Confessions of a Trade-Alholic: Ten Important Tips for Trades

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IJune 2, 2009

If you want some advice on finding the best cheap beer, you could do worse than asking an alcoholic. At least you know the alcoholic has plenty of experience and some trial-and-error learning under his belt.

I am a trade-aholic. I get a rush every time a trade is accepted by both parties. I’ve completed all kinds of trades in the past, with mixed results.

Like the alcoholic, I have learned a lot of life lessons from the world of trading in fantasy sports, and since the season is finally here—and everyone will be looking for a competitive edge, I felt it was a good time to share some pointers.

Trade Rule No. 1: Always look to improve your team.

It seems simple enough, but then again, it can be really easy to forget exactly what stats you need if someone dangles one of your favorite players in front of you.

If you feel that your team is lacking in speed, then work toward improving team speed. Don’t simply pull the trigger on a deal because you’re bored or because your favorite player is involved—your team’s stat balance is the only thing that really matters.

Trade Rule No. 2: Know your other league owners.

This is much easier if your are in a league with people you know outside of fantasy sports, or if you have a live draft.

You know the type—the Oakland A’s fan who wears his new Matt Holliday jersey to the draft. Taking note of this could be a crucial move on your part—because there is a good chance the same guy will overpay for Holliday in a trade.

I live in central PA, and never mind getting a few Phillies or Eagles on my respective teams, because there are at least one or two diehard Philly fans in each of my leagues.

It also pays to know what other teams in your league lack. For example, in one league, I drafted two solid third basemen (both were too good at their respective draft positions to pass up). After the draft, my first line of business was to find the other teams in the league who were really hurting at third base.

In another league, I was stuck using autodraft, and my team wound up with tons of offensive power, but extremely lacking in pitching. I started looking for teams that had a need for solid offensive skill positions and worked on some offers that would net me more talent on the mound.

Trade Rule No. 3: Water’s wet, the sky’s blue and hitters hit.

With the season opening today, watch the stat lines. As games progress through the first week, and eventually the first month, note which hitters seem to be slumping.

It happens every year—certain guys are slow out of the gate, and their respective fantasy owners break out in a cold sweat. Suddenly that first, second, or third-round pick doesn’t seem as rock-solid as before.

This isn’t something that will happen overnight, but as the schedule starts to turn into May games, you may find one or two owners in your league willing to pull the trigger on one of their draft studs who is slacking at the plate. However, baseball isn’t like football. There are 162 games. The season is long.

As long as the player you are targeting isn’t dealing with a lingering or severe injury, it may be worth the risk to help pad your stats down the stretch.

Trade Rule No. 4: The other guy is looking to improve his team, too.

It may be hard to avoid throwing out some one-sided trades to league mates, but remember that the other guy is trying to improve, too.

Throw too many one-sided deals at the other owners in your league, and they may soon look at you as the trade dude who’s calling wolf. They may never look at one of your trade proposals seriously, regardless of what you are offering.

I know this rule well, because I used to be this guy—the one who tried to wear down league owners with a barrage of trades that may not have been totally equal on both sides.

Ask yourself the following before offering a deal: “If I was the other owner, would I really accept this deal?”

Trade Rule No. 5: Time is on your side.

If someone in your league offered you a deal and you are uncertain as to what to do, perhaps the best rule of thumb is to not rush the decision.

Sleep on it. Take some time to look at stats and get feedback from other trusted fantasy owners.

Yes, an owner may be particularly anxious to make a deal and may move on to another owner if you don’t pull the trigger quickly, but then again, if you are that uncertain about the trade, than it may be for the best if the other owner moves on.

The only timeline that you need to remember is your league’s trade deadline.

Trade Rule No. 6: No player is untradeable.

Luckily, in fantasy sports, we don’t need to deal with egocentric backlashes a la Jay Cutler. If someone offers you a deal for one of your studs, it may be in your best interest to at least consider the deal and look at counter offers.

Yes, having Albert Pujols is great, but if someone offers you a package of really nice players in return—especially ones that plug glaring holes in your lineup, then it may be hard to resist.

Typically, the teams with one or two super-studs and a supporting cast of lesser players doesn’t stay as competitive season-long as a team loaded with balanced talent across the board.

Yes, Pujols will get you X-number of home runs, X-number of RBI, etc., but improving yourself at a number of other positions may be more beneficial to the big picture of your fantasy team.

Trade Rule #7: It is OK to counter an offer.

In fact, it is critical in many cases for both sides to reach a true agreement if both sides know exactly what is needed to complete a deal.

I know many people who feel that if someone else “low-balls” them on a trade offer, the best course of reaction is to ignore it and never communicate in return—or to offer a really ridiculous offer in return. However, it is obvious that the other owner has an interest in certain guys on your roster.

Why not offer something realistic back—targeting the people on his roster that you would really like? It can’t hurt, and it may actually help lead to a compromise that nets you some really solid talent.

Trade Rule #8: Watch the injury reports, transactions lists.

Being one step ahead of your league mates is always a good practice.

If you notice that a certain player is injured, and feel that the injury may not be a season-threatening or overall stat-threatening (like a leg injury on your primary source of steals), then it may not hurt to throw out an offer for an injured player—especially if you can snag that player for a couple of your bench warmers.

A different example includes position battle injuries. For example, perhaps you see that Kevin Gregg, current Cubs closer, is hit with an injury and will miss some time. Throwing out a deal for Carlos Marmol, who will take the closer's role, may not be a bad thing. There are plenty of times that closers, especially, take advantage of some playing time and ultimately find themselves the long-term player at that position.

Another thing to watch with transactions lists are which rookies may be called up. There are a rash of talented young rookies who will be seeing major league playing time during the next several months.

Figure out which ones are in the best position to rake in some stats when they do reach the big time, and snag them from other teams as you have the resources and bench space—especially if you notice the call-up before others in your league.

Trade Rule No. 9: Evaluate other trades.

Don’t just look at other trades in your league, but go places where people announce their trades and try to get evaluations either before, or after, the trade.

What things seemed to work? Look for trends that may help you in your own league. Check Web sites such as the Bleacher Report, or the fantasybaseballcafe, which has a thread devoted to trade analysis.

Watch not only what trades are offered, and which ones seem to work for both sides, but also what others say about the trade.

Trade Rule No. 10: Get trusted feedback on a trade before pulling the trigger.

Again, time is on your side, so take the time to do it right. Identify several people who you respect in fantasy baseball and ask their advice on certain trades before you complete the deal.

Sometimes, it is easy to be blinded by a player bias, and fall into a trap in which you are losing more talent in a deal than you’re gaining. The more people you get feedback from, the better the chances that you’ll get a good feel of whether or not a certain trade is in your best interest.


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