Fantasy baseball lessons: Negotiating trades

by Tim Heaney on October 28, 2010 @ 14:30:00 PDT


You can win a fantasy baseball season without making a single trade, but you can't shy away from talks altogether. Always seek ways to improve your roster.

Many present-day fantasy players catch on when you offer them Overachiever A and "take off their hands" Hidden Gem B. It isn't simple robbery anymore. Ah, the good ol' days, when most of us were living off our swindling salesmanship and robust rosters.

Those times aren't dead, though. To negotiate a fantasy baseball trade, get FAT.


Appetizers: You're searching for future production, not current value. The 20 homers your player has hit in the first two months might taper off if his power base isn't established. Sometimes, you thank these players and move on.

Detroit Tigers RP Jose Valverde
Friend, you could use some saves

In fact, can the players you want to acquire keep up or turn around their performance? The owner of an early-season stud will aim to extract maximum value before a potential drop-off, and they might be wary of giving up a player that could boom in the second half.

Target players you're confident can sustain or improve on what they've shown so far, whether it be due to statistical indicators, improving health or refocused mechanics. Prediction isn't an exact science, but it's a guide to where your team needs the most help.

Address needs

Continue gorging, and check the standings for your slacking categories.

Typically, fantasy baseballers must acquire help in a stat early enough so that they can obtain maximum return on a deal. Depending on the statistical standing distribution, you might be able to wait until close to the trade deadline to acquire help, but most of the time, you're better off trying to nip a problem in the bud.

If it's early in the season, sometimes your biggest needs are your best categories. More forecasting: Do you have enough talent to sustain those nine or so rotisserie points? If you determine you don't, pinpoint a surplus area of production you're most willing to give up.

Does the waiver wire offer acceptable replacement value for one of your abundant categories? If a 20-homer bat is available, don't feel married to yours if he's overproducing. Each player isn't a person, per se, but instead a living, breathing statistical profile that could easily be replaced with the right option.

After you've noted owned players who can help your squad, dive in.

Talk it out

Hope you saved room; time to serve an offer.

Concentrate on the other owner's needs first. How will the other team be helped by your offer? The manager isn't the one starting talks and likely doesn't care what you want. If that manager's team is slacking in a certain category, you can start by saying, "Hey, I notice you drafted a few guys who are slumping. I have some players who might be able to help you."

If you spark up talks, start with an offer that would give your team maximum value, accompanied with an introduction that encourages continuing a dialogue. It simply kicks off negotiations until you meet somewhere in the middle. As hawkish and deceptive as it sounds, you must do your due diligence to obtain maximum profit on your first effort, even if it's a slightly ludicrous offer.

If rebuffed, immediately return to more level-headed discussions. If accepted, you lucky....

Sometimes, if a category need is what sparks a conversation, you don't have to immediately identify specific players - instead, target stats. The owner's value perception of all possible players could be revealed here, which will help you proceed to the next step.

Consider how the offer would help the other team move up in the standings. Can you afford to allow that team to improve in that area?

Know your league mates. Which players or teams do they overvalue? Don't underestimate your potential to utilize the psychology of an owner's personality - not in trying to cheat the other owner, but in how to proceed with your plan. Is the partner offended easily? Are they typically easy to chat with? Does the other owner typically fear taking a chance on a deal?

Simple reminders for tact:

  • Don't be offended by someone who starts off with a ludicrous offer, and if you're proposing and you do this, remind them that you just had to gauge the situation. While irritating if you're on the receiving end, it's part of the process. Persistent attempts at deception, however, might lead to a cold shoulder. Avoid that route.
  • If an offer frustrates you, don't react angrily. Calmly explain why it doesn't work. Emotions can endanger or abruptly end the process. E-mail or instant message chats are better because they hide your emotions, keeping the process at a basic, scientific level.
  • Keep communication lines open. Don't let an offer dangle in the wind, whether the responder is you or your partner. The less direct, pointed communication about a deal, the likelier that your talks collapse. Stay on point.

Trading is more often than not a tedious process. The idea is to win the trade. If both parties can realize they're doing something that can help their respective teams, the negotiation will be a lot smoother. If it's viewed as a ping-pong game, nothing will be accomplished.

Identifying future stability and problems, deciding which stats you need, and negotiating in a lucid, logical fashion will help you live large off your winnings ... or at least allow you to leave the kids' table.

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Players making adjustments | Making waivers decisions

Acquiring value buys | Negotiating trades

About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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