Someone explain a strategy to me

PICTURED: Bryan “Empty Roster Spot” Shaw

Maybe this is calling out another manager, maybe it isn’t, whatever. I don’t care. Talking game theory is interesting and the offseason is slow because everyone wants to save room for Shohei Ohtani at auction, so we need stuff to talk about. And so when I read one of our recent trade reviews, and saw a comment left on it, I really wanted to explore what was going on.

So, the backstory:

Hustle Loyalty Respect and In Line 4 the Win made a trade. HLR sent a prospect, Logan Allen, to IL4W for $1. No big deal. I actually think buying prospects you really like for $1 is smart business, because you’re buying into so many cheap years of potential production from these guys and $1 doesn’t matter a ton. However, in reviewing his own trade, Hustle said this:

And then I happened to scroll down, and notice that IL4W fired back with this:

And so here we are.

I’m baffled by this. I’m not even necessarily trying to knock it, I just really, really want to understand what the strategy is behind simply not filling roster spots.

Our FAAB settings allow for $0 bids, so you can add as many players as you wish to fill empty roster spots at no cost. We don’t have penalties for dropping players. We don’t have seasonal or weekly add/drop limits. If one of your players gets hurt and you move him to the disabled list, thus freeing up a roster spot, there’s literally nothing preventing you from adding a player to that spot at no cost. Just pick your player, submit your bid for $0, and assuming no one else is in on that player, you get them. If they suck, you cut them. No harm, no foul.

On September 13 of last year, HLR added Logan Allen to his team from free agency. He was a readily available player. All you needed to procure him was… an available roster spot. Months later, on January 11, sitting with five of 20 minor league spots barren, IL4W spent $1 to slide Allen into one of those vacant spots. Does this not prove that carrying empty spots is not at all a beneficial strategy? Am I nuts? It proves the opposite, in fact. HLR turned a minor league spot — occupied by a human baseball player, an asset capable of gaining value over time — into $1. It’s not much, but $1 is better than nothing at all. IL4W, meanwhile, spent $1 of budget to fill a roster hole that could have cost nothing to fill in September. Not a FAAB buck, not an auction buck, not another player in trade. I submit that having that spot full resulted in profit for HLR, and having that spot empty resulted in needlessly flushing $1 for IL4W.

From HLR’s perspective, I’m sure he’s confident he can just pick up another Logan Allen for free off waivers once the season starts. So he basically got a $1 to flip a replaceable asset. Again… isn’t this exactly why you want all roster spots full? You want the chance to have something of value. An empty spot is worth… nothing. A dollar is pretty damn close to nothing, but it’s still something.

And what if Logan Allen had cracked a couple top-100 lists this offseason? I mean… every offseason, lists come out. We know this. Sometimes, the names on them surprise us. Maybe we don’t even recognize them. But when we see a name on a list, we suddenly value that player. So if Allen had randomly made Baseball America’s list at number 94 or something, he’s got value, yeah? And probably more than $1, right? These are lotto tickets — free lotto tickets, at that. Maybe Allen miraculously cracks the top 60 or 70 of a list, and suddenly he’s a guy you can trade for a cheap major leaguer that’ll help your team score points in 2018.

Look at it another way: you have an investment portfolio. For whatever reason, you’re allotted only 20 investments. You have 15 of those slots full with investments you’re happy with. Then I say, hey, here’s a list of all the companies you can invest in… pick five out to fill out your portfolio, and you get a share of each company… for free. These shares have the opportunity to grow and mature, to put cash in your pocket. But you decline. So instead of five free investment shares, you’ve just got nothing. That nothing, like a seed that does not exist, cannot be planted and blossom into something. For it is nothing. Maybe the five shares you choose will putter out. But hey, it was house money and you gave yourself a chance.

I just… I don’t get it. What am I missing?

I bring this up also because, frankly, we’ve had complaints dating back to last year about teams not fielding full rosters. So is this a strategy or a competitiveness problem? It seems totally asinine to me that we would tell grown adults who’ve paid money to play in a fantasy league that they have to carry a specific number of players, but I also don’t get the strategy of playing shorthanded, so I’ve always just assumed that went without saying and didn’t require policing. Sure, MLB requires teams carry a minimum of 24 players, but their maximum is 25. You’d never see the Reds roll up to the ballpark with 19 guys, or the Toledo Mud Hens take the field five players short.

So please, someone explain this to me. Show me what I am missing.