A Standard Framework For Trade Negotiations

Yesterday, I spent a decent chunk of my afternoon arguing with another writer on Twitter about trade etiquette. A part of me wonders why I engage in these online debates. In some ways, it’s very natural. As a teenager, arguing in an online baseball forum is how I developed the writing skills I need for my trade. Arguing online is almost a compulsion reinforced over half my life.

In other ways, have you ever stopped to wonder how weird it is to use the incredibly advanced technology of the internet to seek out and engage in an argument with a stranger? So weird, right? I don’t go around eavesdropping on people in Target, waiting for a hot take with which I disagree. Although… that sounds like a fun YouTube series.

Anyway, I digress. Today we’re going to discuss my standard process for engaging in trade negotiations. I find this is the easiest way for everybody to get what they want in a minimal amount of time. Some of you may disagree. That’s fine. I don’t understand it, but that’s fine.

Through necessity I’ve learned it’s best to slice through the layers of bullshit that usually accompany the start of a trade negotiation. First, a couple assumptions.

  1. Your trade partner is of roughly equivalent talent – if you’re sharking a pool of minnows, then the following might not be ideal.
  2. You can say no to a bad offer. So can your trade partner. Honestly, a full 125 percent of the counterargument to my process revolves around people accepting bad trades.

Ok, enough stage setting, here’s what I do.

Step 1: Identify Who I Like

Never admit to how much you want something. That’s negotiating 101, right? The problem with this line of thinking is that it violates assumption #1 above. If your trade partner knows what they’re doing and how to value assets, then you gain almost no advantage from playing your cards close to the vest. Rather than spending hours dancing around the truth, open with what you want.

This is not to say you can’t boil in some tricks. In my experience, popular mid-tier players can become overpriced when you show too much interest in them – Tyler White for example. When I want a merely decent player I might begin an offer by asking for Joey Votto. Oh yea and just throw in White too. Maybe we get somewhere on Votto. More likely we “settle” for a modest swap involving White.

Being honest about your wants does not mean you cannot be devious.

Step 2: Ask Who They Like

This is where people get offended. Some owners simply won’t do this, claiming they’re giving away some phantom leverage or doing all the work for you. Here’s why it behooves everybody to simply admit to who they like.

Needful trades aren’t actually very common. For example, how many times have you actually traded a spare second baseman because you didn’t have a third baseman? I’m going to make up a number and say these comprise maybe 15 percent of all fantasy trades. The remaining 85 percent of trades fall into two similar categories: future for present value or pure arbitrage* attempts.

*Arbitrage refers to the process of creating value where none exists. For example, I might try to swap a $6 asset for a $7 asset.

Put another way, my goal in most trades is to acquire players from your roster that I like more than the ones I’m giving up. Since there’s considerable wiggle room in player evaluation, it’s ok if everybody admits this is happening. We can both walk away from a deal thinking we fleeced the other owner.

Once you’ve each supplied a list of who you like, it’s time to look for overlap.

Step 3: Accept Good Offers Or Decline Bad Offers

The folks who don’t like to engage in Step 2 usually point to this stage as an excuse for their intransigence. Let’s say I gave you a list that includes Jose Ramirez. You countered with a list that happened to include Brad Keller, Colin McHugh, and Diego Castillo. I might say to myself “let’s see how much they like Keller, McHugh, and Castillo!” So I offer the trio for Ramirez. And you say no.

See how easy that was? I made a terrible offer, and you said no.

At the core of the deal, I’m still trying to buy Ramirez for as little as possible. You either spam no until I reach an acceptable offer or you can proactively counter my offers. Either way, it’s better for us to start with knowing who we each like before engaging in this stage.

The alternative is to enter the negotiation blind. I know I want Ramirez. I have no idea who you like. Let’s say I have Brendan Rodgers. You may believe he accounts for anywhere between zero and 60 percent of Ramirez’s value. It just depends on how you feel about Rodgers. If you don’t like him at all but never tell me, then I’ll likely keep adding him to offers as 50 to 60 percent of Ramirez. I’ll also continue to make offers with other players in whom you’re not interested too.

Think of it another way, trading is like trying to solve a combination lock by brute force. We’re just guessing different combinations until the lock opens. By exchanging lists, we can dispense with countless useless combinations. To continue the analogy, exchanging target lists is like trying to solve a combination lock by brute force while knowing the first number and one of five options for the third number. It’s still an uphill battle, but it’s a greatly simplified process.

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runningfrog
Member
runningfrog

My biggest gripe is the people who begin trade negotiations with no thought whatsoever to whether a trade will benefit their trade partner. I’m not saying go into deals with a plan to lose. But if you can’t put yourself in your trading partner’s shoes and see a logic in making the deal, why are you even asking?

I’m in a 28-team league where we roster roughly 2000 players. I’m currently in year 4 of a planned 6-year rebuild. I get offers all the time in that league of “Here’s an expiring 32yo guy I’d like to trade you for that B spec you have”. I’m not competing this year. Everyone knows I’m not competing this year. Why are you wasting my time with that offer? If you love Mr. B Spec, then sure, offer me a package of lesser specs as an opportunity to spread my risk. Or offer me a different B spec that fits my preferences better than the guy you like. Or offer to send me a B+ spec for Mr B Spec for a couple C+ specs and consolidate my holdings.

Too often it’s “Brad Johnson has that SS I really want. I’ll offer him this 3B guy even though he already has Arenado”. If your liquid is liquid enough then maybe there’s still a chance for Brad to profit by reflipping. But in most leagues that’s a 3-second-rejection.

Dewey24
Member
Member
Dewey24

So it sounds like you are upset because another owner wasted three seconds of your time. I would rather reject 10 stupid offers every day (30 seconds) than scare away one decent offer by getting a reputation as curmudgeon.

Luy
Member
Luy

What is the point of offering a trade that 3 seconds of thought would tell you the other team would never be interested in?

For example: Why would you offer Rafeal Devers for Marcus Semien to a team that already has Arenado in a one 3B format? Answer: Because you want Semien and have given no more thought to the trade than that.

The issue is not that a trade has been offered that “I” don’t like. It’s that the person offering the trade is willing to waste my time…but are unwilling to spend their own time thinking about the trade ahead of time.

Finally, this isn’t just a waste of my time. You’re not going to improve your team if this is the way you offer trades.

Dewey24
Member
Member
Dewey24

Correct, But we aren’t talking about offering stupid trades. The comments were about receiving stupid offers. What is the point of getting annoyed?

pepper69fun
Member
pepper69fun

“Why would you offer Rafeal Devers for Marcus Semien to a team that already has Arenado in a one 3B format? Answer: Because you want Semien and have given no more thought to the trade than that.” Wow! How about I’m in a dynasty type format and I adore Devers long term? I vastly prefer Devers to Semien. I could own Arenado and still be leaping to take an offer that you just pronounced dead on arrival.

pepper69fun
Member
pepper69fun

I have lost count of the number of times I have considered the other guy’s roster, made an offer that I thought was in the ballpark, GAVE AN EXPLANATION OF HOW IT HELPS HIM!, and then I get called an idiot because he didn’t like my reasoning. Basically, your post still leaves the other guy guessing at your perceived needs. I have had a stud player at a position and accepted a trade for a second guy at that position because I really liked the overall value for my team. I wasn’t afraid to seek out a second advantageous trade after doing the first deal.

carter
Member
carter

This league have any spots open?