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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Art of the Deal

Trades are critical in fantasy sports and they are tough to pull off.  Well, I should say it's tough to pull off a deal that helps your team without giving up too much.

Here now are some pointers on what to do and what not to do:

1.  This is basic, but the other person has got to get something they want in the deal.  This is not necessarily the same thing as the old saying, "You have to give value to get value."  You may not.  In fact, the easiest deals are when you can identify a player you own that you don't really like all that much but you find there is another person in your league who loves the guy.  This may be because that person is a fan of the player's team or because they had him in a previous season or might have some sort of personal connection to the player.  They may be willing to trade more value to you than how you value the asset.

2.  It is best to work out the parameters of the deal over email.  You are less likely to get swindled over email than you might in a conversation.  It's a slower process.  Also, sending trade offers on your league site only to have them declined and (hopefully) countered is not very efficient.  Besides, early on you might be sending somewhat lopsided offers to test the waters...  These "test the waters" types of lopsided offers can make people feel insulted.  I'm talking about actual hard feelings that cause the other fantasy manager to dislike you as a person.  I've seen it happen many times.  It's a little weird, but they have an attachment to their players and a bad trade offer makes them feel like you are trying to take advantage of them or steal from them.  It's not just business.  You can't really say that you were just kidding.  Go back and forth over email with questions like, "I think I heard you say you like Robinson Cano...  Do you think we could work a deal that includes Howie Kendrick and maybe a couple of other guys like Sergio Santos and Brandon Morrow?"  That way you aren't saying you want to steal a bunch of guys from them in a 3-for-1 offer.  Anyone in their right mind would trade Kendrick plus something for Cano... and you are clearly aiming a little high with the request of Morrow and Santos, but it isn't out of line.  They could come back and say all sorts of things, most likely a counter-offer.  Now you are hammering out a deal.

3.  Conventional wisdom says that the fantasy manager getting the best player in the deal usually wins the deal.  This is because typically the "filler" players are not that far above replacement level.  I don't believe this is always the case, or at least it shouldn't be.  If I'm willing to trade Robinson Cano to you I really should be able to incrementally improve in two or three other areas.  This is why the example above isn't out of line.  The drop from Cano to Kendrick is a big one, but maybe my pitchers aren't very good.  If Morrow would be my #3 starter and Santos would replace a middle reliever on my roster, then I've probably improved more than the drop at 2B hurts me.

4.  Receiving an offer.  Let's say someone sends you an offer via the software on the league site.  The first thing you should do is send that person an email.  In that message you may say, "I appreciate the offer and I hope we can work out a different deal in the future, but I really like Cano this year (like MVP-like him) and I doubt we can work something out for him unless you completely blow me away.  Perhaps we can work a lesser deal for one of my guys like Alexei Ramirez or Tommy Hanson?"  It's important that you mean it, but you may be coming from one of two places with a message like this.  (1) I really, really don't see myself dealing Cano; or, (2) I need more for Cano than you are offering.  Either way, now you are talking and working the deal over email.  Keep the lines of communication open.

Okay, those are just a few pointers and I'm sure there will be more to come in the future.  Best of luck to everyone in working out those mutually-beneficial deals this year.  It truly is more of an art than a science.