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No, A Trade Doesn’t Have to Be Win-Win (Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jun 15, 2020

No fantasy league should veto a trade for reasons beyond obvious collusion.

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One thing that should be commonplace in all leagues is the inability to veto trades. Too often, when a trade goes through that the league doesn’t like, they vote to veto the trade, simply because they either don’t feel it was fair from their perspective, regret not making the deal themselves, or fear that a team got better with the transaction, which puts said team vetoing the deal at a disadvantage.

Even a commissioner shouldn’t have the power to veto a trade, unless there is clear, evidenced-based collusion between the parties who completed the trade.

When it comes down to it, it’s no one’s business to tell someone else how to run a team, especially when it comes to keeper and dynasty leagues.

We could end the article there, and it would honestly take care of the discussion. But instead, we are going to look at why league mates shouldn’t have the ability to veto deals, and why not all trades are created equally.

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Redraft

It can be difficult to trade in a redraft league. You are, after all, looking to win the regular-season title, as is everyone else. With such a limited window to compete in, it’s hard to make deals – especially with teams eliminated from contention. They have nothing to play for unless there is some type of reward for winning the consolation bracket or punishment for coming in last. 

When you’re looking to trade in a redraft league, you want to make one that will help both managers involved. 

If you were one of the savvy managers who loaded up on stolen bases early through the draft, you may have a comfortable lead in the category down the season’s stretch run. In turn, those who waited, or decided that they could stream steals, are probably at a crossroads, They’re toward the bottom of the league in the category, and they need to make up ground quickly.

You could trade your best steals asset, whom you took in the fourth or fifth round, for a hitter who can help in multiple categories or a starting pitcher — either of whom went in the first few rounds.

The outrage here would be strictly due to the endowment effect, which is where an asset (player) has more value to a person (manager) because they already had it or the investment it took to acquire it (early-round pick). After the draft is over, it doesn’t matter if the player was drafted in the first round or the eighth round. (That could lead us into another discussion called the sunk cost fallacy, but we’ll bypass that for now). 

All that matters is that the two managers who made the deal feel like they improved their respective teams.

Keeper/Dynasty

If you want to have veto powers in redraft leagues, fine. You’re 100 percent wrong to do so, but fine. But there is no way any dynasty or keeper league should allow veto power to anyone. 

If you’re new to long-term leagues, you’ll see some deals go through that you’ll be shocked to see. As is always the case, no long-term league is created equal. Some have built-in inflation, contract costs, a limited number of players who can be retained, and so on to make them unique.

In general, though, you’re looking to compete either in the near or distant future, and rosters are larger to include minor league players.

That’s where things get interesting, as you’ll see players who aren’t close to reaching the major leagues get dealt. You’ll hear some scoffing because an elite fantasy player in his mid-30s was traded to a team in first place, helping to push them toward a championship, for couple of players who are months – or even years – from reaching the big leagues.

Welcome to long-term fantasy leagues, folks. 

You’ll see trades like these happen all of the time. We tend to not talk about our own teams, because no one really cares about anyone else’s fantasy team. But just to give some examples, here are three trades I’ve made in a larger (20-team) league in the past few years as a team who took over a project and had to rebuild.

My May 2018 trade of Yu Darvish, Anthony Rizzo, and Keston Hiura for Ronald Acuna Jr., Alex Kirilloff, and Kevin Gausman had people saying “wow.” My May 2017 trade of my Ivan Nova and Max Kepler for Nick Senzel and Wil Myers looks better in hindsight, but initially had others caught off guard and calling foul. Then there was a trade where a team traded for a need late in the season to make a push by giving away a top prospect for a rental. In August 2017, I flipped Danny Salazar for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

For all three trades listed above, both managers involved felt like they were making the best move for their team at the time, and all three trades drew mixed feedback from the league. 

Preference

Every year, FantasyPros announces the top expert rankers in their respective sports (shout out to the master, Jake Ciely). But one thing they don’t tell you about ranking players is that it’s really, really hard to do. It’s not just dragging and dropping. There are countless hours of research that goes into ranking players and taking into account numerous projections.

The one element involved with ranking players is that everyone values players differently, which will, in some form or fashion, change our perception of said player.

It’s no different from those in your league, either. There could be a player who you are 100 percent out on for many reasons (valid or not), but another player in your league may covet them for other reasons (valid or not). So they try their hardest to get them on their team. In turn, there could be a struggling player whom you target at a lower cost, or a prospect you noticed take off during the Arizona Fall League, where the rest of the league just doesn’t get it.

The trades might look off on paper, but big deal. Who made Larry the be-all, end-all when it comes to proper player valuation? 

If there’s a player you like, go get them. The optics don’t matter. All that matters is that you and the other team (or teams) involved in the deal feels like they are doing the best thing for their team. 

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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