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2023 Tout Wars Mixed Auction Season Review
Two Trades Too Many
I moved into first place on the final day before the All-Star break and despite falling out of the top spot shortly after, I felt that I had a decent chance of winning the 2023 Tout Wars Mixed Auction league. But I wanted to increase those chances from decent to great. Loaded with speedsters, the clearest path to regaining first place was improving in homers and RBI at the expense of steals and to a lesser degree runs. A trade (or two) was necessary.
On two consecutive weeks in late-July, I made a pair of trades, swapping Elly De La Cruz for Nolan Arenado and then dealing Trea Turner for Max Muncy. The seven-week Elly experience was fun but the rookie phenom was striking out a ton and his power production (five homers through 40 games) was good but far from elite. I could afford to lose the steals and felt that his market value was at its peak. Arenado was as reliable as they come from a HR/RBI perspective, so I concluded that trading the excitement and upside of Elly for the proven track record of Arenado made sense. The Turner/Muncy trade was purely category-based. Despite Turner’s first-half struggles, I wasn’t ruling out the possibility that he would be the more valuable player overall in the second half. But at the time of the trade on July 31, Turner had recorded only ten homers and 34 RBI while Muncy had already racked up 27 homers and 70 RBI. There was no way Turner would outproduce Muncy in those two categories.
Both trades turned out to be disastrous. There wasn’t one category in which the player I received outperformed the player I traded away. The Turner/Muncy trade was especially frustrating as Turner transformed into Barry Bonds in August, seemingly hitting a home run every day. But after crunching the numbers, I was relieved to learn that passing on these trades would have netted me only five additional roto points, not enough to change my sixth-place position in the final standings. So, although I’ll always remember the two failed trades, a combination of terrible starting pitching and injured starting pitching (Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, Joe Ryan, Marcus Stroman) was actually the biggest reason for my second-half collapse.
OK, time to hand out some awards.
BEST AUCTION BUYS
Nick Castellanos ($14) - Coming off a highly disappointing first season in Philadelphia, Castellanos bounced back in a big way this year, slugging 29 homers while tallying 106 RBI and even swiping 11 bags, earning the title of my most profitable hitter investment. I wouldn’t be surprised if Castellanos puts together a similar season in 2024 but since his cost will likely exceed $20, I don’t view him as an obvious draft target.
Jose Berrios ($2) - Berrios has been on my Tout Wars team so many times that I’ve lost count, and after a miserable 2022 campaign, I had no intention of drafting him again. But for two bucks, I couldn’t resist. This ended up being one of my better draft-day decisions. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fully capitalize on his rebound year as I benched him for many of his better starts, particularly early in the season when my trust level in him was still low. Berrios registered a 4.40 ERA while in my active lineup, this compared to his season ERA of 3.65. Ugh.
Kyle Tucker ($40) - Rarely does a $40 player earn his price. Tucker did just that in 2023, falling only one home run short of a 30/30 season while posting career-bests in RBI, runs and OBP. He’s officially become one of “my guys” and I wouldn’t hesitate to spend a few bucks more than $40 to roster him again next year.
WORST AUCTION BUYS
Kris Bryant ($14) - So much for that bounce-back year. While my $14 purchase of Nick Castellanos paid off, my $14 Bryant buy proved to be a total waste of auction dollars. Injuries limited him to 80 games and even when he was healthy enough to play, the results were nothing special. Not exactly what the Rockies were expecting when they signed him to a huge contract a couple years ago. At this point, the former MVP is no more than a late-round flier in mixed leagues. Maybe he’s worth the gamble but he’s no longer near the top of the list of rebound candidates.
C.J. Cron ($18) - No wonder why the Rockies were the worst team in the NL. Like Bryant, Cron missed significant time due to injury but didn’t come close to meeting expectations when he was able to play. I considered him to be a safe investment at $18 as he was fresh off two straight seasons with at least 28 homers and 92 RBI. Apparently not. Cron would get traded to the Angels at the deadline but appeared in only 15 games for the Halos as he dealt with back inflammation. I’m tempted to call him undervalued heading into 2024 but his health is a concern and he will no longer benefit from hitter-friendly Coors Field.
BEST FAAB PICKUPS
Elly De La Cruz ($38 on 6/5) - This was a case of perfect timing as I added Elly the Sunday before he was called up to the majors. It’s the kind of move that can lead to a fantasy title, but it didn’t. When I traded him for Arenado, it was as if I picked up Arenado for 38 FAAB dollars. How cool was that?
Francisco Alvarez ($33 on 5/8) - The .286 OBP was ugly but Alvarez did swat 24 homers while driving in 59 runs as a member of my active lineup. That type of production at the catcher position is hard to find. The Mets backstop will be only 22 on Opening Day 2024 and I’m curious to see if he can significantly improve in the OBP/AVG department while maintaining the elite power.
WORST FAAB PICKUP
J.P. France ($154 on 8/14) - The dollar amount isn’t the issue here as I had plenty of FAAB at the time and France was clearly the best starting pitcher available. The issue is that France was mostly awful while in my active lineup, posting a 7.85 ERA and a 1.95 WHIP over six starts, though a 2 1/3 IP/10 ER outing against the Red Sox heavily skewed those numbers.
Mitch Keller for Christian Yelich (6/5) - Although 2023 was certainly a breakout season for Keller, he was looking like a Cy Young candidate at the time I traded him. From that point forward, his stock would only decline. Yelich missed some time in September due to back stiffness but he’s averaged 149 games played per year over the past two seasons, so the injury-prone label no longer applies. His 30+ HR days might be over but there are few more steady across-the-board producers. The only negative aspect of this trade is that its success played a role in my desire to make the other two trades. Overconfidence usually isn’t a good thing.
Trea Turner for Max Muncy (7/31) - Do I really have to think about this anymore? The lesson learned here is that focusing too much on rest-of-season category projections while devaluing track record and overall value can backfire. Turner still had two months to make up for a slow start, and he surely did. I’m usually too patient with players but for some reason picked this instance to be impatient.
All I can do now is patiently wait for next season.
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