Tout Table: Trading with Contenders in Redraft Leagues

Question posed to the Touts this week:

If your team is destined to not win this season, will you trade with a competing team to improve your finish?

Larry Schechter (Winning Fantasy Baseball, @LarrySchechter): Yes, definitely…although my motivation to trade is much less than if I’m in contention, I’m competitive enough that I’d rather finish as high in the standings as I can. Similarly, in non-trade leagues, I will keep managing my team even when hopelessly out of contention. Tout Wars also has a unique rule, where if you don’t reach a certain threshold in the standings, you lose some FAAB money for the next season. This adds motivation to finish as high as possible.

Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): Absolutely! We all play for pride and want to be able to finish as high in the standings as possible. It’s all about next year’s FAAB dollars as incentive. I play to the end, regardless of the league standings. I can’t stand a league manager that is out of contention and starts to abandon their team. It’s not fair to the other teams that need your help in all categories. You can get a lot of pleasure by moving your opponents down in a specific category. Making a trade with people in contention may pay dividends in years to come when you reach out to them when you are in contention.

Rick Wolf (Fantasy Alarm, @RickWolf1): This is a good question in there is some ethics to it. You are NEVER out of it in July. At least I cannot remember believing that for the most part. I will definitely trade to get better in July, but NOT as the trade deadline approaches in my leagues, I will look to see if the trades that I make will affect the race for the final month. It is not a simple yes or no for me. There are situations where you can move from 10th to 5th with a trade, but can make it 100% sure who wins the league. That to me is VERY bad form. Getting your team to be better in July is way different than on August 29th when there are five weeks left. You cannot change the balance of the league in July. You can ruin the league in August with a king maker trade. Let the teams in the Top 3 or 4 fight it out. Trade with others to move up when it is that late.

Michael Beller (Sports Illustrated, @MBeller): Rick beat me to a lot of what I wanted to say, but I’ll still echo some of his comments. None of us is out of it, no matter how far back, in late July. I could be in last place in a redraft league right now, and I wouldn’t feel guilty about trading with one of the teams at or near the top of the standings. We’re getting close to the end of that window, though. If mid-August rolls around and it becomes clear that this just isn’t your year, then I think you need to turn off the deal-making portion of your fantasy baseball brain for the rest of the season. This obviously changes in a keeper format, but in redraft leagues where you’re not taking any of your players into the next season trading with a contending team once you’re out of the race can undercut the competitive integrity of the league. This is fantasy, not real life. You’re not trying to sell tickets to fans or convince impending free agents that you’re building something special. Time to turn your attention to football. There’s always next season.

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): I am a cautious trader by nature, but I will always take an opportunity to improve my place in the standings and I will not begrudge others doing the same when I am in the top 3 and one of my competitors gets a deal from someone low in the standings. It has happened that way on several occasions, in fact.  That is part of the game like every other part.  Self-censure and not making a trade that makes sense for both sides affects the standings too–just in the opposite direction.

Michael Rathburn (Rotowire, @FantasyRath): I am looking to finish as high in the standing as I can, so if I trade will improve my team yes I will pull the trigger. Also, usually those trades for 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 in which you can make the competing team pay a premium.

Rudy Gamble (Razzball, @RudyGamble): In a redraft league, I try to avoid trades if I am out of contention. Rightly or wrongly, I scrutinize contender w/ non-contender trades to a greater degree. My sniff test on a standard trade is “Did this trade help both teams?”. On a contender w/ non-contender trade, my sniff test is “Is this a fair trade outside of both teams’ context?” It is valid trading $.80 on the dollar sometimes if it helps you in the standings. But that type of trade by a non-contender is awfully annoying (bordering on amoral not as far as immoral) to me if I am contending in a league.

Fred Zinkie (Rotoworld, Baseball HQ, @FredZinkieMLB): I’ll definitely make the trade. For the sake of personal pride, I’m trying to finish as high in the standings as possible in every league. My team is open for business right up to the trade deadline for all of the contending teams, and my hat goes off to the owner who finds a way to propose a deal that makes my team more successful and their team more successful at the same time.

Ron Shandler (, @RonShandler): Tout Wars has its own built-in incentives to keep playing. Final season standing determines seeding for the following season’s reserve round snake draft. Each league has a points threshold that determines how large of a FAAB budget you take into next season. So, if pride and being a good roto-citizen are not enough reasons to make these types of trade, there are always other reasons to keep plugging away.

Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty): Absolutely. I may be a little less proactive if I’m really towards the bottom of the pack in a league (but more so in a league like Tout Wars where there’s incentive to move up in the standings), but I’ll always engage in trade talks with anyone who wants to, especially if they’re competing. Nothing frustrates me more than the owners who won’t do this. I’ve been competing at times in the past in Tout Wars and LABR and have had owners straight-up refuse to trade with me not on the merits of the trade itself but on the actual principle of trading because they “didn’t want to have an undue influence on the final result of the league” or something like that, which I found absolutely ridiculous. Or they wouldn’t want to trade with me because it would be unfair to the guy I’m competing with who wouldn’t be making a trade too. I was furious. This goes against the entire spirit of competition of these leagues. We all play in this league, we all have the same opportunities to trade, and if the people at the top want to win the league and put in the effort to make a trade, I’m very much in favor of helping them as long as the trades are fair. I’ve had a ton of injuries this year in Tout Wars NL and am pretty far out contention, but I’d be more than willing to make trades with anyone competing, and I feel very strongly that’s how it should be.

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): I have a firm rule: my job is to try to improve my team at all times. Indeed, I believe failure to do so can impact things just as much as making a trade or a free agent acquisition. I note that most of my leagues have incentives – or disincentives – to keep trying to improve your finish.

Andy Behrens (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): In Tout Wars, where it is clearly not my year, we have no shortage of incentives to compete until the end. So the obvious answer here is “Yes, definitely.” All redraft leagues should incentivize competition up and down the standings, through the end of the season. I’ll trade at any point up to the deadline, from any position. That said, we’ve certainly reached the point in the season where my focus is on leagues in which I’m clearly competing for a title. I’m less likely to actively seek out a trade partner in an effort to vault myself from, say, ninth place to sixth place. Still, if a reasonable deal presents itself, in Tout or elsewhere, I have no reservations about trading to improve.

Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): Depends on the league! If it is a partial keeper league, and a trade with the top teams would gain me a keeper for next year, YES. If a trade could get me into a money spot, Yes. If a trade causes the integrity of the league to be questioned by helping one person win with no benefit to me, then NO! In Tout Wars, where there is a penalty for a bad finish, yes I would trade if it improved my position.

Tim McCullough (Rotoexperts, @TimTenz): Dynasty and keeper formats demand that you play right to the finish and at least try to build or rebuild your team to go get ’em next season. Since Tout has the penalty for finishing below a set threshold, there is an incentive of a different sort that you need to address. So, I am always open to trades even if I’m out of contention for a title. If you’re not going to try and finish as high in the standings as possible, why are you playing? At the very least you can learn something by tweaking your team to improve in the standings and apply that knowledge for future teams/leagues.

Lawr Michaels (CreativeSports2, @lawrmichaels): i will always do everything i can to finish as high as i can in any league, irrespective of format. that said, i do try to be careful to not make a trade that overtly does tip the scales among the contending teams if that makes sense.

Glenn Colton (Fantasy Alarm, @glenncolton1): what is the point of playing if you fail to compete as best as you can and do as best as you can? The only caveat is that if my team cannot win, I will likely make sure I let the whole league know a player is available before just pulling the trigger with one competing team. That way, the other teams cannot complain if they failed to make a better offer.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Yes, for all the reasons listed above by the touts.

Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, @BretSayreBP): Even if a league does not have any incentive for owners who have no chance of winning, whether it’s the FAAB incentive like Tout has or a second-half prize like some of my home leagues have, I will continue to try to improve my teams until the bitter end. Of course, all leagues should have those types of incentives (as they make for a better overall culture throughout the season), but that’s a separate topic. As a personally competitive person when it comes to fantasy leagues (as all of us certainly are), an eighth place finish certainly feels better to me than a tenth place one, and I act accordingly.

Ray Murphy (BaseballHQ, @RayHQ): I think the Tout Wars rule re: deduction of next year’s FAAB is a valid reason for non-contenders to be dealing with contenders, but I’ll go against the grain here. Sure, I’d rather scratch out every standings point. It’s (a little) better to finish 8th than 10th. But (in re-draft leagues) I am very leery of playing king-maker, too. If my marginal gain downward in the standings means that I’m gift-wrapping a title for my trade partner, I’m inclined to not make the deal.

Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs and Fantrax, @jeffwzimmerman): My goal is to win the league. With next year’s FAAB total tied to this year’s finish, I sure in the hell going to try anything to move up. If it means giving the flag to someone else this season so I can get it next season, so be it. It’s a harsh stance but sticking to my goal is key.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): To be candid, I continue to struggle with this. My head says very point counts. My heart says don’t influence the top of the standings in a redraft format. Then the head says by not making a move, I’m in fact influencing the results. So while I usually won’t seek out deals to move me from 13th to 11th, I’ll consider them if approached, with the condition I let the league know I’m open for business. This way, if the consummated deal indeed aids someone at the top of the heap, the other contenders had an equal chance to work something out with me. This said, all bets are off it Tout Wars where I want every FAAB dollar I can muster and assume my brethren do as well.