Ottoneu 101: Navigating Ottoneu Cap Space

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Ottoneu is a different fantasy game. The format has it’s own scoring settings, based on linear weights, and is hosted here on Fangraphs. However the biggest area of adaption required to play the format well is an understanding of the economics surrounding the game. Hopefully this can serve as a general primer to navigating the differences between formats.

The first place I want to start is with the Ottoneu rules. These appear pretty straight forward and can be easy to understand, however, like all things, the devil is in the details. So let’s comb through some of those.

There is no FAAB budget in Ottoneu. That format does not exist within the game. However, According to the Ottoneu rules, each team has a $400 budget that can be used to acquire players at the annual auction (“draft”). The remainder of these funds can then be used to buy free agents during the year.

“That sound a lot like FAAB, but without a set budget”

Kind of… The difference comes in a couple of different areas. First, every player you want to add during the season is put up for a two day blind auction. That’s simple enough. The winner of the auction is the team that bids the most, with the player’s salary being one more than the 2nd highest bid. Any new auction won counts against your $400 salary cap.  So, it’s kind of like FAAB. If every player already had a salary, and you had to stay under a set roster limit for your entire team. You also must keep $1 open for each of your 40 original roster spots. (Rules I.b., II.b., V.b., V.c.)

Because the $400 auction limit exits, most teams will save between $5 and $20 dollars coming out of the draft, assuming they fill 40 roster spots. This isn’t a hard and fast rule.

“That doesn’t seem like a lot of leftover money. You only spend $5-$20 on free agents all year” 

This is also kind of true, and lines up with how I said the devil is in the details. Looking at the Ottoneu rules:


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.

So there are a couple things to takeaway here. Let’s assume you save $10 out of the draft. Immediately following the annual auction, you would have $10  for free agent pickups in season. However, this will change as the season goes on. If you cut a $10 player, you will get $5 back immediately with $5 counting as a cap penalty against your team. So now, you have the $10 you started with plus the $5 from the player you cut. However, combining these points from the rules, one would notice that 30 days after a player has been cut, he could be renominated, and cut again. So now you would have $10 (post auction) plus $5 (first cut) plus $2 (second cut), and a $3 cap penalty. 30 days later, you can repeat the process again. You get the idea. If however you cut a player and another team puts him up for auction or claims him, then you would get the entire cap penalty back immediately. This means that each player you cut, over the course of the season, will  move toward $1 or $0 dollars of cap penalty as the season moves toward October.

“What about my expensive player who isn’t performing? I should just trade them for anything I can, right?”

Please don’t do that. This is helpful to keep in mind if you own the likes of a $30 Carlos Gonzalez. You don’t need to trade him, and it’s probably better for you if you don’t. Instead, you can cut him and take $15 in cap space. If someone puts him up for auction, you’ll get all $30 back to play with. You can use that money to go after this year’s pop-up guys with aggressive bids (Edwin Diaz, James Paxton, etc.)

“But what about that Carlos Gonzalez I cut? Someone else can pick him up for $15, right?”

Sure, but in order to do so they have to put him up for a 2 day blind auction (See V.d. above) and 10 other owners will be able to bid. This means that, while he could be picked up for $15, it is more likely that he pushes the low $20s by the time other bids are involved. Players who fit the mold of these high dollar cuts typically include those with poor starts and high salaries, or injured high salary players.

Each of these nuances above are typically held as common knowledge by those who have played the game for a while, but when you add in the ability to include loans on trades it becomes a little more complex.


c. Salary cap dollars can be traded between teams (i.e. team A can agree to count one half of a traded player’s salary against their cap). However, these loans will not remain in place once the regular season ends.

While nearly everyone who plays the game understands that loans are typically given to balance the dollars going back and forth in a trade, there are a couple points worth noting. First, a cap neutral trade is not one that results in no change to your cap space. While in theory this is true, what is practically true is that the dollars have to account for the number of players changing hands. I will illustrate with an example. Both teams have zero cap space and agree to a deal with $50 in salary and 1 player being exchanged for $20 in salary and 3 players. The standard operating procedure is to say that a $30 dollar loan covers the difference and makes the trade cap neutral. This is not true. To make this trade cap neutral, you need a $30 loan to cover the salaries, plus $2. The extra two dollars is for the obligatory $1 per roster spot needed for a roster (Rules I.b.i)

“Some owners want some extra money in a trade to make a deal worthwhile for them. How should I account for this?”

It depends what exactly they are asking for. I have seen trades where a player is given in exchange for a loan (and no player). Typically I would not endorse these trades. Instead, you should offer to take a player with no additional loan given to the team losing the player. The reason being that the team parting with the player will already be shedding his full salary and gaining all the cap space associated with his salary. There isn’t a reason to include more money to the opposing team in most cases. Typically these deals spawn from as a misunderstanding, with one owner saying “I will give you my $8 Odubel Herrera for a $1 loan.” in a situation like this what the owner is actually saying is, “I will give you my $8 Odubel for $9 of your cap space.” These are very different things.

Additionally, some try to sweeten deals with loans over what would be cap neutral. An example may look like this:

“I like this deal we are working on, but would like to gain $6 in cap space. I feel I’m giving up too much to do a cap neuteral trade, but if you give me $6, I’d be happy to do the deal.”

In a situation like this, some may decide to give the necessary loan, but there is a far more beneficial tactic. Offer to nominate a player’s cap penalty instead. So for example, maybe this owner has a $7 cap penalty on Felix Hernandez. Instead of doing the deal, offer to nominate Felix. By doing this he will gain $1 more dollar than he is asking for which is favorable to him. However, you will not necessarily be locked into a $7 Felix. First, while unlikely, someone else could bid. Second, assuming you win Felix at $7 (no one else bids over you), you can cut him immediately, freeing up $3 in cap space. Instead of giving the $6 loan this owner originally requested, he freed up $7 at a cost of $4 to you. In 30 days, reauction Felix again. As time goes on, the “loan” you gave by nominating Felix will diminish.

These are just a couple nuances that make Ottoneu great. The devil is in the details so watch out for intricacies. What about you? Are there any specific cap space tactics that you like to employ?



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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7 years ago

On multiple occasions this season I’ve sold a marginally useful player for a loan of a couple dollars in order to create cap space. I seen no problem in such a deal where there isn’t a player coming back.