Thursday, July 23, 2009

Top 10 tactics for fantasy league trading

I'll save you from 500 words of how much I really, really hate Ricky Nolasco and Jimmy Rollins (aka, two of the worst players in MLB in the first half, and two of the best in the second, now that both are off my roster) and just get to the meat of the matter. List ho!

10) The time you waste will be your own. Unless your league is composed of entirely rational people who are efficient at managing their time -- in other words, no -- any trade that actually helps your team will take three to five times longer than you'd expect, imagine, or want. Let the insulting opener, worse counter-offer, and remarkably short-sighted counter begin!

9) Go with the whore. Every league has a guy who thinks that trade offers are the hidden scoring category, and that he who ends the year with the most wins. He also will make you the worst offers, at least at the start, and will keep asking about the same guy that you've refused to move for months, if not years. This is the guy that you will eventually deal with, simply because he's the guy that actually gets trades done. Hell, you might as well ask him for players on other teams, since he's more likely to get them than you. Accept this and move on.

8) Know your VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). The simplest calculus of trades is this: the team that got the best player usually won the trade. That's because unless you are playing in a ridiculously deep league, there's always -- always -- some schlub that no one knew about two weeks ago that now looks poised to produce good numbers, either due to injury, real life trade, or some other compelling reason. So if the deal comes down to you taking on a problem player with a stud for two ordinary guys, you should probably make the move, especially if the problem guy is in a deep position. Then, work the wire hard.

7) Abandon hope.
If you are convinced that you are just one move away from top money, and that this trade that you've been working on is the absolute key to the whole thing... take a deep breath and force yourself to come up with 2 to 3 other options. There is no such thing as a completely unique or irreplaceable player. But there are plenty of owners who will trade as if this wasn't the case, and they are all (usually) paying too much.

6) Make a king. One of the best trading environments is when you've got two owners who are making the Championship Of Each Other play, where you can take advantage of their emotions to better your own club. Don't be shy about letting Coke know that Pepsi is also interested in what you've got to move. It sounds simple and basic and crass, and it's also how Scott Boras is able to crowbar away more money for his clients. (See Rod, A, and how the Yankees "stole" him away from Boston.)

5) Scars matter. Years and years ago, I moved an injury-prone steals-only shortstop with a poor OBA who was about to lose his leadoff job for an up and coming lefthanded starting pitcher with peaking strikeout numbers, in a good pitcher's park. And that's how my trading partner got Jose Reyes for Oliver Perez, the worst trade of my life and the one that I will mumble, Citizen Kane-ish, on my deathbed. This can happen to you, on every trade. Expect it, and it'll hurt less. Rey-es...

4) You are the enemy.
In most leagues I've been in, my teams have struggled to get enough strikeouts from their pitchers, and enough steals from the offense. That's because strikeouts are fascist, and I hate paying for top-tier pitching since it so often blows up in your face. As for the steals, I grew up in an era where most everyday players were expected to pick up 15 to 20 steals a year just from routine baseball activities. So I've never been comfortable in valuing the single-category steal king as much as I should. (See #5.)

You can try to trade away from this, but the guy making the trade... is the same guy who tweaked his draft ratings to avoid these categories. Expect unconscious sabotage.

3) Ulti alterim partem (Latin for "hear the other side"). In mock trial cases that you work up in political science courses and pre-law (yes, I was thisclose to being even more insufferable than I already am), you are given the task of working up an argument for the merits of both sides of a dispute. Do the same for your trade proposal, and exclude reasons like how your trading partner really really really likes you, owes you for some favor, or likes to make moves while chemically altered. If you can't make a good case for the move, how can anyone else?

2) Hand holding while peeing. There's a reason why crowdsourcing is a buzzword in business circles, or why fantasy league content platforms like ESPN and Yahoo tell you the percentage of leagues in which a player is owned. That's because the crowd is usually smarter than the individual, and can help to serve as a welcome course of cold water to the face when you are about to make a truly regrettable deal. Develop contacts in leagues other than your own, and sound them out for your biggest moves, especially if you are going very unconventional.

So, yes, it's the remarkably unmanly thing to do, and will tax the patience of your friends. It could also save your season. Make the call.

1) Biggest sucker. As with many things in life, there's an apt poker analogy here: if you can't see the biggest sucker at the table in five minutes, it's you. And who would be a bigger sucker than a guy who writes out his trading weaknesses in public for entertainment purposes? Come on down!

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Another key is to never get attached to players with marquee names. I drafted Wang and have his bobblehead, and I refused to give up on him just because I believed he would eventually get his act together. I finally let go. Now I have J.A. Happ. I sleep a little better now.

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