Most fantasy leagues are either already in or are headed to hibernation, but ottoneu, as those of you who played this year have already learned, is a little different. With arbitration voting behind us, we are onto the ottoneu hot stove season, and there are a few things you should know as you prepare for a 4 month period that will be surprisingly important to determining your 2012 league champion.
Some of what happens in the off-season is going to be similar to your other leagues – reviewing projections, putting together rankings, valuing players, preparing for the auction – but some of it will be quite different, and that is what I want to focus on here.
Determine Where You are in the Big Picture. The Braves are young and improving, narrowly missed the post-season last year, and probably should look to add guys who can put them over the top. The Astros are pretty terrible and should probably focus on building for the future rather than spending on a big-ticket free agent. So which team are you? You need to start thinking about this now, and plan your cuts accordingly.
If you are waiting on Jurickson Profar, Bryce Harper and Julio Teheran to lead you to a title, keeping a $50 Roy Halladay may not make a lot of sense. When you are ready to compete, he won’t be worth keeping, and you could spread that money around guys who may be bigger question marks but could be cheap stars when your prospects are ready. If you think you are a piece away from winning a title and can afford to keep the $50 Halladay, you probably should.
Set Your Lineup and Find the Holes. I usually start this during the season, but early in the off-season, figure out who you plan to keep and who you plan to cut, and set a lineup with the guys you plan to keep. Figure out how much money you will have left to spend, and divide that money up among the holes in your lineup. If 1B is a hole, that is fine, but if you only allocate $25 to the spot, you probably can’t pencil in Albert Pujols as your big auction pick-up. The chances are you won’t stick exactly to this budget come auction day, but you better make sure you have the resources you need to fill your holes if you plan to compete.
Roster Spots are a Resource. Everyone knows that money is your primary asset, but roster spots matter, too. Just because a guy is a good value doesn’t mean he is worth the roster spot he is using. Going into 2012, in the original league, I have 5-6 young pitchers who are cheap and potentially good, but I am not sure I can realistically carry all of those guys, even though they are good values, because I need those roster spots to bring in guys who I know can help me win (or at least to spread my potential around a couple positions). So don’t keep a guy just cause the value is good – keep him because the value is good for your team.
Expect Inflation. There has been salary inflation every year in the original ottoneu league. This seems odd, because theoretically $400 per team is $400 per team. But in practice, it doesn’t work that way. Every team in your league will have a bunch of good values now – guys who they hold cheaper than they would cost at auction. That means they have more money to fill needs. I am pretty happy with my offense, but need a Util and an OF. I have money to spend and while I might think Albert Pujols is worth $50, if he is THE GUY I need, I will spend $60 or more to get him. People probably overpay even in year one, due to the winner’s curse, but the willingness to overpay grows in year 2 and beyond. Don’t be surprised and plan accordingly.
Trade, Trade, Trade. You now know what you are likely to afford in the auction, you know who you have that you plan to cut, you know where you have depth and where you have holes – start making trades. Between now and the auction, you cannot improve your roster any other way. Spend the off-season finding trade partners and filling in those holes. But remember you are trading assets, not talent, per se. What this means is that a $45 ace for a $10 solid starter may be a very fair deal (actually, in the original league, no one would trade you a solid $10 starter for a $45 ace – the $10 guy is a more valuable asset, even if he isn’t as good a player).
Project the Free Agent Class. You will want to focus your trades on getting players you can’t get at auction. If you need a 2B and most of the best 2B in your league are likely to be kept, you probably can’t count on getting one at auction.
Hold Your Guys Until You Can’t. There is no need to make cuts until the keeper deadline (which is midnight on the night of 1/31). I am going to repeat this: there is NO need to make cuts until the keeper deadline. Sure, you could cut guys if you wanted, but all you are doing is losing trade chips and giving away information. You might think it is obvious that you are not keeping Prince Fielder at $59, but there very well may be someone in your league who would trade for him.
Finally, a couple less strategic but still important notes:
1) Set your auction date early. Finding a day or night for 12 people to get together for a few hours to do the auction can be tough, so don’t wait too long.
2) Start up another league. I say this cause I was reminded this year how much fun that initial auction is. Plus, if you start a league with people who haven’t played ottoneu before, you will have a sizable pre-auction advantage, and who doesn’t like winning?