The inaccurate science of trading

One thing I get asked to do a lot of is to evaluate various trade offers. Many owners come to me looking for a second opinion on whether a deal is fair and I am happy to give my opinion because I have done the same thing with my friends over the years. Sometimes pulling the trigger on a deal is so much easier when you have that second opinion.

Where things get tough though, is when an owner asks me to compose a counter offer if I don’t like the deal he e-mails me.

The one thing that makes composing counter offers (especially in a vacuum) tricky is that even with complete rosters, as an outsider I have no idea how that other owner values certain players, which is the entire reason a trade happens.

In my main keeper league, we recently had an owner trade Joe Mauer for Yankee minor leaguers Mason Williams and Jose Campos. Now, regardless of what you think of the trade, there is a reason why it was made – the guy selling Mauer is a huge Yankees fan and he believes Williams and Campos will provide his rebuilding squad with more value from this point forward than Mauer.  And even though the odds don’t seem to be in favor of that right now, it’s not necessarily out of the realm of possibility either.

Even if Mauer’s owner had given me a list of only Williams and Campos, there is no way I would’ve combined those two together and thought it would’ve been enough to acquire Mauer. And in 99.9% of leagues, a negotiation starting at that point probably doesn’t go very far. The other twist to this deal is I know Mauer’s owner was offered deals I personally thought were better in value.

And therein lies the problem with outside trade advice – no one knows your league like the members of your league.

So, if outside help ends up being of no help in your trade negotiations, what can you do to craft a solid counter that doesn’t require hours of back-and-forth e-mailing?

Simple, ask your trade partner what players he has actual interest in.

Now, this isn’t just shooting off an e-mail saying, “I’m interested in player X, what would it take for you to trade him to me?” That will only turn the other owner off because you are blatantly passing the work over to him. However, if you were to approach him with an offer and he turns it down, ask him to name the players on your team he is interested in, and have him rank them from No. 1 to however many he names.

Through this tactic I was able to turn a trade discussion centered on Heath Bell and Matt LaPorta into a deal where I ended up with Justin Upton and Bell. I had no idea how much the other owner liked Buster Posey and when he shared that info, I was able to expand our talks and come up with a deal both of us liked.

Now, this post isn’t a longwinded way of saying that I don’t want to help you in your trade negotiations because I truly do want to. I’m just offering up a different way that may make those negotiations easier and give you less of a headache in the process.

One of the most frustrating things about fantasy baseball can be making trades so why not try to make it less painful next time?

That’s one trick that has worked for me. What has worked for you when talking trade with another owner in your league? Let us know in the comments section.

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About Jim Higgins

Jim grew up in San Diego the son of a Washington, D.C. native so naturally he roots for the Washington Redskins and San Diego Padres. After seeing his favorite teams win a couple of titles early in his life, he has spent the last 20 years wondering if his teams will ever amount to anything again. At least he has multiple fantasy baseball and football titles to soften the blow.

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