The following tenets comprise a set of general rules for handling trade talks in 12- and 14-team fantasy baseball leagues—from the first-place owner's perspective.
Of course, these rules are applicable to the other contenders, but the exercise specifically gets inside the heads of penthouse GMs, empathizing with their unquenchable thirst for significant roster upgrades in the coming weeks.
1. Don't sugarcoat your roster weaknesses. Identify any and all potential problems
Being in first place on April 27 has all the cachet of a sub-.500 NBA team winning six straight games in February; it's a nice accomplishment but really has no bearing on how things will shake out by the season's end.
So, it's important to stay aggressive throughout the pennant drive, executing modest swaps of outfielders and corner infielders in free agency, or using a pitcher's last three or four starts as the impetus for mixing and matching the final spots of a starting staff.
But the real growth comes in the form of an honest audit of your roster, while asking some hard questions:
1, Do I have enough offense to take honors in at least three categories?
2. Will I finish no worse than middle-of-the-pack in all offensive categories?
3. Will there be any lost-cause categories come July or August? If so, is it worth getting better today or cutting my losses?
4. On the pitching end, do I have enough closers to guarantee a fifth-or-higher finish in saves?
5. Is it worth my time to own more than two primary closers? Would that roster spot be better served with a starting pitcher?
2. One-for-one trades involving same-position players are usually a waste of time for all parties
Unless two assets of comparable value bring completely different things to the table, there's no reason to jump the gun on a trade before May 1. If you crave positional versatility and higher batting average, perhaps it's worth owning Michael Young (2 HRs, 6 RBI, 10 runs, 1 steal, .408 batting) over Paul Konerko (30-homer lock). But generally, when considering similar players with similar skill sets...just move on.
The lesson here: First-place owners hold all the cards. They can afford to aggressively "wait" for a better offer.
3. Admirable bench depth should be compromised when going all-in on a trade
Last-place teams in April are more victims of circumstance than wayward drafting. Show me a bottom-feeder club...and I'll show you someone who over-drafted injured stars Carl Crawford or Michael Pineda or someone who neglected the power aspect of corner-infield talent after snagging Albert Pujols with the No. 1, 2 or 3 pick, thinking Pujols (zero homers this year) would carry the freight for the 1B/3B slots.
In other words, last-place owners need productive bodies more than one great player to spark a turnaround. So, if you had the uncanny foresight to draft Josh Willingham, Carlos Pena, Mike Aviles, Jose Altuve, Andre Ethier, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harrison, Jason Hammel, Gio Gonzalez or Kyle Lohse—all charter members of my "Round 11-and-Beyond All-Star Team"—don't be afraid to use 'em in bulk to close a three-for-one head-turner or four-for-one megadeal.
Reward yourself for preparing like a fiend for draft day.
4. Don't be afraid to cut obnoxious owners out of the loop
The rule of thumb: Upon receiving three lopsided offers from a stranger owner in a relatively short period of time (none in your favor), secretly bar him/her from all future deals. Being disrespected by another GM is a big no-no in fantasy...and a white-collar crime worthy of incommunicable banishment (or something like that).
5. Make the bottom-feeder owners (pleasantly) sing for their supper
One of the great joys of not obsessing about your league in April comes in mid-May when a fellow owner sends an out-of-character blockbuster offer. A quick look at the standings reveals everything you need to know: Owner B's monster offer is just a desperate ruse to revive a moribund roster that's going nowhere fast.
Obviously, if the offer benefits your team from all angles, accept it right away and happily proceed with other moves. But if the proposal has the appearance of a bailout measure for Owner B and his/her poorly conceived roster, then you also have the right to exploit their desperation.
Get exactly what you want from a swap. Be militant. Be respectful. Don't say it explicitly, but Owner B needs to learn they're in no position to dictate terms on a landmark deal. For example:
- If Owner B offers Andrew McCutchen/Ian Kennedy for Prince Fielder...hold out for Yovani Gallardo instead of Kennedy.
- And If Owner B is willing to surrender Pujols, the crown jewel of April washouts, play the silent waiting game for 24-48 hours, giving 'em the appearance that Pujols is suddenly too much of a fat cat to covet in fantasy circles.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.