Arbitration Advice from the Community

Sunday, October 15th is a significant signpost for the fantasy baseball off-season as it marks the beginning of Ottoneu arbitration, the 30 day process that helps leagues maintain competitive, economic balance. Ottoneu offers a ton of great features in its standard platform, but there are few more intimidating to a brand new owner than this annual salary-sharing arbitration event. Here is a summary of the more popular “allocation” option:

Each owner receives $25 in salary they are required to allocate to the other eleven rosters in the league. Arbitration dollars may be applied to any player, but every owner must allocate at least $1 to each roster, and owners are required to spend their entire budget. This process forces owners to decide which rosters will receive the greatest share of the total allocation budget, up to the maximum of $3 per roster, per owner. In purely economic terms, some rosters may be hit with as much as $33, or as little as $11 as a result of arbitration.

Quite a lot has already been written about the process and variables of Ottoneu arbitration. This year I want to take a different approach and go straight to the Ottoneu community to get advice from experienced owners who have fine-tuned their arbitration strategy over the years. This information should be helpful for those preparing to tackle arbitration for the first time next week.

Q: There are several different strategies owners use when completing the Ottoneu arbitration process. What strategy do you recommend as best?

Allocate to the good teams…but base your analysis on how you think they will perform next season, not on how they finished this year in the standings.@keefsmitty

It’s best to put the most dollars onto the teams that have the most under-priced players and good assets, because they’re the ones that will have the biggest advantage to win. Dollars put onto those teams should be put onto players who you think the owners will not be interested in trading, so that the extra money stays on their teams.@therick

I take three passes through competitors’ lineups. First I assign the minimum ($1) dollar to each team. As I’m doing that I note severely under-priced players and hit them with another dollar or two. Finally, I assign my remaining dollars to teams that look most competitive *next* year.@henry.woodbury

I generally place all my arbitration dollars on October 15 on guys that are undervalued but aren’t the big names. I have no idea if that influences others as they place their dollars, but I will frequently change my allocations around to different players and see who is receiving a lot of money and end up placing the money on players that generally haven’t received as much attention.@twinsfanmjb

I like to make sure I am adding arbitration to guys that will definitely be kept. I want my $1-3 staying with the roster going into next season. I will also avoid adding money to players that I am planning to pursue in trade discussions that off-season.@dspracale

I try to allocate to hitters more than pitchers because of pitcher variance, and I try to aim for meaningful amounts (ie, pushing a $35 guy to $38 doesn’t make a huge difference, but if I can help arb a $5 player into a bad decision to keep at $15).@wfporter

I make sure I allocate $3 to the teams that have the most total surplus; I also make sure I allocate $3 to players with a significant amount of surplus – think breakouts like Cody Bellinger, Jose Ramirez, and Aaron Judge that are paid very little in most leagues and should be paid much, much more. I also tend to adjust my allocations towards the final days of allocations based upon what others in my league are doing. No use throwing $1 on a player that nobody else is throwing money on. If everyone works as a pack, you can bump up a guy like Bellinger to become a much more reasonably price player close to fair value, taking a significant asset away from a team.@jtevans

Spread the wealth around. I feel like tacking on dollars on multiple guys and bringing them to market value or above is more valuable than hammering one guy who then gets cut, allowing them to keep value elsewhere.@jcook32

Q: What is the biggest mistake new owners should avoid when going through arbitration for the first time?

Overvaluing players based on perceived value over their surplus value as it relates to the individual league.@bond224

Undervaluing stars. This is the most common mistake in Ottoneu, in my opinion. An owner can keep stars — and win — at higher prices than you think.@henry.woodbury

Don’t allocate to prospects. Don’t allocate based on rankings or last years finish, and don’t send dollars back to auction.@joecatz

Putting money on the best teams (by last year’s finish), and not the best assets.@swindaman3

Cutting players before arbitration is such an unnecessary mistake. Don’t assume that your $40 Jose Bautista isn’t going to have arbitration dollars added to him and cut him on October 13th.@dspracale

Placing arbitration dollars on a single player on each team. I’d recommend spreading your arb dollars on several players.@jacochri

Q: What additional advice would you offer to an Ottoneu owner preparing for arbitration for the first time?

Don’t allocate money to a player you wouldn’t keep yourself.@therick

Pay attention to the potential supply and demand based on the rosters and allocations of others in the league. It’s a fluid process and you should try to predict within reason where allocations will be most effective to ensure the greatest use of money.@bond224

Don’t allocate to prospects, and try to allocate to position players over pitchers because they are less likely to get seriously hurt and cut. – @JoshJ

I have heard 4 strategies for arbitration. 1. Focus on the best owners 2. Focus on the best projected teams 3. Focus on the individual surplus assets 4. Focus on players you hope to see pushed into the auction pool.  I would argue that 2 and 3 bring the best results. 1 and 4 not so much.@keefsmitty

Plan out your allocations early, and keep revising it to make sure that you have used it sufficiently.@aussiedodgers

I would err on the side of allocating to better/more reliable players. For instance, if I HAD to choose between allocating to a $48 Paul Goldschmidt and a $1 Rhys Hoskins, I would allocate to Goldschmidt.@bills217

Study the arbitration results. The results will show how the league values your team and what players other owners are interested in.@jacochri

First, don’t be the person that doesn’t allocate. Second, take your time and be strategic with your dollars. Simply giving the 2017 champion $3 in arbitration may not be the best strategy. Look for the team that is going to have the most surplus value going into next season and try to cut into it. Many times the champs of a league have sold off many of their surplus to make a title run, so those middle tier teams might be setup the best for 2018 and you need to mitigate that as much as possible.@dspracale

Q: Which one player do you expect to receive the most arbitration dollars across all Ottoneu leagues this fall?

A few votes here for Cody Bellinger and Jose Ramirez, but the clear runaway winner was Aaron Judge.

See the Ottoneu arbitration results from last year.

Do you have other arbitration advice, or questions as you prepare for your first trip through the process? Let me know in the comments.


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Trey is a 20+ year fantasy veteran and an early adopter of Ottoneu fantasy sports. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,200 fantasy baseball and football fans talking sports daily. More resources here:

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Can you see what other people are allocating and then change your own allocations throughout the month? I always assumed this was a blind allocation, but some of the comments above suggest this is not the case.

Justin Vibber

You can see how much $ has been allocated to each player throughout the month long arbitration process, but you don’t know which team made the allocations. When arbitration is over you CAN see exactly who allocated to each player.


Thanks Justin.