The Art of Trading

The fantasy baseball trading deadline is quickly approaching.  For those of you with an early deadline that has come and gone, you can bookmark this article for a later date.  For the rest of you, I’d like to take some time to discuss trading.  Over the years I’ve had some good offers come my way, but more often than not, I hit the reject button scratching my head wondering what the guy who made the offer was smoking (and why I wasn’t offered any).  Trading in fantasy is just like everything else, it’s a skill, an art form if you will that can be taught and somewhat perfected.  Anyone can offer player A for player B, look at the numbers and say to themselves “this seems fair”.  But is it really?  Is the player you’re offering someone they need?  Are the players equal in value? (and I’m not just discussing numbers)  Did you open any kind of dialogue with this person or did you just throw out blind offers in hopes for the best.

Going about a trade the right way could earn you a future trading partner even if no deal is agreed upon.  Do things the wrong way and you could turn off or potentially insult the other owner damaging any future negotiations.  There are so many easy ways to go about a trade negotiation, simple steps and acts of effort on your part that can stimulate the process.  This isn’t a step by step guide on how to trade, just simple steps to take that will help you achieve your end result, that player you covet.  Those of you who continue to read on realize you may need help or are interested in improving yourself as an owner.  Those who think they know it all will be back later next year digging through the archives.

Look at the other persons team
The Art of Trading 3This sound simple enough, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received an offer that on paper looks good, but made zero sense.  Case in point, you find yourself with 2 shortstops and decide to trade your extra shortstop for a player at another position.  Offering that player to an owner who already has a strong player at short will probably lead to a rejection.  I’ve had several people offer me a second baseman this year, one for an outfielder and the other for a starting pitcher.  Both offers were fair, but with Jose Altuve on my roster already it made no sense.  In essence, you’re asking someone to trade you a starter and giving them a bench player in return.

Put yourself in the other owners shoes and ask yourself, If I was on the other end of this deal, would I take it?  Look at their roster, examine what their team would look like after the deal.  If you wouldn’t take the deal then odds are, they won’t either.

Start with the teams that are weakest at the position you are trying to deal
Regardless of the position you are trying to trade away, the other team has to need that player in order for your trade to work.  If you look at the other owners team, you can narrow down your trading pool.  You will also potentially increase your return for said player if dealing with someone who really needs them.  Most people don’t do this.  They get fixated on a particular player and by doing this, you’re trading with blinders on as there could be a better deal to be had elsewhere.  Narrow down the teams that can use your player the most and evaluate who has the best player at the position you are seeking and start there.

Going back to the beginning, I said look at the other players team.  Is the player you are focusing on their primary starter?  Do they have an adequate backup for that player?  This person may be in need of a second baseman, but if you are looking for a third baseman in return and they only have one they will need a replacement.  In that case, throwing in the lower tier guy you’ve been using is an option.

Open a dialogue with the other owner
When making your initial offer, include a note or maybe send an e-mail to your prospective trading partner.  Tell him the player/position you are looking at.  Let him know you can help him at another position.  Finally, let him know what other players you are willing to trade.  If you send someone a blind offer with no note or previous conversation,  what have you learned?  You have no clue if they don’t like the player you are trying to trade or if they don’t want to move their player.  You’re back at square one.  So you try again with an additional player included and are turned down.  Does he not like the extra player?   Again, you’re left guessing.  If you include a note or contact them in advance, at least you have a starting point for your negotiations.

Maybe, even though he needs an upgrade at second, he prefers that pitcher or outfielder you named as a player you would be willing to trade.  Maybe he might be willing to trade you the backup he has at the position you see for a lesser player that you have no problem dealing.  That might not have been your initial plan, but now you have a slight upgrade at the position you seek and still have the original player you were trying to deal.  Maybe your newly acquired toy plus that player can get you can upgrade at the position you seek from someone else.

Give the other owner a choice
Above I said give the other owner a list of players you would be willing to trade and or throw in.  I believe this is an essential key when trying to make a deal.  If you offer someone player X as an extra player to spice things up, more often than not you will be turned down.  One of the top reasons you were turned down is, they didn’t care for player X.  If you offer them a choice, a list of 3-5 players for them to pick from, you just put them in the driver seat.  You gave them the power of control and the feeling they are dealing from a position of power when it’s really the other way around.  You are also giving them a player that they prefer instead of what you were willing to offer with your initial proposal.  Most importantly, you alleviate yourself of any responsibility if that extra player turns out to be a dud or gets hurt down the road.  You didn’t force this player on them, they picked him.  Now they can’t look at you like you dumped damaged goods on them.

