The Verdict: watch out for panic trades

After weeks and months of draft preparation, the first week of the fantasy baseball season is now in the books. Some people are reveling seeing their draft strategies come to fruition. Others are already in panic mode as their players have flopped or gotten injured.

The truth is that the results of the first week of the season bear little knowledge of how the rest of the year will play out. But that doesn’t stop people from overreacting in a positive or negative manner. Fantasy baseball leagues need to be cognizant of those owners who will excessively undervalue or overvalue players based on their first week’s performance.

This is not to say that elite superstar players cannot be traded. But, when trades involve players in the upper echelon of fantasy baseball greatness, there needs to be additional scrutiny. For example, 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout was a top three overall pick in almost any fantasy baseball league format. What wasn’t to like about him? He hit for a great average, had power, stole bases, and scored runs. But his performance during the first week of the season was nothing to write home about and certainly not commensurate with his draft value.

Based on one week’s worth of games, some fantasy owners may panic and try to trade Trout for fear that this is foreshadowing the proverbial sophomore slump. The inverse is the example of Chris Davis. Davis was once a highly touted prospect with the Rangers who never developed into the hitter that Texas though he would. In 2012 with the Orioles, Davis showcased his talent by hitting more than 30 home runs.

However, this year he was still a mid-round draft pick at best because he had a limited track record and serious flaws in his mechanics. But during the first week of the 2013 season, Davis was arguably the fantasy MVP with four home runs and 16 RBIs through the first four games. Niw, fantasy owners may tend to overvalue him based on this small sample.

In either case, it is important that all leagues ensure that trades are made with equitable compensation based on more than just one week’s worth of games. Whether your league handles trades with commissioner’s approval or through a league vote, you need to employ an evaluation of players that expands beyond just Week One of this season. Trading Mike Trout for Vernon Wells should never be permitted regardless of their statistics to date.

Again, this doesn’t mean a player like Trout cannot be traded. It just means you need to evaluate trades through an objective lens that takes into account much more than a small sample of early season statistics.

Another moral to this story is that fantasy players should not be quick-reacting traders. You drafted your teams based on your own rankings and preferences, likely employing some form of strategy. You should not abandon that strategy just because it hasn’t worked out after one week. Your fellow league members will likely smell blood in the water and try to feast on your emotions. It is imperative not to let that happen.

However, there is no denying that savvy fantasy players will try to do such a thing, and they have every right to. But if one of them is able to negotiate a trade for an elite player who got off to a slow start, it doesn’t mean such a trade should be approved if it does not bring back equitable or fair compensation.

Clearly each trade should be evaluated in a vacuum and in conjunction with the type of league you are in. Trades made in keeper leagues and dynasty leagues have a different evaluation than non-keeper or redraft leagues. But a lopsided and inequitable trade is still lopsided and inequitable no matter when it is consummated. At this stage of the season, league commissioners should be aware of deals that involve high profile players for less than equitable compensation.

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  1. Jack Weiland said...

    I don’t really agree that it’s the league’s place to judge whether or not a trade is equitable. If a guy makes a bad trade, it’s on him. If you wish you had been the one to swindle this person, too bad. You didn’t, and some other guy did. Do more homework next time.

    To me the only reason to veto deals if there’s some type of collusion involved.

  2. angelo said...

    I wouldn’t say the league should be powerless ; a bad trade means one team gets a lot stronger, which hurts the other teams’ chances

  3. Dorsey said...

    Collusion is generally evidenced by a trade so bad that no one else in the league would do it, hence requiring 3/4 (or however many) of teams to veto.

    A rule forbidding trades in the first 2-4 weeks of the season might be an interesting experiment.

  4. Greg said...

    I totally disagree with this column. This basically tells people that they aren’t ever allowed to win a lopsided trade. If both teams agree to the deal and it’s not obvious collusion, then what right do others have to say anything? Any complaining is plainly sour grapes. You want to get a deal in your favour, get off your hands and make it happen. Due to the fantasy information overload on the internet, sneaking trades through on the sly is next to impossible anyways. But, if I am a good manipulator, why should I be penalized because the trade makes someone worse and me better?

  5. Michael A. Stein said...

    Trades made through collusion should never be permitted.  While people are free to manage their teams according to their own preferences, there are some trades that are so lopsided or inequitable that they should not be allowed.

    Sure, some trades end up looking lopsided in retrospect.  But when a deal is consummated, there must be some discernible benefit obtained by both parties.  The example I used was Mike Trout for Vernon Wells.  There are no circumstances that would ever justify making that trade to acquire Wells. 

    Of course someone like Trout could be traded for less value than he had just two weeks ago.  If you are able to “manipulate” someone else to get a beneficial deal, that is fine.  But it still must make sense from both teams’ perspectives.

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