The art of the deal

After your fantasy baseball draft is over, there are only two ways you can make your team better – trading players and working the waiver wire. Last week, I told you that the waiver wire is your key to success. However, a good trade can also help you win a championship.

In fantasy sports, trading players is like trading stocks – you want to trade for an appreciating asset and dump a depreciating one. Another way to put it is buy low, sell high. But I also want you to understand that a trade doesn’t have to be a win/lose deal. It can be a win/win.

Before you make a trade, you should consider your league rules. Are you in a points league? Roto? When you read about a player, remember that the analyst does not know your league’s specific rules. A trade that make no sense in one league could be savvy in another one.

The purpose of trading is to make your team better, and the time to trade players begins immediately after the draft ends. First, identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses. You want to address areas of strength and weakness on your team and on other teams in your league.

Let’s take a look at a trade I completed back in March – before the shutdown. I felt like my team was deep in hitting but needed help in starting pitching. It seemed like everyone was drafting starting pitchers in the early rounds, while I was taking position players perceived to be a value.

One of the teams in my league that was deep in pitching had Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke rostered. I didn’t think I could get Buehler, and I wasn’t interested in Kershaw because of injuries, so I decided to target Greinke. I offered the owner Adalberto Mondesi for Greinke.

The owner of the other team countered by offering me Greinke for Anthony Rendon. There was no way I was trading Rendon for Greinke, but I now knew he was interested in Rendon. My counter offer was Rendon for Buehler, and he took it. This trade has win/win potential.

Of course, you’re always looking to make a trade that will improve your squad, but you should make sure the other owner has a rational reason to consider your proposal. When someone offers me a trade that can’t possibly help my team, I know he or she hasn’t done any homework.

I did my homework before I offered Mondesi because I understand the other owner’s need. This gave me credibility and started a dialogue that ultimately ended with me landing Buehler. I knew he wanted Rendon, and I found out he was willing to trade one of the top pitchers in the game.

Now, let’s take a look at another a trade I made on a different team, also in March. I traded Hunter Dozier and Sonny Gray to a rival team owner for Matt Olson. I think this trade also has the makings of a win/win because both of the trading parties may have improved their team.

Only time will tell if it’s a win/win, or a win/lose for one of us. If Gray and Dozier each have the kind of year they had in 2019, my opponent is going to be happy. And if Olsen has another 36 bombs and keeps his average above .260, I’ll also be satisfied with the trade.

Now, let me break down how this deal got done. I was approached by the other owner, who offered to trade Christian Walker and Chris Bassitt for Gray and Dozier. This was clearly a lowball offer, bordering on insulting. I could have rejected it and moved on, but I didn’t.

When I receive a trade offer that I don’t accept, I counter, always offering the player(s) he/she wants, in exchange for player I want. I looked at his team, and I noticed that Anthony Rizzo was his starting first baseman. Josh Bell was in the 1B/3B spot, and Olson was his utility player.

Wow, this guy is loaded with slugging first basemen, is my first thought. He also had Trey Mancini, although the latter is eligible to play the outfield. This was several weeks before Mancini announced that he had stage 3 colon cancer. He will likely miss the 2020 season.

My thinking at this point is that I can target one of these first baseman because he can clearly afford to part with one of them. I guessed he wouldn’t trade Rizzo, and I am not interested in Bell. Based on his history, I believe Bell will regress. That left only Olson.

I like Olson, and should hit at least 10 more homers than Dozier. With 380 team home runs now projected, I could finish first in this category in Roto. While Dozier’s batting average was 12 points higher than Olson’s in 2019, he had never hit above .230 before. Regression is likely.

Regression is also likely for Gray, coming off his best year in 2019. Remember, you want to sell high and buy low. I believed I was selling Dozier and Gray high, and I might be buying low on Olson, who hit his 36 home runs in only 127 games last year. He missed more than a month.

One of the keys to trading is to make your interest in trading known to others. Based on my experience, the majority of owners won’t trade. There have been many occasions where I have made trade offers and received no response at all. At least they know I’m in the market.

After one draft this year, I approached an owner and offered to trade Sonny Gray for Byron Buxton. This wasn’t a trade that would have changed the destiny of either of our teams, but I knew he needed pitching. I was short on stolen bases, which are at a premium in Roto leagues.

The response to the Buxton offer was a quick decline. A few minutes later, I looked at my phone and noticed there was a trade offer. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The owner that had turned down the previous trade was now offering me Alex Bregman for Gleyber Torres.

As soon as the offer was made, I did a Google search on Bregman to be sure he hadn’t gotten injured or arrested. After I was convinced that Bregman was still healthy and playing for the Astros, I accepted the offer. It was February 26th, and Christmas had come two months late.

I don’t know why someone would trade a player that was being drafted in the first or second round for one going in the fourth round. I do believe my late Christmas present had come my way only because I had made it known in my league that I was always in the market for a trade.

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