One thing, I don't think you can categorize someone that doesn't spend free agents $$ as someone that is tanking. I, for one, never spend money in free agency. I have found some players to fill holes and spent $4-5MM a year. I believe the good free agents(type A and some B's) go for 50-100% more than they are worth. Yes, there is the rare exception with the top 1% of the players that are actually worth $15-20MM a year. But then you are also typically bidding on a player that is 30+ years old. And you have to sign him for 4-5 years. Which then puts your franchise in a hole when the player is 35+ yrs old and not producing up to his salary.
I spent my first 4 season of HBD learning the all nuances of the game, while fielding a playoff team each season and 1 game away from a world series berth. I spent $76-94MM a season and then saw my wins total start to decline in season 5. I then decided to rebuild. I believe in winning through development, not buying free agents. My goal when I rebuilt was to take ANYTHING worth value and trade it away for some type of prospect. I specifically wanted certain types of players with specific ratings. Kind of a "Money Ball" theory. I went in and rated every player in every teams minor leagues that I thought were ML prospects. I did a spreadsheet to target those players that met the couple of specific ratings I wanted. I wanted to acquire 5-6 ML level prospects a season, 1 through the draft, 1 from IFA, and 2-5 through trades. Sometimes I would trade and take on salary just to trade the same player away for prospects. Then I would trade 2-3 mid level prospects for a higher level prospects. And so on and so on. I made 40-50 trades in a 5-6 season. Even though I had low salaries and 55 wins seasons. I really built my franchise through trades while playing with proper people at proper positions and well rested. But I would not spend money on free agents. I still don't to this day. To overspend and to lose a draft pick on top of it, doesn't make any sense to me.
During this rebuilding time, I went in and checked my lineup every game and made sure I had the best lineup going against the pitcher I was facing. I wanted to win every game even though I did not have the talent to back it up. I did not care about draft positions. Wherever I ended up at the end of the season is where I ended up.
One last thing, some people believe and criticized me that I did not bring up players soon enough. While I find most people bring up players too early. I use a soft line of 90% development before bringing up a player to the ML. Even if he may be able to handle the ML level earlier, I will wait because I believe that players do not develop as fast at the ML level not matter what year they are in. And if I bring them up before my 90% rule they will never get close to their full potential. Everyone has their opinion but that is my belief.
I will admit I have held a prospect back at the end of a season or the beginning of one just to wait the 20 games and save a year of arbitration. But you constantly see this in the real ML as well, even with some of the highest payroll teams.
I do not believe in my heart I tanked. I never wanted to lose a single game. I had a goal in mind and a specific direction to acquire very specific type of players. It did take me 4 seasons to do it but I will never have to rebuild that way again because of the way I continue maintain my payroll and my minor league prospects. Even after winning I continue to be at the top of the league in the amount of trades every year. If someone were to really dive in and look thoroughly look at how I rebuilt my franchise, I was very methodical while still putting money into training, medical, scouting, and coaches.
Sometimes a franchise does need to totally be broken down to the bare bones to be built back up.