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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Derek Carty, Baseball Prospectus

This is the first year I've ever heard someone with the standpoint of Todd. One fellow owner in Tout Wars or LABR that I tried to trade with was dogmatic about it, and I'm surprised to see how many people play this way to one degree or another. Part of the skill set necessary to winning a fantasy league is trading. If the teams at the top of the standings aren't at least exploring opportunities to trade and improve their position, they're making a mistake. Even if my team has no chance of winning, why would I hinder a competitor's ability to improve his team? If he has the initiative to come to me with a fair deal, I'm going to accept it. If I don't, I'm essentially removing a whole team's worth of players from the league in his eyes, players that may be particularly suited to helping his team which he will no longer have any chance at all to acquire.

Maybe a team at the bottom doesn't want to have an effect on the top of the standings, but it's going to no matter what. Absence of action is still action. Making a trade may help the team win, but refusing to trade may cause the team not to win. And worse yet, it may cause the more deserving team to not win. If you ask me, the team that is trying its hardest to win by engaging everyone in trade talks is more deserving than the team that sits back hoping his team is good enough, all else equal. But if every team that is out of contention refuses to make moves, it essentially removes the trading element entirely, and that's not the game we play. If this is how we're going to play, why allow trading at all? Why not just draft and hold? That's what we're doing if we refuse to trade.

Fred Zinkie,

I would definitely make trades with anyone in the league all season. I believe that every owner should take pride in doing everything they can to finish as high in the standings as possible. Finishing fifth is better than eighth, so do what you have to do to make it happen. In combination with being open to trades with everyone, I believe that to have a credible league all owners need to continue to add free agents and rotate lineups all season.

Paul Greco, FantasyPros911

Absolutely I try to move up during the season even if I might technically be out of it. The big stink I get from people that follow me is, "Why do 'experts' quit if they know they're not going to win?" I follow that up with, "I finish until the end, even if I'm not in first." I think it's important to not only represent your site, but teach those that follow you that you have to do everything you can to continue to climb the ladder because you never know what will happen in the fantasy baseball world. Sometimes the baseball gods shine down on you.

Zach Steinhorn,

Maybe it's because I usually have a lot of confidence in the players I draft and tend to give them a long leash, but I'm not a huge trader. I usually make 1-2 trades a year, and in some leagues I might go through a whole season without making a single trade. But if I am going to trade, I don't pay too much attention to where my trade partner is in the standings. Even if I'm out of contention, if I think that the deal will help me gain ground, that's all that matters. And I do see a difference between finishing in 7th or 10th. That's three more guys who I can say I beat! Plus, with the trade deadline in most leagues being no later than mid-August, who knows what will happen in the final six weeks of the season. A deal that you might think will put your league-mate over the top could land up hurting him. In fantasy baseball, like in real baseball, crazy things can happen.

Greg Ambrosius, STATS LLC/NFBC

Tampa Bay Rays RP Fernando Rodney
Deal Rodney from last-place squad?

Absolutely. Every owner should do everything possible to improve his team throughout the season and finish as high as possible in the standings. If that involves a team that is battling for the league title, so be it. You have to do everything you can to improve your team.

Cory Schwartz,

I've become an increasingly conservative trader over the years, and that is particularly so when I don't think I have a shot to win - or place "in the money" - in a non-keeper league. Simply put, if there's no gain for me in making a deal other than perhaps the pride of moving up 2-3 meaningless points in the standings, I don't want to influence the top of the league by making a deal with one of the front-runners. There's simply too much room for another team to interpret the trade as imbalanced, influenced by favoritism, or worse, collusive or downright dishonest. All teams are fair game for trading in keeper leagues, but in a non-keeper league, the pool of active traders should shrink, not grow, as we close in on the trade deadline.

Tim Heaney, KFFL

I recognize the arguments for not helping out the competition if you aren't going to win your title, and I'm sure we all have varying degrees of time investment in each league, depending on our chances of winning. Still, I play with as much pride as possible, to finish as close to the top as possible, even if you don't get dollars for finishing "in the money." I'd much rather try to move out of the basement just to say I didn't finish in the basement. If nothing else, it's a solid educational opportunity to try new tactics so you can apply them to more competitive situations and keep growing as a player.

You should always try to improve ...

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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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