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Last week, we discussed the ways that the default effect influences our dynasty- and keeper-league offseason trade markets. Today we will take a look at some ways to deal with and take advantage of these market realities. These ways can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Navigating an imperfect market
  2. Influencing default effect-influenced behavior

The first group is the low-hanging fruit. How much of this low-hanging fruit is available will vary from league to league. The point of distinguishing the distance that the figurative fruit hangs from the ground is only to note the lower-hanging fruit, though easier to pick, can often yield the biggest returns. Noting that caveat, let us get to some hopefully profit-bearing strategies.

Navigating an imperfect market
Quickly, to recap last week’s article: The default option in fantasy baseball trade markets is to be inactive. The consequence of this is that owners will tend to only participate in the trade market as they have before. This means the offseason trades that tend be made happen between owners who have traded with each other before, be structured similarly to past trades, and/or occur at certain, usual times. These actions ultimately distort the offseason trade market by limiting supply and demand.

In theory, any asset’s value should be determined by all demand for the asset as well as all the similar supply (other available assets). In reality, we know this is not true. Players get bought at prices below what other owners would have bought them for, and, conversely, players get bought at prices higher than what any other owner would have paid for them. As fantasy owners, the goal is to therefore buy when either demand is low or supply is high and to sell when demand is high or supply is low. While a reasonable response to this would be, “Obviously, but how do we do so?” because of the impact of the default effect, we can anticipate (to an extent) future behavior, which will allow us to put ourselves in advantageous positions when participating in the trade market. The advice is rudimentary, is far from a magic bullet, and is only as useful as the extent to which your leaguemates are affected by the default effect, but hopefully its application makes up for all of this.

A.Shop around
This is the most obvious, but the most important advice. You already know this advice to be true, but our desire for cognitive ease, especially during complex decisions (such as trades), can stop us from doing our due diligence and shopping around even when we know better. We need to make sure that we are not too easily falling into old trade patterns, either with whom we trade with or the structure of our trades. While there is nothing theoretically wrong with trading with a frequent trade partner or structuring a trade as we have before (there are even advantages), we need to make sure that we are checking in on all other alternatives before doing so.

B.Sell to those who do not shop around
(The other side of our current coin of advice.) Before complaining again that an owner did not get enough back in a trade or that an owner gave up way too much for a player, try to get yourself in those advantageous trade conversations. As discussed in a previous article, this is largely about hustle. The best owners (from a trade standpoint), take advantage of opportunities that other owners do not know exist. While finding these opportunities is mostly about understanding the needs of our competitors (discussed here), it is also about understanding the actions our trade partners are comfortable taking. Try to take note of their actions and, if the opportunity presents itself, allow yourself to be the beneficiary of these owners’ desire to remain in their comfort zone.

C.Buy during off-peak periods
As noted in last week’s article, we will tend to make decisions at decision nodes. Even though these nodes tend to be arbitrary (the day before our keeper lists are due, the week after Winter Meetings, etc.), we tend to feel more comfortable making decisions at these nodes when the default option is inactivity. It is therefore preferable to buy players that figure to have heavy demand at times of low trading activity. Sure, a savvy owner may say, “I am only selling this player at a premium at this point,” or “I’m not interested in moving this player right now.” The cost of that conversation is zero. The advantage of having that conversation can be enormous. If we can acquire a player before a seller’s market builds, we have avoided missing out on a player or overpaying for that player.

D.Sell at peak (but keep supply in mind)
Essentially, we want to be the savvy owners from the previous point. The disposition effect makes us too likely to cash in too early, taking any profit we can get for an asset (and, to our brains, if we can avoid complex negotiations and uncertainty, even better). If we cannot find a complexity-averse owner that wishes to pay a premium for convenience, then our next best bet as sellers is to make sure we are selling when we know that demand will be near its highest. If we know that some owners will only buy during spring training, then it is probably best to wait until then to sell. The last point to keep in mind is how our asset fits in relation to other, tradable assets because an increase in supply can nullify an increased demand. Given how context driven this is, there is no concrete advice to follow, but we should be keeping these factors in mind when navigating the trade market.

Influencing default-effect-influenced behavior
While taking advantage of default-effect-influenced behavior is the easiest way to make a profit, we are going to miss opportunities if we only react to this behavior. For example, if we cannot get the owner who only likes to trade with one or two other owners to trade with us, then we are going to miss out on a trade relationship in which our trade partner pays a premium for convenience. While there is no sure fire way to get someone to be our trading pal, there are ways to influence people. For the purpose of this article, we are interested ways that are legal, socially agreeable, feasible, and relevant to fantasy baseball, specifically default effect-influenced behavior. For all this we turn to the very excellent Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by the very excellent Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D. While Cialdini discusses six “Weapons of Influence,” the two that have the best chances of helping us change default-effect-influenced behavior are commitment and consistency and liking. These are not sexy solutions, but they give us a chance to make inroads with potential trade partners as well as allowing us to influence the structure and timing of the trades we make.

A.Commitment and Consistency
We touched on the importance of commitment and consistency when discussing the importance of early-season trade talk, the gist of it being that people hate to appear inconsistent (usually for sound, societal reasons). That is nice and all, but how does this help us? It helps us because we can use the past actions of an owner to get them to interact as they have in that past or at least to start a dialogue. Instead of offering Players A and B for Players Y and Z to Owner X, we will be more successful if we note that Owner X talked to us about moving player Z at the deadline or that Owner X made a similar deal last offseason. Yes, Owner X already knows these things about her or himself, but that is the point. Now, Owner X is forced to engage in dialogue in order to continue to appear consistent. (If we are on the other side of this, the key (for transactional negotiations) is to disregard the need to appear consistent).

B. Liking
Negotiations and trades are complex, stressful, and cognitively burdensome before factoring in the agreeableness of our trade partner. Because of this, we tend to make trades with owners we know best, owners we like, and owners we are comfortable negotiating with. It is important to note that “liking” does not mean being objectively the nicest person we can be. As Cialdini points out, there are many factors—ranging from similarities to contact to compliments—that cause us to like or not like a person. Some recommendations:

  • Stay in touch: Do not be above small talk. The owners that capitalize on the most opportunities are the ones who are familiar with the most owners. Ongoing, amicable communication with as many owners as possible puts us in the best position come trade time.
  • Compliment: People love talking about their successes and usually take any opportunity to do so; fantasy baseball owners are no different. Obviously, the less sincere we are, the less effective the behavior, but even so, being complimentary is almost always a positive when it comes to influence.
  • Relate to your trade partners: Feeling as though someone understands the situation we are in makes us more likely to be influenced by that person (for example, friends). Showing that we understand the situation our trade partner is in (as opposed to berating them with what we think they should do) can thusly improve our ability to influence them.

There is a lot of advice above, and almost none of it is universally applicable, but hopefully we can make some use of some of it. Good luck.


Cialdini, R. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion (Rev. ed.; 1st Collins business essentials ed.). New York: Collins.

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I did have a long trade discussion with an owner but ended up getting a much better deal elsewhere. I do now feel like I "owe" the original owner a decent trade and so would be likely to sell lower than I would otherwise. Thanks for the tips!
I find I have trouble finding trade partners in the offseason. Many owners are afraid that I know something they don't about a player's status, so they want to wait until spring training. Tough to fight their conservatism. Of course, we've been playing together for 25 years.