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

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on June 19, 2013 @ 13:40:10 PDT

 

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For the past couple of weeks, we have substituted our normal Round Table discussion with the transcript of some trade talks emanating from a pseudo-league. I've offered some commentary along the way. As a means to wrap things up, I'll share some comments from the knights as well as a few additional thoughts of my own. We'll return to the standard format next week.

I posed the following question to the participants:

Washington Nationals OF Bryce Harper
Harper among those dealt

Which of these three statements best fits your negotiations? Feel free to briefly elaborate or offer your own statement,

A. I found trading easier since I had no attachment to or vested interest in the players.

B. I found trading harder since it's hard to get a feel for my team and the league just looking at standings and rosters without having lived the league up to this point.

C. I found no difference - a trade is a trade.

Perry Van Hook responded with the on-the-record response of C. But he then offered an off-the-record response that I am going to share because I think it is more a reflection of his latter explanation than former, and something I want to touch on myself.

"My alternate answer might be D. I found most owners apathetic about trading. This is somewhat understandable given the situation BUT fairly common in many leagues (especially those where the only communication is by email)."

To be clear, the situation was this was an experimental exercise, not a real league. Everyone was tasked with making at least one deal and had about a week to do so. Perry sent out a cattle call almost immediately and later than night, expressed some frustration privately to me that no one had responded. In my head I was thinking that the guys all had other things going on like work, family and in Nick's case vacation. I was confident that everyone would come through and we'd be able to put something in this bandwidth.

But as Perry intimated in his second reason, this is not at all uncommon in real leagues. People have a lot going on and may not respond to a trade offer right away. To this point, I have a couple of observations.

It's no coincidence that there was a flurry of action right before I asked that all deals be sent to me. It's human nature to wait for the last minute. Heck, as I am typing this, my KFFL colleagues are (hopefully) patiently waiting for me to file this, after I promised it would be done. I think the same sort of thinking can be applied to trading in real leagues. I'm willing to bet the majority of deals get consummated close to the league's weekly transaction deadline. There's no urgency to seal a deal on Thursday when it won't go into effect until after the weekend. Of course, the practicality of the involved players getting hurt is a factor, but even without that, my sense is most deals would still be ironed at close to the deadline. A repercussion of this (and something I see in a couple of my leagues and to be completely honest, frustrates me) is if you do send out a cattle call early in the transaction period, it is to your best interest to be patient and let everyone that is interested reply. I understand you may want to just make a deal and get on with your own life, especially in keeper leagues where you are playing for the future, but still, to optimize return it's best to exhibit a little patience or perhaps wait until closer to the transaction deadline to solicit offers. On my end, I know it is my own damned fault I did not respond to some of these e-mails sooner, especially since they often come from a competitor with a history of a quick trigger, but sometimes I have other pressing matters like filing a column for KFFL.

All that said, the take-home message for me is to realize it is human nature to wait for the last minute, so when I am looking to initiate a deal, while I may do so earlier in the week, I'll stretch out the process to allow as many interested parties to get involved as possible. If I get an offer early in the week, I'll send out a follow-up saying I have an acceptable deal on the table but will wait a day before finalizing. The idea being this warning will push procrastinators like me to get off our butt and respond.

Tim Heaney responded with:

(C). For this exercise to reflect the situation and offer a productive example to readers, you have to treat it as if you're invested in your given team. I approached this no differently than I have been in any league that has my name and strategy attached to it.

Always the company man! I respect and appreciate Tim's diligence. That said, my own answer was both A and B.

Some have a hard time dealing a player because it's an admission they were wrong. I don't worry about that so much as the fact that I have my own opinion on every player. Much of the time, it is different than the masses. A lot of the time, my rosters will have a handful of these common players. What I have found is I have difficulty dealing some of these players since my baseline expectation is better than my trading partner, so I won't get back an adequate return. Since the teams were assigned randomly, I didn't end up with any of the players that can be considered "my guys". As such, I found discussing them to be much easier.

On the other hand, I found the non-familiarity with my team and the league to be a hindrance. Standings are static on a day-to-day basis but what generates them is dynamic. Some teams are trending upward, some downward. Some squads have players returning from injuries, some just lost some players to the disabled list. Many teams recently made a deal that will change the complexion of the categories. All that was lost by having rosters and standings plunked down with the dictum, "make a trade." As an aside, I run a number of leagues and am often asked why. The answer lies in the above: Being the commissioner of the SWAT keeps me in touch with the league and helps me manage my own team. There's actually more than being a kiss-ass.

For what it's worth, while mealing on a wonderful deep dish pizza in Chicago, Lawr Michaels and I talked about the above and he essentially shared my opinion. Well, all except the ass-kissing part. Lawr too found the exercise to be both easier and harder. Actually, the biggest detriment to Lawr's ability to trade was his team happened to be one of the better squads and coincidentally was assembled a lot like how he puts teams together. As Lawr has written, he does not like to make deals solely for the sake of dealing so that was a hindrance as well.

Nick Minnix also had mixed feelings:

D. All of the above.

It was liberating to trade players without worrying about what I might be giving up and whether what I'm getting is really enough. It served as a lesson to me about how I might change my perspective for the better in future negotiations.

It was still a little -- a little, not much -- harder for the reason cited in answer B. It takes a little time to assess things from a purely statistical perspective. It's easier to estimate when you've lived it, but it's beneficial to step outside the situation if you're doing so.

In the end I felt that I was just making decisions that may turn out to be a little less biased. (Although, sometimes, I think my bias benefits me, haha.)

Rob Leibowitz opined:

Probably easier. I would have had a lot more trouble trading Harper if I really owned him though I did at.least get an impact.pitcher and didn't trade with a team that would have passed me in the standings if I gave him a good hitter.

Ryan Carey offered:

For me it was a little bit of A and C. In the end trading was a little easier in this exercise mainly because everyone involved was actually looking to make some sort of deals at the same time, which unfortunately isn't the case in most leagues. Since we all were open to deals, the challenge of figuring out who was looking to deal was lessened, but I didn't find that anyone that I negotiated with was less invested in trying to make the best possible deals for their teams. While the lack of attachment to the players perhaps made it easier to deal away, I did feel invested in trying to get back the players I wanted and that for me is where option C came into play. In the end, trades were still trades.

Greg Morgan also found it to be a little bit harder and easier:

'B' made it more difficult. 'A' made it easier. On balance A outweighed B, so it was easier to pull the trigger and take risks.

To conclude this exercise, I'd like to once again thank the knights for their participation and you for your indulgence. Based on the last several responses, it is clear to me that even though this is a statistically-driven game and the standings should dictate direction, we're all still guys playing a game. As such, emotions will get involved and must be considered in negotiations. Hopefully you can work this to your advantage, but if you fail to recognize it, you could cost yourself a possible deal as well.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

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 fantasybaseball.com, 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 MLB.com and SI.com, 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.

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