Three Common Trader Mistakes

So Chad Young and I have been trying to sell Gerrit Cole in the dynasty league we co-manage. It’s not that we’re concerned about Cole. The shoulder doesn’t worry us, and we expect him to bounce back from his worst year in the majors. He’s entering his age 26 season. Aside from the injury blip, he has everything we could possibly want from a dynasty pitcher.

This is all about opportunity cost. Cole is a name brand pitcher, and our rotation is headlined by several similar talents. We don’t want to trade Chris Archer yet. What if the Cubs acquire him? How awesome would that be? Jose Quintana is probably better than Cole, but nobody in the fantasy world will admit it. Scary ballpark and crappy supporting staff. Why should we trade 90 to 110 percent of Cole for two-thirds the return?

Aaron Sanchez, Danny Salazar, and a handful of solid core performers are also hanging around our rotation. I prefer Sanchez to Cole by a narrow margin. Not sure how Chad feels. The trade market prefers Cole. As with Quintana, why take the lesser return? Salazar’s injury is probably more concerning than Cole’s. His market is depressed as a result. Might as well hold onto him too.

So we’ve got this rotation depth. Cole has the best combination of actual and intrinsic value. Ergo, we’re trying to sell Cole.

Mistake #1: Time

A lot of time and effort has gone into finding a match. We came close to trading Cole, Archer, and Carlos Santana for an elite slugger. We wanted a specific B-level prospect included because we needed his stolen bases. The other owner countered with a comparable prospect who didn’t steal bases. Things unraveled from there. More recently, we’ve corralled offers from four owners for just Cole.

Time-consuming trade negotiations are one of the best parts of an active fantasy league. However, there can be such a thing as spending too much time on a fake baseball swap. If I was paid my typical rate for all the negotiations I juggle, I’d be…well not rich. Less in debt? Sure, let’s go with that.

The time I’ve already spent is a sunk cost. Theoretically, I should be just as willing to spend that time again today so long as I think an agreeable outcome is within reach. If you find yourself spending too much time in trade talks, it’s probably because you’re leaving too many doors open. Close some of them, and it will be easier to walk away from a lingering negotiation. Sometimes, a little space is what you need to seal the deal.

Mistake #2: First Agreeable Offer

We finally received an agreeable offer for Cole last night. There’s just one problem. The deal includes an outfielder and a first baseman for Cole and Jayson Werth. The players we’d get are over-30 – i.e. not ideal fantasy assets. We’re focused on the present so age is not the problem. Not really.

Our roster currently includes 11 corner infielders and outfielders. We can start nine. A couple of those guys are best used as matchup plays. Eleven is a nice, balanced number. This trade would put us at 13. We’d be sitting some solid players like Tommy Joseph and Kendrys Morales. Our useful reserves would be buried. We might be better off sitting Matt Shoemaker and keeping Cole. Hanging onto him also gives us more flexibility if some of our aces don’t perform as expected.

After spending so much time trying to find a deal for Cole, it’s tempting to take this offer. It’s fair. We get a few of the steals we so desperately need. Our depth moves from the ever-volatile position of starting pitcher to more reliable hitters. There are benefits to be had.

There’s also cause to pump the brakes. The point of making a trade is for mutual benefit. This particular proposal is messy for us. As a result, we’ve asked for more time to pursue other corner infield swaps.

Mistake #3: Better Fit, Lesser Valuation

This morning, we received another proposal. I’ll be honest, it matches our needs much more precisely than the deal we just discussed. I won’t speak too specifically about this one. Bottom line: we’d get the stats we need.

It’s also a softer valuation than the one we received last night. Yesterday’s lesson about league depth is relevant here. Since this is a very deep league, reducing the value of our roster is risky. If this was a typical 12-team redraft, I’d say “take the better fit.” A 20-team dynasty league is all about building a big ol’ pyramid of value. First maximize talent, then worry about specific categories. Our roster is kind of like the Cardinals of our league. There are a lot of good parts, but we ain’t the Cubs. We can’t afford to make too many negative EV bets.

Again, it’s tempting to take the much needed stolen bases. After investing this much time trying to trade Cole, there’s a certain gravity towards making a deal. But this proposal values him at around the expected rate of Salazar or Quintana. Remember, we decided to trade Cole because he should be worth more than them.

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Nelson S.
Nelson S.

Would you ever drop a guy instead of taking a so-so offer on him? For example, if I have a 65$ Kershaw who I just cant keep for financial reasons, but the best offer is for some mid-level prospect, do I just take what I can get, or drop him?