Ottoneu 101: The Cap(ps) Space Dilemma

Playing Ottoneu typically requires an adjustment. Many fantasy leagues have some form of keeper/dynasty component, but having a player’s “keepability” be tied directly to his salary can add a wrinkle many owners are not familiar with. Sometimes this can be daunting. How do you value players when salaries come into play? Where is the line between talent and salary and how much weight do both of these factors hold? What do you do with a highly paid player who is under performing? How do I account for the salary cap? What if I have no financial flexibility? How am I supposed to make free-agent pickups or gain cap space?

These are several questions that spawn out of the specific salary structure within Ottoneu. While I certainly can’t answer all these questions at once, I want to take some time to focus on the last one. Specifically, how Ottoneu is different than other fantasy formats for free-agent pickups and how you can use this format to help gain an advantage on your league-mates?

Does Ottoneu use FAAB?

Ottoneu is slightly different than other fantasy sports in that it doesn’t use FAAB for in season free-agent pickups. All in season free-agent auctions are determined by blind bids, with the winner being the team who bid the highest, at a salary of $1 plus the second highest bid. Ties are broken by the reverse order of the standings (or a coin flip in the offseason). Each team has a $400 salary cap at the start of the season. Throughout the year, this salary cap is added to or deducted from, based on incoming and outgoing loans. Total player salaries are deducted from this cap, and the remaining budget is what can be used for free agent pickups during the year. So, if I currently have $395 in player salaries I can put any unowned player up for auction and use my $5 in cap space to bid on this player. Ottoneu will allow me to bid more than $5 – forcing my roster into an illegal state – but I will have to make a corresponding cut for my roster to be legal again.

There is an added wrinkle. Every time you cut a player, half their salary rounded up to the nearest dollar is held against your salary cap. According to the Ottoneu Fantasy Baseball Rules:

Rule V. Section 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.”

 Due to this, cap space among teams in constantly shifting. Each add will further limit your available cap space, while each cut will increase your cap space if the player in question has a salary of $1 or more.

How can I remove cap penalties?

While each cut incurs a cap penalty, it is important to remember that cap penalties can be “removed” from your team. Technically speaking, this cap penalty is not removed but rather transferred (in the form of player ownership) to another team, but practically, the team that originally cut the player will no longer have a cap penalty associated with their squad. This allows for another easy way to gain cap space for free-agent pickups and waiver claims. In order for this to happen you or another team has to auction/bid on a current free-agent with a cap penalty on your team. From Rule V. e – “Any bids for him as a free agent must be at least 50% of his previous salary.”

 A practical example, if you owned a $13 Michael Pineda and you cut him, you would gain $6 in cap space from the cut, but be left with a $7 cap penalty. If however, Pineda was re-auctioned, then a minimum bid of $7 would be enforced. Once the auction had ended your $7 cap penalty would be removed since Pineda is now owned for $7 or more. There are a couple ways to use this to your advantage. The most discussed historically is to re-auction players with current cap penalties on your squad every 30 days (you must wait 30 days to re-auction and bid on a player you previously cut). By doing this, you ensure that someone will own Pineda (removing his cap penalty). If no one in your league bid on Pineda, you would own him for $7 at which point you could cut him again if you chose. This would give you another $3 in cap space and a new $4 cap penalty (replacing the $7 penalty that originally existed). Practically this allows a cap penalty to be cut in half every 30 days.

Any other ways to gain cap space?

 While it is commonly understood amongst Ottoneu players that the cycle of cut/re-auction/cut/re-auction can yield benefits, there are a couple other ways to gain cap space on your league. One way is to trade for high priced players who are either injured or having terrible years. If a balancing loan is included, you gain a high priced asset which you likely have no interest in owning, then cut the player to gain the cap space associated with the cut. An example from early in the season would have been to trade a back end prospect for a $15 Carter Capps with a covering loan, then cut Capps for $7 in cap space. This $7 in cap space will increase as the cycle of re-auctioning and cutting him continues. A good way to target players for this tactic is to make a list of some players whom you believe are borderline keepers at half their current prices. I wouldn’t advocate targeting a $48 Paul Goldschmidt for this tactic, as an example. Kyle Schwarber, Justin Upton, Shelby Miller, Yordano Ventura, Carter Capps, Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Pineda are potentially great candidates depending on their current salaries.

In my 4 years playing Ottoneu, one thing I have noticed is that teams tend to be far less aggressive with cuts than they probably should be. I definitely fell into this trap at first. I would strongly advocating cutting players who have either gone down with an injury, or have been terrible to date. The $36 Justin Upton you’re holding on to? Especially if rebuilding, I would cut him. I wouldn’t wait. It is likely that someone will re-auction him in the low $20s and you will be left with $36 in cap space. It can be difficult to cut bait with an underperforming talent – it’s even more difficult when they have Upton’s history of success – but in many instances, the cap space gained from the cut is far more impactful than the marginal player you could get in return via a trade (given that a loan is typically expected in trades like this). If Upton was re-auctioned for $22, maybe that ends up being a good deal for one of your rivals (though at this point I’m not convinced Upton is a $22 player). Even if he is, you will be left with a supreme amount of cap space to pick up many of the breakthrough players that come off the free-agent wire. As you look at your Ottoneu team, are there any potentially over paid players you are considering cutting? Have you been able to gain cap space on your rivals through other means?

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

Been debating this with a $29 Puig