Fantasy Baseball Trade Advice: 10 tips for your league's approaching deadline
It’s that time in the Fantasy Baseball season when sensitivities are heightened. The changes are coming all too quickly, and the emotions can barely keep up.
I’m talking of course about the trade deadline, where civility takes a back seat to instinct, to the need to prove oneself through competition.
And you’re about to screw it up.
Until the line is dead, though, it’s alive, which means you still have a chance to make friends and influence people. With the help of some of my Twitter followers, I’ve come up with 10 guidelines to help with that.
1. Check your emotions at the door
The blood is in the water, and tensions are running high. Everyone’s hyper aware of those looking to devour them, which means the slightest act of aggression could scare away the biggest fish.
And it’s just uncalled for.
One would think.
Sure, it’s possible the anger is contrived, part of some ill-advised negotiation tactic. We’re a society that dispenses anger punitively, after all. If someone commits a vehicular misstep but manages to avoid a collision, we blow our horn anyway just to send him a message. Punitive. If someone says something that’s socially out of touch, we point arrows at him on social media. Punitive. And if someone makes an asinine offer, we light him up with the fury of a thousand suns. Punitive.
But in most of those cases, it’s not really changing the offender’s behavior. It’s more about you blowing off steam. And yeah, telling that nincompoop how mind-numblingly awful his offer was probably is satisfying in some small way, but unless it’s your bestie from the fourth grade, you can’t be sure how he’ll process it. At a point in the season when engagement is a real issue, here’s someone who actively wants to engage with you — one of just 11 people (depending on the size of your league) in the world who can do so, mind you — and you’ve risked making yourself unapproachable to him just so you could fire off a half-baked barb.
As unreasonable as his offer was to you, your response may be to him. Every offer is an invitation to a dialogue, and you took that invitation, ripped it into tiny pieces, tossed it in the air like confetti and walked away cackling. So yeah, if you’re going to be that unreasonable, why would he bother trying?
But let’s say the proposal is truly awful, unsalvageable in every way. What should you say? Here’s a novel idea: nothing. There’s no validation if the response is swift rejection. It’s from the if-you-don’t-have-something-nice-to-say-don’t-say-anything-at-all line of thinking, and it’s far better than burning bridges.
If you want to leave no uncertain terms, just be direct and unaffected — something like “I’ll need to be blown away for Matt Carpenter” or “I have no interest in Tyler O’Neill or Wilmer Flores.” But from my perspective, a quiet rejection is the universal signal for “not even close, sonny boy” just as a counter offer would be the universal signal for “you have my attention”
Just please, for the love of all that’s decent, don’t let your counter offer be a sarcastic one that’s even more ridiculously in your favor, not unless you want a punch in the face.
2. Don’t make yourself too available
There’s a feature in CBS Sports leagues called the “trade block,” and it’s an efficient way to share who you’re shopping and what you’re shopping for.
It’s also a good way to short-change yourself, particularly if you’re not selling a star-level player.
Rightfully or not, introducing a player to this space will strike many as a desperate last attempt. You’ve already tried shopping him to the most logical takers and are now simply hoping there’s someone you missed. And once a player goes on the trade block, he becomes less desirable by the day. If there’s no movement after, say, Day 5, well shoot, you must not be getting any bites.
Granted, these are huge inferences made on virtually no information and often at a subconscious level, but trading is all about perception. If these perceptions take root, they can make a huge difference when it comes to maximizing the value of your return.
The best trades seem to come out of the blue. Someone takes a stab in the dark with an offer that would seemingly help both sides, and maybe it takes. More likely, it doesn’t, but the chances are better without the underlying assumption that you’ve had a similar offer turned down elsewhere.
From my perspective, then, the best uses for the trade block are either as the last resort so many already perceive it to be or to get the word out that you’re shopping a bona-fide star — one who you’re confident everyone would pay top dollar for.
Because then it can have the opposite effect, giving everyone a chance to make their best and strongest offer — or at least to start outbidding each other on the way there.
3. Play the field
Yes, there’s nothing quite like a bidding war, which redraft owners may never be a part of but keeper and dynasty owners know all too well.
In order to be the beneficiary of one, though, you have to, you know, field offers.
I’m not suggesting you have to alert the rest of the league whenever you’re on the verge of trading a major asset. Oftentimes, I’ve had my eye on a particular asset, and the big piece I’ve moved was the means to that end. The heart wants what it wants, and if you’re getting what you want, why waste time and risk jeopardizing the agreed-upon deal?
