This week’s query:
What are some of the mistakes you’ve encountered in trade negotiations?
Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): Owners offering trades without looking at my team’s needs and non-needs. Why are you offering me Jose Abreu when I already have Freddie Freeman at first, Anthony Rizzo at corner, and Edwin Encarnacion at utility? On a related note, don’t offer me Mallex Smith if I have a 10 stolen base lead over second place in the category.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): That I make or that others make? I like to try to provide options for other owners to choose from and then if they do choose something, we can get to agreement that helps everyone quickly. I would say that one mistake I make most often is to go for a larger rather than a smaller trade. Not everyone likes that or will respond to that. What I don’t like: when someone is not interested, say so quickly instead of pretending to be interested then wasting time later or never responding again after that initial feigned interest. When someone offers me a trade, I like to tell them quickly what I think. What I don’t like: if you disagree with my view, trying to bully me or coerce me or get me to change my view point because “it is not how you would do it” is a waste of time and is counterproductive. Not everyone sees everything the same way. Maybe you are smarter than me. But when you try too hard to tell me you are, I start to think maybe you aren’t.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Don’t editorialize, it’s distracting and sets the wrong mood. For example, I received a recent cattle call where the person looking to deal wrote something like, “I need to trade so-and-so because of the stupid new rule.” As it happens, I was in favor of the rule, as were at least half of the other league participants, else it wouldn’t have passed. It’s not like I’m not interested in dealing with this person, but instead of combing our rosters for a match, I’m bitching to myself this guy had ample opportunity to state his opinion when discussing the rule, get over it.
Seth Trachtman (Rotoworld, @sethroto): Making an offer that’s one-sided, and that goes well beyond player value. When making a trade offer, you always have to put yourself in the other team’s shoes. Why would they accept this offer? Does it fill one of their needs (category, position, or otherwise)? Does it help their stated goal of winning the league or rebuilding? If the offer clearly has no chance of helping the other team, then you shouldn’t expect them to accept it. In some cases, you’re better off sending an initial email asking what they’d like to accomplish rather than an actual trade proposal so that everyone is on the same page entering potential trade negotiations.
Ron Shandler (RonShandler.com, @RonShandler): Always remember that I don’t care about your team. All I care about is my team, so you need to sell me on why this trade will benefit ME. And I am intimately knowledgeable about my team, so don’t try to sell me faux benefits that are really just speculations. I’ll see right through that. Like Mike said above, don’t try to sell me a starting pitcher when I have Scherzer and Wheeler coming off the DL this weekend.
Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): Don’t tell me how to run my team … ever. I told one owner so many times to quit doing it, I had to just block all correspondence from him.
Justin Mason (Friends with Fantasy Benefits, Fangraphs, Fantasy Alarm, @JustinMasonFWFB): Be willing to walk away. Some owners get so far down the line on negotiations that they will accept a lesser offer just to finalize a deal. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.
Scott Engel (Rotoballer, @scotteTheKing): Salesmanship. Don’t try to sell me on why I should make the deal. Cut the crap, just ask me if I am interested or not. And don’t offer me a player from my favorite team as a lure. That is insulting to my Rotisserie integrity.
Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): I’m with Justin. Many of the best trades are the ones not made. And, I’ll plead guilty to getting involved in a negotiation, watching it go in a different direction than at the start, and then allowing myself to persuade myself that the deal is going to work when I should have walked away long ago.
James Anderson (Rotowire, @RealJRAnderson): The thing that annoys me most in trade discussions is when someone offers something that is so lopsided that it can’t be taken seriously, but they still expect there to be a back and forth. I either don’t respond or immediately decline, depending on my relationship with the other owner. I usually come in with close to my best offer, just because I don’t have the time to trade a bunch of e-mails back and forth only for it to lead nowhere. If I didn’t enjoy the prospect aspect of dynasty leagues, I wouldn’t play in many leagues that allow trading.
Zach Steinhorn (Baseball Prospectus, @zachsteinhorn): Lopsided offers are bad enough, but offers that are both lopsided and demonstrate that the owner did zero research regarding my potential areas of need are a big turnoff and would discourage me from working out any trade with that owner in the future. Even worse is when there’s no accompanying note explaining why I might be remotely interested in making such a trade. It’s fine if your initial offer isn’t your best offer, but you also don’t want to be labeled as the owner who regularly sends out insulting trade offers. Have some respect for your competition.
