How's that for a click-bait title? I'll go back and change it, but I think is still pretty fitting for the topic at hand. This is something that had been mulling in my head since sitting on Chain's meeting about the upcoming season last Winter. I was listening to a lot of basketball/football podcasts over the summer and I think I may have heard Bill Barnwell mention these three things at one point or another. Maybe not, though. Fortunately, I got a wall to bounce some ideas off of (thanks Jeremy Goecks) this past weekend at Master's Nationals and I feel a little bit more confident in the ideas.
Basically there are three ways to improve your ultimate team during the off-season. Those would be drafting, development and free-agency. To add more detail:
Drafting: Getting college players previously on a weaker team or not playing in the club series to join your team. This could also be the case for out of college players, but the idea is that they aren't really part of the elite-club ecosystem yet.
Development: Improving the skills and athleticism of the players currently on your roster. Anything that improves your existing team during the off-season counts a player development. While this may seem like the most common way for teams to improve, there is still a pretty wide variance on how well teams develop existing talent.
Free Agency: Bringing in existing elite-club talent from other teams to play for your team. This could be a result of a job-change/move or just two buddies talking about playing together and then living the dream.
I guess the point of defining these three methods is so teams (particularly emerging or mid-level teams) can think about these methods and approach all of them during the off-season to make the most progress before practice begins. There is also the side benefit of being able to look at a team's off-season in terms of these three modes of improvement, and really understand how some teams got better. For example:
The biggest headline for the off-season was Bravo's acquisition of what felt like every free agent in the galaxy. They got a big free agency signing last year bringing in Eric Johnson and Nick Lance, pouring it on with Kurt, Matzuka, Lokke, Keegan and your Mom just felt unfair. But here is the thing, it just completed the trifecta of their off-season performance. Bravo is traditionally a strong development team, getting quality points out of players that started young on that team and grew into star positions. Then, they get a bomb draft class for national champion UC-Mamabird.
Everyone seemed ready to proclaim Bravo as the frontrunner for a national title and 8th seed in the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs and that kind of made sense. But wait a minute, Revolver wasn't exactly sitting on its heels either.
The Moon Men are traditionally an insanely strong development team. After all that was kind of the whole point to the team (Nick Handler, please tell me if I am wrong about this). And they got good through development. Sure, they hit a great free-agency class a few years ago as well, and that propelled them to the top, but don't discount how strong their development program has been. Players like Little Buddy (Tim Gilligan) and Jordan Jeffrey feel like development successes for Revolver's program. Revolver also had a strong draft class this year, pulling in more former-Polar Bear's players Eli Kerns and Simon Higgins. I am biased, but both of those players a top notch players. I guess you would need to include Cahill in the draft class since he wasn't on a team in the division last year. He's not bad at ultimate and I hear he's a nice guy.
The whole point is that if you were looking at all three of these methods of improvement you would get a better sense of what is really happening during the off-season and not just big reactions to free-agency moves. Bravo had a great off-season, but it wasn't like Revolver was staring at the stars the whole time.
Back to the first point rationalizing these three methods as pillars for off-season grading. If you look at your team through the lens of these three modes of improvement you might learn a little about your team and be able to make some improvements you wouldn't have otherwise. Let's go around the division and see what trends exist:
Ironside: strong free agency, good development and occasionally an excellent draft class
Sockeye: perhaps the best development in the nation(!), decent in terms of free agency and draft class
Doublewide: used to be a development heavy team, is still in the hangover from a previous free agency bomb and gets solid drafting from the giant state of texas
GOAT: Great international drafting, I can't really speak to much else
Chain: Good free agency, baseline drafting and development (wait, isn't that my job . . . shit)
Ring: Typically strong development, middling drafting and free agency
Machine: good development, leaning on free agency this year
You could keep doing this for a while and if you did it for your team you might learn of a deficiency or strength you didn't already know about. I don't think there is really anything all that special in coming up with these methods, but it might help start some conversations that end up being worthwhile. Are you having a down drafting year? put your chips into development. Free agency class not looking so hot? Scour the college to improve your draft class. Back to watching Kill Bill 2, we're at the coffin scene.