Ask them what they want
If the other owner doesn’t like the players you are offering, ask them what they want.  You offered them players that you thought they might want or could use, but maybe there is something else they are looking for.  Maybe it’s a pitcher you picked up off waivers that you didn’t offer as you didn’t want to insult them.  Maybe it’s a slumping hitter that you’re down on and didn’t think someone else would want.  While offering the other owner players that you believe they can use is smart in theory, it doesn’t always turn out to be the case.  There is a chance that the only thing that owner wants from you is one of your better players that you are unwilling to trade.  If they are set on getting this player in return, you can either rethink things and make it happen or thank them for their time and move on.  You’ll never know until you ask.

The Art of Trading 5Overpay if you can afford to
Some may disagree, but I’m a proponent of this (especially in keeper leagues).  Over the past two season I’ve overpaid for a number of players.  Some worked out, some didn’t.  The important thing is, I got what I was looking for and while I overpaid on paper, it was a price I could afford given the condition of my team.  This year in my keeper league I traded away Jose Quintana and Robinson Cano for Anthony Rendon.  On paper I lost this one.  Quintana has been hot (and more valuable in leagues that count quality starts) and while Cano hasn’t put up his regular power numbers, he’s still hitting for a high average and filling up the stat sheet.  Long term though this is a winner for me.  Rendon is only 24 and putting up numbers comparable to Cano.  Quintana was a waiver wire pickup for me who wasn’t in my keeper plans, plus he was 1 of 9 starting pitchers on my roster.

So how did this come about.  The owner offered me a trade and asked for Quintana & Brock Holt.  I didn’t like the players they were offering and made a counter assuming they wanted Holt.  Turns out they wanted Quintana.  Once I knew the player he wanted, I examined his roster and proposed the trade.  Could I have gotten Rendon for less?  It’s quite possible.  In the end though, I thought it best to make a strong first offer instead of trying to negotiate a better deal and give them time to rethink Rendon’s long-term value.  Now if this were a redraft league I might have asked for an additional player in return since my only concern would be this year.  If it is a player I really want though, and I can afford to lose an extra player to get him, it’s worth it to me.

Don’t worry about winning every trade
Most people don’t overpay because they want to feel they got the best side of the deal.  Many people won’t even accept an offer unless they feel like they’ve won.  Sometimes if a deal favors the other person, but is close enough and improves your team, it’s still  a win.  This is especially true in those quality for quantity deals, the one where you give up a stud player for a number of lesser ones.  Everyone likes to be on the side that receives the stud, but if you receive a comparable player to replace your star plus and additional person (or persons) who either fill a hole in your lineup or are an improvement over your current starter, don’t turn your nose up at it.  Trades like this could make the difference between making the playoffs and playing golf (or concentrating on fantasy football).  You can’t look at the trade in a vacuum, you have to look at it as a whole.

If someone were to offer you Brain Dozier for Carlos Gomez, you might scoff.  But, if you’ve been struggling along with Brandon Phillips all year and had maybe Josh Willingham or Austin Jackson sitting on your bench to replace Gomez (or even a Chris Carter off waivers), you come out ahead.  What makes your team better, Gomez & Phillips (slash whoever you grabbed of waivers to replace him) or Dozier and Jackson.  You take a hit in batting average but everywhere else improves.  That’s a win even though you gave up the better player.

 

There are other things to consider which aren’t really rules, but more trade etiquette.  Not adhering to any of these could have consequences long-term if you are an habitual offender

Lowball offers
The Art of Trading 1Some see these as a valuable tool in starting the ball rolling in a negotiation, but they can also be a detriment to your ultimate goal.  Offering a player of lesser value for the player you are aiming for lets the other owner know you are interested in a particular player.  In some cases, this could lead to a counter offer and negotiations which is what your intentions were at the start.  Other times, it could end your quest before it even begins.  You’ve all received a lowball offer (or 10) over the years, and more than likely it ended in one of 3 ways.  One would be the scenario which I just described.  The second would be you reject the traded muttering *expletive deleted* under your breath “What does he think, I’m Stupid or something?”.  The third scenario is where you counter with an even more ridiculous offer than was made to you, your way of expressing your feelings for the pile of crap that landed in your inbox.

In two out of three scenarios you’re not getting a deal done.  One of them leaves the other party scratching their head wondering why you rejected the trade and possibly countering with a different (and maybe better) offer.  Problem is, the waters have already been muddied as your first offer was seen as an insult.  This cuts the odds of you completing a trade with this person in half.  The other scenario has both parties angry at each other, one for the initial offer and the other for the counter.  You can pretty much end all negations now and maybe revisit them on another day.

If you want to make a low ball offer, do it right.  I said earlier to include a message with your trade, this would be the perfect instance to do such a thing.  Make a note saying you’re interested in this player but are unsure what to offer or what they are looking for or need.  Now your lowball offer isn’t an insult, it’s a fishing expedition and you’re just need to know what kind of bait to use.  Something as simple as that can defuse a potential ugly situation and lead to your eventual success.

Don’t take advantage of the new guys
If you are in a public league full of strangers and you see someone who obviously has no clue what they’re doing, disregard this.  Odds are you’ll never play with these people again and if someone is willing to trade you Edwin Encarnacion who slumped in April for Brandon Belt who lit up the score board, take advantage and laugh all the way to the playoffs.

This rule is more for those who play in leagues with the same owners every year.  Sometimes you need to replace an owner in these leagues (for whatever reason) and the person you bring in may not be as experienced as the rest of the group.  You could take advantage of them, rob them of their riches and laugh about it afterwards, though doing so you take the chance of 2 things happening.  First is you’ve alienated yourself from this person in the future.  They may resent you later on for taking advantage and this can hinder any future dealings you may have with this owner.  The second thing that could happen is they may have such a bad experience that they don’t come back, and now you’re stuck trying to fill that void again.  This is especially tough when it comes to keeper leagues as you not only have to find a new owner, but you have to get someone who is willing to come in and clean up this persons mess.

My personal rule when it comes to new guys, I don’t trade with them their first year.  I have had several new owners in my keeper league over the years and a few of them had never played the game before.  I could have made some bad proposals, offered hot no name guys plucked off the waiver wire for their slumping stars, but instead I just looked elsewhere when looking for players to acquire.  I know someone who is the exact opposite of me and when it comes to trading partners, his field is very limited for people who will deal with him (regardless of the offer he throws out).  Let them learn the players, enjoy their experience and see how things work.  Maybe you can even advise them, point out a player or two on waivers that could help their team (provided you can’t use that player yourself).  By doing this you put a rosterable player on a weaker team and more importantly, off of your primary opponents team.  If they make a bad trade, send them an e-mail telling them what was wrong with their trade, point out things they might not have considered.  By being a mentor of sorts, you make a friend and potential future trading partner.  At the very least, you gain their admiration and respect.

Be Nice
The Art of Trading 2I’m going to assume you have All seen the movie Road House and you know the scene of the movie I’m referring toRemember, this is a game, it’s not personal.  If someone rejects your trade; be nice, try again next time.  If someone insults your proposal; be nice, explain why you thought it was a good idea.  If you make a ridiculous offer and it gets accepted; be nice, don’t laugh about it publically afterwards or insult that person’s intelligence.  If you complete a deal; be nice, thank them for the trade and wish them luck.  It’s funny that I’m preaching the side of Dalton here as I have more of the Morgan temper, but when it comes to fantasy baseball I curb my darker side.  This is a game.  I know you all want to win but it is supposed to be fun first and foremost.  If you’re winning but not enjoying yourself, then what are you playing for (because nobody outside of fantasy baseball cares about your virtual trophy case).  I’m not saying you can’t smack talk, but there is a line between talking trash and being a prick.  If you don’t know where that line is, you’re That guy.

Like I said at the start, none of these things will guarantee you a successful trade, but following a majority of them will lead to more completed trades in the future than you’ve accomplished in the past.  The trading deadline is approaching…..Happy Hunting.

Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball. You can also find me at FanRagSports.com