Eric Karabell (ESPN, @karabelleric): This isn’t personal, so while negotiations should be fair, if we don’t come to a reasonable agreement on this trade, it hardly means we can’t deal with each other. It’s not a character flaw. I just don’t want your Rick Porcello. We can deal but offer someone else!
Dr. Roto (Scout Fantasy, @DrRoto): Losing my patience with bad offers. I know everyone wants to get over on another owner in a deal, but I need to avoid taking it personally. People are going to do what they can to help themselves and I need to be rational and not react to that.
Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): Not adjusting your evaluations of a player’s worth to you (or to a potential trade partner) to reflect where you (or they) currently sit in the standings. If I’m in first/last place by a wide margin with little opportunity to lose/gain points in a category, I should be more willing to trade a player (i.e. – value him less) who’s strong in that category than I would have earlier in the season, even if his underlying performance hasn’t changed.
Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): Overthinking it. For myself, there’s been times when I’m scouring rosters, looking for that good fit, and I might make some notes on possibilities to formulate an offer. Then I’ll put it aside, doubting that I could find a viable match, without even engaging other teams or options. Then several days later, my target has been traded, and I missed my opportunity. In this situations, I need to trust my gut more and just open up discussions. One never knows where it might go
Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): Ever get the old “I’d be willing to consider [player x] …” line? What does that even mean? I’m with Mike/Ron here: lay out why the deal makes sense for *my* team, start with a fair offer, and be direct. The fact that you put some time and research into my team makes me much more likely to engage. Related: I got a trade offer today with a message that started: “I realize this is not fair, but…”. Mistake!
Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): A big issue I’ve seen with trade negotiations is where one team makes an offer to the other team, with no understanding of what that team needs. I’ve seen owners offer steals to a team that doesn’t need it for example. They focus on their own needs, and not on the selling point enough.
Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @GlennColton1): Two biggest mistakes are making the insulting offer just to see if you can trick someone. At that point, I just do not bother negotiating with that person. Second mistake – pushing for just a little more rather than taking a good deal that helps your team. It is a hard line to figure out sometimes but always ask yourself — are you being a little piggy?
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): All the answers above are excellent. The mistake I sometimes make is being TOO explanatory about why a deal helps the other guy. This is not usually a problem in experts’ leagues, where the other guy appreciates the analysis and thought-process effort, even if he disagrees with the outcome, but in home leagues or public leagues, a detailed explanation can read as manipulative or, paradoxically, as an attempt to pull the wool over his eyes with fancy-talk.
Derek VanRiper (Rotowire, @DerekVanRiper): I have realized that I didn’t always do a good enough job of doing the legwork of figuring out what the other owner needed before starting negotiations. Taking that time significantly increases the likelihood of getting a deal done that will help your team, and it probably saves all parties involved some time in the long run since there won’t be a series of wasteful interactions and offers prior to nothing happening.
Larry Schechter (Winning Fantasy Baseball, @LarrySchechter): I agree with many things already mentioned, so I’ll add something different. An owner left the draft with a very huge shortfall of power, and excess SP. I offered a power hitter for a SP and his response was that according to his projections he would lose more points in the standings than he would gain, so he declined. I tried to explain to him that he was so far behind in HR/RBI that this trade was the first step to get closer to the pack and be in a position where something else–a second trade, good FAAB acquisition, overachievers–could propel him to points gains. He didn’t understand or agree, never made a trade, and finished hopelessly out of contention.
Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): Don’t try to get too much! When offered a good trade, like selling a house, your first offer might be the best one. As I sit at the bottom of Tout mixed, I regret not taking a trade offered to me by Seth Trachtman. He offered Ozzie Albies for Blake Treinen, while he was still the closer and scuffling, but hadn’t hit the IL yet. Treinen is my only closer, and my chance of gaining points in saves was nil. I countered but he balked. I thought I’d get a better offer. Turned out he picked up saves from the waiver wire, Treinen goes on IL, and still hasn’t regained closers role. So he sits uselessly on my bench, and I’m having a heck of a time getting out of last place. Albies would have helped!
Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): Trade partners who waste time with pointless offers. I get that, for years, people have heard the stale advice to begin negotiations with the lowball offer or the early-April buy-low, sell-high offer, but there’s so much more information available now and people are better versed in the game to ever fall for either. Do your homework, and get the deal done on the first try, or at worst the first round of counteroffers. A trade really doesn’t require more than 10 minutes. If it sounds like it’ll take more from the first offer, you’ve lost my attention.
