Ottoneu 201: Maximizing Salary Cap Space

Ottoneu auction leagues are drafting furiously to finalize rosters prior to the start of the regular season. Earlier this week Justin touched on the best way to build out a roster. Head-to-head is also coming to Ottoneu in 2018. The Ottoneu community is buzzing with prospect junkies and interested owners looking to join new leagues.

Needless to say, Ottoneu is now in full swing, so if you’re still on the fence about trying out the game this year, now is the perfect time to jump in with both feet. With so much activity in March, most of our Ottoneu content is geared toward helping new owners learn the basics of the game. However, today I want to detour and offer a few tricks of the trade that veteran owners have figured out over time that might benefit those who are trying to take their Ottoneu game to the next level this season.

Trading for players you intend to cut…for cap space.

No matter how good your pre-auction plan, it’s not all that uncommon to exit an Ottoneu draft with less cash that you had hoped to save for future transactions. While a good rule of thumb is to keep about $10 in cap space, it’s easier said than done when some of the better bargains find their way into your hands at the end of a long draft night. What do you do when you’re up against a tight salary cap to start the season?

Experienced Ottoneu players learn that it can occasionally make sense to trade for an injured (or subpar), expensive player with the intention of immediately cutting that player for cap space. In Ottoneu, you recover half of a player’s current salary towards your salary cap when you cut them from your roster during the regular season, so freeing up cap space is just part of the game. That said, it can be difficult to free up salary at the start of the season if you’ve spent too much in the auction, so acquiring a player with a high salary can net you some flexibility if you’re willing to give up less than what the cap space might be worth to acquire that player. Important: this strategy only works if you can acquire the expensive player with a loan from your trade partner.

Resource: How Loans Work in Ottoneu

Here’s a quick example where I’ve intentionally traded for a $9 Cole Hamels, who I plan to cut once he hits my roster because the $4 in cap space I net from letting him go is more valuable to me than what I had to give up to get it. Note that I would not have made this trade had the other own refused to include a $12 loan to cover the full salary difference in the trade.

Perpetually free up cap space by re-auctioning your old castoffs.

Sticking with the topic of freeing up salary cap space, you sometimes need to read between the lines of rules V.e and V.f to understand this best practice:

V.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.

V. 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.

The transaction “trick” here is best explained by another example (we’ll continue to pick on Cole Hamels, just to stick with the theme):

You own a $16 Cole Hamels and have also maxed out your salary cap of $400 to start the season ($0 free cap space). On Opening Day (March 29th), you start Hamels against the Astros and immediately regret it when he gives up four home runs in 3 innings. You decide to cut Hamels and let him be problem for someone else. By cutting Hamels you free up half ($8) his salary in cap relief (from $400 to $392), and also have a salary cap penalty of $8 that remains until another team either claims (24 hours) or nominates Hamels for an in-season player auction (48 hours), thereby freeing up the rest of his salary (another $8) towards your budget (from $392 to $384, or $16 in free cap space).

But what happens when no one in your league claims or nominates Hamels because they don’t think he’s worth $8 to begin with (see rule V.e)? That’s where rule V.f reminds us that you, the original Hamels owner, can nominate Hamels again for a player auction 30 days after the original drop date (March 29th). There are several benefits here to diligently reminding yourself to nominate Hamels (or any player you’ve dropped) auction again on April 30th:

  1. If another team wins the Hamels auction (at any price), you are then released from your $8 salary cap penalty (from $392 to $384, or $16 in free cap space)
  2. If you win the Hamels auction (at his minimum salary of $8), it costs you nothing ($0) towards your salary cap because you are already paying his $8 salary cap penalty (from when you cut him in March). Your total salary is still $392 but you now also own Hamels on your roster (again) for $8. At just $8, it’s not impossible to think that Hamels has turned the corner from a terrible start to the season and he contributes value to your roster for the remainder of the season
  3. If you win the Hamels auction (at his minimum salary of $8), you can immediately cut him again, starting this salary shaving process over, netting you half his salary ($4) in cap relief and lowering his cap penalty to $4 (from $392 to $388, or $12 in free cap space and a $4 cap penalty from Hamels).

Resource: The Cap Space Dilemma

Bottom line: there’s really no downside to keeping track of all the $2+ players you cut over the course of a season and nominating them again exactly 30 days later.  The upside is the ability to constantly free up salary space or add a player back to your roster at a more attractive price.

Trade negotiation: agree to eliminate another owner’s cap penalty

While we’re discussing ways to free up cap space, the option to help another owner free up their own cap space by nominating a player they’ve recently cut (inside 30 days) could be used as a value-add in trade negotiations.

Back to Hamels: let’s say I’ve cut my $16 Hamels (net of $8 in cap space) and am eagerly awaiting the long 30 day stretch needed to re-nominate him to free up more cap space (the more cap space I have, the more opportunity I have to cycle through useful players on the waiver wire or outbid my leaguemates on potential breakout players everyone is trying to add). Instead of waiting that full 30 day cycle, it’s possible another creative owner could approach me about trading for one of my other players and show a willingness to take Hamel’s $8 cap penalty off my hands.

For example, Owner B proposes trading his $25 Justin Upton for my $20 Gerrit Cole and $5 Lucas Duda. In the course of negotiation I communicate that I need a bit more of a return than Upton for that package, but we can’t quite seem to find that missing player from his roster that pulls the deal together. Owner B then realizes that free cap space is as valuable to me as other players from his roster he hasn’t been willing to give up and offers to nominate Cole Hamels for auction (where his minimum price is $8). The deal then becomes Cole and Duda for Upton and Owner B’s guarantee of immediately starting a Hamels auction.  The Hamels auction (which I cannot start myself inside 30 days) guarantees me the full $8 in cap relief (eliminating my $8 cap penalty) when the Hamels auction is complete. Owner B benefits from the deal because doesn’t have to give up another active player from his roster in the trade, and because there’s a (small?) chance another team wins the Hamels auction (saving him $8 on a player he doesn’t really want).  If Owner B does win Hamels ($8), he has the option of cutting down the Hamels cap penalty throughout the season in the same way I’ve described above), which is something he could not do if he just agreed to send me $8 in cap space alone.

Resource: Navigating Ottoneu Cap Space

Ottoneu is a blast but it also has some strategic nuance that takes some time to master.  Hopefully these tricks of the trade help you maximize your free cap space this season.  Are there other strategies you employ that aren’t well known? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Trey is a 20+ year fantasy veteran and an early adopter of Ottoneu fantasy sports. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,200 fantasy baseball and football fans talking sports daily. More resources here:

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Ken Giles Right Hook
6 years ago

Awesome article. Ottoneu newbie here. This helps a lot