So all Andrew Bailey has is a forearm strain and Brad Lidge is merely sitting with a sore right biceps tendon. If you’ve already drafted and own either guy, it’s time to play it safe, grab Brian Fuentes and Jose Contreras, maybe even Grant Balfour and Ryan Madson, and consider the bullet dodged….for now. But if you haven’t drafted yet, then perhaps it’s time for a little strategy session and see if you can turn this potential closer catastrophe to your favor.
First and foremost, let’s just get it out of the way right now and admit that these injuries, while not considered major as of today, just plain old suck. Bailey has already had Tommy John surgery, dealt with an oblique strain last year and had surgery back in September to remove loose bodies from his elbow. Lidge has had chronic elbow and knee problems over the last several years and missed a good amount of time at the start of 2010 due to both. So for Bailey to pay a visit to Dr. James Andrews and for Lidge to start missing time already, the red flags are up and the alarms are being sounded.
But can we turn this into our advantage? Can we make lemonade from this pair of fantasy lemons? I think so. You can go one of two ways, and in the end, both paths should lead you to the same success at the end of the year.
Your first option is very simple. Let both players serve as a cautionary tale and ignore them in your draft. If you don’t like the risk, then why spend the money or waste the draft pick? If you’re looking for someone to net you saves all year without too much concern, then you’ve just saved yourself a world of aggravation. Let them become someone else’s headache and then twist the knife a little and either bid up or draft their handcuffs and start floating trade offers. Sure it comes off a little douchey, but all’s fair in love, war and fantasy baseball, right?
The other path you can walk down is much more of a high risk/high reward situation and I only recommend it if you can freely fish off the waiver wire throughout the season. Yup, that’s right…option B is to draft them both. It may sound like fantasy suicide, but it’s actually not that bad.
The upside of both players is tremendous. When healthy, Bailey is considered a fantastic closer option (third tier by our collective rankings) with solid ratios and great strikeout totals. Lidge, who pitches for a team that will afford him numerous opportunities, proved last year that he can shake off an injury and still pump out 20+ saves with decent ratios in just half a season. If these injuries are not season threatening, then both could still put up solid numbers for the year.
But no one walks into their draft looking to pick up an injury risk and for that, you should see the prices for both of these guys plummet. If it’s a snake draft then each could drop roughly 2 or 3 rounds from where they normally would go according to current ADP Rankings and if it’s an auction, neither should go for as much as they would if they had clean bills of health. Use that to your advantage. Plan on drafting them and their handcuffs at bargain prices. You can then use those higher draft choices or those extra auction dollars on a stronger offense. Draft yourself an extra upper tier starter if you like. How great is it going to look for you if they turn out to be healthy for most, or even the entire, season?
Now, of course, the risk comes into play if the injuries are just a foreshadowing of greater damage down the road, but that’s why you pick up the handcuffs and only do it in a league where you can freely play the waiver wire. Of the 30 players who began 2010 as their team’s closer, 16 of them lost their jobs at some point. That means there’s plenty of saves to be had throughout the year. If Lidge and/or Bailey turn out to be busts and their handcuffs aren’t doing it for you, you should have no problem finding someone else to do the work for you. Sure, you have to be a little more diligent with your in-season work, but if you drafted well and built up your offense or starting rotation like you should have with the extra dollars, then your valleys in the bullpen will be offset by the peaks everywhere else.
Again, it comes down to your style of league and how much risk you’re willing to endure. Some folks just like to play it safe and there’s nothing wrong with that. I tend to do that in certain leagues in which I play. But if you like to live on the edge a little and understand the volatility of the closer position, then taking a chance on guys like Lidge or Bailey may not be such a bad idea. If they work out, then you’re easily on top of the world. If they don’t, then you just have to climb a little harder to get there.
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