Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Trading between contenders and non-contenders

by Todd Zola, on August 1, 2012 @ 16:30:00 PDT


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So I get an e-mail from a fellow Mixed LABR owner who is battling tooth and nail with four others in an effort to be the inaugural Mixed LABR champion. He inquired about the availability of one of my players. The thing is, I am in the lower third of the 15-team league and with due respect to the "anything can happen" legion, trust me, it ain't happening. Sure, I can gain some standings places, but not enough to even sniff the traditional "money" spots of win, place and show. So I replied back that it is against my philosophy to deal to a competing team when I am hopelessly out of contention.

Then the guilt set in. Did I do the right thing? Mel Brooks says it is good to be the King, but in my case, it is great to be the Lord as I have the e-mail address of every League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) and Tout Wars participant neatly stored in my contacts, so I sent out the following, with the understanding that I could use their responses in this week's Round Table.

Grab a snack, my friends; I touched a nerve with my industry brethren.

If you are obviously not going to win a league such as Tout Wars or LABR, will you make trades with those competing in an effort to move up in the standings, even if it is not a "money" finish?

Todd Zola, Mastersball

If I make the difficult yet honest decision that I am not going to finish in the upper half of an industry league, I am very reticent to deal with someone with a legit shot for the championship. I am as prideful and competitive as anyone, I want to finish as high as possible and I will continue to make roster moves, pick up free agents, etc. I'll manage the categories to maximize points, take more chances even if the risk outweighs the rewards. But, I am uncomfortable impacting the title chase for what may be deemed selfish reasons. Granted, selfish is a bit hyperbolic, but my feeling is letting those who are fortunate to be in the hunt battle it out is more important than my moving from 12th to 9th. That said, Tout Wars has a rule to encourage competing year-long and that is penalizing the lower finishes with a FAAB tax next season, deducting FAAB based on your finish. In this instance, I would deal with a competitor as a last resort, but I would first exhaust all other avenues, specifically dealing with others in a similar boat.

Perry Van Hook, Mastersball

Only if it does not help my trading partner more than it helps me. I think the objective for these leagues is to have as much transparency as possible while showing what we would do in private leagues. Competitors should always try as hard as they can to do their best ... but there shouldn't be an unfair advantage given just for the sake of making a trade. Actually in Tout this is easier to defend as there is a penalty (loss of FAAB dollars) for falling below threshold marks so if that far down you want to avoid that just like you would try for a "money" finish.

Brian Walton, Mastersball

Texas Rangers OF Josh Hamilton
Wolf, Colton: all-in

I am a bit surprised by the question. Competing to one's maximum ability should always be the intent. That is accentuated in leagues where others are watching.

Having said that, it is only natural to lose some intensity when down in the standings. In that case, fewer trade offers will be initiated. Even so, other teams are bound to contact you, asking about trades. You owe it to everyone to consider them fairly.

Scott Wilderman, OnRoto

I will do whatever it takes to move up in Tout Wars - I've never given up trying to improve my position.

Scott Pianowski, Yahoo!

Short and sweet answer to this one: You compete for the full season, you never stop trying to move forward (or maintain the position you have).

David Gonos, RotoExperts

Without question, I'll try to help my team through to the end of the season. The part that gets tricky for me is - will my trade eventually result in pushing one owner ahead of another for the league's championship?

I'm not real comfortable with that, no matter how fair the trade is. I'd rather not have a hand in deciding which of the top four or so owners win the whole thing. In a money league, with friends, it's a different situation, only because it doesn't affect the reputation of a writer or a website.

That said, if a team makes me a fair offer, and I see that it can help me gain more points than I lose, then I'd do the deal. If it screws one of the other owners, so be it - they should have tried to trade with me first.

Rudy Gamble, Razzball

We compete until the last day in all our leagues. If a trade truly helps our team, we will make it. Last year, we traded Pujols for Cliff Lee in NL LABR to gain pitching points which helped us finish middle of the pack versus towards the bottom. While it's natural to put more focus on teams in leagues where you are contending, there is no reason to just give up on a team completely.

There was a lot of discussion ...

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Something that is conspicuous by its absence is how you, the general public, feels about this issue. I don't mean your personal philosophy; I mean what do you prefer to occur in industry leagues such as Tout Wars and LABR? Playing in a public league, should I have entertained the trade offer that precipitated this soiree? Please send your opinion to and you might be a guest Knight in next week's Fantasy Baseball Round Table.

About Todd Zola,

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at and, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums. Fantasy Baseball

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