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May 29, 2013

Sporer Report

Trading Tips

by Paul Sporer

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As we approach June 1, trading is no doubt becoming a bigger part of league activity for the season. Two months have passed, allowing you to start assessing your team’s strengths and flaws, but injuries and, more than anything else, impatience often fuels trade talks. With that in mind, I wanted to offer up some tips to hopefully improve your trading experience when you start firing up talks.

Don’t tell the league to make you offers on your guys: If you are serious about improving your team via the trade, then sending a mass email with guys you’re willing to part with followed by a call to action for other owners to engage you for those players isn’t the way to go. Rarely do emails that announce the availability of a team’s best players make such an impact that other owners are compelled to do the legwork on a hypothetical deal.

There is one exception: If you are engaged in talks to trade either your blue chip prospect (as you are contending and playing for now) or moving your stud(s) to build for the following year, it behooves you and the rest of the league to announce your intentions in a league-wide email so that you give everyone a fair shot at the guy(s) in question and also get yourself the best deal possible. Now, you don’t have to do this, but there’s zero downside for you. You can let the initial trade partner know at the outset, “Hey, I’m going to give everyone a crack here, but I like the deal we’re discussing,” and he/she should be totally cool with that. Meanwhile, you let the league know, “Hey, there is a leader in the clubhouse for the services of player X; if you’re interested please let me know, otherwise I’ll be moving forward. I just wanted to give everyone an equal shot at this high-quality asset.” Again, there is just no downside for you to do this.

Don’t downplay the guys you’re getting in an attempt to advance the negotiation: The minute you start sending me emails telling me how bad my players that you want are or will be in the future is the minute I know you’re a) lying to get the deal you want or b) stupid, because you’re purposely taking on bad assets. I highly doubt it’s ever b), so ditch the negativity and just play it straight up.

Do try to make sure the deal is even for both sides: The definition of “even” is ambiguous without question, but the goal is to make sure that both owners come out of a deal feeling they made their team better. Win-win trades are absolutely the way to go. If you purposely try to rip someone off in a trade, you’re burning a bridge and possibly losing a trade partner for rest of his/her time in that league, if not several leagues. Remember the old adage, a satisfied customer might tell two or three other friends, but a dissatisfied customer will definitely tell 10 or more. If you become known as the rip-off artist in the league, you will have a hard time consistently winning unless you draft perfectly and then ace the waiver wire all season long.

Now, obviously some deals will work out much more in one team’s favor by the time you analyze them at season’s end, but that doesn’t mean they were rip-jobs when consummated. What I’m focusing on here is trading hurt assets, taking advantage of breaking news that everyone might not be privy to, and things of that ilk. I understand it is every owner’s responsibility to do his/her diligence before making a deal, and they’d have no one to blame but themselves if they got hosed, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still hit your credibility. If you make people afraid to trade with you, you may benefit in the short term with that first rip-off trade, but you’ll do way more harm to your chances in the long term.

Do put thought into your offers: When sending an offer, focus more on the guy you’re trading with than yourself. You know how no one wants to hear about your fantasy team when you’re telling them about it at a party? The same thing applies when you start off a proposal discussing the guys you want your trade partner to give up. Begin by letting them know what they can get out of dealing with you. “It looks like you need some stolen bases, which I can definitely supply. I think you might be interested in Everth Cabrera. Meanwhile, I was thinking about a trade of Cabrera for _____, which would work well for both of us. You’re 12 steals away from six points and then another handful away from another group of points,” or something to that effect. In that scenario, you’ve made just a cursory mention of who you want while focusing the attention on how much they can benefit from talking trade with you.

Do respond to ALL offers: There’s nothing like sending out an offer and getting crickets. Just respond, it doesn’t take long. I’ll go so far as to say that even if the offer is utter garbage in your eyes, simply reply saying, “No thanks, that doesn’t improve my team and the offer would need A TON of work to get talks going” is important. That’s direct without being entirely rude, and it gets home the point that he/she’s nowhere near a trade with the track he/she is on.

Don’t veto trades: Okay, maybe I shouldn’t make a 100 percent blanket statement, as there are some outlandish situations where it may be called for, but by and large, vetoes are utter bullcrap. Don’t impress your player values on the rest of the league. What if at the end of April last year, someone was buying into Edwin Encarnacion’s surge and decided to move Tim Lincecum for him because he thought Lincecum’s struggles were legitimate?  You may not like it and you may not have accepted the deal if you were the Lincecum owner, but there isn’t something overly objectionable about that deal even before hindsight, because we don’t know the reasoning behind the Lincecum owner making the move. Maybe he’s a better scout than you are and wants to roll the dice.

Who are you to say he can’t? Maybe he thought Lincecum just wasn’t going to put it together as the season went on (and of course now we know he didn’t). The point is, he paid his money and unless you can prove collusion (and good luck doing that), it’s a deal that has to pass. That’s an extreme example, but few things about this game piss me off more than trade vetoing, especially in a cash league where adults have paid to manage their team however they desire. Just because you might not make a move doesn’t mean it’s unequivocally wrong. Unless you’ve got a collusion charge that will stick, stop vetoing trades. It’s pathetic. You don’t know the future any more than any other league-mate so stop pretending you do.

Don’t tell the league to make you offers on your guys: Yes, I’m repeating this one, but it’s important. “Hey guys, I need power and I have Mediocre Guy A, Schlub B, and Washout C available for trade. Send me offers!  Thanks.”  Yeah, no. And it’s not much better if it’s Star A, Stolen Base King B and Ace Arm C, either. It’s just that it’s usually less-than-inspiring guys being made available and the other owner now wants me to do the work for him.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

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