Tout Table: Trading Faux Pas

It’s tradition to pose a trade-related question in early May. This year, the Touts were asked

What are some of the common mistakes made during trade negotiations?

Sky Dombroske (Fantistics Insider Baseball, @SkyDombroske): The obvious one is merely focusing on your own needs. There has to be something in it to entice the other person to deal, so looking at their roster and determining what they’re trying to do is a must.

Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): Sky nailed it on the first reply: Failing to even consider your counterpart’s roster needs. If that’s how you begin your trade talks, it’s going to be a short conversation.

Chris Clegg (Pitcher List, @RotoClegg): The most frustrating thing when trading is getting a blind offer that isn’t remotely close. Some people will say they send a bad offer to start the conversation, but for me, it does not make me want to trade with that person. Considering the needs of your trade partner is important. Obviously, the goal is to make your team better, but if you consider the other teams needs as well, it make negotiations much easier.

Frank Ammirante (The GameDayHQ, @FAmmiranteTFJ): Trade negotiations must immediately consider the other team’s needs. You don’t want to start off negotiations on a sour note by offering a player that doesn’t fit that team’s category need or meet market value.

Fred Zinkie (Yahoo/Rotowire, @FredZinkieMLB): Lacking creatively. Becoming set on Player X for Y. Or position A for B. Or thinking this is the last trade they’ll make all year, so they need to leave it with a balanced roster.

Grey Albright (RazzBall, @razzball): When people begin trade negotiations, they forget the most important thing: The person you’re trading with also has the internet. You might want to trade your player who is on the Struggle Bus dropping turds in the back bus toilet for the other team’s good player, but it’s not going to work. So, aside from starting each trade negotiation with hypnotism you learned at a community college night course, look at the other team’s needs and try to give them a player they might actually want. You can try our Fantasy Baseball Trade Analyzer if you like: https://razzball.com/trade_analyzer_mlb/

Mike Alexander (Razzball, @Roto_Wan): The best way to make a trade is to be willing to “lose” the trade. Too many managers feel the need to win or squeeze as much value from a trade partner as they can. If you give up a little extra but still fill a need of your own it’s still a win for your team.

Matt Cederholm (Baseball HQ, @TheBigHurtHQ): +1 for “consider the other team’s needs,” but I’ll add to that. First mistake is being too rigid and rejecting offers out of hand. Find out what the other GM is trying to accomplish; you may find a trade that wasn’t obvious at the outset. Second, trying to “win” every trade, You win a trade by getting a fair price and improving your team.

Ryan Hallam (Fighting Chance Fantasy, @FightingChance): The most obvious answer and I’m not the first to say it is to find a partner who needs what you are trying to trade away or has an abundance of the position you need. That is the easiest way to have trade negotiations go nowhere. My other one is the “used car salesperson approach” (apologies to the good used car salespeople out there) but I can’t stand the person who comes to you with a trade offer that tells you why your player that they want are trash and/or why the guys they want to trade you are awesome. Hmmmm, if you believed that, why make the deal. Long story short, find a trade partner that benefits too and don’t be a pushy trade salesperson

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): Trading is a lot harder these days. Everyone has a higher level of sophistication, and fear of making a bad trade. One mistake made often is focusing on your end of the trade. Your partner will focus on their end – so the best mindset is also to come from their point of view. Another mistake is “telling” the other team what they “need” instead of listening to them.

D.J. Short (NBC Sports, @djshort): Not properly reading the room. Familiarize yourself with your trade partner’s roster and where they stand right now. Maybe they are lacking in one particular category and have excess in another. Maybe they recently lost a significant player due to injury. Being attentive to that means something at a time where a manager might be searching for alternatives. Lastly, it varies by situation — sometimes these negotiations are straight-forward — but don’t necessarily always give your best offer first.

Brian Walton (CreativeSports2, @B_Walton): Nothing is worse that a prospective trade partner who insists on THEIR preferred method of communication – whether phone, text or email. Instead, you need to work with the other owner to have a dialogue in the manner most agreeable to THEM.

Rob Leibowitz (Rotoheaven, @rob_leibowitz): League context. If you’re new to a league, you need to get a sense of how the league approaches deals, especially in keeper leagues. How do they value veterans, veterans in last years of contracts, and prospects. What is the non-keepable veteran to prospect ratio typical in a league. Email and texting tone, try to ignore it or even better, don’t be a robot. Write it like a letter and set the tone before getting your email. Give them options to consider. Avoid “What do you want for X” emails. Instead make an offer. Try something novel and pick up the phone. Assume everyone knows exactly what you do. It’s not the 80s or 90s when information was difficult to come by. it is a click of the button. A non-active owner can go to a page, understand stats, and get a sense of the value of their player in seconds even if they haven’t been paying attention. In keeper leagues, target the players you want whether your dumping or going for it. You don’t’ have to announce your intentions. If you’re thinking long-term and want a key player, don’t be afraid to lock down the deal, even if it might feel like an overpay and trade away veterans if you’re not focused on the current season.

