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Fantasy Baseball Round Table: Common Delusions About Trades

By Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

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 it comes to trading is the notion you need to be acquiring the best player in the deal. Horse feathers, I say. You need to be better before the deal as opposed to after. If dealing away the best player results in a superior overall team, do the deal! That said, something to keep in mind is the evaluation should also include some forward thinking. As an example, perhaps if you deal a stud and a scrub for two very good players, your team is better. But is that the only way to make your team better? What if instead you looked to the waiver wire to upgrade the scrub so that the new player and the stud are better than the two very good players you might acquire? Sometimes you need to be patient and wait for another team to panic and make an ill-advised drop, which is the forward-thinking element.

The point is, don't just consider the present when evaluating a deal. Look at the big picture. Maybe you have a player on the disabled list about to return who plays the same position or contributes the same stats as one of the players you are thinking about acquiring. The long-term net benefit may not be as helpful as staying put. Sorry, got a little tangential there, but the original message still holds. If after all this analysis your squad is better after dealing away the best player in a deal, then do the deal.

The final piece of lordly advice I'll offer before my mini-rant is if you are leaning toward accepting a trade, ask yourself, "Would I have accepted this deal in March?" If the answer is no, then at least reconsider. I'm not saying don't do it; I'm just saying think about it again. What changed? Is that change tangible or are you trading for some luck as opposed to a player who's better than you thought a couple of months ago? If you're confident the production is sustainable, then go for it!

Okay, here we go. Maybe it's just me, but when someone sends me an e-mail that says, "Looking to deal Smith, make me an offer," my first reaction is screw you, make me an offer. You're the one who wants to move the player, do the work and come up with an offer to a team that could use the player. Or, at minimum, don't solicit an offer but request getting in contact so that negotiations can ensue. For whatever reason, there's always a cat-and-mouse game with respect to the opening salvo. I don't mind making the initial offer. I do mind being asked to do your dirty work. If you're the one that wants to move a player, the onus is on you to do the work, at least initially.

To be clear, I'll make an offer if I want the player. I've got principles, but I don't let them get in the way of improving my team. Similarly, I refrain from the "Don't insult my intelligence" route and don't ostracize that owner from future negotiations. Instead I'll respectfully decline and usually counter with an offer tilted a bit in my direction -- meaning my team gets more help than his team since we already agreed that value on paper means nothing, right?

Sorry, just thought of one more tidbit before I go, and I don't want to go back to rewrite the introduction. People LOVE choices. People also love to be in control. Perhaps my favorite trade tactic is to combine the two and propose a deal replete with choices. The key is I only include combinations I would be willing to accept if the other party agrees to a deal. The other person feels as if he is in control because he is the party determining the actual players involved. However, I was really in charge since I set the constraints from which he could choose (assuming he doesn't counter with a player I did not list).

The other ancillary benefit is, time and time again, the players picked are the ones I value less. In other words, he picks the option that I feel leaves my team in the best shape. Had I first offered the deal I felt was fairest and it was accepted, I never would have known what I perceive to be a lesser offer would be accepted.

That's it, I promise. Next week the knights will be back with our regular banter and two weeks hence we get to see which of my colleagues read this and is able to hammer out a deal with me.


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