But if you feel like your hands are tied — the asset has become too expensive to keep or whatever — and are looking to maximize the return without a particular target in mind, then by all means, bring the rest of the league into it. Don’t reveal the actual terms to beat — that’s a betrayal of the other owner’s trust — but say you have a strong offer that you’re leaning toward taking and want to make sure you’re not leaving something better on the table.
Just be sure to tell the other owner you’ll want to field offers from the rest of the league before committing to anything. Let him in on your process. If you give the rest of the league no more than 24 hours to come up with something better, I can’t imagine the terms discussed with that initial owner will fall threw. By that point in the negotiations, he’ll be the one sweating whether or not he can close the deal.
4. Answer the call
In consulting my Twitter followers about their biggest trading pet peeves, none turned up more than this one:
Anecdotal evidence, you say? Well, check out this less-than-scientific-but-nonetheless-relevant poll:
All four of these offenses got plenty of attention in the write-in portion of the survey, but when stacked side by side, it’s no contest what Fantasy owners despise the most.
And in each of these cases, can you blame the guy? He already twisted himself in knots to come up with something that might work for both sides. It’s obviously something he wants, so if he doesn’t hear anything from you, he’s inclined to presume you either haven’t seen it or are still considering it. Chances are you did see it and were so unmoved that, well … you didn’t move. You didn’t take the necessary steps to reject it, providing him the closure he needs to move on. But darn it, if someone works up the nerve to make a proposal, he deserves an answer.
Maybe not the same day. No one’s required to check his Fantasy team every day, and maybe the day you received the offer is the day you happened to miss. But if you’re someone who reads a Fantasy Baseball trade advice column in August, you’re someone who doesn’t miss too many days. You should know by the second one.
But let’s say you’re the introspective sort and want to take some time to think about it. Fine. Fair enough. You have to let him know, though. Send him a private message, a text, something that says “I see you there,” and then offer a timetable for how long you need. Then if you need even longer, let him know. Or if you want to let the trade sit in case a need develops down the line, let him know. He can decide whether to leave it or move on.
The sort of person who makes trade offers out of the blue usually has a fallback or two in mind, but he’s not going to pass up his first choice unless he knows it’s truly dead. Even if you delay the decision and still end up passing, you’re still a hero in his eyes. Nothing will earn you more favor and more offers in your inbox than transparency. It’s so rare, so refreshing and so much better than the alternative.
Three out of five Fantasy owners agree!
5. Step up to the plate
Each of the tips so far has focused on how to respond to offers, but you’re more likely to approve of the offers you make yourself. You just have to stick your neck out and do it every once in a while.
Again with the pet peeves …
This one relates back to my feelings about the trade block. Basically, it’s an invitation for passivity. “Hey guys, I’m interested in making a trade, but only if you do the work.” You know what updating your trade block often leads to? Someone else updating his trade block, just to let everyone know he’s interested in making a trade, too.
And sometimes, in one of those wonderful moments when absurdity meets reality, he updates it asking for the very thing you offered.
Email exchanges can be even more frustrating since you’ve obviously initiated a direct line of communication at that point. I recently had an email exchange that played out like this:
Me (to entire league): I’m looking to deal high-end prospects for an impact player. Don’t need depth, just impact. Hit me up. (understandably vague)
Guy: Take a look at my team. I’m willing to move anyone but Berrios or Haniger. (frustratingly vague)
Me: Wil Myers? (casually putting the ball back in his court)
Guy: He’s available! (overtly putting the ball back in my court)
Me: So, um … do you like any of my prospects? (defiantly putting the ball back in his court)
Guy: I’d rather have a draft pick. (um …)
It’s amazing — a work of art, looking back at. Six emails exchanged, and never were actual terms discussed. It’s not even clear either of us wanted the general concept of what the other was offering. Needless to say, nothing was consummated that day nor any day since.
I don’t know if it’s fear of getting laughed out of the room or of overestimating the price tag. I equate it to a middle school dance. Everybody’s intentions are abundantly clear, but nobody wants to put himself out there. And so a stare-off ensues.
It tends to happen more in keeper leagues where teams have contrasting goals. People tend to value keepers and draft picks differently, after all. Still, doing what my friend and I did will ensure that any potential trade dies on the vine — and all because we had to one-up each other’s gutlessness. Well, you reap what you sow, cowards.
6. Consider her (or his) needs
It seems like a no-brainer, right? To complete a trade, you have to make it desirable for the other person. I don’t know about you, but I have a much easier time putting together offers that work for me. Yup, no trouble there.
So if the real hurdle is on the other end, maybe that should be the starting point. Maybe the first place to look, knowing what I have to offer, is who actually needs it.
