Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Trades - Hints and Tips

Hello fellow fantasy baseball junkies,

One of the most commonly asked questions that I've received on both my blog and by e-mail is what my opinion is on a particular trade, and who to target for a particular trade. Seeing as how there was so much interest in the topic, I wanted to provide a handy set of guidelines which I use to analyze a trade from A to Z, starting with what to do before you propose one, who to trade with, and what to offer. I'll then follow that up with a breakdown of how to evaluate a trade and if it benefits both managers.

1. What to do before you offer a trade - 

In order to benefit the most from a trade, you need to know first the strengths and weaknesses of your own team

I can't stress this enough. Before you attempt to contact other managers in your league about either trading or picking up a player, you need to always have a firm grasp on where you stand compared to the rest of your league, position by position. In fantasy baseball, there is such a thing as having "too much" at a certain spot, especially because ignoring a category or position can potentially be the death of your season, both in roto and head to head leagues. This is just one of the reasons why I usually tend to lean towards the "spreading the risk" strategy while drafting players, over the "stars and scrubs" philosophy.

Using one of my own teams as an example, lets look at how you could determine what you are strong and weak in. In a twelve team head to head keeper league, I have the following starting outfielders:

Matt Kemp, Curtis Granderson, B.J. Upton, Shin-Soo Choo, Nick Swisher, and Chris Young.

For a twelve team league, that is pretty loaded. We do an auction draft, so I was able to acquire and focus on a strong set of outfielders who are all in their prime, most of which don't have an injury history, strong production, and all (save Swisher) are potential 20/20 (if not higher) candidates. I would categorize this as a position of strength for myself. Also keep in mind that what positions you are "strong" in is also dependent on league size. This same mix of players wouldn't be as strong in an eight team league, but would be ridiculous in a 16 team league.

On the other hand, I have the following relief pitchers:

Alfredo Aceves, Santiago Casilla, David Robertson, and Sergio Santos.

I'd categorize this as one of the few weaknesses that I have in this particular league. Aceves will probably lose his job after the All-Star break when Bailey comes back, so I'll have to go dumpster diving for saves. Casilla hasn't closed for a full season before. Robertson has been primarily used as a set-up man to Rivera in years past, and Santos was placed on the DL earlier this year with shoulder tightness.

Knowing what you have available to trade and where you need to concentrate is a key element to trading. Looking at this team, I don't need outfield help, but could probably use help with a relief pitcher down the road, if these folks don't perform.

If you are going to trade, find a partner who needs what you have, and has what you need

This sounds pretty simple, right? You'd be surprised how many managers don't realize this however. Offering someone who already has a ton of strong starting pitchers Jarod Weaver probably won't entice him very much. Offering that same manager Robinson Cano when he's currently using Aaron Hill might catch his eye though.

Likewise, make sure that you are going after a player that you actually want. Don't pigeon-hole yourself in a corner to get fleeced by someone who is only accepting the trade because you offered too much. Try and place yourself outside of the trade and put yourself in the eyes of another manager. Does the trade look fair on paper? Always offer a trade which will benefit both parties. After all, why should they accept a garbage trade that you throw their way?

2. How to offer a trade- 

Creating a trade that will work for both parties

Once you've found someone that will be willing to part with a player that you wish to acquire, its time to figure out how to offer something that they will want as fair compensation. You don't want to offer a trade which slaps the other person in the face, but you also don't want to give up too much. Here are some thoughts:

1. How much is acquiring this new player going to benefit you? There is a big difference between going from  Lucas Duda to Albert Pujols at 1B, compared with going from Joey Votto to Albert Pujols. If the trade is going to significantly benefit your team, you can bet that the other manager is going to ask for something that significantly benefits them back !

2. What is the talent level of the players involved? Again, using the previous example of Lucas Duda.. if you are only going to target a small upgrade to lets say Adam LaRoche or Chris Davis, then you know that lower-tier players are going to be involved with the trade. If you are attempting to trade for a tier one player like Miguel Cabrera or Roy Halladay, you can bet your bottom dollar that you will probably have to dish out equal compensation back.

