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Seven Lessons from an ottoneu Auction

After part one of the auction for the Second FanGraphs Staff League, I took some time to look back at the strategy I set up going into the auction, and to re-strategize for day two, based on where I was.

And looking back, I’d have to say I executed pretty well, although not always in the ways I expected.

Leaving day one, I had the following players: $22 Brian McCann, $35 Mark Teixeira, $24 Pablo Sandoval, $18 Shin-Soo Choo, $26 Hunter Pence, $4 Melky Cabrera, $27 Ryan Zimmerman, $6 Justin Morneau, $40 Tim Lincecum, $21 C.J. Wilson, and $16 Mat Latos. So I set out my remaining needs by position, my target players and the prices I wanted to pay. Below is a chart showing what I wanted and what I got:

Position Target Expected Price Actual Price Player Signed Price
C Ramon Hernandez $1 $1 Geovany Soto $8
C Devin Mesoraco $6 $8 Ryan Lavarnway $3
1B Ike Davis $6 $9 Anthony Rizzo $5
2B Jason Kipnis $10 $12 Jason Kipnis $12
SS Alexei Ramirez $10 $12 Jimmy Rollins $10
SS Stephen Drew $10 $6 Jhonny Peralta $12
MI Scott Sizemore $5 $3 Ian Desmond $4
OF Jason Heyward $20 $27 Andre Ethier $11
OF Logan Morrison $15 $16 Logan Morrison $16
OF Lucas Duda $4 $9 Carlos Quentin $4
OF Mike Carp $1 $3 Nolan Reimold $1
OF Brandon Belt $4 $8 Jeff Francoeur $4
SP Matt Cain $20 $22 Matt Garza $14
SP Cory Luebke $8 $11 Cory Luebke $11
SP Brandon Beachy $10 $11 Chad Billingsley $5
RP Jonny Venters $3 $9 Kenley Jansen $8
RP Huston Street $3 $4 Hong-Chih Kuo $1
RP Grant Balfour $2 $3 Rex Brothers $1
RP Vinnie Pestano $1 $7 Jesse Crain $1
RP Addison Reed $1 $3 Fautino De Los Santos $1
RP/SP Lance Lynn $1 $2 Felipe Paulino $2
RP/SP Dan Runzler $1 $1 Dan Runzler $1
RP/SP Marco Estrada $1 $2 Tom Gorzelanny $1
Pros Jurickson Profar $5 $6 Michael Choice $1
Pros Danny Hultzen $2 $3 Trevor Bauer $3
TBD       Kelly Johnson $8
TBD       Jacob Turner $2
TBD       Jake Peavy $2
TBD       Robbie Erlin $1

And this was my pre-auction plan:

And all-in-all, I think I executed pretty well, but there are definitely a few lessons learned, and hopefully you can all benefit from my experience.

1) Don’t be OVER-patient. Some of the guys I ended up passing on barely out-stripped the value I had set on them. I know most people say to know your price and not go over, but if I could have had Beachy at $12 instead of spending $7 combined on Billinglsey and Peavy to try to replace him, that would have probably been a better choice. Same thing with Matt Cain. Garza worked out okay, but Cain at $22 isn’t bad at all. Being over-patient also leads to my second point…

2) Don’t go on tilt. Check out this chain of MI events:
At 6:49, Alexei passed my target price and I decided to be patient. At 6:54, concerned that SS was getting thin, I paid $10 for Rollins, who I didn’t really want at that price (although I don’t think it is a bad price, per se). Then I got frustrated. I didn’t want Rollins, I was worried Drew would get too expense, and then I would have two over-priced injury risks at SS. So, two minutes later, at 6:56, when Jhonny Peralta came up, I decided he was worth $12. An hour later, Drew went for $6. Two minutes after that, I grabbed Ian Desmond to be my cheap MI backup, not really thinking that I now had three SS and no 2B. Which lead to Kelly Johnson coming up at 8:35 and me panicking that I would screw up 2B like I did SS, and grabbing him, even though the guy I wanted (Kipnis) was still out there. Twenty minutes later I got Kipnis, too. So now I have a deep, solid $46 MI. If I had reached for Alexei and then not lost my composure, I could have had the four guys I wanted for $33, which would have left plenty for me to add Johnson, Peralta or Desmond and STILL have spent less than I did on MI. I am fine with my MI, but I could have used those extra $12 to grab Beachy or Mesoraco, or even to have during the season.

3) Big-name relievers aren’t all bad. Jansen is exactly the type of guy I usually avoid, because people overpay for big time relievers, but at $8, he was half the price of most of the relievers who went on day one, and with the slight stumble my rotation took compared to expectations, I am glad I splurged there. Besides, when I realized that Venters cost more than Jansen and Pestano cost almost as much, I was quite happy I made that move.

4) Don’t pass on guys cause you “don’t like them.” Francoeur, Cabrera, and Desmond all fall into a group of players I just plain don’t like. That said, I had them all priced much higher than what I paid for them. We’ll see how that plays out, but right now I think that my willingness to pass on Duda and Belt, who I love, and instead take discounts on those guys, allowed me to spend on Jansen, and go the extra dollars on Morrison, Kipnis, and Luebke.

5) Know your foe. I should have been smarter about Belt, Duda, and Heyward. Stat-heavy fans (like, say, a group of FanGraphs writers, perhaps?) love those guys. Eno Sarris gives Duda so much love that anyone even in the vicinity of a FanGraphs article is excited about the guy. And sure enough, they all went for more than they typically would, but not more than I could have guessed, had I really thought about it.

6) Have a backup plan. When Heyward went way over my target price, I nearly went on tilt like I did at MI. Luckily Ethier fell into my lap, and Quentin stayed way lower than I would have guessed. But I didn’t have a backup plan to speak of, and it almost sunk my OF and rotation before they got going. I was sure I would get Heyward and Cain, positive I would have Duda, as well. None of it happened, and it almost got lucky. If you have targets, have a fill-in option, as well.

7) Don’t pass on a value outside your plan. I sort of planned for this by leaving four spots open, but I also shifted my plan at catcher when Soto stopped getting bids. I have Geo as a top-10 catcher, and while I only needed a backup, grabbing him here gives me a solid trade chip. If Lavarnway plays and hits, you better believe I will shop Soto or McCann to plaster any gaps that need plastering. Ramon Hernandez would have been a capable backup, but would not have been nearly as useful in a trade as Soto.