Joining an Existing Dynasty League

I recently received an invitation to join Dave Cameron’s Screw Cancer league on ottoneu (I’m A New Owner To Exploit). It’s been in existence since 2012. Any time one joins a longstanding dynasty league, you’re likely to inherit a steaming pile. In this case, former owner Joe Douglas was kind enough to hand me some very solid assets as part of an incomplete roster. He didn’t leave the league due to the usual reasons – poor performance, rigged rules, and/or frustration. Instead, he was hired by an MLB team. Congrats to him.

My new ottoclub includes plenty of players I don’t want to keep. When considering the current state of the roster, it’s tempting to pursue a complete rebuild. My advice, resist the temptation to rush into a remodeling job. Take this opportunity to learn how to use players you don’t like. At the very least, make sure you maximize your trade returns. Let’s take a closer look at my situation.

Mr. Douglas was clearly a fan of up-the-middle guys – I’m sitting on Francisco Lindor ($25) and Corey Seager ($39) for my shortstop and middle infielder slots. Chris Taylor ($7) is shortstop eligible too (along with second base and outfield). Manny Machado ($47) seems likely to regain eligibility at short. Amed Rosario ($7) will get another look in the majors at some point next season.

A few of my rivals have been prying at Lindor and Seager. It’s an easy sales pitch for them – you have shortstops, I need shortstops. I’ve even received some acceptable offers to convert them into outfielders.

There’s just one problem. It’s still really hard to find shortstops with over $40 of production AND surplus value. It’s relatively easy to find outfielders with the same skill set. A standby of my ottoneu strategy includes using several $1 regulars – preferably in the form of plentiful outfielders and/or first basemen. Unfortunately, in other ottoneu leagues, I’ve been forced to use multiple $1 middle infielders.

It’s a challenge to generate points out of those spots. Without spiking superb seasons from Mike Trout, Charlie Blackmon, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado, I would have never won FG Staff Two. If any of them missed an additional 30 games (Trout did have a lengthy injury), victory might have slipped from my grasp. However, this is the typical order of operations for me. I’m used making due with players like broken Jonathan Villar, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, and Howie Kendrick as my “featured” middle infielders.

This new roster gives me an opportunity to test positional scarcity theory in ottoneu for the first time. Rather than push pieces around until it conforms with business as usual, I plan to embrace this different look.

While I’m not telling my rivals that Lindor and Seager are entirely unavailable, I have informed them that a fair trade won’t be sufficient. The wonderful thing about offseason trading – in any dynasty format – is that your opponents may be entirely willing to make a very bad trade if you have a sexy asset available. Sure, close the door, but be sure to leave it unlocked.

Ronald Acuna ($6) happens to be on my roster (also in FanGraphs Staff One for $4). He’s everybody’s favorite prospect du jour. I haven’t heard this much gushing hype since Mike Trout. Everybody loves his copious talents, and he draws equal praise for his intangibles. To hear any scout talk about him, anything less than a Hall of Fame career would be a let down.

Usually, this is the point when I cash in on a prospect. I’m not a big believer in “developing” talent in fantasy. You can usually just wait for Byron Buxton to suck then buy at a lower price. Most prospects don’t enter the majors as a finished product – especially the tip-top guys. They need a few seasons before they’re ready to carry your team.

In the case of Acuna, I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach. Rivals in both leagues have come to me with a message of “I must have him.” They quickly change their tune when I ask Clayton Kershaw, Blackmon, Austin Barnes, and Tommy Pham (just one unreasonable example).

My new Screw Cancer roster is incredibly prospect rich. In addition to Acuna and Rosario, I inherited Nick Senzel ($7), Derek Fisher ($9), Eloy Jimenez ($6), Scott Kingery ($4), Kyle Lewis ($2), Michael Kopech ($3), Mike Soroka ($4), and Yadiel Alvarez ($3). That’s a quarter of my roster and an eighth of my budget dedicated to minor leaguers. Typically I prefer to keep about three $1 prospects around as trade currency.

While I’m not going to entirely lean into the prospect development angle Joe Douglas was clearly trying, I’m not going to force any trades either. My efforts to field a full roster in 2018 may be temporarily hamstrung by those minor leaguers, but I do think it’s fair to expect some big performances from a few of them. And when that happens, they’ll shield other major league assets like Lindor or Robbie Ray ($7) from arbitration allocations.

Parting Thoughts

Let’s hammer home today’s lessons. When you take over a roster, analyze the strengths and weaknesses. Rather than immediately rushing to spend your strengths in the name of balance, consider alternatives from your usual methods. Even if it doesn’t work, you may learn a new trick or two.

When the former owner hands you lemons, plan to make a roster featuring lemons. Chances are you won’t be able to extract full value if you try to sell your lemons. Similarly, if you’re handed chocolate truffles, sell them like they’re mushroom truffles. You never know how your new rivals will react. It’s useful to quickly learn who over-pursues trades and who is easily insulted.

Postscript

I’ve made one trade in the league featured above Jameson Taillon ($8) and Nick Castellanos ($11) for Clayton Kershaw ($63). I still have enough budget for one more big ticket addition. I’m not a big believer in Taillon as more than a $10 talent, and Castellanos was my third string third baseman.



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