Ottoneu 101: In Season Auctions

If playing ottoneu for the first time, or even if you have played for a while, one of the areas that typically requires adaptation is that of in season auctions. While typical leagues use a FAAB, ottoneu does not, requiring you to budget $400 for all roster spots. So how do you want to spend the money you have left over after the annual auction? Do you want to be aggressive and go after players performing well through the season’s first month? What about players who have under-performed on their expectations and have been cut? Are there any injured players who have been cut in an effort to reclaim cap space?

Many in season auctions will fall into one of these three categories. A look at the current auctions in one of my leagues shows a wide range of possible motivations in nominating a player.

You could lump Vargas into those performing well for the first month. While it may or may not continue, the motivation is likely to try and capitalize on the early season success he has had. If you pick him up for $1-$5 and he ends up being a serviceable spot starter, you probably aren’t unhappy.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Buxton has been cut and an owner is trying to buy low on him in an effort to capitalize on not having to trade for him. If he can learn to not strike out like Joey Gallo, he could end up providing some value. The other side of this is that his previous owners are likely happy to see him go up for auction (he will clear them $6 in cap space once someone else owns him.)

The third scenario I mentioned is potentially the most tricky, with Madison Bumgarner and Adam Eaton filling the role of “injured players, cut in an effort to regain cap space.” You may be asking yourself, “Why was Madison Bumgarner and Adam Eaton cut? In an ottoneu league those players can be kept.”

From the Ottoneu Rules (Part V.):

d. When a player is dropped, other team owners have 24 hours to claim him on waivers for 100% of his salary, with the team lowest in the standings getting priority. If the regular season has not begun yet, a coin flip will determine who is awarded the player

e. If a player passes through waivers, 50% of his salary, rounding up, counts against his previous team’s salary cap as a cap penalty, until he is claimed by another team or until the end of the current season. Any bids for him as a free agent must be at least 50% of his previous salary.

f. The team that dropped the player may not nominate or bid on the player until 30 days after the drop date, unless the keeper deadline occurs in between the drop date and the player’s new auction.

While it is true that both could be kept, there is a financial benefit to cutting players unlikely to contribute immediately. I’ll focus on the case of Bumgarner, but his case applies to any injured player at a high salary.

His prior owner controlled his rights at $46. When news broke that he would be on the shelf for the better part of 2 months (which may be conservative), he was cut and his owner took $23 dollars and had a $23 cap penalty. The likely motivation for the cut was having $23 immediately, and another $23 when another team nominated him for auction. On top of that, there is the insecurity that comes with Bumgarner’s performance when he returns. Will the injury linger?

While I expect Bumgarner to go for north of $30 in this auction, no teams in this example league have the necessary cap space to bid that high without making substantial cuts. This plays to his original owner’s advantage. He can scoop up any players cut by teams to make space for Bumgarner, using the added savings to bid aggressively on players who appear to be breaking out during the season.

As an owner of Bumgarner, I would have relatively little reservations on cutting him at $40+ if the league as a whole was tight on cap space, knowing that I would eventually recoup all that money. Sure, that places his minimum bid near $20, and theoretically another team could get him cheap. However, in an active league teams are likely to bid well above his minimum, causing him to be owned cheaper than before, but not nearly cheap enough to qualify as a bargain. Is a $30-$34 Bumgarner an elite asset given the uncertainty surrounding his return? He could end up being one if he returns healthy, but I probably wouldn’t be the person to pay to find out.

The last topic I want to touch on with in-season auctions is that of price enforcing. Can you do it well, if so how?

The answer is yes. There are two main ways that teams can price enforce during the season. First, depending on where you are in the standings it is relatively easy. Since ties on free agent bids are awarded to the team lower in the standings, teams in first place should bid the minimum on every auction. Why? Because the only way a first place team will win an auction is if they bid $1 more than the next highest bid. When a player is nominated for an auction, the nominating team obligatorily bids the minimum. So if you are in first, and Byron Buxton has a $6 minimum bid, bid $6. Whoever nominated him will only get him for $6 if that was their maximum bid, otherwise, you have pushed his price to $7. This works for any player. If you are at the top of the standings bid the minimum liberally.

Second, bid on players you think could have value even if you don’t want them. This requires more guess work. If you think that Jason Vargas or Heath Hembree could be worth $3-$4 even if you don’t need them, make a bid. This might mean throwing in $2, hoping to push their final price to $3. In doing so, you can push their prices up slightly instead of allowing another team to own them for $1. While this seems like rather common knowledge, most owners (in my experience) simply ignore bidding on auctions for players they don’t want. I would discourage this.

What about you? Are there any specific tactics you like to employ with in season auctions? 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

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Iowa Blackoutrestrictions
Iowa Blackoutrestrictions

Thanks for the article. Ottoneu budget strategy can get complex and the strategy in these two areas are not obvious. As a MadBum owner in this position, I’ve been torn. Here is a question. As the original owner who cut him, I would be able to compete in the new auction for him this year. Assuming I win the auction with a bid lower than his original full price tag for the season (say, $33 when his original was $45), I wouldn’t be penalized anything beyond that $33, correct, because the original penalty for the cut would disappear with the new auction and my budget would get the money back before the auction is completed? In other words, could I potentially maintain MadBum at a discount price and not incur a budget penalty that stays on the books this season?


Hey, obviously not the author here, but I had Harvey last year in a similar position and cut him so I think I’ve got the answer here. If you cut him, you almost certainly CANNOT participate in the auction.

As long as someone else starts the auction on him within 30 days of you cutting him, you are precluded from participating in the auction. The only way you can be in the auction is if it starts more than 30 days after you cut him, which is highly unlikely. In that unlikely scenario that you were able to participate in the auction, you are correct that the original penalty would disappear.