Arbitration Strategies

This great article (https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/strategies-for-closing-ottoneu-arbitration/) from @chy924 made me think more about a question that I was already pondering. What is the perceived strategic advantage from waiting until the last minute to complete arbitration? It appears that this is a common strategy, but what advantage could it give to the team that waits?

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For me personally, I like getting direction from the rest of the league. It makes the entire process very fast.

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Outside of total misallocations, I think that arbitration is like voting. What one team does is not that important. What is important is every team doing it. So early, late, one dollar at time, all at once – for the individual manager I don’t think there’s any meaningful strategic advantage of going first or last. I think a manager has to talk themselves into seeing a strategic advantage.

That said, I agree with Niv that when a bunch of teams have arb’ed and you can scroll the list of arb’ed players and see who is getting tagged, it is easier to make or adjust your own dollars than when the slate is blank.

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If you’re paying very close attention, you can track who is allocating what to your team. For example, Player X is the first to allocate, so I can infer that the $3 added to my Julio Rodriguez came from him. So I record that and then wait for the next allocation when Player Y goes. And then Player Z, etc. So long as I check before the next person goes, I know who is allocating what to my team before the results are published at the end of arbitration. Note that this only works if people don’t change their allocations. So if you have a hyper-focused person in your league, then there might be some advantage to doing it as late as possible.

I did that the pandemic year (2020) in one of my leagues because there wasn’t a lot going on. It’s not exactly actionable information in that it shouldn’t change your allocation strategy (e.g., it would’t make sense to go tit-for-tat). But it was interesting to have the data in real time.

If you really wanted to go full nerd, maybe write a script that web scrapes the arbitration table once per hour or something and have it identify changes. Probably not worth the effort since it’s not going to inform future decision-making, but it should be possible.

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There is no competitive advantage to waiting. Completing your arbitration generally leads to others following suit quicker, at which point you can utilize the data and change you allocations if necessary. Its probably most strategic to put is some bogus allocations on day 1 with plans on revising later.

Waiting could also lead to forgetting completely, which would be a big competitive disadvantage for your team, and would qualify you as an awful person.

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