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The Art of Trading (Fantasy Football)

by Brad Cowger
Aug 10, 2016

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Building depth will enable you to have the upper hand in trades

There are two fantasy owner philosophies regarding trading: ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ or ‘The grass is greener on the other side.’ For me, the grass is always greener and I am always looking for the next deal. I will trade any asset and/or everyone on my team at any given time. With well-informed, calculated decisions, I am always looking for ways to improve my team in the short and long-term. But, trading is not actually about the deal, it’s about relationships. Fantasy owners who develop the best relationships will have the most success trading.

Relationships are essential to being a good trader, but having in-demand players is a prerequisite. Here are a few tips to help you build your roster and cultivate relationships to become an effective trader.

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DRAFT FOR DEPTH

When you have depth, you have tradeable commodities. Losses, injuries, and underperforming players will force the hand of fantasy owners to make changes to their rosters. Another person’s misfortune will create opportunities for you to deal your depth for higher upside players. However, it is better to attempt to deal your depth before owners experience hardships so that you do not have the appearance of a scavenger. Be proactive and perhaps the owner will come back to you at a desperate time for a discounted price.

FREE AGENCY/WAIVER ACQUISITIONS

It is often said, ‘You can’t win your draft in the first few rounds, but you can lose it.’ Occasionally, even the most well-informed decisions fail to yield a positive return on investment. Matthew Berry recently released his annual ‘Draft Day Manifesto.’ In his article, he referenced the top 21 players most often found on championship rosters. Of the 21, only Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Adrian Peterson and Brandon Marshall were taken in the first three rounds. The other 17 players were picked towards the end of the draft or claimed off waivers well into the season. The most common name on championship rosters? Tim Hightower. In other words, your roster, unless you are very fortunate, is ever-evolving and trading can be a valuable part of your success.

WHY TRADE?

Fantasy football is a lot like politics. Leagues are comprised of people and people have opposing viewpoints and philosophies. If you are risk averse, fine, but others are not. Even if trades help other teams, no one has the right to block or veto trades unless there is collusion. Being a good trader takes a lot of preparation and relationship building. The key should be to manage your roster the way you see fit. Trading helps maintain communication and engaged ownership throughout the season. There is much to be desired if you are only motivated by money at the end.

MAKE FAIR TRADES

One of the quickest ways to end all communication is to propose unfair trade offers, especially in a time of crisis. Misfortune will lead to opportunity, but the opportunity should only help you get a fair deal. There will more than likely always be a winner and a loser in trades, but the offer presented should be a potential win-win for both sides. Both sides should feel a little discomfort about losing a player, but know it can potentially help their teams become better. That being said, the person in a position of power will always be able to make the trade more favorable to him or herself.

I love to make 2-for-1 trades knowing I can acquire a better player in return and fill my bench spot through free agency or waiver acquisition. I am not taking advantage of the owner by getting the better player; he needed to fill multiple roster positions. As the season progresses, I would rather trade some of my depth to improve my starting lineup and handcuff my best players. These trades are accomplished by continually improving your roster through free agency and waiver acquisition and addressing others’ needs.

If you need help determining fair trade values, use FantasyPros’ Trade Analyzer feature under My Playbook. It is an essential tool recommended to all serious fantasy owners.

BE HONEST WITH YOUR INTENTIONS

Do not try to manipulate anyone into a decision. When making a trade offer, explain your rationale for the trade and how it can help both parties. Honor your communication and any dealings you make with another owner. Do not go back on your word or shop for a better deal unless those intentions are made clear. In some cases, having a trade discussion with an owner will prompt him into action, but perhaps with someone else. Realize that even if you lost out on the deal, you have developed a rapport for future deals. If someone proposes a trade to you, even if it is terrible, respond in a timely, dignified manner. Saying ‘No, thank you’ after a bad trade proposal is much better than not responding or saying, ‘That is a terrible offer!’ Worse, do not counter with an even more absurd proposal just to be condescending. The best option is to tell her or him, ‘I cannot make that deal but am open to other deals.’

