With the Ottoneu trade deadline fast approaching, you are probably trying to determine where your team stands for the rest of 2016. Do you need that extra piece to make a title push this year? Is your league out of reach? Does a team in your league have (what appears to be) and insurmountable lead? These are all factors that need to bear in mind as the August 31st trade deadline approaches.
The first place to start is to know how your team compares to the rest of the league. As one of the twelve owners in your league, it is important to know where you stand in relation to the other eleven teams. A great place to start is to run your league through the standings dashboard. While this tool gives you a pace at which you are performing (prorated for the whole season), it does not project what will happen based on a projection system (like ZIPS or Steamer). It can still be very useful to get a general idea of where you stand relative to the rest of the league. While this standard is different among many owners, I typically try to shoot for being within 350 to 400 points of 1st (innings adjusted) if I am going to make any moves to buy.
Two extra factors I try to consider that are not accounted for in the standings dashboard include blowing past my inning pitched cap, and using cap space to block players from other teams. The Ottoneu innings pitched limit is 1,500 IP. However, because of a soft cap, all innings you accrue on the day you pass the cap will be included in your season total. Because of this, I actually try to pace at about 1,600 IP for the year so that I can line up my starters and have one day where I top the innings pitched cap by a wide margin. If I have a lot of cap space, I will subtlety guess at which players my competitors are going after and try to block them (placing substantial bids). Even if I end up cutting them a day later. This is especially true if I know my competition is short on innings or trying to make them up. The format of Ottoneu naturally cuts down on streaming but try to check the free agent pitchers that are going up for auction against their pitching schedule. By doing both of these you can gain slight increases on where the standings dashboard places you, which can be important if you are in a tight race. I would also update my team in the roster organizer and keep tabs on which players I plan to hold through the upcoming season. While I would be willing to trade anyone, this can give you an idea of the players who are more likely to be expendable as the deadline approaches.
Once you have a clear view of how you stack up to the rest of the league, you should make a decision on buying, selling, or holding. At this point in the season, many leagues have clear cut teams who are contending. Everyone else is likely selling if no incentive structure is in place. However, before you pull the plug on 2016, consider that trades for 2016 can still impact the standings. Upgrades over the final 50 games are still significant and shouldn’t be brushed aside due to the quantity of games remaining. The standings can change a lot over 2 months and often buying teams can get caught in a catch 22 – where they don’t want to buy until their team starts performing better, while waiting to buy actually sinks their team further. Games remaining should be considered, and maybe it is the deciding factor in not giving up your prime asset (a $16 Corey Seager for example), but it shouldn’t influence you against giving up a $5 player who you own for $1. During this time, I try to talk trades with every team in the league and get a broad sense of what assets may be moving.
If most of the league has determined they are selling, then expected returns from trades in going to be lessened. It’s a bit of a race against time, because as surplus assets make their way to rebuilding teams they are less likely to be traded again. In a scenario like this, instead of isolating one specific player that you like, try to cast a wide net and propose several offers to teams. Since beggars can’t be choosers, I wouldn’t set your sights on that $16 Corey Seager if his owner (correctly) won’t deal him. Focus on options B, C, or D in this case. Since every other seller is probably asking about Seager, it could vault you ahead of the other sellers if you don’t make him necessary in every deal you propose. One of the common mistakes I see is for owners to shoot extremely high in their asking price, only to be left holding because other sellers are able to acquire the less marquee assets that buyers are actually willing to move. At the end of the day, when the buyers are done buying, you don’t want to be holding the two players you wanted to move because your demands were unreasonable relative to your league mates.
However, this does not mean that every non-keeper should be traded quickly to avoid holding them at the deadline. Not every clear offseason cut needs to be traded. There is sometimes more value in cutting players in season for cap space, or in keeping a player and assuring he will be in the auction pool come next year. If you keep Chris Davis and cut him in the offseason, you will have access to an upper tier 1B in next year’s auction. Maybe that means you lose the chance to acquire a couple prospects or back end keepers, but since those roles are easily replaced in the offseason anyways, maybe you are better off holding Davis even if it means you get nothing in return. Point being that there is a floor of talent that should be included in trades and just because you are selling doesn’t mean you want to load up on every prospect that has graced a midseason top prospect list. Check your free agent wire and see what minor league prospects are available. If the players you would be receiving in a deal end up being similar to the available free agents, you are probably better off passing on a deal. Holding isn’t necessarily a bad move.
How has your league approached the trade deadline? Have you noticed any specific tactics among your owners? What strategies have you employed? Let’s discuss in the comments.
Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades