One of the most popular topics in any fantasy sport is trading. Most people love to trade. It gives owners the power to exercise their managerial intelligence in an attempt to improve their roster. At face value, trading seems very simple: teams agree to swap a player(s). If only it were that simple. I’ve learned over the years that trading in fantasy baseball is not a science, it is an art. It’s a delicate process that involves multiple team owner’s intelligence and emotions. When thinking about how to trade, I try to stick to these guidelines, and generally have had success:
- Look at other teams needs before making an offer. Sometimes it’s not about what you need, it’s about what the other team needs. Finding the right team with a hole that you can fill is just as hard as finding a team with a player that could help you. Very often deals aren’t completed because teams simply can’t help each other fill gaps. Look around your league at all of the rosters; make educated decisions when ready to make an offer. Generally, if both sides feel as though they ‘won’ the trade, something gets done.
- You have to give something to get something. Somewhat self-explanatory, and where etiquette comes into play. You can’t offer a scrub for an all-star and expect someone to accept the deal. Don’t send offers that you wouldn’t consider to be fair yourself. If you do send another team a trade offer that is borderline offensive to their intelligence, it can be more damaging than simply having the trade rejected. It can offend them to the point that they will no longer trade with you, as well as give you a reputation as a bad trader. I’m not saying overpay with your first offer, but balanced trades are good for everyone.
- Fantasy owners want to feel like they have ‘won’ the trade. Many owners will not accept a trade unless they feel they are getting the better side. Very often if you have two strong minded individuals working on a deal, it is very difficult to get a trade completed. If you REALLY want a player, and are dealing with an owner like this, you may have to take a risk and offer a little bit more than you would like in order to acquire that player. Not that you want to give up the world, but you may have to offer more than you think is fair. Just try to keep it reasonable.
- Don’t trade players at their lowest value. Fantasy owners do this all the time and it’s a big mistake. Trading a slumping player is not going to help you, in most cases you will regret it. If you are trying to trade a top draft pick that is under-performing, you should expect to get less than his full value in return. All other owners can see his stats and also know he’s under-performing. They will try to take advantage of that knowledge and offer less value than you would want to accept. If you do make a trade, and that under-performing star then begins to produce as expected, you lose. In most cases, it’s much better for you to be patient and hope he turns things around.
- Essentially, the opposite of my last point; buy-low on a slumping superstar where possible. Usually star players don’t completely fall apart from season to season. If there is a star that begins the year in a slump and you think you can acquire him for less than full value, I say take the chance. Too many times I’ve seen good players break out of slumps and turn things around to finish seasons close to their career averages. You already missed the poor stats during the slump, so enjoy the hot streak that you paid less than full value for.
- Consider trading ‘hot’ players if you think they will regress. It may be difficult to let someone go that is on fire, but players generally play to their skills over the course of a season. If an average player is playing well above his ability, it may be a good idea to see if anyone is interested in him. Try to get greater value in return than someone at his level would normally yield; you may be surprised what other teams will offer for a player that begins the season on a hot streak.
- Don’t begin a trade with your best offer. If you believe you have a potential trade partner, and you have players that could fill a gap for them, start out with a reasonable offer, but not necessarily your best. This leaves room for a few counter offers, but potentially gives you the opportunity to make a trade for what you feel is less than full value. As long as it’s reasonable and not offensive, it may just get accepted.
- Dialogue is key. Giving a bit of context with your offer can go a long way in making a trade happen. Even before sending an offer to another owner, send them a message or start a conversation to see if they would be open to an offer. Talking about a potential offer can entice discussion and potentially lead to an agreement that both owners are happy with.
- Be aware of the trade deadline. This is also somewhat self-explanatory, but you don’t want to miss out on a good offer because you waited too long to make a deal. At times the trade deadline can sneak up on you.
- Let the other team choose from multiple players. Team owners like to be in control. If you want Player A from someone, give them options to choose from and let them exercise their power. Some examples of this could look like:
- Exchange Player A for Player B, C or D
- Exchange Player A for Player B and either Player C or D
- Exchange Player A for either Player B or C and either Player C or D
I realize some of the above statements conflict with each other, and that is part of the art. Not every league and not every scenario is the same. Each person you may be negotiating with is unique but the over-arching idea should be consistent: do your diligence and make reasonable trade offers.
Trading can be one of the more emotional and psychological aspects of fantasy baseball. It’s very difficult to predict if an offer will or will not be accepted, or if another owner is even interested in trading. You should always monitor your team and position in the standings. You may need to trade to acquire players that could help you make a late season run at a championship. Finally, trading isn’t only beneficial for your team’s overall roster… it’s fun.