Off-season Roster Organization Part I

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that one of the first things you need to do in the off-season is set your roster for the next year and figure out who you should or should not keep. I am getting ready to do just that for my FanGraphs Experts League team, and I get to do it using a fun new toy.

For the past few years, I have been doing this in Excel, but today ottoneu released a new tool that will help players look at their roster and make tough calls in the off-season. It’s called Roster Organizer and you can find it on your league home page. I’m going to use it to evaluate my team and, along the way, explain why some tough calls are going the way they are.

When you get to the Roster Organizer, you will notice that it looks an awful lot like the Set Lineups screen. And it is, but with four differences:

  1. 1) At the top, it tells you how much salary and how many roster spots are used – this will update as you make changes
  2. 2) On the drop-down menus next to each player, you can set a position like normal, but you can also select cut or minors – these changes won’t be final, they just let you see what your team would look like if you did cut a player
  3. 3) There is a space next to your vote-off player where you can set an expected salary for him
  4. 4) This page is only visible to you, not your fellow owners – so if you are worried about broadcasting your off-season plans, you can use this page assured your secrets are safe with ottoneu

The first thing I would do is move guys to the minors if you are pretty sure they won’t start the year in the big leagues. Next, I’d make my “obvious” cuts. Then set my lineup and look at the big picture. Let’s start with the offense.

Looking at my roster, I end up with something that looks like this:
C – Jesus Montero, J.P. Arencibia
1B – Carlos Pena
2B – Chase Utley
SS – N/A
MI – Allen Craig
3B – Pablo Sandoval
OF – Matt Holliday, Hunter Pence, Dexter Fowler, Matt Joyce, Nick Swisher
Util – Eric Hosmer
Bench – Freddy Sanchez, Trayvon Robinson, Mike Moustakas, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones
Minors – Domonic Brown, Logan Schafer, Manny Machado, Jurickson Profar
Cut – Rajai Davis, Garrett Jones, Maicer Izturis, Brian McCann

Before diving into what this shows me, lets look at a couple of the more difficult decisions I made. Cutting McCann is the most obvious. At $35, McCann cost me a bit more than I would have liked last year, but this is also a guy who is a clear number one at his position, and a traditionally thin position at that. But I have two young catchers who haven’t looked half-bad (as long as you ignore Arencibia’s atrocious batting average). Is it a risk to throw the youngsters into the lineup and let’em rip? Sure. But by cutting McCann, I have $35 to spend where I need more help (like on a shortstop, for example).

Cutting Rajai Davis hurt, too, although it’s a less difficult decision. Davis stole 34 bases in just over half a season last year. But he also doesn’t have a job in Toronto. Would I love to have a guy who will play 2-3 games a week and steal a base in a third of those games? Of course. But not for $14. I’ll see you at the auction, Rajai.

Outside the cuts, a couple issues jump out. First is that I have to make a decision at 3B – I am not keeping Moustakas, Jones and Sandoval. The problem is that the guy I save the most by cutting (Panda) is also the one with the fewest (not none, mind you, but the fewest) questions around him. But all three are priced at a keepable level, so my best bet is probably to try to move one of the three this off-season in a trade. If I can’t, I will have to make a call on who to cut, but I have identified at least one trade chip. Moustakas’s value is quite low now, sothat chip is probably one of the other two.

I’m also unsure what to do with Freddy Sanchez. I don’t want to keep him, but until I know for sure that Craig has a job, Sanchez and Utley are my only MI. Which means Freddy probably isn’t going anywhere in the short-term.

My last offensive question is Matt Holliday. At $40, Holliday isn’t cheap. And while I keep wanting him to be old (seriously, shouldn’t he be like 35 now?) he actually only turns 32 in January, suggesting there is no reason to expect an imminent drop off. That said, I am not sure he is the guy I want to be spending $40 on. Among OF, only Carl Crawford, Carlos Gonzalez and Ryan Braun were more expensive last year and I am not sure, and as Eno Sarris pointed out yesterday, it probably doesn’t make sense to draft (or pay) Holliday as a top 4 OF.

My final step on offense is to put a price next to Hosmer. I am putting down $30 for now – I haven’t closely evaluated what I think he is worth, but my guess is he doesn’t go for more than $35 at auction, so this will give me a good sense of where my roster is at this point. And having only touched the offense, I have cleared my cap down to $355, slipped to 38 guys on my roster.

Of course without looking at my pitching, it is impossible to get the big picture, but we’re at 1000 words now, so I’ll take a look at pitching next time.

But want to point out one last thing: If you look at my roster in the coming weeks, you will notice I don’t actually cut any of those guys. Things might change (Dear Toronto, Please trade Rajai Davis) for one or more of those guys, which may cause me to change my mind. In addition, someone may want to trade for a guy I don’t want any more. My stance on Holliday won’t be universally accepted, and trading him is better than cutting him.

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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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Mike Newman

Really enjoyed using this tool! Niv is going to force me to pitch Ottoneu to the commissioners of other leagues I’m in!