I have made a lot of trades in my fantasy baseball “career”. It’s one of the parts of the game I enjoy most, but I’ve learned over the years that there is a wide range of comfort among owners when it comes to shaking up their rosters via trade. For some fantasy owners, the process and preparation required to put together a good trade is a burden, and for others the uncertainty of the resulting impact (“will this really help my team?”) and/or the feedback from their league (“did I win or lose this trade?”) is enough to cause anxiety.
Part of the reason I enjoy fantasy trades is because I’ve had the benefit of corporate negotiation training throughout my professional career. While it’s certainly true that my fantasy baseball experience has had a positive impact on my professional bargaining skills, there is no doubt my vocational training has made me more confident (and successful) in the fantasy “trade room”, too. Today I’ll share a little of what I’ve learned throughout my own trade history in hopes of offering something you can use as well.
How to Talk Trade
All too often it’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it that makes the difference. What follows are some alternative ways to phrase common trade responses that might make the difference between closing a deal or stopping one early in it’s tracks.
When receiving a trade offer you plan to reject:
Your Common Response: “This trade wouldn’t help me at all.”
Alternate: “Can you explain the basis of your proposal?” or “Perhaps you can explain your reasons before I respond/decide?”
At worst, this alternative helps you get to know the thought process of your leaguemate a little better (think poker; play the long game), often reveals more about how your competitor values players (yours and theirs), and can occasionally lead to a more worthwhile conversation that forms the basis for mutual gain.
Your Common Response: “This trade doesn’t work for me.”
Alternative 1: “What is your primary goal here?”
Alternative 2: “What are you trying to achieve in this deal?”
Similar to above – what you’re after here is information, understanding, and relationship. Context matters, and when you can get more of it, better deals occur.
Your Common Response: “I don’t think I can part with (my) X player.”
Alternative 1: “Just suppose I was to agree to trade X player, would you also consider…?”
Alternative 2: “If I agree to include X, would you include Y?”
These alternatives require an “open door” policy in which any trade offer could theoretically form the basis of an acceptable deal so long as the proposing owner is willing to meet your price. In other words, any player is available, at the right price. However, the mistake many owners make is slamming the door (reject) too quickly and failing to test the waters to discover what price the owner is actually willing to pay (which can often wind up in your favor). You’ll never know unless you ask.
When receiving a trade offer you might consider acceptable:
Your Common Response: “I’m considering your offer.”
Alternative 1: “Under what circumstances would you add X (or change Y)?”
Alternative 2: “I think we’re close, but why is it important to you to have (my) X player included?”
Alternative 3: “What do I need to do to get a better deal?”
When closing in on a deal, it never hurts to ask specifically about ancillary players that might make the deal more favorable or practical (especially true in deep daily leagues like Ottoneu with 40 man rosters and 480+ players owned). You won’t know the price of adding those players until you ask, and phrasing your inquiry properly can reveal player valuations that help you find a better match than the original offer.
When discussing the rejection of a trade you’ve offered:
Your Common Response: “Why did you reject?” or “What was wrong with that?”
Alternative 1: “Which aspects of my offer were you unhappy with?”
Alternative 2: “What information are you using to make your decision?”
Alternative 3: “How do your valuations of player X differ from the projections?”
Alternative 4: “What would make my original proposal acceptable?”
Once again, the alternatives here demonstrate “a strength of being open to learning and persuasion, being skilled at figuring out their motives, and being extremely creative.” Alternative 1 can help you isolate the specific parts of your trade that might be tweaked to form a better counter offer. Alternative 3 can be especially effective since you’re attempting to point to an independent, outside source of valuation (like Depth Chart ROS projections) because it can reveal how your competitor measures various players.
I’ll post more negotiation advice in the future, but hopefully these subtle alternatives can help you open the door to more successful trades and relationships within your league. Other trade advice? Let me know in the comments.
Some additional trade advice here.
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