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In Season Management: How to Trade

Taking the last section’s warnings into account, trading can be very lucrative and can really improve your team’s chances of success. The key is to know what sorts of trades will help you that people will accept.

Trades with Uneven Numbers of Players

This concept is critically important. Many trades involve uneven numbers of players – two players for one, or three players for two, or four players for two, or whatever. It is easy to misevaluate these trades, because it can be counterintuitive. Almost always, the manager getting the smaller number of players is getting the better side of the deal. The reason for this is that there is an invisible benefit going to that manager – they are not only getting the players in the trade, but they are also getting an open roster slot. In the auction draft strategy section, I discussed the benefit of having good roster flexibility. If your team is built so that you can react quickly to new information, you will be well placed to improve your team through the best avenue available – the waiver wire. Collapsing the value of two players into one player gives a team the freedom to maximize the benefit a team can derive from having a flexible roster.

Because we are using player values which measure estimated points over waiver wire value, this will help to effectively value trades with uneven numbers of players. Players who are close to waiver wire value have almost no value – in reality and in our valuation system. Getting a large number of these players won’t change the fact that their value still sums to about zero. Remember too that our “waiver wire level” is a little conservative. This concept assumes that the quality of player you can get from the waiver wire is fairly constant. In reality, you may be able to pick up players of a wide range of values from the waiver wire as situations change. Feel free to mentally bump up what “waiver wire” value constitutes when offering or accepting trades. Don’t give a lot of weight to getting a player who is even close to waiver wire value unless that player meets a distinct team need, and don’t worry too much about giving up such a player either.

If another manager doesn’t fully understand this concept, you can make trades more easily by offering a larger number of players. It looks like you are giving more than you really are, and helps to counterbalance the natural difficulties in trading.

Trade with people who like trading

This principle is simple. Certain managers prefer to trade more than others. This is usually fairly easy to read. Usually a manager who is more active with waiver wire transactions is also more likely to be active in the trade market. If a manager completes a trade with someone else, or if he responds to your trade offers with counteroffers of his own, these indicate that this manager is one you should probably target with trade offers in the future. It is also useful for you to target managers who like trading and who do so poorly. If you observe that a manager makes a trade or two, where that manager does not seem to receive good value for the players he gives up, then it might be a good idea to make an offer yourself.

Trading with Failing Teams

This section is similar in concept to the previous section. When a team is doing poorly, sometimes its manager becomes desperate. The team must be fixed immediately, or it will be too late to save the season. Maybe this is true, and a trade will save the season – or it may not be. Maybe the manager already has good players, who just started out badly. In any case, such a manager can be predisposed to make a trade, and you would be well served to take advantage of that predisposition. Teams that are doing well often have managers who are fat and happy – who would hesitate to rock the boat unnecessarily. Teams that are doing poorly have managers that are itchy for change.

Trading for Failing Players

Player performance varies widely from game to game. Poor players can play well in short stretches, and good players can slump just as easily. In the long run however, things should even out and the better players will come out on top. Seasons’ worth of good results should not outweigh a month's worth of bad results in terms of forecasting, where there is no identifiable reason for the poor performance (e.g. injury, change of situation). Often, when a manager has watched their player fail in game after game, that manager gets tired of it. The manager starts to hate that player – the imagined personal connection between a fantasy manager and his players starts to turn dark and dysfunctional. Managers can be irrational about their teams and players, and taking advantage of this irrationality can help you to find good players who you can get for a good price.

Trades you need

Sometimes it happens that, despite your best intentions, you could really use a trade to solve a particular problem on your team. It can happen that injuries or circumstances bring about a situation where your first string player at a position is worse than most teams' backups at that position, who are notably better than the available waiver wire players. When this occurs, there is a built-in benefit from trading. If you get a backup player from another team, that team’s expected points may be virtually unchanged, but yours increase markedly. Because of the potential for value creation from a trade, a mutually beneficial trade becomes easier to find. Be warned however, that in this kind of situation you have very little leverage. Basically, this trade is a good one because your team (maybe by no fault of your own) has become badly organized – with too little of your player value allocated to first-string positions. In order to get other managers to help you reorganize your team, you should expect to pay a premium in the trade. The other manager doesn’t need you – you need him. This means that you start out with a poor negotiating position. Regardless, if you need a trade, then you need it – and you should use whatever negotiating tactics you have at your disposal to pull it off as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

Meeting the Needs of Others

You should try to stay aware of what other teams need. Essentially, this is the reverse of the former situation – you notice that another team desperately needs a kind of player which is not available on the waiver wire, and you offer to fill that need through trading. In this sort of situation, you should make offers where you receive players whose values clearly exceed the values of the players you are giving up. After all, your potential trading partner has an obvious need – and you don’t. You have all of the leverage in this situation, and you should use it. You shouldn’t offer ridiculous trades – not only will it hamper your ability to trade through being insulting, but if it does happen to get accepted it is possible that the trade will be blocked. Most leagues have some mechanism (manager vote or commissioner decision) for blocking manifestly unfair or collusive trades, so you should never even offer a trade that you think will meet this sort of standard. Still, be aggressive – when you’re throwing someone a life preserver, you can charge quite a fee.


In reality, you should seek the above situations in combination. In a best case scenario, you would find a team which is doing poorly, with good players who are underperforming, which has some clear needs, and with a manager who has been fairly active. These factors work together, and in the above scenario it would seem likely that you would be able to come out with a trade that would improve your team. If your team also has needs, that would make things even better.

Next Section - In Season Management: Late Season and Playoff Strategy


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