James Anderson (Rotowire, @RealJRAnderson): Cold calling someone with a trade offer that’s either lopsided or doesn’t make sense for the other team’s roster needs. Essentially, don’t waste my time. If you want to deal, either take the time to look at the other person’s roster or trade block and propose a realistic trade that makes sense for their needs or timeline (in dynasty), or send them a message gauging their interest in reaching a deal.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Admittedly, this is more of a me thing, as I’m a bit of a luddite, but for me the on-site trade mechanism is for agreed upon deals, not as a means of negotiation. Heed Brian W.’s advice about finding a mutually agreeable means of communicating, hammer out a deal, then enter it on the site.

Alex Chamberlain (FanGraphs, @DolphHauldhagen): If you reject a trade offer, provide a counter-offer, or provide an explanation as to why you have rejected it. One of my biggest pet peeves is folks who solicit trade offers, receive them, then outright reject them with no explanation, and generally decline to have a conversation. This comes off as extremely lazy. If you want to swing a deal, both sides need to put in effort; just because you have solicited trade offers does not put the onus of effort on the other person and absolve you. (Also: everyone is saying “consider the other team’s needs,” and that’s fine, but also understand that other owners may not perceive their needs the same way you perceive them.)

Dr. Roto (DrRoto.com, @DrRoto): Looking at YOUR roster and not MY roster!

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): This is easy — starting any negotiations with “I’m looking for X or I need to improve Y”. The negotiation should focus on the other team’s needs and how your proposal could benefit them. Why would I want to assist your team with X or to improve Y?!

Michael A. Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): A common problem is when GMs over-value their own players and do not have realistic expectations about what they are worth. Trade negotiations do involve being a salesman, but you have to give the benefit of the doubt that your potential trade partner may not see things the same way you do. Another common problem is trying to “win” a trade. You shouldn’t engage in negotiations looking to win a trade because you will lose sight of the objective which is improving your own team. If you have a surplus at a certain position that fills a need for a trade partner, it shouldn’t factor into your equation whether your player may succeed on someone else’s roster. The focus should be acquiring a player that fills your own need, even if it means your counterpart also improves his/her roster.

Nick Pollack (Pitcher List, @PitcherList): The easiest trades are between hitters and pitchers – muddy the waters of perceived value by trading across the positions. A natural reaction is to reject any trade offered that features two players at the same position: “They must like my guy more, maybe I’m missing something.” By setting up a trade across the Hitter/Pitcher barrier, it makes it easier to make a swap.

Justin Mason (Friends With Fantasy Benefits, @JustinMasonFWFB): Trades are a lot like relationships, if you look to find ways to screw over your partner, you will find yourself all alone. Not only should you be looking at what your trade partner needs, but you should also be honesty about what you need so your partner knows that as well. Secondly, don’t be afraid to make the first offer. I think often people play coy but most deals are figured out around the first offer, so make sure you are getting in the deal what you want out of it.

JB Branson (Rotoballer, @RowdyRotoJB): I know its difficult in many leagues but I always think business should be done in conversation. Open up a dialogue. Explain what your thoughts are and how you think both sides can benefit from coming up with a move. If you are skilled enough you can even leave the talks with the other manager thinking it was their idea because you nudged them towards offering the deal you were wanting. I hate cold calls, and I typically don’t like cold trade requests. Take me to dinner first. Also, never open up the process by sending a low-ball offer “expecting a counter”. That shows you are only focusing on your team and your needs and there will be zero trust from the other side.

Chris Towers (CBS Fantasy, @CTowersCBS): Explaining to the other person why they should make the trade with you. They’re running their team, they’re going to do what they think is best for their team, and you’re more likely to come off as condescending and off-putting than to actually talk them into the trade.

Erik Halterman (Rotowire, @erik_halterman): I think the hardest part is proposing the first concrete offer to a trade partner you’re not familiar with. Some players are insulted by perceived lowball offers and want you to immediately come in with your best and final offer. Others seem to enjoy the back-and-forth for its own sake and expect the first offer on both sides to be rejected before a compromise is reached. If you don’t know your league mates well, it can be hard to know whether you should immediately offer 100 cents on the dollar or open at 90, knowing they’ll counter at 110 and you’ll settle at 100. (Not a true lowball like 50 cents on the dollar, of course, since that ends negotiations before they even start.) I default to letting my trade partner make the initial concrete offer in leagues where I don’t know my opponents very well, but that may be cowardice rather than sound advice.

Carlos Marcano (Triple Play Fantasy, @camarcano): Not replying back what you didn’t like about any trade offer you receive. Not meaning you have to like them, just some honest feedback can be very helpful to keep everyone in line regarding trade expectations.

Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotoBuzzGuy): The worst mistake you can make is sending out garbage offers. I know that some people say that an initial offer is just the first step in negotiations, but a bad offer can/will immediately turn off the other person and you may not even hear back from them. Nothing worse than getting a rejection with no counter. Or, the negotiations become such a chore that both of you walk away unhappy. It’s ok to try and buy-low, but a really bad offer is insulting.

Tim McLeod (Prospect361, @RunTMcP361): There are many great points raised by this group. It could fill a chapter and should in any book about our game. For a trade to be successful it has to address the category needs of both yourself and your trading partner. If a trade offer doesn’t meet that standard, don’t make the offer in the first place.

Blake Meyer (Pitcher List, Fantasy Pros, @Buhhlockaye): Not understanding the needs of the other team as well. It’s always great to WANT a player, but in order for the trade to work you’re going to have to make it work for the trading partner as well. The ultimate goal is always to come away with a better team, but you’re going to have to “give” in order to get something of value you want in return

Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru, @TheRayFlowers): Just like Blake stated… only thinking about your needs. Too many people see what they want/need, but they spend little time taking into consideration what the other team may need if a deal is to be worked out. You have to put yourself in the other persons shoes to see if they can afford to give what you need and if you have something to give that fits their needs as well.

Peter Kreutzer (Rotoman.substack.com, @kroyte): I’m on the side that wasting time is a faux pas. So broadcasting needs and what you’d pay seem to me good starting points if you don’t otherwise see a fit. Let league mates respond. But nothing works better than figuring out what someone else needs and making an appropriate offer.

Corbin Young (Baseball HQ, Rotowire, @corbin_young21): Throwing out offers without communicating first. Like anything in life, communication is important while developing rapport. Making sure each manager has a need in those areas seems obvious. Besides that, presuming competence in the other managers and not attempting to sell a player that might have obvious red flags.

Scott White (CBS Fantasy Sports, @CBSScottWhite): Trading is mostly an exercise in frustration these days, but I’ve found it’s far more successful if it begins with a text. That’s not always possible, of course, but when possible, it’s going to save you so much aggravation. The response will be almost immediate and might even begin a dialogue that allows you to find common ground in the most unexpected ways. Something about the spontaneity makes it even more likely to bear fruit than an email.

Matt Truss (Razzball, @MattTruss): Starting a trade by saying, “I’m interested in so and so, look at my team and see if anything works”. If you want the player, you do the work. I’m not going to take time to comb your roster and decide on a trade for you. That’s a surefire way for me to ignore the trade completely.

Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, @BretSayreBP): A lot of these answers are great and are going to have common threads, but one additional mistake is either consciously or subconsciously pushing your personal valuations into the offer or conversation, especially when it comes to pitchers and prospects. Rather than say you think Pitcher X might be a good fit for another team, give them a tier of arms and let them get excited about the players they like most in that group. More initial excitement from both parties lead to more trading (and better values for the initiator).

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): There’s a fine balance between understanding your potential trade partner’s team needs and being too proscriptive about explaining those needs to that person. Save the ultra-detailed analysis for your own website or pod, and just lay out the value proposition in relatively abstract terms: “It looks like you could gain x points in Wins and Ks, and it doesn’t look your SBs are helping you very much” flies better than, “Eflin could give you 6.5 wins points, because according to an average of the Davenport league projections and the BaseballHQ projections, you’re going to finish with 66.5 wins for 4.5 points, and Eflin’s 9 pWins would boost you up past everybody but Hank into second place…” The thing is, it might all be exactly right and a perfect analysis of the situation, but people want to feel like they thought of at least some of it themselves. Help them feel like that and your chances of success are higher. Maybe casually say something like, “Run it through the trade analyzer” (if your Commish site has one; many do) “and see what you think.” If you do this, it need hardly be said, do so yourself first to make sure the analyzer agrees with you.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Further to what Matt Cederholm said and others alluded to, don’t get hung up on getting “value for value” in your deal, in the form of, “well, my guy was a third-rounder (or $18 player) and he’s offering a sixth rounder ($12), so this deal doesn’t work for me.” The draft is over. DPs and draft salaries don’t count any more. The only thing that matters is how the trade affects the categories. In fact, you can sometimes use a negative disparity that seems to be in the other person’s favour, if that person sees the disparity and automatically assumes he “won” the trade because he gained $x of auction value. Calculations have added dimensions in keeper leagues, of course.

Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus, @MikeGianella): I could (and have) write a whole article about this but 1) don’t “neg” someone about a player; if you didn’t want the player, you wouldn’t be asking about him. 2) In keeper/dynasty leagues, don’t assume someone has given up on this year this early unless they’ve told you as much. 3) Don’t start asking about the throw-in/sweetener, build your framework around a fair trade and see if your opponent will offer this at the end. To Matt’s point, the “make me an offer” type of email is pretty much going right into my trash folder; you reached out to me, don’t give me a homework assignment.

Sara Sanchez (bleedcubbieblue.com, @BCB_Sara): I think the most important thing in trade negotiations is understanding the needs of your trade partner and trying to come up with something that makes sense for both sides. It’s harder than it seems because people tend to know what they need, identify a guy they want to fill that need and go from there. However, you probably shouldn’t offer even the best corner prospect for a team that is set at 1B/3B and CI. This is going to sound weirdly qualitative, but I think empathy is the best tool for setting up great trades. I think of all of my trade partners as friends and want both of us to come away from the transaction feeling good about it. Also, throwback to the time Andy Behrens and I negotiated a trade in the Tout Table. Kershaw for Seiya in 2022 was a great trade in theory, even though both of them immediately (and predictably) got hurt.

Adam Ronis (SiriusXM Fantasy, @AdamRonis): Many people don’t look to see what the other team needs. I get endless trade offers giving me players that don’t fit my team needs. If I am near the top of the leagues in saves and have three closers, the likelihood of me being interested in a closer is really slim and indicates you didn’t look to see what I could use to improve my team. When making a trade, I look at rosters that could use something I can provide and have something I need to help my team. There will be teams that aren’t a fit to trade with.

Ryan Boyer (Rotowire, Baseball Prospectus, @RyanPBoyer): Stop trying to “win” trades. Particularly in Roto leagues, it’s all about finding the right fit for your roster and the other team’s roster. Sometimes that’s not going to be a “win” in a vacuum, but it can still make your team better, which is the whole point. It also usually makes negotiations much quicker/easier if that’s your focus and not worrying about “winning” the trade.

Dave Adler (Baseball HQ, @daveadler01): Biggest mistake is not checking the standings to see not only what you need, but also the other owner. Take a look at how a projected trade will affect the other team in the standings, and make sure to point that out. Ie, if they’re at the bottom of a clump of teams in HR, and are not in a cluster for saves, your slugger could help them gain points while dealing their closer won’t adversely affect their standings in that category.

Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): Some of the common mistakes that I have experienced during trade negotiations are as follows. I receive a trade that absolutely does nothing for my team and does everything to improve the other manager. Every trade should be analyzed by the sender to where it not only benefits their team but makes sense for the other team. I always used the notes feature in a trade on why I feel the trade offer benefits both teams, especially the team that is receiving the trade offer. When I receive a trade that is so one sided for the manager that sent the trade, I always respond in the comments on why I rejected the trade offer. Sometimes I simply tell them “I could not hit the reject trade button fast enough” so that they get the message.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Here is something else point out, which may as well be a “note to self”, since I have been guilty as charged in the past. Take the time and make the effort to maximize your benefit. This is different from “winning the trade.” This entails giving the league ample time to respond and conduct negotiations, instead of taking the first reasonable offer, and moving on. OK, sometimes other priorities dictate a quick trade, but in general, exhaust all possibilities and choose what you feel is best for your squad.

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): I find it very hard to trade in redraft leagues unless I have a very lopsided surplus to draw from. I find it easier in dynasty where I can always find matches. I try to make every deal a win-win. I love working on deals and I love when my trade partner makes that effort as well. I will often talk to league mates about what they wish they had or what they think they need. They may not want to make a deal in May, but they may want to make it in June or July. Knowing how they see things always helps–helps me make an offer that they like, helps me fit their needs, helps find a deal that works for both.

Zach Steinhorn (Steinhorn’s Universe on Substack, @zachsteinhorn): I get annoyed when I receive a trade proposal on the league site with no accompanying note. It’s almost as if the other manager is testing me to see if I’ll accept a terrible offer. If my league mate can’t explain what their needs are and why they think I could be interested in the trade, I’ll be turned off and would prefer not to make any trade with that manager in the future.

Vlad Sedler (FTN Fantasy, @rotogut): The biggest mistake is not reviewing the other person’s roster thoroughly. Doing so allows one to create an offer that would be beneficial to both parties.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): One final comment from me before I post this bad boy. Many, myself included, have mentioned things that frustrate us, if not make us mad. Some have even suggested ignoring those who push our buttons. We all have a limited number of resources to help improve out rosters. Excluding one is a mistake.

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