Fantasy Baseball Round Table: An experiment in trade negotiations

by Todd Zola, on June 5, 2013 @ 14:19:30 PDT


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And now for something completely different: As mentioned last week, I put together a pretend 12-team mixed league with rosters and standings (CLICK HERE) and randomly assigned the Knights to a team and challenged them to make at least one trade. Today and next week we'll share some of the negotiations as well as some commentary.

Kansas City Royals SS Alcides Escobar
Escobar dealing

Let's begin with office mates Tim Heaney and Nicholas Minnix:

Tim gets Mark Trumbo, Felix Doubront and Brian Dozier

Nick gets Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Parker and Alex Avila

NM: Whenever you're ready to swap me Jose Reyes, just lemme know!

TH: How about Alcides?

NM: I will trade for Alcides, surely. I have power at multiple positions and am willing to give some of it up for steals. It appears that HR and RBI are areas where you could use some help. Mark Trumbo, Nelson Cruz or Curtis Granderson is on the table, depending on who I get in return. Lucas Duda is a possible throw-in, someone I can even out a deal with, as well. I would swap one injured player for another (Curtis Granderson for Jose Reyes) if you would agree to it now. I'll think on this a bit more, either way. Are you willing to deal a SP, too?

TH: Yeah.

NM: Sweet. How about Nellie Cruz or Trumbo, your pick, and Doubront for Alcides and Parker? Unless you want to give up Reyes instead. I could also toss you Dozier and Ellis for Avila and Nix, haha

NM: This'll be like the Jays-Marlins deal. Just a heads up that Perry is willing to deal Michael Bourn straight up for Trumbo

TH: Was about to send you: I get Trumbo, Doubront and Dozier. You get Alcides, Parker and Avila

NM: Hmm - That may very well work for me. Yeah, I'll do that

TH: Great, pleasure doing business.

NM: Indeed.

TH: And Brian Dozier will hit 15 HR! This year's Trevor Plouffe!

NM: Bourn was attractive, but this addresses multiple things. Hey, he might. If he does, won't bother me.

TH: Right, I figured this would be a benefit for that. I love Parker, too but this makes sense for both sides.

NM: Yeah, I'm keen on Parker but, he could suck again, who knows.

TH: And you moving up in SP cats helps me!

NM: Haha. I need reliable SPs. Justin Masterson, ace, not really cool with me.

Lord Zola's Analysis: Honestly, to me the deal itself is secondary. There are several compelling side aspects that lend some valuable guidance to trade negotiations. Most importantly, it should be no surprise that a couple of co-workers that communicate on a regular basis were able to seal a deal. There's just a natural comfort level and familiarity with your trading partner.

Granted, Internet leagues have carved out a huge niche, but the hometown league is still a mainstay. From a practical sense, if you are new to a league or don't have as much direct contact with other league mates, you have to work that much harder to overcome this disadvantage. Hopefully this means being social with the league in between trade talks so they get to know you a little. Most sites have message boards which can help foster this communication. Not to mention, making new friends and camaraderie in general should be as important as winning. Well, almost as important!

Something that really caught my eye was Nick telling Tim he had a specific counter, revealing Perry and the player. Personally, I have no issue with this, but you should realize some may. From talking to people over the years, some assume personal correspondence is personal. As such, if I prefer the negotiations remain private, I ask my trading partner to keep the talks to themselves. It is rare I ask this, almost exclusively in keeper leagues when I am stealthily trying to acquire the best keeper when rebuilding or the best non-keeper when contending and I don't want the league to know my intent. I will only divulge other offers if I feel it is necessary to get the deal I want done. This is one of those human element areas that falls under the commandment of "Know thy league."

Note how the swap was initiated by an icebreaker that set the tone for the negotiations. I may be wrong, but my guess is there was an inside joke with Nick opening with, "Whenever you're ready to swap me Jose Reyes, just lemme know!" Many deals are as much of a battle for control as they are an exchange of players. Granted, Nick and Tim have an obvious comfort level going for them, but beginning with what appears to be something to elicit a smile from Tim sets a tone where neither will feel they need to be in charge, so to speak. We have all been involved with someone that has to have you accept their offer or add a sweetener to your offer. The casual nature of the icebreaker puts the parties on a level field.

Finally, I like how choices were offered as it is one of my favorite ploys. This is a passive aggressive means of being in charge yourself. The other individual perceives they are running things since they are the one actually choosing the players - they have the control. But, they are choosing from a list you have already decided is acceptable. They can take whoever they want from the lists. And you'll frequently be pleasantly surprised when they choose the players you prefer them to, leaving you what you feel are the better players. If you offered the better players and the deal was accepted, you'd never know they actually preferred other players instead.

Things get more business-like....

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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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