Tout Table: Early Season Trading

Welcome to this week’s Tout Wars Roundtable. The questions posed to the Touts is

Please finish this sentence: When it comes to early-season trading…

Here are the replies. Feel free to chime in with your take in the comments.

Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): I’m looking to acquire or trade away changes in talent before they become statistically obvious. I’m also looking to nab slow-start veterans, i.e. Carpenter and Goldy last season. This year, Josh Donaldson and Jose Ramirez top the list.

AJ Mass (ESPN, @AJMass): I tend to preach patience. I drafted players (bought them via auction) for a reason, and I’m not typically going to change my outlook on these guys after a few cold weeks — both in terms of stats and the outdoor temperature, which often is a reason for slow starts. Now, when I lose Trea Turner to a lengthy injury, I might be more inclined to listen to offers, but since any deal I might make reacting to such a need is going to be from a position of weakness, I’m going to have to make sure I’m not getting fleeced.

Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): I’m active, but the problem is that I can’t seem to find a trading partner that won’t try to take advantage of the trade deal. Take for example Chris Sale. I tried to trade for him, but the owner still values him as a 2nd round pick. I’m willing to give him 75% on the dollar, but he wants 99%. Not going to happen since I am the one taking on the additional risk. My advice in any trade negotiation is to first get on the phone and call, email, or text various trading partners to see if they have any interest in a trade. It will save you and other league managers a ton of wasted trade offers.

Andrea Lamont (LennyMelnickFantasySports, @RotoLady): I try to be the guy buying low, not the guy selling low. Yesterday I was offered Chris Sale for Zack Greinke, and that made me pretty excited. Don’t ever trade a player away at his lowest value. Especially ones you drafted in the first round or paid a bunch for. They get a little more time to get it together than cheaper players. I am happy to trade a player away if I think he is playing above his skill level, like Pete Alonso, who is striking out 31% of the time and has a BABIP of .478 – SELL

Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): I hang back and chill. Presumably, you drafted your team after months of offseason research; don’t toss that away after 2-3 weeks. Two exceptions: injuries and falling *way* behind in a certain category. If there’s an obvious hole in your squad (i.e. you drafted Mike Clevinger as your ace, you lost a closer or two), then it makes sense to be aggressive and patch those gaps before you fall too far behind. But if you’re mostly in the pack, relax and let things play out. A weakness can turn into a strength (or vice-versa) at a moment’s notice this early in the year.

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): I am always happy to try to upgrade.  I don’t think there is every a “wrong” time to try to make a trade, and earlier trades have more impact. But having said that, it is very hard to find someone panicking in the leagues I am in and no one is buying the crazy first two weeks of some player or selling their best player who had a bad start. Owners out looking to rip me off–forget it. I admit that I have not made any offers (yet). I have Vogelbach in Tout AL, if someone wants to make an offer! I need SBs and SPs.

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): I tend to look right after my draft to see if I have any positional or statistical imbalances, and attempt to make a low-end trade. A low end SS for a low end 3B, or a low end steals guy for low end power, etc. But if everyone drafted to their views, it will be tough to make major trades early on – as people are high on their own picks. If I am approached by another team, I will certainly entertain offers if I think that I can profit, but I won’t attempt anything major myself. The exception to that is an impact injury, if the waiver wire isn’t helpful.

Chris Liss (Rotowire, @Chris_Liss): Make me an offer, I will certainly consider it. Just don’t assign me homework, e.g, “take a look at my roster.”

Perry Van Hook (Mastersball): There is a fine line between being patient with players off to a slow start and recognizing a deficiency that you might be able to fix better via trade than through free agents. The easiest and best trades to make early in the season are trading from a position/category of strength to correct a weakness with a team that has a clear match. Old school but I always prefer to have a conversation with teams in my league to see how they view their players/team and mine before presenting a trade offer – you will often get a better deal than the one you had in mind.

Michael Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): I am always looking to upgrade where I can and tend to target GMs with star players that are under-performing to see if I can buy low. I do not overreact positively or negatively to players’ performances over the first few weeks of the season, but I know other GMs do so I try and capitalize on that overreaction.

Grey Albright (RazzBall, @razzball): I’m mostly against early season trades unless it’s obvious in your favor. My mom always said I’d make a great landscape architect with my hedges. Also, you can check out our Razzball’s Trade Analyzer to see when a trade is in your favor:

Seth Trachtman (Rotoworld, @sethroto): Buy low, sell high. Unless there’s something apparent in the small sample size of stats that says the player has legitimately gotten better or worse, I try not to take too much from a couple weeks of data, one way or the other.

Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotobuzzGuy): I’m usually pretty conservative throughout the month of April. I’ll fill holes on the waiver wire, but don’t often feel it necessary to blow up the first 6-to-8 rounds of my draft this early. Once the calendar flips to May and I have a better read on my team and its needs, everyone is fair game. There is no player who is untradeable, though, obviously, prices vary. Also, instead of making my own moves, I often enjoy spending April talking fantasy newbies out of making bonehead deals.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): Everything is fair game. Just don’t try to buy low with me. If you’ve come out of the draft with an obvious gap; for example, steals. Why wait to fix it.

Tim McCullough (Baseball Prospectus, @TimsTenz): I will listen to offers and leap if the price is right but I’m much more inclined to initiate and/or actually make a trade once April is over and I have a better idea of what my team needs most.

Dr. Roto (Scout Fantasy, @DrRoto): I like to be patient for the first month or so of the season to see how the categories shake out so I can target my needs better.

Rob Leibowitz (Rotoheaven, @rob_leibowitz): Early season I don’t usually go out seeking trades unless I have an injury concern, but am not opposed to trading at any time.. The best trades are typically the ones that come to you but hopefully also include an offer rather than something vague. Everyone wants to sell high/buy low but I rarely encounter those situations in actual practice. Most people stick to their guns early in the season at this level of play if they already have expectations regarding a player since they drafted or purchased them in the first place.

Michael Florio (NFL Network, @MichaelFFlorio): I am looking to buy a player who has made a change before it really gets notice. For instance, Zach Eflin is throwing a cutter (according to some sites) and it has become his best swing and miss pitch. I have shot multiple offers for him already. Additionally, I look to jump on panicking owners. I loved Zack Wheeler coming into the season and he is still doing everything I loved. He still has his added velocity and throwing that new split finger, but because of one bad start where he had nothing, some may be panicking.

Dan Strafford (FNTSY Radio, @DanStrafford): I generally despise trading at any point in a season. So many owners are so afraid of “losing” a trade that they become difficult to negotiate with and circular in offers. If I drafted a specific roster with intent of trading for a category later, I try to get ahead of the curve whenever possible.

Ray Murphy (BaseballHQ, @RayHQ): I’m pretty hands-off, unless I’ve got an express need. In Tout Wars Mixed, for instance, I’ve got zero saves after 2 weeks. Safe to say I’m going shopping there soon. But I’m generally not aggressive about trying to buy or sell into hot/cold starts. Just not a predator by nature, I suppose.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): … I’m willing to listen, but I don’t expect much activity because most owners (including me) are usually waiting to see what they have as a team, what they have in the categories, and what they have from individual players. It’s hard to know those things with only a few weeks of games. That’s partly just common sense and partly a kind of ownership bias, but either way, it mitigates against early-season trading. When I played keepers, it was different, because dumping got going earlier and earlier to the point where trades were being made in April, but that’s only because the trades are not meant to be current-value-for-current value, so owners can are addressing two different sets of needs.

Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): I’m willing to listen to offers and try to take advantage of an impatient owner who’s too eager to sell low. If an owner is willing to move on after 50 poor at bats or 3 poor starts i’ll happily take them for the next 500 at bats or 27 starts.

Michael Beller (Sports Illustrated, @MBeller): …be realistic. Far fewer people are prone to panic than popular lore would suggest. Everyone answering this question plays in industry leagues, but we all play in home leagues, too. I’m betting that you aren’t seeing too many Jose Ramirez or Chris Sale trades in those leagues just yet. Worry less about what the other person may be willing to give up, and more about the holes on your roster that may already be developing. If you’re trying to make a discount trade for someone you liked back in draft season, consider guys who were mid- or late-round targets. For sake of example, some players who fit that mold for me include Franmil Reyes, Robinson Cano and Ross

Rudy Gamble (Razzball, @RudyGamble): ….I’m typically patient and using the waiver wire to upgrade the bottom of my roster and filling in for injured players. I will always listen to offers but it is hard trading early when managers still like most of their players for the same reasons they drafted them.

Justin Mason (Friends with Fantasy Benefits, Fangraphs, Fantasy Alarm, @JustinMasonFWFB): … I rarely do it unless if I know that I have a categorical weakness heading out the draft or if an early season injury cause me to have an unexpected weakness.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): . . . I generally pass. Unless injuries have left me with a glaring weakness that I can’t even begin to fill from the waiver wire AND I match up well with a potential trading partner who needs something I feel I can spare, I’ll stick to the waiver wire. One exception – if I see a league-mate with a player coming off the IL, I might offer them some FAAB for a player I like that they look likely to cut.

Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru Elite, @BaseballGuys): I don’t really participate much, though to be fair, I don’t think most folks in these industry leagues do. We all believe in “our players,” so we’re not likely to be selling them on the low, causing the dampeners to be put on a lot of potential early season moves.

Brian Walton (CreativeSports2, @B_Walton): I listen and respond to every offer – same as later in the season. Even if the deal doesn’t make sense, keeping the lines open for the next proposal could pay off. Rarely does an early deal interest me, but there is no reason to limit one’s opportunity and risk being labeled as a disinterested trader and someone to avoid. This season, I’ve already been approached in a dynasty league in which I am rebuilding. The price I requested in return is high, but if the other owner wants the deal, it will get done. If not, no problem.

Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): I’m only interested if it looks like I’m going to miss my projections and I’m going to be short in a category. I’m not usually brave enough to trade for the upside from a player off to a slow start, but those trades could help the most!

Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): I am very hesitant to make an early season trade unless I can trade for a guy I liked a lot in March who is off to a slow start. The risk of overreacting to meaningless April standings is too great.

Adam Ronis (Scout Fantasy, @AdamRonis): In general, I tend to be patient. Every team is different, though, and there are times where it’s clear a trade needs to be done. With so many injuries already, it might make sense to make a trade before you fall behind by too much. There are times where you know coming out of a draft you’re deficient in a category and a quick trade can help.

Ryan Hallam (Fighting Chance Fantasy, @FightingChance): I like to be on the offensive. Trade guys off to a good start that maybe are overachieving. Try to get a better player that maybe didn’t hit the ground running. I don’t like to trade early if I’m struggling with guys I believe in. Early season trading is for taking advantage of hot starts, not for making up for slow ones.

Larry Schechter (Winning Fantasy Baseball, @LarrySchechter): If you know that you have a need, and/or a surplus of something, don’t hesitate to trade. No reason to wait. And while it’s always nice to gain an edge, or buy low, sell high, a fair trade is fine.

D.J. Short (Rotoworld, @djshort): I keep an open mind. After a few weeks, you generally have a feel for your roster and how things might play out in certain categories. Grabbing someone off waivers is possible and maybe even season-altering, but you can’t count on that happening or finding a player who matches up with category need. So it’s always wise to look at your strengths and see if someone if willing to cash in on a surplus. The problem is that it’s just too early for many to do that. Otherwise, I’m not really overreacting to much of what I’m seeing in the early part of the season unless playing time/role or injuries have significantly changed things from my preseason valuation.

Derek VanRiper (Rotowire, @DerekVanRiper): I keep a very close eye on injuries for other teams in order to find trade partners in need. Most likely, the roster I built on draft or auction day doesn’t have perfect balance, so an injury for someone else could open the door for a productive dialogue that allows us to make a deal to improve both teams, as a gaping hole on a roster might lead another owner to give up an excess of something else I might need.

Andy Behrens (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): …if the early results match post-draft expectations, I’m willing to trade at any time. No one should set a date before which they aren’t willing to deal.

Jason Collette (Rotowire, @jasoncollette): Always willing to listen but rarely willing to pull the trigger. My one trade early on — moving Kolten Wong for Bryse Wilson before opening day. Smooth move, Ex-Lax

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): I’m open to it and always willing to listen to offers on any player I own. I rarely seek out deals until at least a month into the season though, unless I’m in a league with a bunch of rookies who I think could fleece with some buy low offers.

Al Melchior (FNTSY Radio, @almelchiorbb): I’m really averse to making deals. I want to give myself a chance to better assess players’ values for this season. I’m definitely more open to dealing if I’m lucky enough to have a surplus to trade from.

Nando DiFino (The Athletic, @nandodifino): I’m all for it. Maybe a player I really like got swiped from me in the draft. Maybe a risk I took crashed and burned. Perhaps I just get restless. I think you can get better deals early on, too, because while owners have players they really may like, they also have a few they settled for, or grabbed late because they were bargains. For instance, I got Tim Beckham at the end of Tout because he was the best available player left. I think I had him pegged as UT or SW. If someone comes to me and needs a SS and wants to give me a Dylan Bundy upgrade… I’m all for it. Especially this early, when one player change can steer your team in a totally different direction.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): I’m receptive but not usually aggressive. Injuries may force the issue, but I generally prefer to let things play out. That said, I don’t play in many leagues where there are panicking competitors. If you do, there’s nothing wrong with looking to take advantage. If you don’t, someone else will.