FB503: Advanced Trading Techniques

05/20/2007 8:28 PM - 

FantasyBaseball.com University Series
Contributed By: Matthew Brady

Trading is a risky business. If you make a bad deal, not only do you chance a poor finish in the standings, you risk public humiliation from your fellow managers. Unfortunately, unless you have access to a DeLorean, a Flex Capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts of power, you can’t undo a poorly made trade and you’ll have to live with the shame of your mistake. If you’re in a pool with friends, this shame can last for years (just ask my therapist). In order to cope with this stress, I have put together an article that draws on some of the general principles of trading along with some tactics for getting the most out of your deals. While trading is not an exact science, there are strategies you can employ in order to maximize your gains.

General Principles

Do you REALLY need to make a deal in the first place?
This is one I need to work on myself. I can’t count the number of times where I’ve been turned down on one of my offers only to be relieved a few weeks later when I realized it would’ve hurt my team. If you’re in first place and it looks like you’re staying there, don’t be afraid of standing pat. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team
This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s probably the most important factor in determining the winner of your fantasy league.  Calculating your team’s strengths and weaknesses is what fantasy sports is all about.

I see so many trades go down where managers aren’t thinking about what it’s doing for them in the standings. If you’re first in your league in homeruns and RBIs but you’re last in steals, then trading for Manny Ramirez probably won’t help your team as much as another player might. When you offer up a trade, look at where you need help the most. If for example you’re low in steals, go after someone like Juan Pierre and forget about Manny. If you’re way ahead in homers and you feel your team can take the hit in the power categories, look at offering up a slugger for speed. The key is to assess where you’re at in all categories. Will the gain from Pierre’s steals outweigh the loss of homeruns from the power hitter you’re giving away? If so, make the deal.

Place premium value on position players and difficult categories
Did you get stuck with a lousy second baseman last year? Second base was an absolute sinkhole position and aside from a few key performances, there was very little to cheer about. Having somebody like Alfonso Soriano on your roster can make a huge difference to your team’s prospects. Not only is he eligible for second base, he also racks up numbers in the elusive steals category. Sure, he didn’t put up the same kind of power numbers as Jim Thome, but he garnered 18 more steals and if he was on your roster, you didn’t have to worry about having the drain on your offense from a sub par second baseman.

Do the math. The fact of the matter is that, quality first baseman are far more plentiful than second baggers. You’d be much better off with an average first baseman and a star at second than vice versa. Moreover, steals are much harder to accumulate than homers are. Don’t forget that when you start thinking in terms of trading away someone like Soriano.

Look at the needs of other managers
How many times have you received a trade offer that makes absolutely no sense to your team? Does it make you want to even bother counter offering? Don’t send something the other manager has in abundance. If he’s already got 2 great shortstops, odds are he probably doesn’t need a third. Take a look at the standings. If its homers you have in abundance, find the manager who’s last in that category. If he’s smart, he’ll be willing to deal from his strengths in order to bid for your power hitter.

Think about who you want to trade with.
If you’re in first place and it’s near the end of the season, you should probably try to avoid trading with the second and third place teams (unless it’s a Trojan Horse deal – see below). Why improve the teams that are closest to catching you in the standings? Look for the guys in the middle or bottom of the pack to make deals with. Similarly, consider the category that you’re trading away. Is the manager you’re trading with close to you in that category? Will the trade put his team ahead of yours in saves? How does that impact your finish in the standings? Think about it.

Don’t try to rip others off.
The worst trade I ever saw was when a manager offered up a player who had been injured the night before for some lesser players. Some people were unaware of the injury and a deal was made. Of course, the league was ticked off and the deal was voided. That manager was basically shunned for the rest of the year. I said it above, don’t try ripping people off. It won’t work out and you’ll be as popular as Pedro Martinez would be at Don Zimmer’s birthday party.

What to do when you’re presented with a ridiculous trade offer.
I’ll tell you what not to do. Don’t blast the person publicly. You’ll not only embarrass the other manager, you may wind up scaring other managers from dealing with you. Quite often, pools have comment sheets that go along with the trade. Read the manager’s comments, he may be addressing a weakness you haven’t considered. I’ve seen managers blast each other for trade offers that I felt were quite reasonable. Don’t take it personally or get upset. If it’s possible he’s just doing a bad job of lowballing (see below), consider a counter offer. If the offer is truly ridiculous, just ignore it.

Trade Methodologies

Buy Low, Sell High
Buying low and selling high, EVERYBODY’S favorite strategy. Funny how everyone loves to talk about it but few people seem to have the stomach for it. Why? Because, when you’ve got a player that is carrying your team to fortune and glory, it’s tough to trade that player away… even if it is Richard Hidalgo. As the season unfolds, watch for blue chip players who get off to slow starts. Jim Thome is a great example. In the past, Thome has always been a notoriously slow starter and has a reputation for being much better after May. If you’re lucky enough to get him at a bargain, Thome is the kind of guy that can put your team on his shoulders and win categories by himself. Trust me, no matter how cold he is, he’s worth the price of a hot Richard Hidalgo.

Buying low and selling high is probably the best thing you can do for your championship hopes outside of drafting a good team. People who traded for Thome after many of his slow starts can attest to that. Just make sure you do your research on any injuries the player might have before trading for him.

The Discount Offer Method (Lowballing)
Careful with this one. Don’t try ripping people off, you’ll just end up alienating yourself and nobody will trade with you. Use this tactic sparingly. The last thing you want to do is tick everybody in the pool off with crappy offers. The key is to offer value, but maybe not full value. It’s all about getting the most for your dollar. If the other manager is willing to take Jim Edmonds for what you want, don’t offer him Albert Pujols. If he demands Pujols in a counter offer and you’re willing to give him up… fine. But if he accepts Edmonds, you’ve saved yourself from having to have given up your team’s best player. Again, don’t use this all the time, it won’t always work. And make sure there’s an upside for the team you’re trading to. There has to be something in it for them to deal with you.

The Trojan Horse Method
Above, I suggested you think about who you’re trading with. Look at the standings. Can you gain ground on a rival by planting a Trojan Horse in a given category? For example, if you’re trailing somebody in the batting average category and they need power, trade them someone like Adam Dunn. Yes, Dunn is a great power hitter, but he won’t be winning any batting championships anytime soon. He’ll probably finish around .260 on the year (although that could vary somewhat) and your rival will take a hit in that category. Plus you’ll have unloaded the average challenged Dunn, thus improving your fortunes. With any luck, you’ll get past them in batting average. It’s sneaky, but it works.

The Quality for Quantity Method
This is good if you’ve got holes in your lineup or have an injury riddled team. If you have Vladimir Guerrero for example, you can probably package him with one of your lesser players and get 3 or 4 guys in return. Other Managers are more likely to trade with you if they’re getting the best player in the deal. Trading away Vlad hurts, but if you can fill some holes and add depth to your team, it might help you in the long run. Again, look at the standings. If it’s going to help your stats overall, there’s nothing wrong with trading away Guerrero as long as you get quality players back. On the flipside, if you have good players on your bench, look for teams who have holes in their lineup. You might be able to land a star and improve the quality of your team. Trades like these help both teams out.

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