Fantasy Baseball Round Table: An experiment in trade negotiations, Part II

by Todd Zola, on June 12, 2013 @ 14:20:48 PDT


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We'll continue on with the trading exercise we began last week. If you recall, a pseudo-league with representative standings and rosters was created and we assigned teams to the Knights with the goal of everyone agreeing to at least one trade. A transcript of the negotiations will now be offered for more deals as well as some intermittent commentary.

Todd Zola sent the following to the league:

Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce
Bruce dealt

Hey guys -- looking to deal Jay Bruce and/or Wil Myers. I could use help everywhere. If either (or both) is of interest, please let me know. If there's anyone else on my team you want to discuss, we can do that as well.

Lawr Michaels responded: I might be interested in Myers. I have a balanced team, but could stand being a little stronger in hitting.

Ryan Carey also responded: Hey Todd -- I was actually going to fire off an email to you -- and was going to dangle Jacoby Ellsbury (or Elvis Andrus). 

I wanted like to get a player with a better average than Bruce, but it's clear he would help me in HRs and RBIs -- but getting Myers as an add-on could get it done since I need upgrades at the back end of my outfield. I have some other pieces like Andy Dirks, Chris Denorfia, Adam Lind and Bud Norris that I'd be willing to move -- let me know if you see something to build on a package built around Ellsbury.

TZ to LM: I've got a weird one for you. I need the proverbial stars to align in such a way that the lightning can find the bottle whereas you could use a hitting boost but not in a desperate way.

I'll deal Myers and David DeJesus for Shane Victorino and B.J. Upton.

You can use Garrett Jones until Myers is up and have DeJesus as an emergency guy. I'll hope BJ finds his stroke and Victorino stays healthy.

TZ to RC: Mark Teixeira came back sooner than I thought -- any interest in Tex even up for Ells?  He'll give you a little more average than Bruce.

RC to TZ: Don't love that for Ellsbury, I have to be honest.

Not so adverse to Tex -- but I was hoping for a slightly better return for Ellsbury's speed. Might go for Tex for a lesser piece perhaps. Or maybe for some pitching instead.

TZ to RC: Just figured Tex was Bruce with a better average.

I'm dangling Myers elsewhere -- let me see where that goes and I'll circle back and maybe we can start where you suggested with Bruce and Myers.

That work?

RC to TZ: Absolutely -- I have Ellsbury dangling as well. Andrus is another option for speed if you are looking that way.

LM to TZ: Hmm. that is sort of a trade for the sake of trading, on one hand, which I generally discourage. OTOH, I think my team will probably enjoy being good enough to be considered good, but not good enough to actually be good, you know?

I would probably do that.

TZ to LM:

Yeah, I forced the deal, I do think it would help both but I sort of looked at both sides from the way I think and didn't let you finesse it your way. I have a bite on Myers, let me circle back there and see where I am afterwards and maybe we can still figure something out.

That work?

TZ to RC: OK, Myers is in the clear. You mentioned a vague 2-for-2 before -- is Ellsbury and Dirks for Bruce and Myers something you'd consider?

RC: to TZ: Yep -- I would do that deal. My other negotiations have hit a wall as well.

TZ to RC: So is this done?

RC to TZ: Yeah this one is done. I am open to Tex. Do you need pitching? Maybe Homer bailey or Andrew Cashner?

RC to LM: Hey Lawr -- Are you still looking to make any moves? I have some interest in either struggling B.J. Upton or Will Middlebrooks

Can't help with saves -- but could maybe offer Casey Janssen as an add-on in the right deal and would perhaps need Steve Cishek as a throw in from your side.

Willing to move some pitching and throw in a MI to make something happen. I also just acquired Wil Myers and Bruce from Todd for Ellsbury and Dirks. 

Let me know if you see anything on my roster that interests you.

LM to RC: K. damn. I was hoping to land Myers...

RC to LM: What about Janssen for B.J.?

LM to RC: OK, you got a deal. Janssen for Upton

Lord Zola's Analysis

We ended up with two deals consummated.

Todd gets Andy Dirks and Jacoby Ellsbury

Ryan gets Wil Myers and Jay Bruce

... and ...

Lawr gets Casey Janssen

Ryan gets B.J. Upton

Okay, I really screwed the pooch on this one. First off, my desire to deal Bruce and Myers was misguided. While it is true that I am not as high on the duo as most, my team was really scuffling and the best chance they have to make a move is for Bruce to get on -- and stay on -- one of his patented hot streaks while Myers would be called up and hit the ground running -- sort of like Jay Bruce a few years back. But, I put them on the block so let's take you through some of my thought processes at the time and reaction after the fact.

Atlanta Braves OF B.J. Upton
Upton and out

I was a little surprised that only one other owner sent out a cattle call as Perry Van Hook fired the initial salvo early on and then sat patiently for a response. OK, maybe he wasn't so patient. Perhaps it had to do with the nature of the exercise or maybe that practice is no longer in vogue, but I still think it a league-wide note can be effective and often employ its use. As I have talked about in this space previously, I won't solicit an offer if I am putting the player on the block. However, as Brian Walton has pointed out to me, it's not like I am making it 100 percent clear that I'm willing to make the first offer. And he's right. I often leave it vague so if you want to table some names, that's fine.

