Here's a look at the Season 17 make-up of the Top 5 teams.
Burlington (now Boston) - Burlington made a commitment in Season 17 to sign Type A Free Agents for cheap. Juan Johnson and Angel Bonilla were two such players, and combined for over 1000 at bats. Their top 13 players, as defined by most at bats, were acquired as follows: seven via trade, two via free agency, two via waivers, and two via the draft. The pitching staff is not much different, with the top 12, as defined by innings pitched and appearances, acquired as follows: six via trade, three via free agency, one via the draft, one via IFA, and one from the Rule V.
Totals: 13 trade, 5 FA, 3 Draft, 2 Waivers, 1 IFA, 1 Rule V
Cincinnati - The World Champions avoided Free Agency like the plague - only 1 of their top 23 was acquired via free agency. They relied primarily on trades, but were alos heavy on amateur draft picks, including stud CF Jonathan Gload. Their top 13 position players were acquired as follows: seven via trade, three via the draft, 2 via IFA, and one from the Rule V. Their Top 10 pitchers were acquired as follows: five via trade, three via the draft, one free agent, and one Rule V.
Totals: 12 trade, 6 draft, 2 IFA, 2 Rule V, and 1 FA
Hartford - The NL Pennant Runner-up Hartford took completely different approaches to pitching and position players, but mainly focused on the amateur draft. For position players, like slugging 1B Brendan Watson, they focused on the draft and trades. For pitchers, they looked to FA and trades. Their Top 13 position players were acquired as follows: five via trade, five via the draft, one off of waivers, one from ths Rule V, and one via Free Agency. For pitchers, it was six via free agency, three from the draft, two from trades, and one off of the waiver wire.
Totals: 8 draft, 7 trade, 7 FA, 2 waiver wire, and 1 Rule V
Houston - The NL Champs took a similair approach to Cincy, having as many guys on teh team acquired via FA (1), as guys claimed off of the waiver wire. They are also more reliant on IFA's than any other teamon this list - having four on their roster of 25. For position players, the breakdown is six via trade, four via the draft, and two IFA's. For pitchers, it's seven via the trade, two IFAs, two via the draft, one from waivers, and one FA.
Totals: 13 trade, 6 draft, 4 IFA, 1 FA, 1 waiver wire
Montreal - The perennial power is, by a longshot, the most dependant upon trades. Seventeen of their twenty five top players were acquired in this way. On the position side, their were eight by trade, three form the draft, one free agent, and one Rule V. On the pitching side, they had nine acquired via trade, and thre in free agency.
Totals: 17 trade, 4 FA, 3 draft, 1 Rule V.
Here are the grand totals for all teams, with the percentage of the total in ().
Position players - 33 trade (52%), 17 draft (27%), 4 free agents (6%), 4 IFA (6%), 3 Rule V (4.5%), 3 waivers (4.5%).
Pitchers - 29 trade (49%), 14 free agent (24%), 9 draft (15%), 3 IFA (5%), 2 Rule V (3.5%), 2 Waiver Wire (3.5%).
So what does it all mean?
1. Obviously, trading is the key to having a successful squad. Over 50% of the total players on the top five teams were acquired through the trade market. This would lead the blog to believe that advance scouting should be an important part of any teams budget.
2. Free Agency is not the cure for position players. Only 4 of the 64 players were acquired in free agency, only one more than both the Rule V and Waiver Wire.
3. Free Agency is more important for pitchers than position players. While only 6% of rosters were made up of free agent position players, 24% were made up of pitchers.
4. Do not ignore the Rule V and waiver wire. Four of the five teams had at least one player on the roster acquired through the Rule V draft. Three of the top five had at lease one player acquired on the waiver wire.
5. IFA is overrated. IFA's made up less than 6% of the rosters of the Top 5 teams, barely beating out Rule V and Waiver Wire. It is much easier to trade for someone else's IFA than find your own.
6. The amateur draft should not be ignored. There were more players from the amatuer draft than IFA and FA combined.
7. If you go into Free Agency, go late, and go big. If you sign one type A, you might as well sign multiple type A's. Sign them late and cheap, a la Burlington.
Conclusion - Trade often, trade well.