Commish HQ: Trip the Light FAAB-tastic

By Reginald James
Reginald James

How does your league run waivers? Does the team with the worst record get first dibs every week? Does the order rotate depending on who made a claim last? If you’re a current commissioner or someone seriously thinking about starting your own league next season, I’d like to toss your way, the idea of making FAAB a part of your waiver process.


FAAB, Free Agent Acquisition Budget, is a different way to run waivers. Using a FAAB introduces a bidding process to claim players off waivers. Instead of league members getting in line behind the team with the worst record to make their claims, everyone has an equal chance to claim the same players. If you like to keep things more balanced and competitive in your league, using a FAAB system is a suitable alternative that can help you with that goal. Gone will be the days of the “first-come, first-served" approach, where the manager who gets to the waiver wire first, is the one who gets the player.


Wild Wild Waivers


For those brand new to running a league, who might not be familiar with using a FAAB, I’m going to first briefly describe the process of claiming waivers and free agents in the “traditional” sense. In a fantasy league, league members will have an established roster of players. There will also be a pool of players available for anyone to add to their current team if they have space. Most of the time, a manager will drop a player to make room. They will then select an available player of their choice from the player pool. Any player in the player pool who is instantly available for someone to select is considered a free agent. All other players in the pool that are unavailable until a specific amount of time passes before they too can become a free agent, are considered to be on waivers. When a player is dropped by a team, for example, they enter a waiver period.


League members will each get an opportunity to make a claim, declaring their desire to select a player on waivers aka the waiver wire. However, their chances of selecting a particular player will depend on what their waiver priority ranking is. If more than one person wants the same player, the manager with the highest ranking on the priority list, will get the player. Players who are not claimed by any team during the waiver process become free agents. Managers can then add these players to their roster on a first-come, first-served basis. However, some leagues will have continuous waivers where all unclaimed players are on waivers all the time.


While waiver rules can vary, in most leagues the waiver order, which decides a manager’s priority ranking, is usually determined one of two ways:


• by the inverse order of the current league standings, where the team with the worst record or lowest points typically has the highest waiver priority, while the team at the top position has the lowest priority


• by “rolling” waivers, in which the priority order continually readjusts based on each successful claim a manager makes. The team that makes the highest-priority claim then moves to the back of the waiver order. If someone has the top priority ranking, but doesn’t make a waiver claim, they will remain at the top of the priority list until they make a successful claim.


In both scenarios, league members don’t have equal access to all available players. Utilizing the FAAB option is considered a more fair and competitive way to manage waivers because it allows every manager an equal opportunity to compete or bid for the same players on the waiver wire based on how much they value them. Let’s see how this works in detail.


Road to FAAB


The first step in converting your waiver process to "using FAAB" is to determine the budget amount. This budget is used to place bids on players. We’re talking virtual money here, not real cash, although there are some leagues that will use real money. In my league, the budget is set at $100 for each manager. Once you decide on the budget amount, you’re ready to go.


This Must Be The Place


The waiver period when managers can submit their bids on available players remains the same as before. What happens next changes everything you’ve known before:


• Managers bid on whatever players they want. The claim with the highest bid wins.


• On most platforms, bids are usually blind, meaning other teams don't know how much their competitors have bid.


• Each manager still has a priority ranking as before. If two or more owners bid the same amount, the platform will use the established tiebreaker rule based on those rankings (e.g., inverse standings order or rolling waiver priority order) to determine the winner.


• Each manager’s budget is reduced by the amount of their winning bid.


• Unless you have continuous waivers as mentioned above, unclaimed players become free agents same as before.


Start Making Sense


Once managers spend all their FAAB money, they don’t get any more. As a result, they have to decide how to manage their budgets wisely over the course of the season. This adds yet another strategic element to the game that you don’t get with the traditional process. Some leagues will allow managers with nothing left in their budget to continue bidding. They simply make $0 bids. Meanwhile, other leagues require a minimum bid of at least $1, for example. I would recommend allowing $0 bids. This still keeps players engaged and active. The person with the lowest priority ranking, now has the same shot at the hottest waiver-wire pickup - they just have to outspend everyone else. Instead of the usual case where a manager misses out on the process, because by rule, they don’t have a chance to participate, they can now jump into the fray and compete. Commissioners can also include the option to allow managers to use money from FAAB budgets in trades, adding yet another layer of strategy to the game.


Some commissioners come up with all kinds of crazy rules for their leagues in the name if competition - or sometimes just to be different from the crowd. In this case, the FAAB should be a pretty easy call for adoption. It’s a straightforward approach to equitably elevating competition in your league.



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