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Rebuild, Retool, or Restock: Prepping for Year 2+ in ottoneu

Over the next three weeks, I am putting together three articles to help both existing and new ottoneu players (including one for those still thinking about ottoneu). Next week we’ll look at how the three scoring systems offered by ottoneu compare, and the week after I’ll offer some guidance for those venturing into their first ottoneu experience. In the midst of all that, expect to see a detailed breakdown of how I create projected auction values for my ottoneu leagues.

But this week, with just nine days until rosters freeze, I am going to focus on those of you in your second or third year in ottoneu, or those of you taking over abandoned teams. In many ways, the next nine days are some of the most important to your season – moves you make now can put you on the path to a title or start a downward spiral.

Last year, I did a two parter on the Roster Organizer tool on ottoneu, and how you can use it to figure out what you should do in the off-season. I am not going to rehash that, except to add a reminder that setting a player to “cut” in the roster organizer will not result in said player actually being cut. You can use that tool to see what your roster/cap situation will be like, but on or before January 31, when rosters freeze, you need to go onto your team page and actually cut the guys you want cut.

Those two article are worth re-reading, but this year I am going to focus on providing answers to the questions I get asked the most often. If your question is not here, you can always ask in the comments, or hit me on Twitter (@chadyoung).

How many players/how much money should I have going into the auction?
Everyone asks this. Either this or, “is it okay if I plan to keep 38 guys [or 9 guys] and will have $30 [or $385] in cap space?” And the answer is always the same – I have seen a HUGE range of how many players get held or cut, and I see no clear correlation between keeping players and winning/losing. What I would caution against here is steering clear of the Endowment Effect, where you overvalue the pieces you have because they are yours. If you finished 10th last year and plan to keep 37 guys, you might want to think long and hard about why your 10th place team is going to be better this year. Maybe you have all prospects and are happy to wait on them to develop. Maybe you had some significant injuries last year. Maybe you made late trades and think your team is better than it was. But if you are keeping a last place team intact, you better have a good reason. On average, I would say teams enter the auction with 25-30 spots filled an d $100-$150 to spend.

Should I keep [Insert Player] at [Insert Price]?
Except in a few cases where it is blindingly obvious (yes, you should keep a $10 Mike Trout, and you should cut your $65 Kelly Johnson), the answer here is almost always that it depends. Due to the way inflation works in these leagues, more often than not, the guy you are considering cutting or keeping will cost at least as much in the auction as he does now. That doesn’t mean you should keep him. If you have a deep OF and you are torn on a $45 Matt Kemp, cut him loose and find a bargain at auction to fill that slot. If, on the other hand, you have only one MI and don’t anticipate many MI being cut, you might want to hold your $10 Howie Kendrick. One way to gauge who will be out there is to follow the trade market. Does every owner have their catcher on the trade block? A few of those will likely get cut. You can also try to trade a guy you are deciding on – if no one is interested, your chances of buying him back, perhaps at a discount, are a bit better. That can also be a sign that most teams are set at that position, which could make finding a deal at auction easier.

Would you make this trade: [insert trade terms]?
Again, this is highly dependent on the situation in most cases. To me, most teams fall into three general categories and how you trade differs for each:

1) Almost there – this is a team with 30+ keepers and a competitive core. You likely only need one to two more pieces to put yourself in a position to compete. In this case, you should be making any trade that a) fills a need without creating another (this is where you trade prospects or trade from depth) or b) fills a need while creating another need that is easier to fill (think there will be no SP in your auction and lots of OF? Then by all means trade your top-tier OF for a top-tier SP). You can also make value deals here – if you have a stacked OF, maybe move an expensive OF for a guy who costs 50% of the salary but will create 70% of the value, especially if you think you will be tight on cap space to fill another need.

2) Rebuilding – You have a bunch of keepers, but they are all prospects or high upside guys who are not sure things. In this case, if you think 2013 is unlikely to be your year anyway, you can take advantage by targeting players who will help you in 2014 and beyond. Not just other prospects, but guys like Brandon Beachy or Corey Luebke, who are coming back from injury. Make sure, however, that you can fill your roster. Don’t keep 30 guys who are all injured or in AAA. Also, don’t get too caught up in the ceiling of players in the low minors. Miguel Sano may be a stud someday, but Nolan Arenado could man 3B for you when you are ready to make your run in 2014.

3) Keeperless – Ok, so you aren’t really devoid of keepers, but you sold out last year to win (and maybe you did) but now you have way too many overpriced guys and not a lot of value. You should be basically looking for value in trades. Don’t worry so much about positional needs (you have a lot, most likely) and focus instead on getting the most value in your deals.

What should I be doing for the next week?
Figure out who on your team is definitely getting cut, will be of no interest to trade partners, and cut them loose. Then use the roster organizer to figure out what your lineup would look like if you kept everyone else. Once you have done that, you should see where you have opportunities to make additional cuts or trades. In one league, I had Pablo Sandoval, Mike Moustakas, and Will Middlebrooks. When I set my lineup and realized I could only use two of them anyway (one at Util), I began shopping Panda, and used him to get a a 1B I desperately needed and a closer to help strengthen my pen. If you see guys on your bench who you think can start, you should be trading either that player or the starter, or thinking about cutting one of them to save salary for the auction.