I run a 12-team keeper league. The specifics of the league aren’t important to this article. What is important is that somewhere along the line the most peculiar thing happened—I became the default trade advisor for many of the owners in my league.
As far as I can tell, my leaguemates consult me for two reasons. The first is the same reason The Hardball Times lets me write and you clicked to open this article—I supposedly know a lot about baseball and can express that knowledge.
The second reason is that I’m honest. If someone asks me who they should pick up off the waiver wire, I’ll tell them who best fits their team. If someone wants a quick cost-benefit analysis done on a trade proposal they received, I’ll give it to them. There have been times where I have advised another owner to take a trade that helps my biggest rival.
Basically, I have built into the league a free fantasy baseball consulting service. I actually help my rivals field better teams and make better trades. I must be crazy.
Well, I’m not. I gain two things from consulting with most of the teams: Information and influence.
Information is probably the most important. As commissioner and czar of trade, I have up-to-date contact information for everyone in the league. I can get in touch with those hard-to-reach owners that no else seems to be able to find.
Updates on trade negotiations are the most valuable bit of information that I get. With this information, I get a sense of how an owner values different types of players and what qualities they look for in players. For example, we have one owner who is known to place a high value on youth. We have another owner who only likes proven players. I cannot overstate the value of knowing this information.
I am not above inserting myself into trade negotiations when I see an opportunity. Sometimes this means entering as a third party to facilitate a trade. Other times, I’ve topped the previous best offer. For example, an owner asked my advice on an offer he got for Carl Crawford. I thought it was light and told him as much. A few days later, I sent Michael Pineda ($10 to keep), Kendrys Morales, and Chris Coghlan for Crawford. This was about two weeks before Morales’s season went KA-PLUIE.
The other advantage to consulting with my rivals is the influence I gain. Influence comes as a result of consistently offering beneficial advice. Like with information, influence can be used in different ways. Let’s classify them generally as “cold” and “hot.”
Cold influence, like cold war, is indirect. When owners attach weight to my opinion, two things happen without me lifting a finger. Some owner’s preferences begin to mirror my own. They evaluate using the same stats and build their rosters in a similar way.
For instance, I believe that mid-tier pitchers aren’t worth rostering for the four days they are off. When other owners start carrying short rotations based on my beliefs, the result is more robust options on the waiver market for me. This works for me because I’m much better at my strategy than my opponents.
The other thing that happens is the cost of doing business goes down. If owners have similar preferences to my own, then my roster becomes more valuable on the trade market. With that in information hand, I can cherry pick good fantasy players who don’t fit my profile on the cheap.
Hot influence is when I directly affect what another owner does. I occasionally receive messages that say something like, “I was offered X and Y for Z. It doesn’t add up right, so what should I ask for in place of Y?” When my response is, “Try to get exciting prospect N instead of boring veteran Y—your team needs upside,” I have directly influenced an opponent’s team. Of course, the reason I get that influence is because I just gave him good advice.
So that’s my story. I’m honestly not sure if what I’m doing is untoward. Any other owner is welcome to copy my approach. No owner is under any obligation to contact me. They can completely ignore me so long as they pay their dues on time, submit their keeper list, and show up to the draft. My leaguemates allow and encourage my behavior, so I plan to continue trading my knowledge for information and influence.
*This year, I am currently in first place in the league, part of a three-way battle that has separated itself from the field. Last year I came in second place via the infamous final day collapse. So in a small sample size, this arrangement doesn’t appear to be hurting me.