The clock is ticking ever closer to the ottoneu keeper deadline and you now have less than a week to make your final cuts. By the end of the day (midnight ET) on January 31, your rosters need to be at or below 40 players and you have to have at least $1 in cap space for every open roster spot.
I know I am still making some hard choices – should I trade a $14 Jason Kipnis for a $32 Paul Goldschmidt? Which of my five $20+ pitchers and three $30+ OF should I keep? – and that is just in one league. So I thought I would take a look at those choices and hope that it can help you make your last cuts, as well.
A couple housekeeping notes, before I dive into my original ottoneu league team. First, the deadline is above, but just one more reminder – you need to make your cuts before the calendar turns to February. Trades need to by completed by then, too. Your roster organizer tab doesn’t actually do anything – it helps you analyze your roster (and you should definitely use it for that purpose) but players you mark to cut there will not be automatically cut. To make your cuts, you go to the Teams tab and click the Cut Players link.
With that, let’s look at my process for answering the questions I asked in the intro and see what lessons can be learned.
Should I trade a $14 Jason Kipnis for a $32 Paul Goldschmidt? This is basically an offer that came to me yesterday (I was asked to include a $5 Dan Straily in the deal, but we’ll leave him out for now) and I turned it down. There are basically four factors that I considered in evaluating this (and any off-season) deal: first and foremost, I look at team needs. I plan to be in a position to win this year, and that means maximizing production. If the season started today, my MI would be Kipnis, Ian Desmond and a Stephen Drew/Scotter Gennett platoon. Losing Kipnis creates a big hole. But my starting 1B would be Victor Martinez. I like Victor, but boy oh boy would that be a big upgrade.
The next factor is production of the two players. Based on FanGraphs Points (which I often use as a rough proxy for 4×4), Goldy was the #2 1B; Kipnis was the #4 2B. I am high on Kipnis and expect him to end up in the top 3 next year (I see him passing Matt Carpenter), and he could even move up more than that. At 1B, as much as I love Goldschmidt, I expect him to fall behind Joey Votton in 4×4 and some others (Edwin Encarnacion, for one) could chase him down, too. Even so, I have a hard time calling Kipnis a better fantasy producer than Goldschmidt, particularly in 4×4 where Kipnis’s stolen bases don’t add value. But you are still talking about two guys both expected to be top 3 or so at their positions.
Third, I look at value. When you are looking to win, I always recommend focusing on production over value, but you win by maximizing the production you get from $400 spent. and that means finding value. And this is where Kipnis for Goldschmidt falls apart for me. Let’s assume I have $50 to spend on 1B and 2B (which is about what I have budgeted). Kipnis and $36 provides much more value than Goldy and $18. When you add in future years – Kipnis will be a good value for a long-time, or will take on most of my arbitration allocation dollars for another year or two.
Finally, you need to look at your alternative options on the free agent market. Right now, if I don’t want to stick with Gennett at 2B, the following players are free agents: Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips. Robinson Cano might join that group, but I doubt it. At 1B, the options right now are Eric Hosmer and…not much else. But at 1B I see at least two more players I expect to be out there. Prince Fielder is the highest paid 1B in our league, and I can’t see him being kept. $40 for Adrian Gonzalez is a lot, especially for an owner paying $48 for Votto. I also could platoon Martinez with someone like Mike Napoli (who I think may get cut), Ryan Howard, or perhaps someone else.
At the end of the day, my options to fill either position are limited, and as a result, it is crucial to have cash on hand to fill either one. And for that reason – the much lower price at which I can sit on an elite 2B – I am sticking with Kipnis.
Which of my $20+ SP and $30+ OF do I keep?
I rank my five expensive pitchers in terms of expected production as: Max Scherzer, Zach Greinke, Matt Moore, Jordan Zimmermann, Matt Garza. But in terms of value, while I think they are all keepable, I would say they rank: Scherzer ($33), Zimmermann ($20), Moore ($32), Garza ($20), Greinke ($46). I can definitely keep two of these five, and maybe three. I would say Scherzer is definitely being kept, but after that, do I take the production of Greinke or the value of Zimmermann? And does Moore make the cut? Or does keeping a third player mean taking the cheaper Garza? Right now, I am leaning towards Scherzer, Zimmermann and one more, but I really have no idea who. Probably not Greinke, due to budget, but we’ll see.
As for the OF, I’d project their production as Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Heyward, Jay Bruce, but their values as Choo ($32), Bruce ($36), Heyward ($40). That makes it pretty clear that Choo is a keeper, but the other two? Heyward is probably too expensive, and therefore probably a cut, but Bruce provides a lot of power for a reasonable price. Right now, my plan is to keep him.
The key thing to take away here is that values don’t exist in a vacuum. In both these cases, my ability to keep the expensive players is based in the fact that I have cheaper, productive players filling out those positions, leaving me with cash to spend. At the same time, just because a player is worth their salary does not mean they fit on your team. All eight of those players (except maybe Heyward) are keepable in this league, but I can’t keep all eight.
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