Wasting $11 at Auction – And Being Okay with it

Sometimes in this game of ours, you make a mistake and it comes back to bite you almost immediately. The pitcher you should have benched who gives up a first-inning HR. The trade you make for the injury-prone pitcher who hits the IL the next day.

Sometimes, however, those mistakes are a slower boil, taking their time to show you what you did wrong. This is a story of one of that kind of mistake – with the advice that you just can’t worry about it.

It’s about an hour into the auction for league 1, and a bunch of OF are long-gone. Masataka Yoshida, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Cody Bellinger, Seiya Suzuki, Giancarlo Stanton, and Christian Yelich have all been nominated, big and rostered. Jesse Winker has just been nominated and the remaining OF options are not that exciting. The next four OF to be nominated will be Patrick Wisdow, Bryan De La Cruz, Jarred Kelenic, and Alex Verdugo. There’s some upside there, there is some floor there, but there isn’t anything exciting there.

Of course, I don’t know those will be the next four. I know they are out there, and I can guess they are coming soon, but all I know in the moment is that I have cash to spend, I need another OF I think can be a game-changer, and after Jesse Winker, things get iffy.

So, I starting bidding on Winker. He’s a $15-$20 OF in this format, more with some inflation, and I have a need, so I am willing to bid aggressively. And I do. And so does another manager, and I find myself watching the clock tick down on a $33 Jesse Winker, who immediately becomes my second most expensive player (tied with Alex Bregman) and one of four OF I hope to lean on this year, along with Juan Soto, Yelich, and Randy Arozarena.

There is some good here – I like Winker to rebound, I should have a very strong OBP in this 4×4 league, and I had the cash to suck up that price and still pay an insane $12 for Spencer Steer later.

But that is an awfully high price to pay for a guy who is coming off a season that can charitably be called “bad.”

Given how I titled this article and the first couple paragraphs, you are now likely thinking, “Ah ha! Chad’s mistake was paying $33 for Winker! And he is expecting it to come back to bite him sometime in the future!”

Well, that is an understandable thought, but it is not right. You see, I did overpay for Winker, but I did so intentionally. Given the circumstances – the need for an OF, the point we were in the auction, the roster I had, the remaining names on the board – I would do it again. I am fine with that price, based on where I was at that time.

But, let’s rewind. Back to midday on January 30, the day before the Ottoneu cut deadline, and I am debating my final cuts for league 1. I have some expensive bats that I am ready to move on from – $25 Rhys Hoskins was a tough one, but I had Paul Goldschmidt and Vinnie Pasquantino, so Rhys had to go. Christian Yelich at $27 felt a little expensive (sure enough, when I got him back at auction, it was for $26), so he is gone.

And Jesse Winker. Yes, the Winker I paid $33 for at auction. I cut him on January 30, as well. At $22.


That was my mistake. But, I told you many paragraphs ago that, “you just can’t worry about it.”  And I am not worrying about it. Why not? Because, my cut decision being wrong in retrospect doesn’t mean it was wrong at the time.

On January 30, I felt – as I did at the auction – that Winker was a $15-$20 OF. With some inflation, that made $22 a fine price, but not a great or even necessarily a good one. And I wanted option value going into the auction. I wanted that cash free to determine the best OF (or SS or SP or whatever) for my team. Looking back, I am still fine with that decision. I still think I made the right call at that time.

It may seem weird that I was okay bidding $33 on a guy I cut at $22, but the reality is those things have nothing to do with each other. I made a decision on January 30 with the information I had available to me. At the auction, my situation changed and I had new information. By the time Winker was nominated, I was willing to push above $30.

Stopping at $21 or $22 because I had cut him at $22 in January would have been giving into a version of the sunk-cost fallacy. The sunk-cost fallacy is when people continue to spend money on something because they already put in so much before, even though the new money is a bad investment. This is sort of the opposite – withholding money now because I withheld other money before – but the point is the same: the past is the past and when making a financial decision on something like “what is this OF worth to my team?” you have to focus on where you are in that moment, and not on a decision you made six weeks earlier, in different circumstances, with different information.

At both points in time, I made a decision that was right for my team, and the net result was not great. We all learn as kids that two wrongs don’t make a right, but in this case two rights kind of made a wrong. I’ll live with that, and still keep making right decisions to the best of my ability.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn from this. In the future, I think I will be more cautious about cuts in league one. Historically that league has not produce particularly high prices, but I think that has changed the last year or two, and I need to account for that better in my process. Lesson learned.


A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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11 days ago

Chad, I’ve been following this series of articles very closely as it reminds me a lot of my own situation. I just took over a ottoneu keeper (Fangraphs points) and will be participating in my first ever ottoneu draft in a little over a week. The Team has a very strong catcher duo, two big bats, a strong starting pitching staff and not much else. I currently have $115 to spend but 26 of 40 spots to fill. I was hoping you could give me some advise on how to attack this draft and what sort of strategy to implement. I really appreciate it! Here is my current roster. Thanks

C Rutchman $16 C Wilson Contreras $10 1B Goldy $50 SS Rosario $6 3B Machado $53 OF Peterson $4 UTL Bohm $5

DeGrom $55 Alcantara $26 Darvish $26 Rogers $13 Rassmusen $9 Luzardo $7 May $5