Trading players you don’t own

Most strategies in fantasy baseball are almost universally known, making most strategy articles nothing more than boring reminders to the people reading them. Having said that, the strategy—or tactic, it might be better called—that I am writing about today is one that I think most people do not know about and hopefully after reading the title you were utterly and positively confused.

Here’s how you can trade players you don’t even own:

The situation

Everyone who has ever tried to negotiate a trade in fantasy baseball has gotten to the point where there is a sticking point in the deal. Often it is a player who is disagreed upon; the guy you are trading with demands a player be included in the deal, and you want no part of that player. We will say the player you do not want is Casey Blake because even though he is having a resurgence of a season, you are wary of his .333 BABIP and 14 percent HR/FB rate.

Now, you do not want Casey Blake, but perhaps someone else will. So what you can do is while the first deal is offered—let’s say it is Kevin Youkilis and Brian Roberts for Casey Blake and Chase Utley—you can start shopping around Blake as if you own him.

Technically you do not own Blake, but as long as that deal is offered from the other team you can pretend that you do in other trade negotiations. Say you find someone who really likes Blake and you negotiate a good deal, giving Blake and a decent pitcher like Carlos Zambrano for David Wright. Perhaps that second trade is a little unrealistic but the point is that if you come to a stopping point in a deal, while it is offered you can try to trade that stopping point for another player you like better, making the original deal now “accept-able”.

When evaluating the trades you can simply pretend Casey Blake never existed, so:

Kevin Youkilis, Bryan Roberts, Carlos Zambrano, and Casey Blake for Casey Blake, Chase Utley, and David Wright

Becomes more simply:

Youkilis, Roberts, and Zambrano for Utley and Wright.

Implementing the trade-player-you-don’t-yet-own tactic can help you complete trades that otherwise might have been left uncompleted but should not be used unless you know the warnings.


As you probably can imagine, this tactic is ripe for creating disputes and controversy, so every step should be made crystal clear to both parties involved.

Make sure that the first deal is offered and the other owner is fine with you accepting it at anytime. Having his* written consent is preferable in case he tries to say afterward that he never agreed to letting you accept. Otherwise the argument can compound where the person with whom you negotiated the second deal demands you do his deal, but you do not have the players to do the second deal because the first guy rescinded the first deal.

*I know “hers” and “shes” play fantasy baseball as well, but I put only the masculine pronouns to keep those sentences grammatically correct (singular) and readable.

The other main problem that could arise occurs when you complete the first deal, but then the person involved with the second deal decides to back out for whatever reason. Then you are stuck with a deal you probably would have not accepted without the second deal already negotiated beforehand. Make sure the owner of the second deal understands exactly what deal he will be accepting and that he will, indeed, accept it.

Concluding thoughts

So that is how you trade players that are not even on your team. The next time you are in trade negotiations that stall, try to shop around pieces of the deal and see if what you can get makes it worthy of acceptance. Just make sure everything is communicated clearly because I do not want to be the cause of controversy and maybe even broken friendships.

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  1. Elliot said...

    I’ve tried this theory a few times this year as I’m in a pretty active league.  The results have been: (1) getting screwed when the second guy backs out afetr I’ve made deal 1, (2) getting screwed when the second guy went and made a separate deal with the first guy, cutting me out and (3) lots of wasted time on deals that were never consummated.  Needless to say, I am no longer a proponent of this approach

  2. Paul Singman said...

    Yea this definitely is a difficult thing to pull off, and as you guys have noted it can easily backfire.

    Thank you for your input because unless people who have tried it tell me how it worked for them, I cannot have any idea how successful it is.

    Speaking from my own experiences, I have made it work so it is possible….

  3. Joel said...

    Don’t see how Casey Blake and Zambrano would net anyone Wright. I don’t think Mark Renyolds and Zambrano would do that, and Reynolds is far better than Blake.

  4. Alek said...

    I did this last year. I won’t name players because I got embarrassed in retrospect.

    What we did was this. Guy A and I wanted each others players, but we couldn’t come to a complete understanding. We then toyed about the idea of a guy B to join the trade. We found someone who, if we could GET him to trade a certain player, the deal could be completed. He agreed to trade that player for another, and it was done. Pretty easy.

    If that didn’t make sense, basically we decided what other teams player would make it complete, and then approached him about it together.

  5. archilochusColubris said...

    Once i tried to put together a 3-team trade in a similar fashion… i’ll just say that you might not find it incredibly simple unless your league is very (inter)active.

  6. anonymous said...

    i try this strategy all the time but there are several large pitfalls to be wary of:

    1) let’s say i start offering blake to manager B (assuming I will get him from manager A), I run the risk of manager B simply circumventing me and trading with manager A (i.e. maybe manager A has a better “decent pitcher” than I do)

    2) another possibility is that manager B will want to know the deal I have in place with manager A and may think of the entire deal as a 3 way trade.  in that case, he is likely to evaluate the trade from 3 angles and determine that i’m getting “too good of a deal.”

    3) more often than not, you don’t just have a trade sitting in your inbox waiting for you to click accept.  there’s usually a ton of back and forth and negotiating before that happens.  the most likely scenario is that you are “in talks” to get blake from manager A and then you start dangling him in front of manager B.  the problem is that those “talks” end up leading nowhere 75% of the time, esp is manager A gets wind of your talks with manager B.

  7. steveknj said...

    There’s another caveat.  The person in the second deal, knowing you don’t have the player yet, can go to the first team you are dealing with and make a seperate deal for this player, thus scuttling your original deal.

  8. Randy said...

    Yeah…..this is a tatic in theory only.  Too many ways for it to go sideways to make it worth the effort.

  9. Ilya said...

    This strategy does work but I find it is much easier to pull of when the team you are trading players you do not own to is being managed by a friend or somebody you know in person.

    The issue of circumventing you is real, but the issue of backing out of a deal is rare due to the threat of physical violence.

    I find this much more of a viable strategy when your getting a player you don’t want but it’s a great deal regardless, and then you try to flip that player somewhere else, maybe at a bit of a loss, but still overall winning the trades and getting the players you want,

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