Sometimes I allow myself to indulge in the delusion that there exists a substantial amount of readers who eagerly anticipate my columns each week. In this delusion, such readers are drawn to my columns because I provide useful information. Unfortunately for those readers, this column will not offer such information. Fortunately for me, this theoretical group may not even exist, so I likely won’t be disappointing anybody.
In the spirit of Festivus, I’d like to take some time this week to engage in some airing of grievances. The topic? Trades, and more specifically the ridiculous types of trade offers we are bombarded with every season. There are several distinct types of idiotic trade offers and I plan to complain about a few of them.
Now, before unleashing the vitriol, I will readily acknowledge that making trades in fantasy baseball is often rather difficult. As Jonathan Halket describes in his “Drafting to Trade” column:
To make a trade, there must be what economists call a “double coincidence of wants.” Your team must not only have something the other owner wants, but you must be willing to give up a player that the other owner values more highly than the player he is giving up.
It is often difficult to find a trade partner. An ideal trade partner would have some sort of deficiency in a category or position in which you have excess, while you must have an excess of something in which the other team has a deficiency. This confluence of circumstances is more rare than it sounds. The reality of an “imperfect market” makes even the simplest of trade strategies, “buy low/sell high,” somewhat challenging to actually execute. I understand that often times initial trade offers are intended to be a jumping off point for negotiations, but the whole trading process would be a lot less frustrating if owners avoided proposing the following types of non-starters in the first place.
The sports-talk radio proposal: I won’t presume to speak for anybody else. But for me, listening to sports talk radio is something approximating what I imagine being torture…, um, experiencing enhanced interrogation at the hands of the CIA would feel like. Occasionally, I will listen for a short period of time in order to confirm that I do have some masochist tendencies. The most inane of the inane calls into these radio stations must be the ones in which fans propose trades that their franchises should make. The underlying philosophy of these trade proposals seems to be that five 1978 Dodge Dusters equal one 2010 Maybach. No, I do not want a No. 3 starter and bench players for Ryan Braun, thank you. And, no throwing in a third and fourth bench player does not help make the proposal any more attractive.
The barely legal proposal: Sometimes, you’ll hear guys speak creepily about eagerly awaiting the moment when some attractive young teenage girl turns 18 so they can pounce. Yeah, I know it’s disgusting, but it happens. What does this have to do with fantasy baseball, you ask… Did you ever draft an injured stud on draft day at a large discount? Or, have you ever had one of your best players go down with an injury which keeps him out for a month or longer? Of course you have. And, of course you know what happens in this situation. As soon as that player regains health, the trade offers flood in. I did not draft an injured A-Rod at the 23rd overall pick so that I can trade him for the 25th overall pick after waiting for a month to get him into my lineup. If I wanted that player, I would have drafted him when I drafted the injured A-Rod.
The pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey proposal: Most trade offers are unattractive due to being poorly thought out, more so than being lopsided value-wise. Other owners just often, seemingly randomly, offer up some mass of semi-equal value for their targeted player without taking into account any practical context.
There are many forms the oblivious trade proposal can take, such as asking for my best source of stats for a single category while offering no contribution in that category in return, or offering me a position or category I already have an abundance of while asking for a position or category I’m fighting to remain competitive in.
I really wish people would go about proposing trades more intelligently and think about whether they are attempting to offer something that the other team might see as valuable. Identify the skill set/positional upgrade you are looking for and make a list of the players who fit that bill. Give some thought to what level of player you want to ask for and what players/categories you are most willing to give up. Look at the standings and rosters and see which teams are in need of what you are willing to give up and see if the any of the players on your list are on any of those teams. This is not rocket science, people!
I’m sure you readers out there have trade proposal horror stories and other awful trade proposal archetypes to share. So, let’s hear them. In addition to the trade proposal archetypes, there are also difficult owner archetypes. There’s the owner who overvalues all of his players and always wants something for nothing. There’s the overzealous owner who constantly hounds you to make trades, despite the fact that you’ve made it clear you aren’t interested. There’s the owner who stalks a player of yours and sends you offer after offer for that player (although this case can be advantageous because it’s basically an invitation to propose a lopsided offer to that owner that includes the player he wants). Feel free to chime in with your thoughts about owner types as well.
Before signing off, I will attempt to impart a piece of useful information (I feel a little guilty). I’ve touched on this point before, but I’d like to make it explicit here, in practicality, there is no such thing as a two-for-one trade in most forms of fantasy baseball. There is always a fourth player involved in these trades. Fantasy teams are not major league franchises; we don’t have several levels of minor league teams plus baseball academies in foreign countries to stash a virtually infinite amount of players. When you make a two-for-one trade, you must drop somebody on your team to accommodate the new player. In most two-for-one trades, the team getting the two players plans to play both of those players in their starting lineup. This also means that the trade pushes that team’s worst producing regular (or positional overstock) to the bench along with pushing a bench player to the waiver wire.
Therefore, a team does not reap the full value of the second player. The true value-add of that second player is the difference between that player and the player he will replace in your starting lineup.
In one sense, you can view the value as being the difference between the new player and the old starter, plus the difference between the old starter and the team’s least valuable bench player. These trades can strengthen your bench, but it is somewhat ambiguous as to how we can quantify that value, as that value is largely non-contributive to your bottom line. This secondary affect on team depth is worth noting, though.
This isn’t really an incredibly advanced concept, but I’ve noticed that people all too often neglect to keep it in mind when proposed with a two-for-one. For this reason, two-for-ones often look to be more appealing on paper than they are prudent in practice.