Tips for auctions
January 27, 2003
Brendan Roberts
There you sit, staring down the enemy. It's just the two of you, and silence dominates the moment. No blinking, no face twitches ... only two cold stares and two pounding hearts. It's David vs. Goliath. It's Frazier-Ali. It's ... "Dude," interrupts the pesky auctioneer. "Jason Giambi is at 35 bones, you want $36?"

Auction drafts are filled with fun and excitement because each owner has a shot at each player. There aren't any steals at auction drafts, only bargains. Instead of hoping a player slips to your next pick, you plot to have enough money left when his name is pitched. Strategy can be more important in auction drafts than in straight draft leagues.

The strategy tips I offered for 5x5 points league owners (see links above) are important, but auction leagues can be more difficult to succeed in. In addition to evaluating talent and knowing which players to pursue, you must have patience, timing and money sense. Plus, it helps to gauge your fellow owners' tendencies.

Here are some auction league tips for beginners. Savvy auction leaguers can get away with riskier ploys such as category dumping or money-grubbing, but I recommend keeping it simple to begin with.


Patience is a virtue. Yeah right, patience causes ulcers. Nevertheless, don't come out spending like Daddy Warbucks or Potter from It's a Wonderful Life. Be patient (i.e. frugal) with your money.

Rarely do owners throw out mediocre players early in an auction -- normally it's the upper-tier guys. The smart owners throw out big boys they don't necessarily want, in an attempt to exhaust the money of impatient owners.

Consider this: In a standard auction league, you have $260 for 23 players. That's $11.30 per player. So, when you shell out $34 for a player, he better be worth three players in your league.

That isn't to say you should avoid elite players. Just beware not to overspend or take too many of them early. You aren't putting together an all-star squad here. Your team should be a mix of studs, middle-tier players and sleepers. If you are more accustomed to straight draft leagues, it might help to equate each player with what round he would have been selected. If you get Barry Bonds for $35, then you probably should shy away from similarly expensive options so you don't have to sacrifice later.

The second and fourth quarters of the auction are the best times to go after players. After the early spending, owners get gun-shy in the second quarter, and there still are plenty of upper-tier players left. In the fourth quarter, owners are tapped out and you can find some decent $4-8 players to fill your roster.


Whether it's from our spectacular draft kit, our owners manual or just something you've put together, take a list of dollar values to the draft. Note that these are not starting points for auction bidding -- consider them spending limits. If we have Sammy Sosa at $30, you probably should avoid spending more than that on him. You will pay for it elsewhere if you do.

Even better, set your sights below those standard totals and shoot for a well-balanced team full of bargains. It's amazing how many good players -- at least statistically -- there are in the majors. For goodness sakes, there were 38 30-homer guys in 2002. If the bidding goes too high for your stud RBI producer, just wait for another one to get tossed.

You can find a bargain at $30 or $3. As long as you don't spend more than what you perceive a player is worth, you've done your job.


Though it's nice to get good players at the right price, you shouldn't go after every player thrown. First, it's a waste of time to the rest of the owners for you to jump in on every bid. And two, it's a bad way to fill your roster. Sure, you get Jason Bere for a bargain-basement price, but is he a guy you really want?

Instead, highlight a handful of players at each position (obviously many more outfielders and starting pitchers) that you really want. Make it a mix of studs, dependable players and sleepers. If the guy pitched isn't one of your guys, let him go and hope the bid gets too high. If it's one of your boys, go after him, but don't overspend. If you end up with a middle-tier guy, you'll make up for it at another position.


Keeping track of other owners' rosters will keep you busy, but it's worth your time. You should insist to your league commish that there be occasional price checks to see where other owners stand. This can help you figure how much money is out there. Plus, if you find out late in the draft that the only guy who has more money than you already has a solid third baseman and corner infielder, you might be able to outprice your competition for the player you want. And, as always, be flexible. If you notice few closers have been pitched, you might want to save some money for one.


We all have our own ideas of what a player is worth. One person's $25 player is another's $35 stud. Stick to your game plan, regardless of table talk, scoffs or those flabbergasted wows when a bidding war breaks out. Conformity is bad for fantasy baseball, but it tends to rule auction drafts. Be your own person and don't follow the pack.


While we're discussing table talk, I might as well mention a few of the unwritten rules of auction etiquette. Bringing up rumors about players while the bidding is going on is a no-no. Waiting until right before the auctioneer says "sold" on most of your bids also is a no-no. Waiting too long to pitch or bid on a player to thumb through reference materials can anger your fellow owners. And crass comments such as, "That's way more than that guy's worth" will make you public enemy No. 1 in your league.

So what can angry owners do? For one, they can bid up the players they know you like, even at the risk of winding up with them. In essence, in their best Soup Nazi voice, it's "No steals for you!" Other owners won't let you get away with bargain-basement prices. Also, they can pitch most of the players you're interested in early to dry up your account and force you to silence for the second half. And that's just draft day -- the oppression continues throughout the season.

Auctions can be fast-paced and send us through many emotions, but that's what makes them fun. Enjoy yourself and come away a winner.



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