Automatic Service-Time Arbitration

With Arbitration on everyone’s mind, I’d like to post an automatic arbitration concept I’ve been thinking up. The idea is that player salaries increase a set amount based on how many years they’ve been under on contract with additional “incentive” increases based on all-star appearances and end-of-season awards. This would certainly change player evaluation and auction strategies – which is kind of the point. Owners would be able to keep their breakout players for longer, but there would still be a lot of inflation in the system that would push players back into the Spring auction.


This is really interesting. I do think it would swing the pendulum more in the direction of dynasty (Ottoneu sort of sits in the middle between redraft and dynasty), which some people would appreciate.

The extra increases for MLB awards seems somewhat arbitrary so I’m wondering if there is a better, more automated way to control for that inflation (maybe just make the regular contract increases higher). This would push some players into the auction that wouldn’t normally be there.

I would need to think about the implications on trading.

If a minor league player is kept on a roster for three full seasons but never debuts in MLB, does he increase by $3 or $6?

$3. I felt like keeping the default $1 increase for minor-league players makes sense.

The incentive awards are somewhat arbitrary, but then so is manual arbitration. At least there’s no incentive for gold glove winning – that would be highly arbitrary.

I kept the incentive dollar amounts down to avoid too much of a cumulative hit – i.e. a Cy Young winner also winning the MVP. The important one to me is the RoY increase – it’s one small speedbump to slow down a Judge-Bellinger dynasty.

Still, the paradigm I would hope to establish is that a) managers pay a little more and wait a little longer on prospects since the reward is bigger; and b) that managers pay more attention to in-season auctions, both offensively and defensively.

I like the idea of automating arbitration. However, I’m not eager to have to pay attention to contract status from year to year, and the whole strategic framework would shift quite a bit under the escalating salary concept. If we want to automate the process, let’s keep the $ amount to $300, like it is now, but simply distribute it according to a predictable algorithm. To mimic the split of $ added to great players vs. high-surplus players, we could distribute $150 based purely on points, and $150 to fill in low salaries among high performers.

For example, add $6 to the top 6 finishers in points, $5 each for #7-12, $4 for 13-20, $3 for 21-28, $2 for 29-36, $1 for 37-48. Then add the number of $ required to bring all top 12 finishers up to $30, #13-24 up to $25, #25-36 up to $20, #37 or greater up to $15 (until the $150 run out.) Depending on league salary details, you probably run out of dollars around #50 or so.

This approach would push most of the dollars to the best players without introducing a lot of complexity and unpredictability to where the dollars are going. It would also keep valuations much more in line with the current model.

I chose top 50-ish because that was 900 points this year, and it seems about where the high-level players sit. There might be a better way to formulate an automated arbitration scheme, but this seems like a decent place to start.


This would probably work just fine. On one hand, some of the dollars would go right to players who are obvious cuts, including players that have been injured, are retiring, or are already carrying a huge salary. On the other, it would hit a lot of the breakout players and there are always a bunch of them.

I do go back to the fact that arbitration is a pretty blunt tool and probably doesn’t need a complex algorithm to work just fine. I’m not even sure we need the plateau-valuation you propose.

I also like the fact that your plan leaves trending players alone, making it easier to rebuild.

I am somewhat fond of my incentives idea – it would drop a few extra dollars onto top players and create a little fantasy drama – and schadenfreude in the early post-season.

To expand on this, I prefer the current arbitration process to what is proposed. Further automating the process only seems to take more strategy out of the game. It seems that the only problem it aims to correct is that if inaction by owners. That’s not a unique problem to ottoneu - but rather all fantasy sports.

I also agree with others that the MLB award bonuses would be too arbitrary. In general, I believe that attempting to more rapidly adjust prices through automation would only serve to further encourage inaction during the off-season and potentially punish those who actually do seek to build their teams by seeking out undervalued talent.

If inaction is the root of the issue, I’d first prefer to move arbitration to a different time of the year or offer incentives/penalties. (i.e. lose some % of team salary if you do not participate).

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