IT’S OK TO LOSE TRADES

This sounds crazy, right? Why would anyone ever want to lose a trade? If every trade only benefits you, people will stop trading with you. This is not to suggest giving up your best players or purposely hurting your team, but rather making trades you can live with if you lose. If I have depth on my roster and know I can rebuild it, I am fine with losing trades and letting others gain confidence in trading with me. I am also fine with others improving in hopes they bring down everyone but me.

KNOW YOUR LEAGUE

Know your opponents’ rosters better than they do. Study their weaknesses and attempt to broker a deal based on what they need. But, knowing rosters and building your own roster is not enough. You must be able to broker deals with a variety of personalities. For example:

The ‘I Should be an Expert’ Guy
This guy will usually be open to trade and enjoys negotiating for a deal because he already gives unsolicited trade and start/sit advice to everyone. He constantly brags about the time he called Brad Evans an ‘idiot’ on Twitter because ‘He should have known not to play Adrian Peterson against the 32nd ranked defense.’ Present him with open-ended offers. Ask, ‘What do you want for Todd Gurley?’ He will likely respond sarcastically, ‘Your best four players.’ Some of these guys will be condescending and make you feel bad for even asking, but others will negotiate down to a fair trade. If not, politely walk away from the deal knowing you at least tried to improve your team.

The ‘Give Me a Couple Days to Think About It’ Guy
These owners can be negotiated with, but it will not be easy. Rather than using open-ended questions, try giving them a well-thought-out rationale for the trade proposal. Include data, upcoming schedules, and talks of a potential playoff run in your proposal. Do not be pushy with them because they need time to research their decisions. Make sure the data and information you gave them are accurate so they know you are being honest or your deal will die. After a couple of successful trades, you will have established trust, making your next deal require far less negotiating.

The ‘Never Trade’ Guy
Let’s be honest, he earned the name for a reason. The ‘Never Trade’ guy is rarely successful, but trying to reason with him is impossible, even when he has already buried his season due to his own stubbornness. If you did not heed the warnings and actually attempted a trade, take the high road when reason ends and do not try again. This is the guy that will either say, ‘I don’t make trades’ or, ‘I’ll trade you my backup QB for your WR1.’ He will attempt to veto every trade and talk about the one year he had a good team and did it without trading. Solution: do not attempt deals with him and dedicate your time elsewhere.

The ‘I’m Going to Wait and See How My Guys Do’ Guy
Thank goodness for this guy. Either you can buy low on a struggling player or you avoided a disastrous trade because this guy could not make a decision. Either way, you win, as long as you are not this guy.

The ‘Snake’
This guy will use all information you shared with him against you. He will take screenshots of conversations you had with him in an attempt to make you look like a schemer. He will negotiate a trade and then back out of it, claim he never made it, or make separate deals and take the best one regardless of his word. This guy is closely aligned with the ‘Never Trade’ guys and they scheme and plot ways to block others from improving. The ‘Snake’ devotes his time to challenging the rules and turning everyone against each other in hopes of destroying and conquering. Treat him with caution. Do not get within striking distance until the time is right and then cut off his head.

The ‘Bad Trade Proposer but Sometimes it Actually Works to the Detriment of the League’ Guy
This guy has a short life expectancy because people will only tolerate him for a year. He makes awful trade proposals and then actually has the gall to justify them. This guy drives everyone insane because he is terrible but somehow is at the top of the league. While at the top, he proposes trade after trade until a desperate owner eventually accepts. Some might argue to veto the trade, but it is never a good practice to block owners from doing what they believe is best for their team. Perhaps it would be better to choose better league members.

The ‘Straight Shooter’
He does not exist unless you read this article and adhere to the principles.

If you have not already encountered these personalities, you certainly will in due time. Remember to cultivate relationships and continually add depth to your lineup to make trading a positive experience.

Brad Cowger is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brad, check out his archive and follow him @FP_BradCowger.

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