ottoneu is now officially ready to provide you with something baseball-related to do on post-season off-days or less-than-tense games. You may have noticed in the last 24 hours or so that ottoneu arbitration has begun. Every league homepage has an arbitration tab (some say “Arbitration Allocations” and some say “Arbitration Voting”) and owners are now free to go in and allocate or vote.
I’ve provided some details on these processes in the past (an outline of the new allocation rules, strategies for arbitration voting, a look at the process I used to determine my votes), but there are two things I haven’t covered yet: How the Arbitration Allocations tool works and strategies for how to handle your allocations.
I am not going to spend much time on the voting process (check out the articles linked above for more on that), but will remind those of you using this system of a few basics: You vote for one player on each other roster and whoever gets the most votes becomes a free agent. Each owner gets a $5 discount on the player voted off their team if they buy them back at the auction. You can vote whenever you want by clicking on the “Arbitration Voting” tab on your league page, your votes are blind (so you don’t know who else is getting votes), and once you vote for a given team, your vote is final.
For those who have switched to the new system, the tool is similarly straight-forward. If you click on the “Arbitration Allocations” tab on your league page, you will see a drop-down menu showing all 12 teams in your league. Once you pick a team (other than your own) you will see a table with five columns: Name, Original Salary (the player’s 2013 salary assuming no allocations added), Other Adjustments (allocations made by all owners other than yourself), a column of drop-down menus where you can assign your allocations to that team, and New Salary (2013 salary including allocations). If you visit your own team’s allocation page, you see the same info but with no column of drop-downs, so you can track who is receiving allocations and how much.
Here’s a quick example: Let’s say someone in your team paid Mike Trout $12 this year. You go to that team’s page and every other owner in your league has allocated $2 to Trout. You make a $3 allocation to Trout. Next to Trout’s name, you will see an Original Salary of $14 (his pre-arbitration 2013 salary), Other Adjustments of $20 ($2 per team from each of the 10 team’s not counting you or Trout’s owner), $3 in a dropdown (your allocation), and $37 (Trout’s 2013 salary accounting for all allocations). Pretty simple, right? Let’s say that in a week it is announced that Trout needs surgery and is going to miss half the year, so you want to change your allocation from $3 to $1. If you go back to that page before 11/16, you can do just that. The allocations do not lock until the end of the arbitration process. Pretty simple, but if you have any questions, you can ask in the comments.
Now that you know how to use the tool, here are three strategic considerations that will help guide my allocations:
1) Allocate early, allocate often: I plan to try to get my allocations in for all my leagues in the next week to ten days. Nothing locks, so I have no expectation that this “first draft” will be final, but by getting my allocations in early, I increase the amount of information other owners have to make their allocations. I also want to encourage other owners to act early so I can go back and make changes in reaction to their input. In one of my leagues, I know I want Paul Goldschmidt to go up a decent amount, but not more than $10 or so. I will likely allocate $2 to him early, but go back and adjust – if no one else hits him, I may add a third dollar. If everyone else hits him, I may take one of those dollars back and re-allocate it. In my mind, in an ideal scenario, every owner allocates during week one and then adjusts over the next few weeks, so that we can all react to each other and end up in a reasonable equilibrium.
2) Keep Players Keepable – but Just Barely: My goal is to make owners keep all of the dollars I allocated to them. If owners in my league, for example, allocate $20 to a guy who becomes a candidate to be cut, I will consider myself fortunate. I will effectively avoid the penalty of having $20 added to my salary number since I get to just cut that money loose. Similarly, I don’t want other owners to be able to easily cut loose the allocated dollars. Instead, what I want is to take a guy who should be kept at $25 and cut at $26 and make him cost $23 or $24 – enough that the owner keeps him this year, but has a really tough choice in subsequent seasons.
3) Avoid Prospects: Except in an unusual circumstance (a very weak or very prospect heavy roster), I do not expect to allocate to prospects. Assuming you agree with #2 above, my 2013 is impacted based on the total dollars allocated, not the dollars per player. If my roster has $250 of keepable players and you turn that into $275 of keepable players, it makes no difference in 2013 which players you allocated to – I have the same set of guys at the same price if that $25 got added all to one player I keep or to four players I keep. With this in mind, allocating to a prospect is way too risky.
Let’s use Wil Myers as an example. Let’s say he costs $5 in my league now. If we make him cost $10, there are two possible outcomes – one, he is a star and we end up allocating another $20 to him after 2013. Two, he is a bust and gets cut anyway (yes, I know this is a vast over-simplification). If the second case comes about, the owner cuts Myers after 2013 and the $5 we allocated to him goes away. If instead those $5 were put to a more stable player, those allocated dollars stay with the owner longer and impact his team more. As an owner, I would much rather have other owners put money on my prospects, who very well may turn out to be busts and get cut anyway – you are basically giving me a 50-50 shot that those allocated dollars go away after one year. If I would rather have my prospects hit, then I am not going to hit other people’s prospects.
Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.