Every fantasy owner has trades they look back on at the end of the year and say "what was I thinking?" But that is not what this article is meant to prevent. That will happen every year because, in all reality, you can't see the future, so some trades are bound to not work out.
This article is meant to stop the trades you regret the next day. Its important to note these are not rules, but merely tips and suggestions coming largely (though not exclusively) from personal experience.
Lastly, I strongly encourage anyone with other tips and experiences to share in the comments when you're done reading. Every league is different, and no one is immune to bonehead mistakes.
Check every single player's health before finalizing a trade. Someone, somewhere traded for Ryan Madsen the day of, or the day after, his season-ending injury was announced.
Shrewd owners, who heard about it early on, sent out trade offers to try and get a little value for him while they still could. Major League executives know this simple tip. Every player who is traded must pass a physical before the trade is finalized.
There is any number of free websites to check the health of any major leaguer in moments, so there is no excuse to hit the accept button before checking.
Drunk trading is like drunk dialing. You never get the person you thought you were getting, and it always ends up costing you more than it's worth. If you've been out drinking with your friends and one of them starts asking about your fantasy team, call a cab and go home.
On the other hand, if you're around friends who have been drinking, it can't hurt to ask them about their players, and you might even come away with a bargain at the end of the night. Also in this category, don't trade the day after a breakup or a change in your employment situation.
Ultimately, you should never complete a deal at any time when you're not thinking clearly. This is an easy way to be duped.
In 2011, Logan Morrison's off-the-field issues with his team finally erupted, and he was unexpectedly demoted in the middle of his best season since coming up to the major leagues. There were probably some savvy Morrison owners who saw his demotion and made clever trade offers to people who knew to check his health, but never thought he would be in the minors.
It doesn't matter who is involved in the trade; always check to make sure they haven't been unexpectedly demoted. It only takes a moment to check that everyone is still in the major leagues, and it could save an immediate headache.
Are you trading for a guy who is sitting in a jail cell? Admittedly, this isn't quite as pertinent in baseball as it is in the NBA or NFL, but every once in a while, someone gets busted, and you don't want to be the guy who trades for him.
On this same note, keep in mind the risk with people who have had off-the-field issues before, either with the law or with suspensions, or even within their own clubhouses. Those kind of players tend to miss extra games.
Matt Cain is the poster boy for safety. The last three years, his ERA has been 2.89, 3.14, 2.88. His WHIP has been 1.181, 1.084, 1.083. He has struck out 171, 177 and 179 in those years. He has pitched over 200 innings every year since 2007. Since 07, his K/9 has been between 7.1 and 7.7
All that being said, Zack Greinke, who most people would rank ahead of Cain, has had ERA of 2.16, 4.17 and 3.83, and his WHIP has gone from 1.073, 1.245, 1.200. FInally, his strikeouts have gone from 242 to 181 to 201.
I would gladly trade Greinke away for Cain, and one could probably demand a second player be added in with Cain in that deal, which makes it a bargain. Always trade the sure thing for the upside with drastic downside.
Have you ever been in trade talks for two hours or more and gotten to the point where you took less than you intended because you didn't want the time to be wasted?
This is especially dangerous close to the trading deadline because an owner feels the need to get a deal done and loses perspective. If it doesn't happen in an hour, walk away, have a burger and then, if both sides want, come back and try again.
In fact, having been burned by this tip before, it might be wise to set yourself a trade deadline, prior to the real deadline, just to avoid the frantic deadline chaos.
Women are generally more sympathetic than men. And they want their husbands to be as compassionate as they are, which makes the cutthroat process of trading seem barbaric and cruel.
Negotiating in front of your wife/girlfriend cannot end well. Either you give in to her pleas that you be nicer and you get ripped off, or you don't give in, drive your bargain and she ends up mad at you. And gentlemen, if you have a wife or girlfriend who is as competitive a fantasy baseballer as you, hold on tight.
The last side of this tip is negotiating WITH your significant other. Being in a league with them is dangerous because you can play to win, in which case it might be a long season around the house, or you can give in to her begging for a certain player, and it will be a long season in your own competitive mind.
Everyone is prone to having a bad year. Whether they had injury concerns or bad luck or mechanical issues, even the best players can have bad years. So when valuing a player, use the past three years as a barometer for your expectations.
For example, Evan Longoria batted .244 last season (yes, with 31 HR and 99 RBI). Someone trying to trade for him will repeat that average over and over and insist on the risk. However, he batted .281 in 2009 and .294 in 2010. He had 100-plus RBI and 95-plus runs scored in each of those seasons.
On the flip side, beware the fluke. Jeff Francoeur had an .805 OPS, 20 HR, 87 RBI, 77 runs and 22 steals last season. The homers were his most since 2006, RBI most since 2007, runs most since 2007 and he had never stolen more than eight bases in major league baseball.
Have some perspective when you negotiate.
The San Francisco Giants gave up a top pitching prospect because they thought they NEEDED to get Carlos Beltran. It turned out Beltran couldn't save their season, and they lost a prospect for what amounts to nothing now.
Never make a deal just for the sake of "needing to make a deal." At no point in the season is a bad trade suddenly a good trade just because you need to do something. Bad value and overpaying is still a mistake. Let this ring in your ears if you've started 0-2 this season.
On that point, it's not a bad idea to avoid trading on any Monday. Why? Because an owner reeling from a heartbreaking loss may be vulnerable to foolish offers. Allow yourself Monday to cope with the past week and then move forward.
Mark Reynolds has very different value in a league that does not penalize for strikeouts as opposed to a league in which on-base percentage is a category in the scoring.
Likewise, Johnny Venters is as good, or better than, many closers in a league that counts holds. And starters on good teams lose value if the league counts quality starts instead of wins.
Every league is a little bit different, and therefore, the players in it are valued slightly differently due to those changes. Always be aware of those things when drafting, and in trade negotiations. You may be able to steal a player who is thought of as less valuable, but who fits your league's scoring to a T.
Keeper league owners are notorious for falling in love with prospects and overpaying for them. One owner in my 18-team keeper league drafts one or two top prospects every year just to trade them for exponentially more than they are worth, and every year, he does.
After an 0-3 or 1-4 start, you might be contacted by owners offering you an up-and-coming "star" and demanding your proven player in return. Don't be fooled. No prospect is a sure thing, and even some who do eventually pan out take much longer than expected to do so, as seems to be the case with Cameron Maybin and Alex Gordon.
Conversely, if you can get a proven producer for one of your minor leaguers, don't fall in love with the potential. Make the deal. If you trade Harper for Shane Victorino this year and Harper hits 35 home runs in 2015, you still made a good deal.
Being a fantasy owner is like being a closer for a baseball team. There will be good deals and bad deals (hopefully more good ones), but a closer who blows a save, or an owner who traded Jose Bautista for Gordon Beckham before the 2010 season, must always be looking forward.
There are lessons to be learned. Look back on the bad deals from the perspective of hoping not to repeat the same mistake in approach next time, not necessarily just to kick yourself about a certain player. Were there signs player "X" was warming up or starting to slump? Those are things to learn.
The game is meant to be fun. There's no point hating yourself for past mistakes. Take each week in stride and enjoy the game. There's always next year.