; as many B+ assets as I could, with an eye towards no weak spots in the second half of the lineup. Goldy’s “bad” 2019 season wasn’t really that bad, and into an age-32 year, I’m not worried about him. Rizzo is now in the Ibanez All-Star portion of his career. Kris Bryant was also slotted into a corner spot for most of my auction, but I knew I could slide him (or Whit Merrifield, or both) into the outfield, as needed. I love a roster of Legos.
2B Cesar Hernandez, CLE, $2
SS Jorge Polanco, MIN, $9
MI Paul DeJong, STL, $5
Given the depth of the shortstop pool, I’m not surprised I got two of them for the three middle slots. Hernandez particularly plays well in the OBP format and could be a double-double guy again. Polanco gets lost in the shuffle of a loaded Minnesota lineup. Maybe DeJong’s 29 home runs aren’t taken seriously since everyone hit 29 home runs last year. Not a bad group for 16 bucks.
OF Charlie Blackmon, COL
OF Kris Bryant, CHC
OF Whit Merrifield, KC
OF Bryan Reynolds, PIT
OF Niko Goodrum, DET
UT Kevin Newman, PIT
This is definitely an on-brand outfield for me, with three boring vets (Blackmon, Bryant, Merrifield) and then three purchases in lesser markets. Four of these players cover multiple positions, which will be handy when injuries hit — instead of needing to make a position-specific replacement, I’ll probably be able to pull the best offensive player from my bench, regardless of position. It’s also a lubricant for possible trading.
Bryant’s expected shift to leadoff doesn’t sway me; he’s an OBP monster and I’ll get more at-bats. Merrifield’s dip in steals might concern some, but if he can be around last year’s 20, I’ll take it. Goodrum has to play on a barren Detroit roster and brings category juice. Newman was added in part because of a perceived steal deficit; he also is likely to bat at the top of the order.
Blackmon no longer runs, but Colorado is Colorado. And maybe the Rockies are finally figuring out how to solve the Coors Field hangover.
C Buster Posey, SF, $2
C Tucker Barnhart, CIN, $1
While I’m not opposed to throwing resources at catcher, I think you can still do well on a budget. Posey is the rare Giants player worth drafting in 2020; I’m just hoping he can be a volume play because the upside is long gone. It’s a little sad to watch him in the Mauer years. A healthy and retooled Barnhart was a .273/.367/.448 stick it the second half last year.
P Zack Greinke, HOU, $25
P Clayton Kershaw, LAD, $24
P Zack Wheeler, PHI, $14
P Kyle Hendricks, CHC, $9
P Matthew Boyd, DET, $8
P Anthony DeSclafani, CIN, $1
P J.A. Happ, NYY, $1
P Alex Colome, CHW, $8
P Brandon Workman, BOS, $6.
Another case of shopping in the non-elite aisle. I badly wanted Jose Berrios on this type of staff, but I was letting my dog back in the house when Berrios was quickly nominated and purchased (I threw out Noah Syndergaard just before, at a buck, then raced out of the room; perhaps I overestimated how much interest Thor would drum up. Sadly, it’s all a moot point now.)
The more Greinke succeeds at lesser velocity, the more comforting he becomes. Kershaw’s quality is never in doubt; it’s the quantity. Perhaps a partial season adds value to him. I didn’t do so intentionally, but I did add a Dodgers pitching hedge in the reserve round.
Wheeler’s contract is a turnoff to so many, but I don’t have to pay it; I just want a stab at strikeouts. Hendricks is a smart pitcher and another arm on a team that’s presumably a contender.
Boyd’s Tigers won’t contend, of course, but the strikeouts are real and he could take another step forward if he masters a third pitch. I also see him as a possible trade target, and anywhere is better than Detroit.
Both of my closers have fleas, but they go into their seasons as the bullpen baton holder. Colome also has a few years of resume, though Chicago has several legitimate replacements if he stumbles.
BN Jarrod Dyson, OF
BN Nick Ahmed, SS
BN Julio Teheran, SP
BN Blake Treinen, RP
BN Austin Voth, SP
BN Ross Stripling, SP/RP
All we’re looking for is plausible upside — a path to partial playing time. And like always, I’ll be aggressive cutting from the bottom of my roster as new options emerge. Dyson probably has a job and can run. Ahmed offers category juice. All of my pitchers are from competitive teams; Teheran is more of a boring floor pick, while Stripling and Voth could spike if others get hurt. The Dodgers threw a pretty big check at Treinen; maybe they can fix him, and make him the Kenley Jensen insurance policy.
I didn’t run draft software or projections during the auction, which was oddly liberating. I was mindful of category balance, but not wedded to specific numerical targets. I’ve heard from some sources that I am projected to contend, which is nice to hear but of course, wins nothing.
There are no theoretical trophies in March.
Bottom line, I’m not doing cartwheels. But I’m content enough, for whatever that means, well in advance of what’s hopefully a baseball season.
If you’d like Tout Wars talk over Tout Wars words, we can do that, too: