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August 9, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Improving Your Team, or Butting In?

by Derek Carty

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Last week, fellow Tout Wars NL participant and industry friend Todd Zola sent out an email to all of the Tout and LABR warriors, asking each to give their brief thoughts for a roundtable he was putting together.  The question:

If you are obviously not going to win a league such as Tout Wars or LABR, will you make trades with those competing in an effort to move up in the standings, even if it is not a "money" finish?

This is a question I have a very strong opinion on, though up until this year I didn’t realize there were people who held the opposite stance.  You can read everyone’s responses here, but here’s the Spark Notes version: most people said “yes,” but a few said “no” (with varying shades of grey).

For me, the answer is simple: yes.  Unequivocally and always.  The argument from those who say no is that trading with contenders will influence the standings and can even decide who wins the league.  Well, yeah.  That’s what trading is: an attempt to make one’s team better.  An attempt to win.

The best argument presented in favor of making these kinds of trades is that, even if you don’t trade with a contender, you’re going to influence the race anyway. (I believe I was the first to raise this point, but many others reiterated it throughout the discussion.) If the contending owner is winning the home run category by 30 long-balls but is in a tight spot with steals, he’s going to need to trade power for speed if he hopes to win.  Sure, maybe if you trade with him you hand him the title, but if you refuse to trade with him, you’re merely handing the title to someone else—his competitor.  Not doing anything is still doing something.

And personally, I think the owner who realizes he needs to buff up in a certain area and actively looks for trades to improve deserves to be rewarded (or at least not punished).  He shouldn’t be put at a disadvantage just because the value on his team happens to be clustered among certain categories, in essence wasting some of the value, while his competitor’s team is more balanced.  And, of course, every team has room to improve somewhere. If one competing owner comes to me with a trade offer that improves my chances of moving up and/or winning, I’m going to take it.  If that owner’s competition is upset, well, maybe they should have been talking trade with me themselves.  They have no one to blame but themselves.  If you’re contending for a title and not regularly checking in with the other owners in your league, you’re probably making a mistake.

Trading is a part of this game that we play; it’s a vital skill that most championship-caliber players need to have.   If we’re not going to engage in trades, though, then why do we allow them at all?  Why not just draft and hold?

Another point that I don’t believe was raised in the roundtable is how to handle free agent pickups.  If you’re not going to trade with contending owners for fear of altering their chances of winning, are you going to submit FAAB bids for players that they might also want?  It’s a slippery slope.  And at what point do you say, “Okay, my season is over, no more trading or picking up free agents for me”?  Even at that, maybe you can’t win the league, but if you pack it in, refuse to better your team, and slip a few spots in certain categories, that could very well affect those at the top of the standings who were close to you in those categories.

In LABR NL this year, I’m currently in fifth place and desperately trying to claw my way into a money spot (I’m 4.5 points out of third).  With perhaps insurmountable leads in wins and strikeouts, I’m doing all I can to trade my starting pitching, which I have a lot of (Cole Hamels, R.A. Dickey, Ryan Dempster, A.J. Burnett, Tim Hudson, Erik Bedard, Michael Fiers, Wade LeBlanc, J.A. Happ, Ted Lilly).  Unfortunately, many owners feel content with their own pitching and would rather not give up offense, leaving only five or six teams as potential trading partners.  I dealt Hamels to one of them but haven’t found a suitable deal for any of my other guys yet.  One of those teams, when I approached about a potential trade, gave me the “I’d rather not affect the top of the standings” spiel.  Eliminating a potential trading partner and removing an entire roster of hitters from play artificially limits my options.  If I wind up having to sit on all this pitching (I won’t deal them for less than I feel they’re worth, regardless of the tight spot I’m in; doing so would hurt me when trying to make trades in subsequent years), it’s going to be very frustrating.  If I could just get even value for a couple of these players, I should be able to manage a top-three finish (or better).

There’s a lot more that can be said about this topic, but a lot of it was said in the roundtable itself, and quite frankly, I’m running on fumes when it comes to this debate.  There are some really intelligent people on the opposite side of the fence from me, and their points are all well taken and worth reading; I just don’t happen to agree with them in this case.  What do you guys think?

Related Content:  Fantasy Baseball

18 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Nathan

I agree with you. If you want to be fair to the other owners, the thing to do is run your own team as well as you can, and treat all the other owners impartially. As long as you're trading in your own best interests, it's not unfair to anyone else. Everyone is free to trade to improve their team.

Imagine if the Marlins had refused to trade Hanley Ramirez because they didn't want to affect the NL West standings. Wouldn't we all agree it was insane? Does anyone think that trade was somehow "unfair" to, say, the Diamondbacks?

Aug 09, 2012 03:56 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

True, although if you're playing in a redraft fantasy league, that's not a perfect parallel. MLB is more like a keeper fantasy league, since the Hanley deal was made with future years in mind.

Aug 09, 2012 11:17 AM
 
swarmee

In a single-season league, I can see both sides. I'm currently 10th in a 12-owner mixed league, and realistically can't make up 30 points in the standings. Should I be trading to improve my team? Doesn't really matter. Should I accept trade offers that come my way if they work for both owners? Yes. That's what I've been doing.

In keeper leagues, this is the best time of the year to trade. There are probably 6 teams out of 12 in the league right now that can use an upgrade to power through the rest of the season. Picking off their prospects at this point is a no-brainer, if you're at the bottom half of the standings.

I will challenge your assertion that "I won’t deal them for less than I feel they’re worth, regardless of the tight spot I’m in; doing so would hurt me when trying to make trades in subsequent years", since the trades you make this year should show that you're about converting an abundance of stats for a dearth of stats. That's trading with win-win outcomes in mind. That should improve the other owner's opinions of your trading skills and make you more sought after in future years, when they've got too many saves and not enough stolen bases.

I'm probably the most active trader in my long-term keeper league, having traded with 7 of the other 10 owners this season. I make more trades because I have a history of making more trades. People always consider my trade offers since they know I'll make trades, not just sit on my hands.

Aug 09, 2012 04:44 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yes, agreed. I may not actively pursue trades as much if I'm completely out of it, but I will definitely listen to offers and take them seriously.

What I meant by "I won’t deal them for less than I feel they’re worth, regardless of the tight spot I’m in; doing so would hurt me when trying to make trades in subsequent years" is that, in LABR, the market for pitching is pretty cold. I won't trade Dickey for Roger Bernandina just because that's the best offer I can get (this isn't a real offer I've gotten, just an example). If that's the case, I'd rather just sit on Dickey and ride the year out.

Aug 09, 2012 11:16 AM
 
Nacho999

We have a hard trading deadline the Sunday after the real MLB deadline. I would quit playing this game altogether if it was any other way. There are plenty of shady deals the first four months, no reason to add to the madness at the end of the season. Trading can be for the lazy who don't watch the wire or want to bother following the ebb and flow of injuries and fill ins. It's find when everyone knows the rules and there is a deadline, but if worked my butt off for five or more months, weathered all the Jose Bautista, Andy Pettitte, Brett Gardner, Luke Scott and every other multi-game non DL situation and just happened to be neck and neck in homers because of it (even though my roster is far superior), I would lose it if a guy who had it in for me liquidated a high priced power hitter for a middling prospect just to stick it to me. Not happening on my watch. "Trading in your own best interests" is just not something you can measure when half of the other owners are questionable players in the first place. The last two months are for succeeding on your own merits, not because somebody hands you a gift. The only way you should be able to improve your team during the stretch is by monitoring the waiver wire and making shrewd free agent pickups; in other words, by paying attention, working hard and earning your place in the standings. Just my two cents.

Aug 09, 2012 06:02 AM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

You could always do a bit of work on the trade market yourself. I don't see how getting production from trading is any less legitimate than picking someone up on the waiver wire. If the other people are getting all the best deals, and people want to stick it to you, you are doing something wrong. Anyway, almost all leagues have a deadline between the end of July and the third week in August , so I'm not really sure what your point is.

Aug 10, 2012 06:17 AM
rating: 1
 
Sharky

Derek, I agree with you. But as with anything, balance is the key. In other words, trade with contenders - yes. Lopsided trades - no. This is a bigger issue in keeper leagues, where "dumping" owners will unload everything that isn't bolted down for even a marginal keeper.

Aug 09, 2012 06:06 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yeah, keeper leagues and "dumping" is a much more complicated subject. I have an opinion on it, but then we start getting into another topic entirely :)

Aug 09, 2012 11:18 AM
 
eliyahu

My super-intense keeper league has a pretty solid counter to dumps: we have a salary minimum which every team needs to abide by (in addition to our cap).

Aug 09, 2012 12:47 PM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

That's really an issue of league structure though. If your league is structured properly, then there's a limit to how much people will trade off for either short or long term gain.

Aug 10, 2012 06:19 AM
rating: 0
 
brucegilsen
(999)

Derek, I think you should post an article about your take on dumping. It should lead to an interesting discussion. My 24 year old 4x4 25/280 NL only league uses an in-season salary cap to prevent contenders from building $500 super teams and it would be fun to discuss on here.

Aug 11, 2012 09:53 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

I suspect I'll take some flak for my views on dumping, but that's a good idea. Perhaps that'll be my topic for Monday.

Aug 11, 2012 14:01 PM
 
brucegilsen
(999)

Thanks!

Aug 13, 2012 14:02 PM
rating: 0
 
MikeMcD

Our league shreds itself on this issue every year. Trade deadline August 1. 13 team NL keeper league. This year's controversy--Ryan Braun obtained in exchange for Oscar Taveras, Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley and Chris Heisy. Major league players Worley and Heisey are virtually worthless. Minor leaguers have no value this year, huge potential. Seven thousand dollar prize pool. No end in sight to the annual trade protest votes all over how to value potential without unprincipaled meddling in this year's standings?

Aug 09, 2012 07:34 AM
rating: 0
 
swarmee

It looks fair to me. That's the blessing and curse of keeper leagues. One reason that during the years I'm working for a championship, I still take top prospects with my reserve or $1 picks than utility infielders. Because those prospects have trade value that can get me studs. Our league has a max in-season salary cap of $430 to handle stuffing teams with too many studs.

Aug 09, 2012 08:42 AM
rating: 1
 
FRL

I like having a consolation trounament for the 2nd division clubs with a $ payout for the winner. This helps keep struggling managers engaged throughout the year. I was in next to last place when I made an 8-player blockbuster last week with a contending team, nobody batted an eye.

Aug 09, 2012 09:21 AM
rating: 1
 
gpurcell

My take is that every player should take those actions that he or she feel are going to rank them higher in the league. The inaction and point differentials caused by coasting teams are just as bad as those caused by trading.

Aug 09, 2012 10:56 AM
rating: 1
 
Joaquin

Agree with your argument, also agree that league structure can solve this problem. In our 14 team mixed league, the lower you finish in the standings the more you owe, so everyone is incented to improve their team to the extent possible.

Aug 11, 2012 07:41 AM
rating: 0
 
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