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May 14, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Growing the Pie

by Jeff Quinton


What follows is the third of a three-part series about negotiation. Part one, The Benefits of Early-Season Trade Talk, can be found here. Part two, Negotiation Styles, can be found here.

We are not talking about an actual pie in the baked-dish sense. We are not even talking about the late, great tomato pies at Hudson Street and Hamilton Avenue, may they rest in peace. Rather, we are here today to talk about a figurative pie, that figurative pie being the total asset pool that is being moved in a trade. Moreover, we are here to discuss the advantages of growing that asset pool beyond the framework of the initial trade to the benefit of both parties involved when possible.

The majority of discussion around trades is about how the pie is divided; who got the most value out of the trade, who should have gotten more, who bought or sold too early or too late, who got the best player in the deal, etcetera. The focus on winning and losing trades is not specific to fantasy baseball either; it is a phenomenon that we see in all arenas of negotiation. This focus, however, often causes us to miss opportunities. We will often quickly agree to a small, definitive win, instead of working to add additional pieces that can be larger benefits to both parties involved. In other words, carving up a bigger pie more evenly can often be more beneficial than getting the extra slice of a much smaller pie.

The devil’s advocate in me is objecting here. It asks, “why not make a trade that is a quick, definitive win, which will then allow you to make a trade for an even bigger pie?” My answer is that there is nothing wrong with this strategy if you can pull it off, but this is easier said than done. First, trade markets are not always perfect as we have previously discussed; thus, trading to make another trade can be a faulty plan. Secondly, while the assets we acquire in a quick, decisive win might be more valuable than the assets we have given up in terms of production (for example, an aging, yet productive hitter for a back-end top-100 prospect in Low-A), the assets we acquire might also be less valuable than the assets we have given up in terms of trade value.

That said, let us get back to growing the pie. For starters, what does growing the pie realistically look like? A trade between teams X and Y involves Team X sending assets to Team Y in exchange for assets from Team Y. Because most leagues disallow mergers and acquisitions (probably due to a lack of a proper regulatory authority), a trade not only involves the movement of specific assets, it also involves the staying put of specific assets. There are often some assets on both sides that stay put, even though swapping those said assets could potentially help both sides. Getting those assets added to a trade is thus growing the pie. An example follows:

Team X is selling and Team Y is looking to make a run. Team Y has a prospect that Team X covets, say Carlos Correa. Team X has an expensive veteran pitcher in Justin Verlander that Team Y desperately needs in order to replace Jose Fernandez. The initial framework for this trade is already set, Correa for Verlander; however, there are many ways in which we could potentially add to this trade that could help both sides. Maybe Team X has an expiring Josh Willingham on the DL that they have been unable to move, while Team Y has a cheap Aaron Hicks who they are considering cutting. For the sake of the example, let us also say that Team Y has an open DL slot. In this situation, Willingham is more valuable to Team Y and Hicks is more valuable to Team X (who can afford deal with his poor play in order to see if he rebounds to become a keeper for next season), but the pieces are so small that they never merited their own trade discussion. As you can see, we are not talking about trading half a roster for half a roster; rather, we talking about adding in those little pieces that have a chance (albeit a very small chance) to make a difference in a playoff run or make a difference in a successful rebuild. The most likely outcome here is that Team Y finds a better fifth outfielder than Willingham and cuts him upon his return, and Team X are the ones holding onto Hicks when we discover he is truly terrible. This, however, is okay, and it beats Team Y cutting Hicks or watching him destroy their average, while Team X pointlessly holds onto Willingham or cuts him from their roster.

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Related Content:  Trades,  Fantasy,  Negotiation

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<< Previous Article
Daily League Strategy:... (05/14)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Exp... (05/12)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Nat... (05/14)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Nat... (05/14)

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