Draft Kit

The Art of the Trade

Here was my timeline of events last Sunday morning, pre-1:00pm ET kick off:

9:00am – Checked Twitter for last-minute injury updates, and went to League 1 to replace Pierre Garcon in my line up. Noticed I had a trade offer on the table from The Canadian Juggernaut (who this year happens to be only Canadian, not so much juggernaut): his Kevin Smith for my Jacquizz Rodgers.

9:00 – 9:30am – Thought about the trade. As is, it was a no for me. Kevin Smith had a great Week One, but is injury prone and looking at Mikel LeShoure taking carries from him when he comes back from suspension in Week Three. Rodgers, on the other hand, is one of my favorite upside players this year. Still, out of respect for other team managers, I rarely like to flat-out reject a trade without seeing if there’s a counter offer I would be interested in.  I was nervous about my tight end situation (I drafted Brent Celek and picked up Dennis Pitta of waivers), so I offered a counter-trade: my Jamaal Charles and Jacquizz Rodgers for his Kevin Smith and Gronk.

11:00am – Having heard nothing back yet, I headed off to SoulCycle for a little exercise before settling in to 10 hours of watching football.

12:40pm – I emerged from my spin class to see I had, not only a trade response, but a voicemail and three text messages from the Canadian.  He had countered my counter by adding his Denarius Moore for my Antonio Brown.  I texted back that Brown was not on the table, and he replied, “Fine.  Resubmit your last offer, and I’ll accept it.”

12:45pm – With only 15 minutes until kickoff, I suggested we wait til after the games were played, as I don’t like having offers on the table while there’s risk of injuries or other factors changing the value of the trade.  Since the Canadian is our commissioner, he added that he could make sure it went through for our line ups that week, as long as we got it accepted within the next 10 minutes.  I was still walking home.

12:50pm – The urgency of this decision gave me second thoughts about my earlier offer.  Kevin Smith had a tough matchup against the 49ers, so I didn’t think he’d do much good in my lineup.  I liked Gronk more than Celek, but, ultimately, I was pretty certain I could win that week without him.  So, leaning towards saying no, I shot a message to my friend and favorite fantasy guru, Matthew Berry, who, thankfully, replied immediately, “would rather have Charles/Rodgers.”  (It’s a luxury to have experts on speed-dial in moments like this.)

12:55pm – Told the Canadian “thanks but no thanks”, but that I’d consider making the offer again before Week Three.

Monday morning – We all know how this worked out for me.  Celek had a career day and outperformed Gronk.  Pitta, on my bench, is looking like added protection for me at the tight end position.  Jamaal Charles didn’t do much (fortunately I also started Reggie Bush and CJ Spiller, who more than made up for that), but Kevin Smith didn’t have a huge day either.  I’m feeling pretty comfortable with this team right now, so am not actively looking to make trades.

The next few weeks, though, particularly as we start to get into bye weeks, are prime time for trade offers in most leagues.  Given that, I thought I’d use this last experience to offer some advice in wheeling and dealing:

1.  Don’t act desperate – You may be desperate to replace someone in your starting line up, but try not to show it.  The best way to convince another team to trade with you is to have an aloof, “hey, this works out great for both of us” attitude.  The minute you show signs of desperation, other managers will either walk away or try to take advantage of you with lopsided deals.  In fact, just don’t be desperate, period.  Always have a back up plan (ie, grabbing a deep sleeper off the waiver wires), rather than agreeing to an obviously lopsided trade and subjecting yourself tot he ire of the rest of the league.

2.  Remember who you’re dealing with – It’s rare that players with exact parity are traded head-to-head.  More likely, you’re giving up something in one position to improve another, or immediate performance is traded for greater upside.  Teams that are doing well are likely to only make trades that significantly improve a position that might be mediocre, or to improve the long-term (ie, playoff week) upside potential of their bench.  Teams that are struggling are more willing to take on injury-risk or threat of drop-off, if they can obtain a player who’s certain to give them immediate production.  Make offers accordingly.

3.  Consider the timing – When you offer a trade can be as important as what you offer.  If you’re dealing with a team who’s doing better than you, make the offer earlier in the week.  They won’t be eager to pull the trigger, so giving them the extra time to mull it over will work to your advantage.  By making the offer before the first waiver clearance, you also have the potential to sweeten the deal by using your money or higher waiver priority to pick up a free agent they have their eye on.  If you’re dealing with a team that appears desperate (see point 1), a last minute offer might pressure them into accepting, without having time to shop around.  If you’re worried they might have something in the works with another team, shoot them an email earlier in the week saying, for example, “I think I can help you out with your RB issues–let me know if you’re interested, I just need some time to figure out who I’m willing to give up, and if there’s anyone on your team I want.”

Not only is timing within each week important, but timing throughout the season is as well.  For example, if you anticipate having a number of starters on a bye in Week Seven, start throwing out trade offers in Week Four or Five, so the other teams don’t see what you’re up to.  This works especially well if you’re making an offer for a player who’s on a bye that week.

4.  Always respond to offers – If someone makes you an offer, always respond as soon as possible.  If you know for certain you like the trade, just accept.  If you’re interested but want a little time to consider it, just tell them that.  You never know what other deals they’re working on, and your deal could be pulled if they get something else done.  If you don’t like the trade as proposed, at least you know who/what position on your team they’re interested in.  Use that knowledge to send a counter offer if they have someone you want.  If there’s nothing you’re interested in, at least send a formal trade rejection, it’s common courtesy and will more likely invite them to approach you again.

Also, remember you don’t have to limit yourself to the confines of your fantasy football website when it comes to negotiations.  You can respond to or propose trades in person, by email or any other forms of communication.  Often this is the best way to plant a seed or argue your case, and it also gives you wiggle room to propose “what if” scenarios, rather than officially having something pending that you might regret.

5.  Know that all good trades come with risk – Ultimately, if you’re playing against worthy
competitors, remember that you’ll rarely feel certain that you are getting the better side of the deal.  The value is relative to your needs and your personal opinion of the players involved, so be comfortable it’s what you want in that regard.  Don’t wait around for the deal of a lifetime, cause it’s not going to happen.  (And, if it does, other team managers will call “collusion!”)

So put your best negotiating face on and trade your way into the playoffs!

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