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DYNASTY STRATEGY 101: TANDEM RELIEVER EDITION

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

I've been playing this silly little game for nearly two decades and my favorite format, without a doubt, is dynasty. Dynasty fantasy baseball is two games: 1) winning the season, and 2) building the team. The 2nd game, building the team, is a year-round endeavor, but it really takes off when playoffs end and the off-season begins in earnest. There is nothing more fun in fantasy than an active winter in a dynasty league filled with owners who are constantly thinking about rebuilding, retooling, getting under the salary cap, getting younger, winning now, filling holes, etc.


There are so many ways to approach a dynasty off-season, and much of it depends on the state of your team, but there is one strategy I tend to deploy right out of the gate, no matter what state my team is in: Tandem Relievers.


Acquiring closers can be frustrating in any format. In a redraft league, you have to spend draft picks on them in rounds you don't want to, or jump in on a "closer run." In an auction, the bidding can get out of hand fast. In dynasty leagues, the closers are all owned, so if you don't have those saves, you have to pay through the nose to get them.


Did you end the season with no closers? Is one of your two closers a free agent who is not guaranteed a closing gig next season?


The tandem reliever strategy says plan ahead.


Don't overpay in trade for closers. Overpay in trade for the relievers who could become closers. Overpay in trade for the setup guys to your closers and pair them together so that you have a team's closer no matter what happens. Do it immediately, every winter.


When I say "overpay," I don't mean that you should pay a top 100 regular or a top 10 prospect for a setup guy. I only mean to point out that there is a value imbalance when it comes to this strategy. Pairing the setup guys to a closer you already own is worth paying a little more than that player is worth in a vacuum.


Say, for example, you own Mark Melancon. Melancon is coming off of a somewhat unexpectedly successful season in which he held down the closer job and logged 11 saves with a respectable ERA (2.78). He's also a free agent who will be 37 when the 2021 season begins. Will he re-sign with Atlanta? Will he close somewhere else? It's hard to say, but you should go out and trade for Will Smith. Smith will probably close in Atlanta if Melancon doesn't re-sign, but there's enough uncertainty at this early moment in the off-season that Smith wont command a hefty closer price. It's worth it to you to pay a little more for Will Smith the setup guy because pairing him with Melancon increases the likelihood that your team will roster Atlanta's closer in 2021.


That logic applies to all free agent closers. If you own Liam Hendriks, go buy Jake Diekman. If you own Alex Colomé, go buy Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall. You'll give yourself a good shot at locking down the closer role these free agents leave behind, but if the free agent signs somewhere else to close, you may have doubled your saves. It's a worthwhile gamble, like splitting aces in blackjack.


But this strategy is not just for free agent closers. It's a long game no matter who the closer is. Take a look at Closer Monkey and note the setup guys and the 2nd in line guys. Prioritize anybody in line behind a closer you own. Buy them while they're cheap. Be willing to pay a little more than they're worth to make the deal quickly. There's an imbalance of value to these deals that benefits both parties.


Once you successfully deploy the tandem reliever strategy for multiple seasons, you don't have to worry about closers. You'll almost always have the next-in-line when your closer gets traded, hurt, or loses his job. It's a far superior strategy, and more affordable, than looking around in March and overpaying for a high-priced closer or a closer whose hold on the job is tenuous.



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