As is often the case, when you solicit everyone, you may get multiple replies. Actually, this could be one reason some don't favor its use since that means you are likely going to have to say "no" to someone or you'll have to be a juggler, which is often tricky. What I'll do is let the replies come in and work out what I feel is the optimal deal with both teams to maximize my return. This was why I redirected Ryan to Teixeira, trying to save Myers and Bruce for Lawr. Of course, Tex is another player I should not be looking to deal but instead hope he helps lift my team out of the lower portion of the standings.

I then made what in retrospect was a mistake, or at the very least, a misread. Lawr in essence agreed to our deal (Myers/Bruce for Victorino/Upton). However, when I read his response initially, my take was he didn't want to do it. To be truthful, I may have even glossed over the actual line where he said "I would probably do that." Granted, that's not an actual acceptance in the vein of "you have a deal" or "sure, let's do it." If you go back and read my response, you can tell that in my mind, Lawr rejected the deal, or at least wasn't all that keen on it. Since I then turned around and dealt Myers to Ryan, I feel like a bit of a turd for the obvious misread. If this were a real league, I would have sent him an apology for moving on without coming to closure on our talks. You can tell by Lawr's response to Ryan that he either thought he had a deal with me or he wanted Myers more than he was letting on.

With that said, if Lawr really wanted Myers, perhaps he would have been more pro-active. However, I suspect the nature of this as an exercise may have influenced the exchange and if this was a real league, Lawr would have indeed been clearer on his intent. All this speaks to an aspect of negotiations that can be dicey. What's a firm offer versus what's a speculative offer? What's a firm acceptance versus what's a contingent acceptance? After many a misinterpretation over the years, I have learned to be as direct as possible when the end is near. Plus, in the leagues I run, I require both parties to confirm a deal to me as often one thinks there is an agreement and send it while the other was just posing a hypothetical. A deal is not official until both parties confirm to me.

We'll do one more between Nick Minnix and Greg Morgan.

NM: Hello, my good man. Ol' chap, as it were. I have taken a little time to examine the field in the Lord Zola Round Table League, and I do believe we (you and I, to be clear, ol' chap) could find some agreeable ground on which to do business. I'm certain that you're as excited as I am.

I plan to take a more thorough survey of the land and perhaps solicit the league, but really, just wanted to see if you would have interest in one of my plethora of HR-hitting types -- Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Trumbo, Nellie Cruz, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I would be in the mood for speed and such, and perhaps we can get creative to make up whatever gaps we perceive there to be when offers start to fire from our lips.

Anyway, this is purely a reflex, and I couldn't help myself. My availability for the next few days is probably going to be limited, so I needed to get the ball rolling somehow, somewhere. You can tell me to shove it, and I will be just fine with that. Thanks good ol' chap, and good day.

GM: Ha ha. That was a good read. 

Well mate, I'm relieved that this is a free league. Scanning my roster would be painful otherwise. So you need speed eh? Can I interest thee in Ben Revere? Perhaps for the Fonz?

NM: While I would indeed agree to a swap of Revere and Soriano, might I interest you in raising the stakes, say Lucas Duda and Soriano for Revere and Emilio Bonifacio?

GM: I must say, I'm not so sure I fancy parting with two pilferers of bases.

NM: The Bonifacio inclusion isn't a big deal. I realized that I'm probably making this more complicated than it needs to be. I am agreed on the Revere-for-Soriano, so if you have any reservations at all or would prefer to avoid complicating the negotiation and tying each other up for the possibility to do other trades, then you're welcome just to confirm this one-for-one swap, and I'll accept.

GM: Cool, let's make it just the Fonz for Ben Revere.  Not crazy about Zippity Do Da and would rather keep Bonifacio methinks.

Lord Zola's Analysis

To my knowledge, Greg and Nick do not know each other save from the contributions to the regular Round Table. This is (unfortunately) common in many Internet leagues. There's likely a mutual respect like there would be between a couple of competitive league mates, but I am fairly certain Greg and Nick have not ever broken bread, so to speak.

As such, Nick opted to put whatever initial tension due to unfamiliarity at ease by sending a cute icebreaker. As an aside, I'm personally thankful he elected to take on the persona of a proper English fellow as opposed to the smooth talking, lady's man he morphs into on the radio, baby.

Greg, in turn, played along and even furthered the gimmick, which set the tone for comfortable negotiations. This is the best setting for both parties to get what they need. Often, when the tone and feel is 100 percent business, the objective is for each to better the other, and this usually results in a stalled negotiation.

The final point I'll make about this deal is once again, the periphery was removed and a deal was struck. To be fair, going for a 2-for-2 instead of a 1-for-1 is perfectly fine, I am talking more about the deals that involve multiple players on each side. I can't tell you how many trade evaluation questions I get that are prefaced with a particular need to be followed by five players exchanged on each side. My response is always the same. If you need speed, then deal for speed and leave the rest out (or power, or saves -- whatever the initial preface might be). Too many moving parts cloud the analysis and is more often than not an attempt on both sides to win a deal. Sure, add another player if it helps level the field, but don't get carried away.

Before we call it a day, I would like to thank the Knights for their cooperation. I apologize since all the deals did not make it into the columns. I'd also like to apologize for the occasional adjustment from the original transcript.

We'll wrap this up next week with some comments from the participants.

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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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