Did you know that you can work a trade where you land more assets in the deal and still lose? You absolutely can... Allow me to explain.
First and foremost, this is a common belief but I'll do my best to put my own personal spin on it. The belief is that if you get the best player in the deal you almost always win. A lot of 3-for-1 trades would include three guys who are, say, a 6 on a 10-point scale in exchange for one player who is an 8.
Let's say for a moment that a replacement level player is about a 4 on our 10-point scale. It would stand to reason that the fantasy manager getting the three 6's would win the deal, right? I mean, they now have three players significantly above average and they only weakened themselves in one spot. That may be true, but the impact of the best player in this deal is bigger than just the incremental gain. There is a competitive advantage over your adversaries that does not follow a linear path along with the value of the player. In other words, a guy who is a 6 gives you a small advantage over replacement level (a 4 on our scale) but a guy who is an 8 gives you well more than double the advantage. The reason is scarcity. Very few of your leaguemates will have an 8 at that position, but you gotta figure that most everyone has a 5 or 6 just about everywhere.
Let us define "replacement level" for a moment. Simply stated, if one of the guys on your roster goes down for the season with an injury who can you grab from the waiver wire to plug in for free? That's replacement level. It may not be a bad player in real life, either. In a typical 10 or 12 team mixed league the replacement level guy is going to be an established everyday player of pretty decent real-life quality.
A couple more thoughts about our 3-for-1 deal. You may be the one to give up the 1 for the 3 under a couple of different circumstances. If you have a couple of big injuries, you may need some fill-in's that are better than replacement level. Trading an 8 plus the opportunity cost (if you can call it that) of a couple of 4's equates to 16, if you follow the logic. Three 6's is 18. As I mentioned earlier, the 8 is exponentially more valuable, but if you have a couple of injuries you may have to do what you have to do. Especially if you don't even like the options on the waiver wire and you think maybe one of those 6's will perform like a 7... It could be a win for you. When trying to work a deal like this, target a team owner who has depth at the position you need. For example, last year in baseball it is completely possible that the guy with Troy Tulowitzki also had Starlin Castro. Targeting one of those two would have been a great way to go.
It is also possible that you just don't believe that your 8 really is an 8. He's playing over his head and now is the time to sell high. Could be.
You can always play the favorite team card, too. Make sure you know who the folks in your league root for and try to deal players from those teams to their associated fans. Most fantasy players, even entry-level ones, know enough not to over-value the players from the teams they love. However, most fantasy players, even experts, have a soft spot in their heart for their favorites and will value them just a little bit more than players from other teams. Use this to your advantage. The Red Sox fan is going to want to trade for Dustin Pedroia and might give you just a little extra in a deal.
Good luck in your drafts, my friends. The next couple of weeks should be busy.