Having just wrapped up my AL- and NL-only keeper-league trade deadlines last weekend, I have some takeaways to help us navigate future trade deadlines. The first is regarding the importance of growing and knowing trade routes when we are faced with limited time. The next is using strategic trends to predict the behavior of our leaguemates. The last is actually regarding FAAB bidding in keeper leagues following the MLB trade deadlines (when players switch leagues and thus become available).

Limited Time, Pop-up Markets, and Trade Routes

As mentioned before the deadline in last week’s article, “the trade deadline is one of the few times that we do not always have substantial time to do full analysis on a trade before making a decision.” Not only are we limited on time when doing trade analysis, so too are our potential trade partners. Obviously, starting trade talk early to get ahead of this would be ideal, but often owners wait until the last minute to determine their strategy or to see if a market will develop for a player they are trying to sell (or, conversely, if a market will collapse for a player they are trying to target).

The obvious takeaway is that some trade routes will disappear because some owners do not move fast enough to be able to make trades in such a short amount of time. Two more helpful takeaways:

1. It is important to be responsive in trade talks throughout the year because owners who are responsive are the ones that other owners reach out to when trying to make a move when pressed for time.

2. It is important to try to grow as many quick-response relationships as possible because it will allow us to take advantage of and act more effectively within these pop-up markets.

Lastly, we need to be realistic about trade opportunities at the deadline. Trying to swing a deal with an owner that does not respond quickly is a waste of resources at a time when resources are very important (in the very important game of fantasy baseball). This is to say that while opportunities that arise at the deadline might initially seem to be great values, we need to adjust for the reality that many opportunities will be closed because some owners are less responsive than others.

Strategies, Logical Consistency, and Future Moves

While the trade deadline is the point in the season that sees the most activity, there is (obviously) still a lot of activity earlier in the season. The activity demonstrated earlier in the season often indicates different teams’ strategies, indicating whether they are buying, selling, or something in between. Our desire to appear logically consistent means that buyers throughout the season tend to be buyers at the deadline and the same is true for any other strategy. Again, this is obvious stuff. That said, each year there will be buyers that will become sellers, there will be teams that should probably change strategies.

While some of these teams will incorrectly hold their strategy for the sake of logical consistency, some of these teams will correctly change strategy. This, however, does not mean that the teams that try and change their strategy are unaffected by logical consistency. Often, these teams try to “make up for their previous strategy” by trying to win deals or they try to hedge when shifting gears. If we are one of these teams, we want to avoid these traps. If we are looking for a trade, then we probably do not want to waste too much time trying to make trades with these teams. Conversely, the best prices in the trade market tend to be offered by teams that are sticking to a strategy, unless that strategy is to win every trade.

Another Reason to Spend FAAB Early

Although not fantasy trade deadline related, I thought it was important to include this MLB trade deadline related topic. I have already told you to please spend your FAAB. That said, another reason to spend your FAAB in keeper leagues popped up in my two keeper leagues this past, post-MLB trade deadline weekend. That reason is that having the most FAAB or a lot FAAB does not mean teams will spend it at the deadlines. Put differently, teams that do not think they can compete or meaningfully move up the rankings will only use FAAB on potential keepers. Even teams that can move up significantly, but not into first, could be interested in taking the keepers-only strategy with their FAAB. This is all to say that being competitive correlates more strongly (in keeper leagues) to acquiring top free agents after the MLB trade deadline than does having a lot of FAAB. This is thus all to say that spending FAAB early in order to be a top team might be more beneficial to acquiring players after the MLB trade deadline than hoarding FAAB, as counterintuitive as it may seem. So spend away.

Good luck over the next fortnight. I will be away until the week of August 24th, but hopefully I have been able to help you all up to this point. See you then.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Spending FAAB early is not counter-intuitive at all. You should spend more to buy a 20 week player than a 5 week player. Plus, as you said, at the end of the year, FAAB prices will deflate some due to people going after keepers.

I like it when people in my league say "I want to save my money for when I need it most". Yea, enjoy using over half your budget to move from eighth to seventh because you didn't buy any good players early.

I think it all comes from the mentality that people want to avoid losing, instead of taking a chance at winning.
1. Even teams out of contention who are sitting on a FAAB war chest should spend it on the big names at the deadline, the big names cross-over players are trade-able commodities, especially in leagues that do not have an in-season roster cap.

2. For keeper/ dynasty leagues or AL/NL-Only leagues I do not understand why one would have a 8/1 trade deadline, shouldn't it at least be the transactions period after post-MLB trade deadline transaction period so teams know the results of their FAAB purchases? Also with more and more waiver trades being made in August, if you are in an -Only LEague then you should have a 9/1 trade deadline because to lose a key player to crossing leagues and not be able to trade to fill the hole.