How to work the trade market in Fantasy sports

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The Call

A weekly sports guest column by Andrew Baillargeon

Fantasy basketball leagues are soon to crown their league champions, fantasy baseball has just kicked off, and fantasy football drafts are on the horizon. I took a moment last week to talk about fantasy baseball advice, but this article will be a bit more inclusive. Talking about the trade market, this is an area where new fantasy players will always struggle in. It’s like learning how to ride a bike, and the intricacies of the fantasy trade market are learned in a similar way. Thankfully, a good portion of fantasy trading lines up with common sense, so without further ado, let’s address some of the “Rules” that coincide with the trade market.

Rule 1: Know how to say no

Trading in fantasy can be fun in its own right. You have the power of a real GM for a moment, and in some ways, it can feel like you are actually deciding the destiny of your players as a real GM would. Playing God is fun but remember that your decisions can easily have consequences. These might be good ones and they might be bad, but it is important that you assess the trade you have been offered before clicking the accept button. On one hand, if the trade very clearly benefits you to accept, accept it. On the other, while blockbuster trades may be fun to be a part of, you should never ever join in on one just for the sake of doing it. Going against this rule is a great way to get conned into taking a deal you never should have considered.

Rule 2: View trading as an alternate action

The trade market has everything one could need. There is bound to be some team in the league that can fulfill a need on your roster, and if you’re lucky enough, the price could be something of yours that was already expendable to begin with. However, this is not always the case. This rule really stands out in the longer seasons of basketball and baseball, because these sports tend to have more instances where young, typically un-owned talent can really catch on fire in their respective sport. For this reason, the first place you should look to try and fill a need is free agency. It is not only cheaper to acquire talent via free agency than the trade market, but a watchful eye on free agency could end up picking up a diamond in the rough in a player that was outright more valuable than the player you wanted to trade for. This isn’t always the case, so trading should be viewed as an alternative.

Rule 3: Assess the leverage you have with a potential trade partner

By far and away the most important rule in fantasy is quite simple in practice. A team that has the one seed and just clinched a playoff berth will likely have little incentive to pull the trigger on a blockbuster, roster shaking, deal. However, a player whose team is on the bubble of a playoff berth might feel the need to get a spark on their team to push them over the hedge. A smart fantasy player will attempt to take advantage of a good situation and avoid a situation where they get tricked into “buying high.” Another example of leverage coming into play typically comes when another team approaches you with a trade offer. This will usually be done when the opposing party has a position of need that your player will fill. By coming to you with a trade, you have established a mild degree of leverage without even doing anything. It is important to use this leverage wisely; do not instantly attempt to rob the opposing team in a counter offer, or they will go elsewhere for a trade. Instead, identify a player or two on the opposing team that you want, and if you can afford to do it, dangle the player they want over their head. If the trade you counter with is reasonable and involves this player, your leverage may allow the trade to be accepted.

Rule 4: Go after the most competitive teams in your league

This kind of plays off of Rule three a bit, but goes more in depth on the type of teams to target for a trade. As previously mentioned, the top seed in your league will likely have little incentive to get involved in a blockbuster trade. The same can be said about a team that has been eliminated from playoff contention and is merely playing for pride. The teams that are duking it out for a playoff berth, division title, or a higher seed in general are the types of teams who are susceptible to falling into a blockbuster deal. Take advantage of this by trying to siphon away players from these teams that you may need for your own playoff aspirations. As previously mentioned, temper your leverage with these teams by not trying to pull highway robbery on them.

The trade market in fantasy usually remains consistent year in year out. While player names change on a yearly basis, the concept of the market itself remains the same. The only way you’ll learn how to effectively utilize it is through trial and error. Using the above rules, and common sense, try to engage in a trade in your league when the situation calls upon it. Through this, you will learn how to effectively trade in fantasy sports!