3. How desperate are the managers involved in making a trade? Often times managers who have a player that is struggling are absolutely desperate to get rid of him and let that player be someone else's headache. They might be willing to sell "fifty cents on the dollar" so to speak, just to get rid of them. The same rings true for the manager attempting to acquire a player. I'll give you another example.

In that same 12 team league, earlier this season I traded away Martin Prado for Matt Wieters. I was contacted by the manager who owned Kevin Youkilis and didn't have a ton of depth at third base, so he made that offer.

Looking at my team, I already had Brett Lawrie and Mike Aviles, so I was able to part with Prado.

I currently had Geovany Soto at catcher, who was struggling mightly and was probably the weakest position on my team. Wieters was a significant upgrade over Soto, so this deal made sense to me. Seeing how the other owner wasn't prepared for Youkilis' injury, he was somewhat desperate to acquire a player that could help him out.

4. Examine positional scarcity - Some managers completely forget that a top tier second baseman might be worth more than a top tier first baseman, due to the fact that the size of fantasy-relevant players is much smaller. There is a reason that Robinson Cano is widely considered a first round draft pick in most formats. He performs much better than the remaining players at his position, and after the top 4-5 second baseman, the talent level falls off DRAMATICALLY.

In terms of position scarcity, here is my list: 2B, C, SS, 3B, 1B, RP, OF, SP

Using that as a template, a catcher who hits 20HRs will be more scarce than a 1B who hits 20HRs. Due to that fact, the catcher may be considered at a different level when the chips hit the table.

5. Look at the other teams needs - If you happen to notice that the other team is weak at stolen bases, Dee Gordon might be worth more to him than normal. If you notice that they lack power, suddenly Carlos Pena becomes more interesting. Not only target the position that they need, but the categories as well. This will make it much easier to justify the trade

6. What type of manager are they? Using that twelve team league again as an example, having played with those managers for a number of years, I can tell you that not all managers will target the same type of trades. Certain managers will over-value young prospects because we are in a keeper league. Others will prefer to obtain a player who is a veteran and has been consistent. Some managers care about a player with an injury history. Others don't. Making a trade in a league where you have played with the managers for a number of years is much easier than attempting to pull off a trade in a re-draft league where you haven't met anyone before.

3. Evaluating the trade after it happens- 

The best way (and the simplest as well) to evaluate if a trade is "good" or not is if it answers the following question:

Does the trade benefit both parties involved, and are they both happy with the trade?

If so, then the trade is probably a "good" trade.

Its extraordinarily difficult to determine in a vacuum if a trade is good without knowing an absolute TON of information, such as:

A. The size of the league
B. If it is a keeper or re-draft league (hot prospects have DRAMATICALLY increased value in keeper leagues)
C. What both teams rosters look like, both before and after the trade
D. If the trade is lopsided (aka a 2 for 1), what player will be either dropped or added from the waiver wire to offset things

Again, in order for a trade to be considered "good" in my mind, the following criteria needs to be met:

1. Neither player benefits significantly more than the other
2. Both parties agreed to the trade and felt that their teams are better now than they were before
3. None of the rules of the league are broken in the trade
4. There was no "collusion", meaning that one player isn't giving up all of their stars to intentionally have a bad team  in order for the other team to win.

As reference on player scarcity, I'd highly recommend reading the "Measuring Scarcity" article that Derek Carty wrote for the Fantasy Baseball Index Magazine for the 2011-2012 issue. That along with Ron Shandler's "Baseball Prospectus" are my top-2 magazines that I always purchase for the fantasy baseball season.

Feel free to send me any trades that you wish to analyze! I can be added on Twitter @Roto_Wizard, or reached by e-mail at RotoWizard01@yahoo.com

1 comment:

  1. Extremely helpful information! Great post; keep 'em coming!

    David Kelly