The Case for Asdrubal Cabrera and Yuniesky Betancourt, Part One

n.p. RinaldiCorrespondent IFebruary 22, 2008

Asdrubal and Yuniesky, Yuniesky and Asdrubal.

With names like these, you would be forgiven for thinking them stars of Vaudevillian theatre. In my case however, they may be the key to a successful fantasy baseball season.

Before I explain further, I should give some background on my team and league.

I am a fantasy owner in an AL-only keeper league. There are eight teams in the league and 29 roster spots per team.

The league positional and statistical categories are as follows:

  • Hitting: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF (x3), Util (x2)
  • Pitching: SP (x3), RP (x2), P

Free agents are signed each offseason to one, two, three or four-year contracts. Minor league players selected in our annual amateur draft are considered privileged and can thus be signed to six-year contracts when promoted to a major league roster.

The average franchise salary value in the league is $340 /year. The highest franchise is valued at $448 and the lowest at $273, which makes for a substantial difference in player-personnel philosophy come time to sign players. My particular team is valued at $333.

To get a good idea of how these values play into the final results, it should be said that the highest valued team has won the league each of the past three seasons and the lowest valued team has equally come in last.

My team has come in second each of the past three years, thanks to what I like to think of as sound player and financial development (but in reality is probably just plain luck!)

This offseason, I found my team at a crossroads. Having little money to bulk up my 2008 roster (only $120 unallocated for free agents) due to dubious past signings (i.e., the Cliff Lee / Horacio Ramírez disasters of 2007), and not enough power bats to compete offensively, I knew that high-priced talent would be necessary for my team to seriously vie for a title.

My major position needs were 2B, SS, OF, and RP. This year I wasn't going to find much power between 2B and SS on the market, so I planned to make most of my offensive investment in OF players.

That said, for the past four seasons I have started Jhonny Peralta at SS. His contract was $4 per year. If anybody has had Peralta as an everyday SS then you know what it means to have your heat broken. After his breakout year in 2005 it has been the same story ever since: he'll go 3-4 one day with two HRs, and then go 2 for his next 20 with no RBI.

He doesn't steal bases, so if he's not at least posting an OPS of .800, then he's probably not worth more than an average player ($15.5 in this particular league).

For reference, the list of this past offseason's free agent SS and their current contracts:

Much like a Major League GM, the basis of any keeper league that deals in contracts is to find a player whose statistical value will appreciate while his contractual value remains the same.

In the case of Peralta, it is difficult to warrant making a long-term investment in a player whose OPS dipsy-doos from .885 to .708 to .771.

Torii Hunter, who was also a free agent in our league this year, is a similar player. Although his past two season have been very strong, he previously has been inconsistent with everything from OPS to runs to stolen bases, which makes it hard to value him.

Aware that I would not be able to keep Peralta for $4 per year, I was prepared to loose him on the open market instead of paying him for the promise he might possess. Therefore, I valued him at $11 and lost to a $26 bid (see above).

I subsequently lost by $12 for Orlando Cabrera and $8 for Edgar Renteria, which in hindsight can be chalked up to poor bidding on my part since I feel both of them will produce all-around better numbers than Peralta this year.

In the time I had to to sign Jhonny, I had also landed Vladimir Guerrero for $53 per year and Aaron Hill for $21 per year, filling two important roster gaps.

Still in need of a reliable closer and another OF, I had to be catious with SS bids since the returns would most likely not warrant paying inflated values out of desperation.

With few options remaining, and having already experienced the bane that is Bobby Crosby a couple years prior (although I really want to believe he's going to be something), I knew my options were limited to the two players with the funniest names.

Asdrubal and Yuniesky were to be mine soon, but it was finding that they could actually contribute to a championship team that was the best part.