Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Common Delusions About Trades

by Todd Zola, on May 22, 2013 @ 13:00:00 PDT


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I've given the knights a week off in exchange for participating in an exercise that will entail more time than it usually takes to contribute to the weekly Round Table question. Okay, that's a lie. Truth is I got caught up in some other stuff and failed to send out a question for this week. But that prompted me to think about what I could do instead and I indeed came up with an idea.

I'm going to make up a pretend league with rosters and standing, assign the knights teams and task them each to make a trade. In two weeks, the Round Table will be the negotiations for the consummated trades along with a brief review by the involved parties. We'll make the rosters and standings available next week.

Chicago Cubs SP Matt Garza
How do you get someone you want?

Since the negotiations will likely take up some decent bandwidth, I thought I'd do a pre-emptive Lord Zola's Wrap-Up now. This won't be your canned "Tricks of the Trade" piece but rather some focusing on a couple of common misperceptions when it comes to trade evaluation followed by a mini-rant.

Part of what I do is answer e-mails. One of the more common themes is "Trout for Harper, who wins?" Don't worry, Trout and Harper are just examples of names, they're irrelevant to my point. I'm just contractually obligated to mention Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in every fantasy piece. What I want to focus on are the last two words -- "who wins?"

Maybe this is more picking semantic nits than anything, but if there is a winner, that means there is also a loser. My issue is trades should not be about winning and losing, but rather leaving your team better after the deal as opposed to before it. Ideally, both parties accomplish this, the proverbial win-win. That said, I'm not naive. I know there are plenty of leagues where the sharks feast on the minnows, so winning a trade is more apropos.

The common misperception in all this is that trades are about the relative value of the involved players whereas it should be about the intrinsic value to the respective teams. How the players match up on paper using some arbitrary means of measuring worth is the wrong way to go about evaluating trades. Instead, look at the entire roster before and after, being sure to account for all the associated ramifications if the positions don't match. Who replaces the guy you are losing? Who is the new guy replacing? It's the overall impact on your roster that fuels the evaluation. The objective is to be better as a team. Take the players out of the vacuum. People can't breathe in a vacuum, and trades shouldn't be evaluated in one either.

"The other common misnomer when ..."

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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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