Evaluating Trades (plus an Ottoneu Trade Calculator)

My previous article detailed the steps all ottoneu owners should be taking this offseason (ottoneu never sleeps!), and today I wanted to expand upon offseason trading (and keeper decisions, to a lesser extent) through the context of surplus and inflation (read through that article if you need a refresher on those terms). One caveat before we begin- fantasy baseball player valuations are often a very fluid and subjective process, so this breakdown is less about the specific players and their values and more about evaluating things at a more general level.

I’ve long been a champion of acquiring surplus as a means of improving your team’s position heading into the auction, but there are other factors that come in to play:

  1. Inflation– this is the big one, a $75 Trout has more value in a sixth year league than a second year one because inflation is higher and it is much more expensive to replace his value at auction.
  2. Production/Positional Scarcity– Following up on that $75 Trout, not only is inflation a factor, but so is the concept of production scarcity. It may make sense to trade a $75 Trout in a 10% inflation league if you think his par value is $65 ($71.5 inflation adjusted value), but the supremely productive assets like Trout are very scarce at auction in older leagues. Likewise, you may find that certain positions (SS/SP?) are much scarcer at auction in older leagues.
  3. Roster spots– related somewhat to production scarcity, even if you can replace Trout’s $65 in production it will often take two or three players to do so, and those roster spots are valuable. Trading one $20 surplus asset for two $10 surplus assets is not an even exchange, in my opinion, even though both sides carry the same total surplus. My personal rule of thumb is to value each open/saved roster spot at $2 or $3.
  4. Market value– A $6 Ronald Acuna may not project to be above replacement level in 2018, but he clearly is a valuable asset. You have to make some imprecise mental adjustments to account for the market value of ottoneu assets, you may believe a player is worth $20 but if everyone else thinks he’s a $10 asset you shouldn’t ignore that fact.

Now that I’ve discussed some of the factors to consider, let’s work through an example:

First, consider an offer of a $75 Mike Trout (assume Trout is worth $71) for a $20 Cody Bellinger (assume Bellinger is worth $25), which side do you want in an off-season trade? If all you care about is production, Trout is the winner, but you’ve ignored the value that Bellinger AND $55 at auction provides. If all you care about is surplus, Bellinger is the winner, but now you’ve ignored inflation.

The way I balance those factors is to calculate inflation adjusted surplus- Trout may cost $4 more than he’s worth, but in a league with 20% inflation he’d actually be expected to cost $85 at auction ($71 * 1.20= $85), providing $10 in inflation adjusted surplus ($85 adjusted value less $75 salary). In that same 20% inflation league Bellinger would be expected to cost $30 ($25 * 1.20= $30), providing $10 in inflation adjusted surplus ($30 adjusted value less $20 salary), making Trout and Bellinger an even trade given our inflation and player value assumptions.

You could decide that production scarcity is a tiebreaker that favors Trout, or you could decide that market value is a tiebreaker that favors Bellinger (his hype probably means most owners view him as worth more than the $25 we assumed), so there is still a subjective element to any reasonably close trade evaluation.

As I am wont to do, I’ve created a tool that can spare you from doing any math and allow you to change inflation and player value assumptions on the fly to see what effect they have on inflation adjusted surplus.

Ottoneu Trade Calculator


  1. Click the open link to open the tool, then make a copy of your own to edit using File:Make a copy
  2. Enter the expected inflation for your league in cell C1 (Expected Inflation) on the Trade Analysis tab, I’ve included a comment for rough estimates based on league age (or you could use the inflation showing for your league on the Surplus Calculator, I usually assume inflation will be 5%-10% lower than the SC shows before the keeper deadline)
  3. Enter the format for your league in cell C2 (Format) on the Trade Analysis tab, this will pull in the correct Surplus Calculator $ values for your league format automatically
  4. If you are fine using the default SC $ values, leave cell C3 (Override SC $ Values) at No, otherwise you can select Yes (I’ll mention how to enter your own $ values in the next step)
  5. Select the players involved in the trade you want to review for both sides, if you cannot find a player just omit them. In column C (Salary) enter the salary of each player, and in Column E you can enter your $ value for the player (use only if you’ve selected Yes on step 4).
  6. Once all players/salaries are entered, and any $ values manually entered if necessary, the tool will calculate the total Surplus and Inflation Adjusted Surplus for each side of the trade, and will highlight the “better” side’s total in green. Keep in mind that you will probably want to make an additional mental adjustment for roster spots/market value/scarcity, as the tool is only considering inflation.

If you have any questions about the trade calculator or inflation adjusted surplus, feel free to let me know! 

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Justin is a life long Cubs fan who has been playing fantasy baseball for 20+ years, and an ottoneu addict since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @justinvibber.

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why don’t all active players show up when entered into the tool? (some do, some just don’t — like Buxton, Bundy, etc.)