How to Fish for Trades Without Smelling Like Chum

Madison Bumgarner
Trading in fantasy baseball can be an art form. I’m sure we’ve all had mixed results. It may have been that you traded for a guy, only to have him hit the 60 DL the next day. Or maybe you were on the receiving end of a great haul!

Truth is, you have to make trades to win it all. I’m not sure there is a fantasy baseball player in the world who can draft a team to they ride all the way to first place. Moves need to be made to improve your team.

For the next 800 words or so we’re going to talk about how you can set the hook in other owners and consistently land the big fish in trades. But first we need to have a short lesson in self-awareness.

Like the high school girl that dropped her top during prom, each of us develop a reputation as fantasy baseball team owners. It’s that reputation that can allow you to have long term success in your fantasy baseball league or leave you mocked behind your back. So these tips aren’t for those looking to make a one time, big catch in the trading pool, but instead these tips are for those that want to understand how to have long term trading success, year after year.

1. Understand that you have to treat other owners fairly. This may seem obvious, and we all may feel like we do it (this is where self-awareness comes in), but often this is overlooked. Instead, it’s all too common that owners look to “pull a fast one” or “get something for nothing.” You all know what I’m talking about, and far too many of us are guilty.

The truth is that you might make trade with one owner this way, but he’ll never trade with you again, and nor should he. Former Braves GM John Schuerholz was famous for his straightforwardness in trades. If he wanted something big, he knew he had to give something big, and that diplomacy allowed him to have a long career without burning any bridges. He never smelled like chum because he never tried to do anything fishy in trades.

2. Don’t even offer ridiculous, low ball offers. Just last week someone wanted Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum for like three old french fries or something. I can’t even remember who was offered, I just remember that it was an insulting offer. And I do remember who offered it.

If you aren’t careful you’ll develop a bad reputation if you’re always pushing these fishy offers. Do you think it’s helpful to be known in your league as the guy who is always trying to steal All Stars with low ball offers? And do you think your league mates will make a deal with you later on, even if you do offer something fair this time around? Sure, you might luck out one time and hook a big one with an absurd low-ball offer, but you’ll never fish in that pond again.

3. Be attentive the your other owner’s needs. Trust me, I’m not trying to get touchy feely here. But if another owner has 4 second basemen on their team, don’t offer to trade them the second baseman you have sitting on your bench, for their only third baseman.

Instead, take the time to try and match yourself up with a logical trade partner. If they have a center fielder go down to injury, then offer them one from your bench. If you have an abundance of starting pitching, and they need one, then you might have found a partner. If they are lagging behind in steals and you have speed on your bench, then ask for a stat that you need in return. Taking the time to show that you are interested in helping them improve their team goes a long way and you’ll find that you’ve found a trade partner for seasons to come.

4. Communicate. The hipster, aloof indifference of just letting trades expire isn’t going to cut it. Hit people back with a thoughtful reply on trade offers, even if it’s a ‘no’. Let them know what you are looking for or even offer a counter. They’ll appreciate the communication and you may just have yourself a future trade partner, even if this one didn’t work out.

5. Make a decision early that you’ll be fair with folks. Every league has the guy with the reputation of being a jerk. Just make the decision that don’t want to be that guy. Then don’t be that guy.

6. Stand your ground. If someone is trying to rip you off then call them on it. I don’t mean to communicate that you should position yourself as the league pushover. Not at all.  Make them treat you with the respect that you are showing them. Ultimately, you want build relationships of mutual respect with all the other owners in your league, and that trades will be flowing freely from this position of respect, not from a position of one-upmanship.

Trading is fun. It’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of fantasy baseball. If you can develop a reputation of a guy who makes good on his deals then you’ll be able to fish for trades in that league for years to come.

Tags: Leagues Owners Reputation Trading

  • Steve

    Another good article offering points for reflection. I would add a distinction that if someone initiates an offer with me where they really, really want one of my players, first instinct is not to give a flat “no,” but to offer them what it would take. For example, if Babe Ruth is on my team, and someone makes an offer that I don’t particularly like (offering, say, Enos Cabell and Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrobrosky for Ruth), I don’t automatically consider it insulting just because it isn’t what I would expect. I usually simply offer the trade I would take, even if it appears imbalanced to the solicitor (“You want Babe Ruth? Well, then you’ll have to part with Bob Feller, Dale Murphy, Tris Speaker, Enos “Country” Slaughter, Amos Otis, and Rod Carew”). That way, if the person on the other end really wants Babe Ruth because he’s, well, Babe Ruth, he knows what it will take. If the trade solicitor feels insulted by the seeming imbalance, that is never my intent, but I usually don’t like to make a flat “no” unless I’m in a hurry to get to work/class/accordion lesson.

  • Nash

    As the guy that offered you the trade for Bum and Lincecum…it wasn’t that bad by the way: Kipnis and Jordan Zimmerman… I take a different approach.

    Much like a pitcher with an 84 MPH fast ball who throws a couple change ups at 76 and 80 to make that fast ball seem faster

    I like to start with the low ball offer so that when I get to an ok offer it seems like a really good deal!

    Although I admit it may be faltering more as of late…

  • Steve

    Hey Nash, just so you know, I don’t feel bad about the Panda trade where I got Zimmerman and Kershaw. I love having Kershaw and Lee on the same team. I just can’t help wondering what happened that you so quickly flipped a guy like Panda, who you seemed to want so badly. Like “Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer,” ( I was “frightened and confused” by that which my primitive brain did not understand. I think Clave’s point is that people who trade aggressively (I’m just as guilty as anyone) can come across like used car salesmen to those who don’t see our intent clearly, and they want to run up into the hills and hide from us like unfrozen cavemen.

  • Clave

    Hehe. I knew as I was typing up this post that point #2 would be controversial. It’s difficult to be nuanced in 150 words.

    A couple things: 1) Think of that in context with the other tips.

    2) I certainly don’t mean to say not to negotiate. It’s makes sense to not present your best offer first. Let then counter, then come back with a “how about this” offer. Haggling is fun.

    But it’s a fine line between negotiating and presenting an offer that insults people. If you want to trade with someone it isn’t in your best interest to make an insulting offer, and they certainly become wary of trading with you in the future.

    I like the phrase that Steve used in the comment before: “used car salesmen.” Yeah, you don’t want that reputation, so my advice is to be careful in peppering your league mates with low ball offers.

    An example from the TunaCorn league I play in is pretty good. We use ESPN so there is a trading block feature. One owner put what I thought was a funny note in his.

    He said: “…anymore awful trade attempts will be posted and then ridiculed publicly…”

    I think this speaks to what I am trying to communicate. Seems like this owner has been insulted by offers in the past and is certainly tired and wary of the low ball offers. His guard is up now and I’d bet good money that he won’t be willing trade partner in the future.

  • Steve

    The truth is, I just want a team where everyone’s first name is either Amos or Enos.