The Art of Trading

How to Improve Any Team

It’s always interesting to tell people that I write for a fantasy football website. I’ve had my roommates to interviewers asking me for “inside information” about the waiver wire and questioning who they should start a certain week. I’m always happy to answer them, but my favorite question to get asked is the simple “how do I improve my team?” This is usually followed by them showing me their roster, which I might skim for a few seconds before my answer is always telling them to start trading. Upon hearing this, some people look at me as if they’ve wasted their time asking and others act like I just gave them the meaning of life. Simply put, trading is a critical yet somehow overlooked aspect to managing a successful fantasy football team.

The Importance of Trading

In the grand scheme of things, a roster is managed in three ways throughout the season, through the draft, the waiver wire, and trading. Everybody fantasizes of drafting a dream team that will dominate every week, and it’s always sexy to hit gold on the waiver wire. The draft is arguably the most crucial part, and the waiver wire has a great promise of low risk with high potential reward. That being said, neither of these are as reliable as making good, valuable trades. Figuring out which players will boom and which will bust in the draft is about as accurate as blindly throwing darts, and the finding studs on the waiver is a slow, patient game that requires a lot of men to be picked up and dropped before you even find somebody that can start on a weekly basis. It’s not recommended to get trade crazy, but a few trades throughout the season goes a long way in forming a playoff team. It’s also a fun way to keep everybody involved in the league. The most fun and competitive leagues are the ones with members that actively seek trades. I’ve seen leagues where there was one trade in three years, and it’s those leagues that the players are least involved. Trading is clearly important on both a team basis and in terms of the overall league, so here’s my guide on how to improve your team through trades.

Do Your Research

Probably the most foolish thing you can do is trade away or for players without having a good understanding of their value moving forward. At the very least, look at their recent games and their Rotoworld page. If you want to go more in depth you can even look into their bye week and the defenses that they’ll be facing in the playoffs. If you’re thoroughly up to date on the players involved and still manage to get the bad side of a trade, that’s just unlucky, you can’t be blamed for not having a crystal ball. It’s also easy to use this research to get the better side of trades, as your leaguemates may not be fully informed. I love to do this in the preseason, but it can be done at any time throughout the season, especially as injuries pop up.

Find Mutual Value

The best trades to make are the ones where there isn’t a clear “winner” or “loser” off the bat. These are the ones where both teams benefit by gaining value at a position that they lacked. Like ritual, every Tuesday morning I look at each team in my league and find who is underperforming in places that I have depth, and spent the week in talks trying to improve both teams through trades. These trades are the easiest to make, and can go a long ways in creating a more well-rounded team.

Buy Low, Sell High

This method is a bit more complex, and riskier, but can also provide the greatest benefit. Look for players that have had about three straight rough weeks, and take a position as to if you see them bouncing back. Similarly, find your own players that have had a few great weeks and take a position as to if they’ll return back to standard soon. With some good research and good luck, you might be able to trade at the best prices possible.

What’s difficult, however, is finding out who to target, and unfortunately there’s not an easy way to do this quantitatively. For low candidates I like to look for players that have a) played tough defenses recently, b) are getting a considerable amount of touches or targets, and c) are on a strong offense. With easing defenses, good volume, and a solid offense, most players will wind up producing sooner or later. For high candidates, I try to sell players that a) have a lot of mouths to feed in the offense b) aren’t on strong offenses and c) have a lot of points per touch. If a bad offense is spreading the ball and a player has been dynamic on just a few touches, I try to get rid of them before they regress.

Never Make the First Offer

This is a simple rule in business negotiations, and it’s equally effective in fantasy football. I usually open trade talks by asking “What’s your price for [player]?” and they respond with either a specific trade or what position they’re looking to fill. If you’re lucky, their response will be less than you were willing to give up. However, even if the luck doesn’t go your way, oftentimes the leaguemate is willing to take less than what they originally tell you.

If you must make the first offer, I always lowball them. I usually aim somewhere in between a laughable offer and one that should take some consideration, and judge their reaction. If you do this right, you can still find out what their price on the player is even though you had to make the first proposal. Possibly the worst thing you can do is offer something that they’re willing to accept right away.

On a similar note, ignore the first offer that they make. No matter how appealing it is, you can almost always get more or give less out of a deal than the first offer. Even if you end up going back to the first offer when the trade is finally official, it helps to explore options and see if you can improve the terms.

No Player is Off Limits

Don’t let your emotions get caught up in trades. Possibly the most off-putting thing you can tell a leaguemate is that you want one of their studs but you’re not willing to give up any of your top three players. These trades will fall through within minutes when they realize that you’re offering four mediocre players for a star. If you really want to keep a player on your team, set a high price for him that is still reasonable. Remember that you’re only trying to improve how many points your team scores throughout the remainder of the season, and sometimes you have to trade your studs to do so.

Be Persistent

If you see a player you want, act on him and find out his price. It doesn’t matter if you don’t end up with him, but at least explore the options. It probably takes me about 20 trade talk conversations to process one trade, and I’m okay with that. Don’t approach a trade with an offer, approach with an inquiry about a player and work from there. If a leaguemate is resistant, talk to them the next day. Realize that you have players that they want just as much as they want players that you want, so you can afford to be as annoying as you need to be.

Closing the Deal

There are a lot of strategies and techniques when it comes to trading. You can take the safe and slow approach of mutual benefits, or the high-rolling efforts of buying low and selling high. Simply keep in mind that you should always have up-to-date knowledge of all players involved in discussion, and there are certain techniques that can help you get the best prices in a trade as well. The most important lesson, though, is that you should be trading. It helps your team, it keeps your league more involved, and it’s a fun thing to do in between the waivers and the games.

fantasyreaList Writer: Blake LaBathe

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