Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Art of The Fantasy Baseball Trade

A selection from the #1 selling fantasy baseball guide on Amazon two years running...

Value is relative. One man’s Evan Longoria is another man’s David Freese. This is the obstacle you must overcome since everyone has different allegiances and opinions on players’ values. Some will work in your favor and others will work against you. There are some tricks to “the trade”, and being able to consistently pull off good deals on a yearly basis is an art form. Much like teaching a young artist to paint, I can give you the techniques but you must find your own brush stroke and inspiration.


First and foremost always be polite and courteous. You are selling something after all, and no one wants to buy something from someone who is rude or obnoxious. Always inquire about the availability of the player you want, then offer a concise reason this deal would improve their team and yours. The key word is concise. You cannot venture into a deal at the expense of the potential partner. Not only will that never fly with the other owner, but if it did you run the risk of ruining other potential deals down the road. They simply won’t trust you anymore. Also, be sure never to bash your potential trade partner’s players no matter how they may have under-performed  It is rude and insulting and the last thing you want to do is alienate a potential match. Generally speaking, less is more. You should always try to find a positive starting point to the dialogue and try to present a deal that is your common interest.
If they reject your proposal or are “insulted” by the very thought you asked about a certain player you should politely ask for a counter from them to see if you can find a middle ground. If they are adamant, then just say “Thanks for getting back to me.” and call it a day. DO NOT BELABOR THE POINT! You will rarely convince an owner like this to see things your way, but leave the door open with a “Let me know if there are any deals you might be interested in making surrounding player X down the line.” That way you keep the lines of communication open for the future. Listen to what they have to say. If they should start a dialogue or counter offer, that is a sign they are interested and ready to deal. If they become flat out negative, walk away. Getting into a debate about how you see things and how they see things will still leave you without a deal. Don’t waste your time. That energy can be channeled into finding another solution elsewhere.
It never hurts to inquire about players you think may be untouchable. Every now and then they me be had for the right price. Most of the time, they will be unmovable. If an owner says someone is off limits, never push. It will be a waste of time and energy for both parties.


“Leverage is having something the other guy wants. Or better yet, needs. Or best of all, simply can’t do without.” –Donald Trump
When making trades leverage is everything. If a big player goes down in your league be the first guy to offer a solution. Yes, you are a vulture swooping in. But vultures stay full don’t they? If you are offering a lifeline then you are helping the other owner. Don’t attempt to take advantage. Instead, devise a strong argument and preset package of talent (with options and flexibility) that will keep the other owner afloat and improve your roster at the same time. Be creative, think outside the box and listen to what they have to say. Cater to their needs as best you can and you may get your wants taken care of at the same time. One sided deals may work once, but you will never foster a long term relationship of making deals.
This is where the deep bench comes into play again. When you don’t have to make a move, but you see an opportunity to improve your situation that is the right time to pull the trigger. You should always be looking to get better no matter how many games up you are in the standings. A deep roster maximizes your options. Complacency is death in fantasy. Be careful not to send out deals too frequently. It may also alienate potential partners and you may come off as too aggressive or unsure of what you are doing. See your opening and strike while the iron is hot.
I am always a big proponent of moving young talent on a hot streak for proven players when possible especially in non keeper formats. It should always be about winning now. Although rookies carry great fantasy sex appeal, they can be very up and down. Major league players with experience are easier to predict and easier to manage.
Always buy low when you can. Players who struggle out of the gate, but have a solid history of production should always be targeted. Track record does matter and they usually are just a few hits from a hot streak. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The low risk maneuver is still a good one even if it doesn’t work out every time. Trying to deal for a red hot superstar will cost you dearly and chances are even the best player is due for a market correction at some point. Wait for that “down” period and then try to pry him away when the window opportunity presents itself. Never buy at the height of the market or after a guy throws a shutout with 14K’s. You are just asking for trouble.

Poker Face

Another way to win out on trades is to know your fellow owners’ tendencies. Do they covet Yankees because they cannot separate their rooting interest from fantasy? Do they love young players and collect them like trophy wives? Are they a glutton for sluggers? It’s a poker game and knowing their “tells” will inform you of how to approach a potential deal. Exploiting your enemies’ weakness is an art form. If you can do this well you may be shocked what you can get back in return.
Understanding the market for a player is a tough thing. Generally speaking, it is always wise to have more than one dialogue going with multiple teams when trying to make a trade. If you are shopping Justin Upton let’s say, and owner A makes you an offer, then find an owner B and possibly C and try to get as many offers on the table as you can and choose the best one. To play one owner against each other is a dicey business. It may put some owners off to dealing with you, so tread lightly. Never grandstand about how much better someone else’s offer is for Upton. If it was really that much better, then take it. If you want to try and improve owner A’s offer then level with them and tell them you have received a better offer you are taking. If they want to go above that then you should listen and give them a chance to counter before pulling the trigger. Courtesy is nice and sometimes surprisingly effective. Even if the offer does not improve, you have shown to be an owner of integrity. That keeps the roadway open for future moves. 

Weak and Strong

Every league has strong owners and owners that are not as strong no matter how expert the level of the league.  Some of the best deals I ever made were with the better, savvier owners in my leagues. I have also taken my fair share of stolen talent from those owners who are impatient or ill informed. Always be confident in making offers. Before you click send, always put yourself in the other guy’s shoes and honestly ask yourself if you would do this deal if you were in their shoes. If the answer is an honest “yes” then send away. If the answer is no, then work harder. The stronger owner will not dismiss you and the weaker owner may be grateful you are showing them the light.
When the deal is done, you want everyone to benefit from the move you made together. If it is one sided, they will be less apt to deal with you again and you can’t survive that way in a league. You need good, solid, respectful, relationships that can help advance your placement in the standings. You should never allow yourself to rip someone off. It is bad for your baseball karma, bad for the future dealings with that owner and bad for the league as it will raise suspicions and potentially embarrass the other guy as someone who got duped. Now, there will always be sour grape critics. That is a different story. If you know you made a fair deal then sleep tight. If someone is jealous, too bad! They should have been more active and made a deal happen for themselves. There is a difference, but always put your best foot forward for the good of all involved.

Be Fearless

Be a fearless owner when it comes to trades. Always listen to offers and push when you can. You may be able to get more than the initial offer. Don’t be afraid of dealing big names and turning over your roster. Some deals may not work out for you despite being the “smart” move. Guys get injured, under-perform and sometimes don’t live up to your expectations. Get right back up on that horse and keep trying to improve. Stay active, do your homework and always look for the missing pieces of your puzzle. Making the right deals at the right time will always be a huge advantage for you in your league.

Fantasy Black Book (c) 2013

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