Be A Spymaster

Last week, I wrote about collusion. The comments are a reminder that collusion is mostly a straw man. When it does occur, it’s usually a league conspiring against an individual rather than two owners working out a lopsided traded. Those seemingly one-sided swaps happen because somebody has divergent opinions from the fantasy norm. Either they really like a player who isn’t drawing much attention, or they’re eager to sell high on an established veteran who they think is due for a flop.

When a rival makes a game changing trade, it’s easy to throw a tantrum and whine-fest. Owners use the message board to campaign for a veto or start alleging collusion. This visceral reaction is a wasted opportunity.

When an owner makes a bad trade, you can count on maximum snark to be directed at him or her. This gives you the opportunity to be the nice guy (or gal). Instead of blaming and flaming, reach out with a reasonable tone. Become the person who offers solutions and ideas rather than anger.

Let’s say somebody in a 12 team redraft league trades Troy Tulowitzki for Wilmer Flores, Rob Refsnyder, and Maikel Franco. Let’s also say Refsnyder and Franco are in Triple-A. We can probably guess the reasons why Tulo’s owner executed the trade – he’s always hurt and the trio he’s acquiring are nice fantasy prospects. At the same time, most of us will cringe at that offer. Refsnyder and Franco don’t need to be rostered until they have a role with their respective clubs. So this is basically Tulo for Flores.

While everyone is bashing the owner for helping his rival, you swoop in with more positive sentiments. Complement the idea of trading Tulowitzki – it was a rational decision. Then casually mention a superior offer you would have floated if you knew a deal was close. It doesn’t matter if you would have made such an offer, just discuss one.

To this point, my advice can be summed up as “don’t be a dick.” However, the goal is to get this owner to come to you whenever they are close to making a trade. An owner who makes one bad trade is more likely to make another. You want to be on the receiving end next time. The end goal is to get most of your leaguemates to turn to you when they’re trying to make a trade.

By sticking your nose in most negotiations, you’ll receive the following benefits.

  • You’ll occasionally acquire a player under cost.
  • Information on your rivals. Often you can learn which teams are inquiring on a certain player and how they value that player. From there, you can infer their plans or perhaps step in with your own offer.
  • First notice when an owner is conducting a fire sale.
  • Ability to delay negotiations between two other owners.
  • Price enforcement. Even if you don’t want a player, you can make sure a rival pays full price.

These are good advantages to possess. However, I must caution you: it may seem I recommend honing your inner sleazy salesman. My own personal approach is to be honest 80 to 90 percent of the time. There are some cases where it’s just not possible to be nice and truthful. Also, sometimes a piece of information is too important to reveal. This plan of ours requires trust, and that usually requires truth. If you’re habitual liar, you’ll have a hard time engendering trust.

You want to be your league’s spymaster. Gather as much information while divulging as little as possible. That doesn’t mean hoard all information – often it can be to your advantage to reveal pieces of the puzzle. Doing so can also reinforce that feeling of working towards the same goal.

In summary, today I’ve advised you to become your league’s spymaster. To do so, you should follow two simple tenets. First, don’t be a dick. Be the nice guy after a bad trade and you’ll make a friend. Second, stick your nose into everything. Use your status as a nice, trustworthy guy to your advantage.

We hoped you liked reading Be A Spymaster by Brad Johnson!

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You are 100% right. Knowledge (and kindness) is power.