Fantasy 101: How To Trade The Right Way

Mark Weston talks through some basics of trading in fantasy baseball and offers up some advice for the upcoming season.

If you ask me, trading is easily both the most fun and most frustrating part of fantasy baseball. It can make your season or it can ruin your season. We probably all have stories of when we traded away a bench bat on a hot streak for a slumping superstar in May and it led to our team to a first-place finish. There’s so much at stake when you make a trade. This is by no means going to be an attempt to cover the whole world of fantasy trading, but simply a few tips to keep in mind as you warm up for the season.

Before I get into the trade tips, I want to point out two facts about your leagues that you probably knew already but haven’t really accepted as constants. First, all your league-mates believe they are smarter than their opponents, including you. We see this every time we are in trade talks with another team but we still can’t help ourselves from trying to explain to our opponent why our opinion is smarter than theirs. How many times have you talked someone into doing a trade by pointing out a player’s stats? Probably very seldom. The point is you can waste a lot of time trying to convince your opponent of something with numbers but in the end they will still like their own opinion more than yours. All you will likely do is seem desperate and cause them to dig into their own stance even more.

The other fact is that people will always value their own players more than the market. This one makes absolute sense but I still find myself shocked when I ask the price of a player they own and they come back with a much higher asking price than I was expecting. Of course other teams value their players more, that’s why they have them; when that player was drafted, claimed, or traded for they wanted them more than the other teams. I wanted to point this out because when your expectations are properly set before you inquire on a trade you can save yourself a lot of the emotional response and focus on making rational valuations and keep your trade talks civil.

Now here are a few trade suggestions that the fine people here at Pitcher List came up with:

Smokescreen Your Trade Intentions

If you want a player, start off the trade inquiry by asking for an even more valuable player and let your opponent talk you down to the player you really want. This tactic especially helps against the types of trade partners that tailor their asking price to your interest. Some people will immediately shoot up their asking price on a player the moment you ask about them. If you talk around that and let them bring the player to you, you might be able to avoid that nonsense. You need the right circumstances to even use this tactic but it’s one worth thinking about.

Take Advantage of Player Perceptions

Often times the industry opinion on a player is not as objective as it should be. Players’ value can get inflated or discounted based on age, flashiness, tools, or even what team they are on. This can be taken advantage of if we play the trade market accordingly. One way to take advantage would be to trade down in value for a player we can expect similar stats and take an upgrade elsewhere as well. For instance, if you have Andrew McCutchen, from whom we are counting on a line somewhere like 85/23/85/10/.270, we can use his 7th round value to downgrade to Jackie Bradley Jr., from whom we are expecting 80/25/80/8/.260, who is a 20th round value and take an upgrade on an SP or something like that. This tactic could also be used to take advantage of players with very inflated values right now, such as Ozzie Albies, Rhys Hoskins, or Shohei Ohtani.

Analyzing Trade Targets

Not always, but sometimes we can find a perfect trade partner. Thanks to Whit Merrifield’s breakout I have two very strong 2B and so I trade one away to a team that has a spare closer, that’s the idea. When trying to address a positional strength or weakness you should first survey your league to see if there is a team that has the opposite corresponding strengths and weaknesses. You can save yourself a lot of pain a struggle if you find a team that can improve themselves at the same time as yourself. In deeper leagues this can also be done with depth, if I have 3 reserve SP’s but no backup OF’s, perhaps I should find someone with a deep OF bench and see if he’s interested in trading away from depth.

Don’t Constantly Low-ball

Far too many people think that winning fantasy baseball is done by getting lopsided trades done. Offering lopsided trades to opponents just might come through once in a hundred offers but the vast majority of these trade offers are turned down immediately. If you become the guy that constantly sends out silly trade offers then when you want to take things seriously and get a player you really want, no team will be willing to talk with you or take your offer seriously. They will suspect you know something they don’t or that your player is on the brink of Tommy John surgery. Keep in mind that every time you send someone a garbage offer you are hurting your reputation with them a little at a time.

You Don’t Always Need to “Win” the Trade

This piece of advice has multiple meanings. For redraft leagues, you can make a trade where you are trading away more value than you are getting if it means making your team stronger as a whole. The best example of this is if you have depth at any particular position and trade a player at that position away to fill a gaping hole. Breakouts and injuries are constantly happening throughout the season so your team should always be needing adjustments. Do not let a position sit with a terrible filler for most of the season just because you are unwilling to trade down; that is ONLY hurting yourself.

The second meaning for this point is for those in keeper or dynasty leagues. If you look back to previous years’ trades you will quickly notice that most trades end up being a clear win or loss. Trades don’t get won or lost based on tiny bits of value, they are won or lost based on who takes it to the next level, who collapses and retires, who remains all potential but never quite breaks out. When making a trade that has long-term consequences, don’t get hung up on a 14th round or a 16th round, $10 or $12, or a top 50 starting pitcher vs. a top 75 starting pitcher. Get the players you trust and believe in and don’t let the little pieces of value stop you from making the trade. A year or two down the road those little differences in value are not going to have won or lost you the trade.

These were some pieces of advice we wanted to share with the readers. There are certainly much more do’s and don’ts out there worth knowing. If you have a piece of advice that has helped you in your leagues please share it below in the comments section. It’s best to go into the season reminded of the mistakes you’ve made in the past so you can learn from them next time. Best of luck this year and happy trading.

Mark Weston

Mark writes for Pitcher List. He loves digging into hitters using sabermetrics all along the way. 10+ years of fantasy baseball playing experience in head-to-head, points, rotisserie, redraft, keeper, dynasty, and Ottoneu. You can follow on Twitter @Mark_Weston6

2 responses to “Fantasy 101: How To Trade The Right Way”

  1. Nathan says:

    Another piece of advice I would add, is to adapt your strategy to the person you are trading with. Some of the guys I trade with always want to counter with a better deal, so I start high and work down to what I really want, others just want the final offer.

    Get to know the types of traders you have in your league to improve trading results.

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