The best trades are often the ones assembled backward, focused less on the getting the best you possibly can for a player and more on getting the best you can from the owner who’d actually want him.
You’ll usually find more than just one owner with a need at that particular position, so if the first one doesn’t pan out, it’s on to the next one and the next one before finally resorting to the trade block.
7. Don’t feel like you have to sell yourself
You know what I mean, right? I’m talking about the used car salesman routine of defending a trade before it’s even challenged.
It didn’t place high in the “worst offenses” poll, but it got some of the loudest call-outs:
You got that? The worst. In fact, I submit that no sales pitch has ever compelled anyone to pull the trigger, except maybe in a league full of novices who appreciate having their hand held as they navigate their first six-month ordeal.
And that’s really the problem with it: It’s patronizing — downright degrading, even. As many of the respondents pointed out, it reeks of insincerity. Clearly, you think I’m so out of touch that you need to explain how your offer helps me, and if you stretch the truth just a little and I’m more in touch than you think, well, I’m going to see right through you. And then you just look like a scoundrel.
Even if you don’t stretch the truth, nobody who cares enough to respond to your offer wants to be told how to run his team. The ability to call his shots is most likely what drew him to this game. So don’t even go there. There’s no upside to it.
Occasionally, when there’s a chance some crucial detail will go unnoticed, I’ll draw attention to it without providing commentary. Examples include “tough break for Alex Reyes” or “Jurickson Profar is second base-eligible now.” That’s it. End of comment.
8. Do take no for an answer
Maybe in redraft leagues, every player has a price. Maybe.
But in keeper and especially dynasty leagues, it stands to reason that a player might be too important to the long-term outlook to consider moving — if we’re talking offers in the neighborhood of realistic, anyway. So for you to keep badgering after being told “no, not for sale” demonstrates a hubris in line with the tradesplainers.
Yep, it made the list:
It’s another example of you suggesting to someone — repeatedly and defiantly — that you know what’s better for their team than they do. And by the way, if you keep upping your offer, it’s obvious you covet the player, too. The harder you try, the more you should be able to appreciate the idea that the particular player you’re trying to pry away is just too darn important. And the more you force this owner to dig his heels in, the more he’s going to resent every offer you send him, even when you finally abandon this pipe dream.
Bottom line is no, I’m not trading my $1 Juan Soto in our 24-team dynasty league for anything, so quit asking.
9. Be prepared to just walk away
I don’t like making trades I don’t feel great about. Not just OK or even pretty good, but great. Whenever I’m in doubt, unless it’s a rare situation where I have a glaring need to fill, I turn the deal down.
So I have no problem walking away if I feel like I’m at an impasse. Who cares how much time we’ve devoted to the talks or I’ve spent dreaming about my new-look lineup? Whatever, man. It’s not like I know what’s going to happen to any of these players, and as they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
“We may not be a match, then” are seven of the most liberating words you could ever utter. No blame placed on anyone. No hurt feelings. It’s just the darn circumstances.
Thing is the other guy may not be so quick to chalk it up to circumstance. He may suddenly decide you’re more of a match than he let on, relenting on that one player he simply had to have five minutes ago. The walk-away is a power move, the biggest one at the buyer’s disposal on the used car lot. And it often works.
And if it doesn’t … again, bird in the hand.
10. Stay true to yourself
So I’ve made reference to it already, the idea of transparency. Of openness. Of honesty.
It’s a common courtesy that’s too often lost in our attempts to fleece the other guy.
We’re not built for this. Most of us aren’t liars in real life, and so our attempts to deceive are pretty laughable most of the time and pretty offensive all of the time. Even just a general dodginess will create feelings of unease that will restrict what might be a productive back and forth.
So stop it. Don’t be that way.
I’m not saying you talk down your own players and talk up his, but is it so wrong to admit you’re frustrated by Dylan Bundy‘s ups and downs? It’s a reasonable take and presumably the only reason you’re looking to deal him, so why hide it?
If you act like a normal person having a normal conversation, you’ll keep the line of communication open much longer. And who knows where that opening will take you? People tend to sympathize with people who let their guard down, so there’s a better chance of both sides making concessions when an honest connection is being made.
Plus … it’s Fantasy Baseball. It’s a game. Maybe you get a little money out of it, but for the most part, you play it to impress those 11 other people in your league. If you’re being a weasel the whole time, nobody’s going to feel good for you, and if you’re only connection to these people years from now is this league, they’re going to come to know you as nothing more than a weasel.
So don’t be a weasel. Be a person. Be someone others are drawn to and can relate to. It’ll make winning all the more rewarding and trading all the more possible.