Three weeks ago, fellow rotographs contributor Trey Baughn looked at some ways to approach discussing trades. At the time, your league may not have entered the selling/buying stage of the season, but as we move into June, it is likely that some teams who labeled themselves “competitors” for 2016 have begun to change their tune. So much can change in three weeks – with the line between a competitive and non-competitive team being more clearly established. Several teams in your league(s) have probably made the move to sell (or buy) already. As a fellow owner of a competitive team, it can be very frustrating to watch your rivals scoop up top talent while you’re left sitting on your hands. In these circumstances, you can be best served to take some initiative, act quickly, and not second guess yourself.
1. Communicate with other owners
I can’t stress this enough. I am in three leagues, and it is very rare that a trade occurs without some back and forth. Typically, this spawns out of relationships that I have with many owners in my leagues, but even if very little discussion has occurred there tends to be some form of communication. This may be as simple as “I’m looking for middle infield, catcher, and relief pitcher – are you interested?” or more defined by listing a specific player that peaks interest, or debating player values. However, there tends to be a common theme in nearly every league I am in. Teams that are the most active in initiating talks tend to be the most successful. What do I mean by successful? I do not mean to say that engaging in trade talks, or trading a lot, means you will be more likely to win your league. However, I do believe this does act as a form of proxy for an owner being “active” in the day-to-day happenings of the league. That owner who keeps posting in your league slack channel? It’s a lot easier to tell that he’s around and present. His team may not be competing, but I tend to see a correlation between owners who are very active, and owners who are either buying or selling well. These owners are either pushing for the current season, or setting themselves up well for 2017. There isn’t a lot of middle ground.
2. Know where your teams stands – timing is everything
Many times, the middle of the pack is the worst place to be. Your team may be good enough to finish respectably, but not good enough to actually be competitive this year. Given that Ottoneu has no playoff structure, the line between buying and selling can change very quickly. There is also very little reward to finishing in the middle of the pack compared to the bottom of the standings. Many times you can be better served exchanging your 2016 impact players for players who may represent slight downgrades in 2016 values, but be better keepers for 2017. Most leagues have probably had someone start to make moves like this already, and there can be real benefits to being one of the first teams to sell. You want to make sure you time this well.
If you are a middle of the pack team, take a look at your league’s standings. You can probably see 3 or so teams that have a legitimate shot at winning in 2016. If trade talks throughout the league seem pretty stagnant, and no one appears to be making much traction in moving players, you may be well served by starting to initiate some talks with the top teams and floating the idea that you are willing to sell. It is likely that a team currently bunched toward the middle of your league may actually have a shot at winning, but their odds aren’t great. If multiple teams realize in quick succession that their chances have quickly diminished, the market of available talent can saturate – and this leaves all sellers in a terrible situation. Be realistic about your chances of winning and make a decision. Selling or buying too late is a great way to set yourself up for some trouble in future seasons. Once you’ve determined the course of action you should take (it likely is not standing pat) be aggressive in pursuing available options to buy or sell.
3. Sending a trade offer is harder than receiving one
Maybe it’s a fear of rejection, or snarky comments outlining why the deal you proposed is terrible for the other team in question, but I know there is some level of disappointment I feel when a trade falls through. I don’t think I’m alone in this. It can be demoralizing to feel like you are close on a deal, only to have it be turned down. Sometimes it makes me question if there is a point to trying to trade at all, because process can yield very little results. In the midst of these moments I remind myself that the only way to consistently make trades is to send out offers.
When you receive an offer, your decision is easy. “Yes” or “No.” You don’t actually have to think through the factors of what make the trade worthwhile for another team. You either think the deal is enough talent in return for the asset you would be parting with, or you feel like you are giving up too much. Yes, you probably have to evaluate what is actually realistic in terms of the type of return you could expect, but the process of receiving an offer requires very little initiative – and there is no potential for loss. If the deal isn’t good enough, you just say “No.” However, many times teams are too hamstrung by this benefit of receiving an offer and become unwilling to actually send out offers of their own.
Sending an offer comes with some risk. You don’t want to aim too high or low in your asking price – but if your default setting is to receive offers rather than send out some of your own, I would encourage you to take initiative in some trade talks this week. This is a very easy way to keep your league mates engaged and helps other owners feel like dealing with you has merit. Certainly nothing may come of this. You still may not be able to work out a deal or set your team up in a better position, but it will help to build relationship. In the long run, those relationships can lead to better discussions, improvements of your valuations, and future trades. All of these factors have a hand in improving your quality as a fantasy player. This is the time of year where owners really set their teams up to pull away from the rest of the pack. To set yourself up well during this time, be deliberate and take initiative in your discussions with other teams.
Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades