Ottoneu 101: Is it too early to sell?

If you’ve ever played Ottoneu, you likely realized that it’s a different fantasy format. The 40-man rosters are deep, and the player universe is much larger than the standard fantasy offering. There are auctions for nearly all acquisitions, and during the season there is no FAAB (just the money you decide to budget for free agents.) However, perhaps the biggest difference between Ottoneu and other formats is the playoff structure. Ottoneu doesn’t have one.

Ottoneu is a season long race, starting the first day of the regular season and ending with the season’s final game. The objective is pretty simple. Score more points over your allotted game and innings caps than your opponents. If you aren’t playing in a money league, or your league has not designed some added incentives of their own, then there likely aren’t incentives to finish in second place relative to twelfth.

Due to this, many of those who play Ottoneu will ask the question “when should I sell.”

This question typically falls into the following bucket. “My team isn’t performing as well as I expected, and I don’t think I will be competitive since I am already down 400 points. Should I sell even though it isn’t May?”  Generally, owners want to get the best return they can and feel that selling the earliest will allow them to do so. The specifics of this question may very, but the outcome is typically the same: Teams start poorly, gain a pessimistic view of their team due the the 1 month of bad play, and think they should sell.

So what happens if your team falls into one of these buckets? What should you do?

Buy often. Buy early. When in doubt, buy.

I don’t intend this to be dogmatic (and there are certainly situations where selling is the necessary step). However, in my experience, most teams that sell do so too early, and probably should be buying. I understand the temptation. There are certainly times where I have tried to sell, or felt I should, and have made a rash decision, but there is a major lesson to take from this. If you feel you are on the fence, you should buy. There are a couple of reasons why.

1.) The season is long.

We are one month into the season. As bad as this one month has gone, we are 1/6th of the way done. 1/6th! That’s all. If you have 5 good months and one bad month, you would still have a good season. Maybe you have Manny Machado and Matt Carpenter. Their starts have not been terrible. The underlying statistics look promising. The points just haven’t come in yet. In situations like this, we need to recognize that even star players have low scoring months (even if their peripherals are good). We don’t need to sink the ship too early because of this.

One of my leagues has not started out nearly as positively as I had hoped. Injuries and poor starts have taken their tole on the squad, and I am left at the bottom of the standings. However, while the temptation to sell is definitely present at specific points, I am moving forward with buying. Why?

2.) This temptation to sell is not unique to your team.

Like I said, Ottoneu has one champion and no playoffs. 11 teams will lose. Because nearly everyone loses, we tend to be acutely aware of trying to hedge our risk that things go poorly (we are risk adverse). Most owners tend to not care if they take 2nd or 12th as long as they improve their chances of winning the next season. In countering our own temptation to sell, sometimes it is helpful to acknowledge that nearly every other owner in your league is going to have the same feelings at some point during the season. This isn’t a new thing.

Additionally, we need to acknowledge that those who sell early do not always get the best return. They certainly can, but it isn’t a guarantee. The most common justification I see for selling early as opposed to waiting (even if you know you will sell) is that the return you get for selling early is “larger.” While this certainly may be true in theory, we do not want to confuse “selling early” with “selling first.” I would caution against making a deal because you want to be the first team to sell. Rather the opposite is true. You don’t need to be the first team to sell, you just want to make sure you are not the last team to sell. You can still receive any benefits of selling early even if you do not sell first.

I feel I am on the fence. Now what?

If your season has not gone the way you envisioned, and you are trying to figure out how to proceed, I would encourage you to buy. One of the easiest ways to stop a slide in the standings is to add more talent to your team. Many times teams think they may be too far out and decide to “wait and see.” I would caution against this. If you keep waiting, and things continue the way they currently are, then the decision to sell becomes far easier. However, that decision could have been avoided if you moved forward in buying earlier. If the question is “are you buying” and it’s early, the answer should nearly always be “yes.”

Also, not every trade needs to be a “buy” or “sell” move. That’s far too binary. Maybe you trade Matt Carpenter and Carlos Santana for Paul Goldschmidt. Instead of trading one of them for prospects or cheaper breakout types. Moves like this are perfectly fine and may be the best course of action if you feel you have insufficient depth.

Does this mean I shouldn’t sell?

No. There are certainly situations where selling makes sense. Sometimes teams are legitimately bad. However, the number of teams who should be selling at the end of April is very minimal (maybe 2 at most). To discern this, I would probably look at how your team stacks up against others by projections. However, I would do this acknowledging that the temptation to sell is normal, and that nearly everyone in your league will feel it at some point. Realize that being the first seller isn’t important.

What are your methods to selling? Are there any practices you typically take? 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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I took over a team this season with a lot of old players on large contracts. Over $100 allocated to just Miggy and MadBum and, well, that’s clearly going well. Also pretty thin on mid-level talent.

I do have substantial cap room (second most in the league and more than $60) and have been grabbing any $1 lottery tickets. I’m hoping I can wait the season out another 1-2 months and then trade one of those players, eating their contracts for this season.

As it’s my first year, I’m wondering what kind of return to expect for these guys. I’d like to focus on being fringe-competitive next year and not just hoarding A-AA players but it seems like it’ll be hard to pry contributing talent away.

Classic roto scoring for our league.