It’s cliche, but January is as good a time as ever to consider changing some behaviors (probably in response to learning from our mistakes). Let’s dive into how this annual opportunity to manufacture inspiration can help us improve our fantasy trade skills by reviewing why we trade in the first place.
The foundation of trade is mutual gain. It really is that simple. Whether we’re discussing economics or fantasy sports, trade is beneficial because it enables each party to get more of what they want at a (perceived) cost lower than what they could produce it for themselves.
If trade is mutually beneficial, it stands to reason you should consider doing it more often. In the context of your Ottoneu league (where trading is active and sophisticated), if you’re going to make more trades, you’re going to have to make more trade offers. Some owners are reluctant to make trade offers, so let me encourage you to live a little more dangerously this year because, in addition to improving your roster, making trade offers will provide you with a lot of additional benefits.
Trade Offers Build Relationships
Trade offers help build long-term relationships with owners in your league because they open the door to meaningful communication and negotiation. If you’ve committed yourself to a league of eleven other intelligent owners like you do in Ottoneu fantasy baseball, you’ll be collaborating with them over and over again and will need to view every trade negotiation within that long-term perspective. Creating long-lasting relationships takes time because they are built on trust, which requires a special blend of patience, understanding, and diligence, especially in a world where transactions aren’t taking place face to face. Good communication is essentially the first step in this trust-building process, and making a fantasy trade offer is your primary method of communicating, “You have something I want (or need). Maybe I have something you need (or want). Here’s an idea to get us started. Can we discuss?” If you lose sight of the relationship-building aspect of fantasy trade negotiation this year, take a step back and rethink your overall strategy. You should always be playing the long game.
Trade Offers Build Good Research Skills
If trade is about mutual gain, you’ll be more successful in your negotiations when you realize your partner’s point of view is just as important as your own. To make a good opening offer or quality counter offer, you’ll need to put in the time necessary to truly understand your partner’s underlying interests. Accurately assessing your trade partner’s point of view implies you’ll need to have an excellent knowledge of his players in addition to your own. In Ottoneu, a fantasy game built for the sabermetrically-inclined fan, you’ll need skill, stats, and facts to support your position and effectively analyze and anticipate your trade partner’s roster needs. Maybe your offer is fair, but is it a fit? Is the timing right? Would your offer fill a current or future need that you can communicate clearly? What alternatives to your offer are available to your trade partner?
Not every offer will start on the right track, but good trades start with good offers, and good offers require excellent preparation and the ability to question the transaction from their point of view. Taking the time to prepare more trade offers this year from the starting point of your partner’s viewpoint will help you develop a research skill that is critical to fantasy success.
Trade Offers Are a Valuable Source of Intel
You certainly want to improve your own team when executing a trade, but have you considered the benefits that come from trade rejections? Often the intel and feedback gained through various stages of even failed trade negotiations can tell you more about the value of your players (and the players you’re targeting) than any other source. For instance, when an owner rejects your offer commenting: “I can’t afford to give up Maikel Franco right now because I’m thin at 3B”, this may tell you more about a positional need than how the owner actually values Franco as a player. Can you counter with an alternative Franco offer that backfills their positional needs at 3B at the same time? Likewise, “Piscotty has been hot, but I’m not sure I buy into his elevated HR/FB over these first few months” may be the confirmation you need to reassess your own value of your player (by digging deeper into player performance), or find out if another owner sees the hot start in a way that supports a mutual trade that fills your roster needs in a different way. Likewise, “I can’t move Betts because he may be involved in another deal” may tell you that your offer, while fair, isn’t the best on the table and may need to be revised. More likely, it could give you an important heads up that a rival is about to swing a big trade that you’ll need to be prepared to counter elsewhere. Keep in mind, “intel” goes both ways, so don’t make the mistake of hiding or disguising your own feedback when you reject trade offers that come your way. Communicating exactly why a trade doesn’t work for you may be just what that owner needs to propose a new offer that helps you in a way no other deal could.
Trade Offers Build Good Decision-Making Skills
So you’ve increased your trade offers and have opened the door to not only better communication with your league, but also new, creative options to improve your roster. In fact, where you once only had a few occasional alternatives, you now have several more frequent ones and find yourself in the enviable position of choosing between multiple opportunities. This is a good problem to have, but ultimately you’ll need to make a decision that impacts the future direction of your team, which can create a feeling of paralysis for some owners. What if I choose wrong? What if I’ve misjudged this player, this trade, or the market? What if I miss out on a breakout or rebound? How will other owners react to this trade?
The good news is that as your increased rate of (better) offers increases your rate of executed trades, you’ll also make more mistakes. Wait…what? Yes, as you make more trades, you’re also going to make more mistakes, but that’s a good thing. As those “wrong” decisions add up over time you’ll become a better, more complete fantasy player. While you’ll certainly make some great trades along the way, you’ll actually learn more about player evaluation, reading the market, negotiating with your competitors, and general game strategy (especially true for Ottoneu) from your worst trades. You’ll also realize that most losses (and gains) are truly only visible in the margins, that you can recover much more quickly than you ever expected, that your negotiation skills are sharpened with every trade discussion, and that humility is as good for the soul as it is for the league. We aren’t dealing with life and death here, and these players aren’t your children, either. So, while a game like Ottoneu is intense and reserved for some of the best fantasy players out there, remember that making trade mistakes is just part of the learning process, which should give you the freedom to be more decisive this year.
Executing a good trade is a great feeling, but don’t neglect the benefits that come through the trade (offer) process too. Often there’s just as much to learn in the various stages of trade negotiation as there is in the result. Keeping these things in mind as you make more trade offers this year will certainly make you a better trade partner, but they will make you a more skilled player, too.
Trey is a 20 year fantasy veteran and a five time Ottoneu champion, including the 2015 winner of the Ottoneu Champions League. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,000 fantasy baseball and football fans. More resources here: http://community.ottoneu.com