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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Moreover, while I trust in the integrity of this league above and beyond any other in which I've participated, and have no resentment towards any two teams that make any trade at any time in the season, that's not the case in every league. The further the gap between the teams in standings, and the later in the season, the more ANY trade will be likely to be viewed as favoritism or collusion. If we're trying to present ourselves as a model for the industry, I think the "trade with anyone at any time" standard is far, far more likely to lead to abuse in more casual leagues.

I don't mind if no one agrees with me on this, and I'm not trying to suggest my view should be legislated into any further restrictions on trading. But, that's my two cents.

Scott Pianowski

While I have a ton of respect and fondness for Cory, I think his post creates a lot of grey area. When is it too late in the season for non-contenders to trade with contenders? How far back do you have to be in the standings to be put on the trade embargo list? Who are the also-rans allowed to deal with?

Tout used to have a rule (I'm 99 percent sure it's gone now, but that rule book scares the hell out of me) that restricted who could trade with who - I think it had something to do with slots in the standings, late in the year. One summer I found my team fortunate enough to be in first place, and yet ruing that I didn't have access to some trading partners that other contenders did. That's not a good idea, methinks.

I don't like legislating this sort of stuff. Give everyone a full-season carrot, trust in everyone's desire to do as well as they can, or combine the two.

Cory Schwartz

To be clear, I'm not suggesting legislating any of this. The standard is for each team to determine on its own. Anything can happen in baseball, but I think there's a point in each season when an owner can look at his or her roster, YTD stats and place in the standings, and reasonably decide if they are "in it" or not whatever "it" may be.

Patrick Davitt

Pittsburgh Pirates OF Travis Snider
With limited market, some flail

Cory said, "If I'm in 13th and make a deal with the 1st-place team but NOT the 2nd-place team, how can it reasonably be stated that I'm NOT affecting the race to the benefit of one team over another?"

Exactly so! If I have a deal in place to benefit the first-place team, which would add 3 points to its year-end total, but don't do it out of this sense of "fairness," and that team goes on to lose by 2 1/2 points, I affected the race (and hurt my own standing) by not acting.

Cory Schwartz

That's hindsight and your "impact" on the race was passive, by virtue of inaction. Making a trade is an active impact on the race.

Rick Wolf

We have made deals from last place in late July and moved to third place and thought we might challenge for a victory. So at the risk of mounting a high horse, play to win and this is a non-issue.

Patrick Davitt

All trades are only assessable in hindsight.

Anyway, this seems to me like a difference without a distinction. Team 7 trades with Team 2 and both gain 3 points. Team 14 has a trade with Team 1, a deal which would gain each team the same 3 points, but elects not to do it because of this concern. Team 2 wins because of what certainly seems like an *action* by Team 14: deciding not to deal.

Peter Kreutzer

The issue here, as Cory says, is that the team fighting to win the championship has the big prize in sight, call it eternal glory and all that, while the also-ran is trying to gain a few points that no one is going to notice, whether he succeeds or not. One of the reasons for adding the FAAB penalty and to rank the reserve draft order according to finish in Tout was to put a price on failing and a prize on succeeding, no matter where in the standings you are.

This has the benefit of actually rewarding teams that improve themselves as the season progresses, no matter what their position, and it adds a little balance to the cost-benefit analysis all teams do when they decide to trade, or not. A team may decide to give a star player to a contender for three big maybes who might help it climb out of the penalty, but that's with the knowledge that if the three maybes crap out the penalty will get bigger.

Absent that, it seems to me the also-ran always has to justify trades made with contenders. If you're providing the piece that could put a team over the top, are you getting enough? That's not to say you shouldn't make a deal, but I do think you have a little extra responsibility to make sure you put as big a hurt on as you can before pulling the trigger, because what's at stake for you is so much less valuable than it is for the other side.

One way to handle this, as I think Scott suggested, was to broadcast that you're making a deal. If you're offering up a star for three long shots, let all the contenders know so they can bid against each other. The destructive move is the also-ran dealing something to one contender for less than another contender would have paid.

This should be called the ...

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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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