Ian Kahn (Rotowire, @IanKahn4): I recently had an owner talk down a player that he was trying to acquire. It broke the trust in the negotiation. There should always be the hope and intention that both teams will get better with the deal being made. Especially in Dynasty, there is always a way to make a deal work. Respect and care often gets the job done.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Once you agree to an offer, don’t come back and ask for a “little sweetener.” I’m in one league where after a trade negotiation, I’ll ask my waiter/waitress for an ice tea with a “little FAAB.”
Tim McLeod (Prospect361.com, @RunTMc59006473): A good offer is one that involves satisfying the needs of both parties. If you don’t start the process with that in mind, you’re not getting more than a “thank-you” and that’s only because as a Canadian I have no choice but to be polite. It’s a rule.
Tim McCullough (Baseball Prospectus, @TimsTenz): The most difficult obstacles to overcome in any trade are the inherent differences in how we all value players. You can make what looks like a fair deal on paper because it benefits the statistical needs of both teams, but you are also assuming that you’re going to get a certain performance level out of the players you receive (and to an extent, the players you trade away also). For instance, earlier this season I nixed a deal for a pitcher because he was experiencing a drop in velocity at the time. My trade partner thought I was crazy to pass up this pitcher because he was asking for a “lesser” player in return. I valued the hitter more than he did and I was biased against the pitcher because of my perception of his health. As a result, we couldn’t make a deal.
Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): In any trade negotiation, there at least needs to be a starting point. When you create a trade offer, you should do as up front homework as possible. The same applies when you receive a trade offer. If the trade offer received does not even come close to anything that is of benefit to both teams, then why bother sending me a trade offer? My biggest disappointment is when I see the trade offer come in and they ask for players that make no sense for me to trade. And at the same time, they offer me players where they are little to no benefit in return. If I’m leading the league in saves, why bother sending me a trade and you are only offering me another closer.
Adam Ronis (Scout Fantasy, @AdamRonis): One of the biggest things people fail to do is look at what the other team needs. Someone kept sending me offers for closers when that is one the categories that was tight for me and one where I can pick up points. While the trade may seem like a steal isolated, it doesn’t help my team. Make sure the trade can help the other team too or it’s wasting time.
Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): Two mistakes I see quite often are trade offers that will help the senders team but don’t fill a need on the other side of the trade. For example, don’t offer me Corey Seager if I have Lindor at SS. Find a need of mine and let’s work out a match. Second, If you are offering 3-5 mediocre players for my superstar guess what…I’m not accepting that trade.
MIke Sheets (ESPN, @MikeASheets): I encounter too many owners who just don’t respond to offers late in the season, perhaps because they’ve turned their attention elsewhere. Sometimes it’s an email gauging interest that never gets a reply, and sometimes it’s an actual offer that just sits there. When these owners are in keeper/dynasty leagues, it makes me less likely to try to negotiate with them in future seasons (whether they’re more willing or not) because I don’t want to waste my time.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Another mistake I see from both sides is categorically adhering to “Never deal the best player in a trade.” Granted, it takes special circumstances to deal quality for quantity, but if your overall roster is better after such a deal, it’s a good deal.
Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): I think a lot of the problems we’re discussing here arise because email and the stat service’s Trade Centers make the trading process way more transactional and a bit colder than, say, talking on your rotary phone is. That’s a reason I recoil when I get an announcement in my email box that says this team offered these five guys for my five guys. My eyes usually glaze over with that approach, though I have to admit a couple of times my eyes have lit up because I had totally different values than the guy making the offer. But in most cases the cold approach is hard to understand, has nothing to do with salesmanship or marketing and usually doesn’t reflect any understanding of my needs. Because I have a hard enough time understanding my needs. All of this is prelude to saying that I like the approach of polling the league, offering something specific or something categorical in return for something categorical. Sample pitch: “Hey, I’m overflowing with Stolen Bases. I can offer steals, steals with homers, and steals with homers and average, in return for Wins, Saves, and good innings pitched of equal value. If you see something, please say something.” I’ll still dig through the rosters of other teams, but letting the league know what you’re doing can unearth surprises and inoculates you against the “I would have offered more” complaints that come up sometimes.