By John Coleman
The "Topper Rights" version is an uncommon, butestablished variant of Rotisserie. It is used in lieu of long-term contracts.The "Topper Right" itself is an option to purchase without bidding.It is granted upon the player's automatic release following the second seasonof continuous service under a contract. It serves to decrease draft inflationand increases owner parity by rapidly inflating the contracts of underpricedstars to market price. Talent-rich drafts are frequent. That's its mostimportant function. On the negative side, it causes delays in the draft and canspawn dozens of arcane strategies which might leave you scratching your head.It's like a retroactive roster freeze, which can be activated mid-draft.
The topper holder virtually ensures himself of a slightly lowerprice on the player by decreasing the bid pressure. This can mean $0-$3 ofsavings on star players. Not significant value, but easily understood. A topperon a star is of equivalent value to having a keeper under contract at orslightly below his market value. The dynamics of a draft will usually precludeany greater savings on star players, as there will be many owners with readydollars available to bid on stars. A topper on a star player will certainlyattract the scrutiny of fellow owners, who will ensure that market price willbe met. Lesser players can actually realize greater savings, although you areless likely to exercise your option on them. There is always a value to owninga topper, even if it is merely to panic other owners into overbidding.
It is not advisable to trade valuable underpriced keepers fortopper rights. I would be more likely to trade one topper for another topper,unless the other owner was interested in a player I did not value as a keeper.As the draft progresses, non-star players are auctioned, and this attractssmaller bidding pools. In the mid-late rounds, the pool can be reduced to 2-3bidders per player. This is where the topper can save an owner more money, say$2-$5. To combat this advantage, youshould attempt to nominate your opponents' topper players as early as possiblein the draft. Always track toppersthroughout the draft. It's also important to track the option-owner's maximumbid. You Rarely nominate your own topper players. If no one nominates your topper player, (and you get him for $1)the option was worth nothing. If you spend your money too fast, the value ofyour topper is lost. You must budget your funds for the market-valueacquisition of that player. Also: you must have a backup player in mind in casyour topper goes too high for your budget! The later in the draft your topperis nominated, the more likely it is that a low price will be established. TheBidding Up of topper players can be a costly strategy. Do not aggressively bidon player once he is near market price unless you wish to win him. Bring him upand let the other owners bid him up.
When bidding on a topper player, consider the financial androster situation of the topper owner. He may have no opportunity to exercisehis Topper.
It's not a common strategy for an obvious reason: Itmuddies the waters of the draft. The low draft inflation and owner parity,which Topper Rights provides, can easily be gained by simply eliminatinglong-term contracts. The Topper Right exists as a "reward" forsuperior talent assessment, albeit a small reward.
JohnColeman is the statistical expert at the Sandlot Shrink and also therepresentative in all of the expert leagues including LABR and Tout Wars.