By Andy Behrens
April 16, 2007
It was one of those familiar Yahoo! Sports emails that begins, "This trade has been proposed to you in …"
Always exciting to see that. The offer was intriguing, too. An owner in one of my leagues had asked me to deal Todd Helton and Rich Harden for … well, it's probably not wise to reveal the name. The other owner might not appreciate that. It doesn't seem wise to risk bad relations, not when trade discussions are ongoing. Let's just say that this guy wanted Helton and Harden in exchange for a legitimate top-ten hitter. Not necessarily a top-five hitter, but definitely top 10 – someone clearly superior to Helton, fantasy-wise.
It should be noted, however, that in this particular league we count on-base percentage and strikeouts for hitters, so Helton – who has a .430 career OBP and relatively low K totals – is unusually valuable. The difference between him and the superstar offered to me wasn't enough, in my estimation, to justify the loss of Harden. Thus, I rejected the trade offer.
But that's beside the point. Looking at the proposed deal objectively, it was a perfect introductory trade offer. You really can't do it any better. My fantasy colleague had followed essentially every principle that I'd recommend to anyone contemplating a trade proposal. Let's run through the basics:
Consider what your trading partner actually needs, not just what you'd like to give them.
You can't expect to simply impose your will on another owner. That takes a crapload of midi-chlorians. Or you're in a fantasy league with Wayne Krivsky. Sure, it'd be great if you could get Mark Teixeira for Kevin Millwood. But if all you ever do is attempt to fleece people, you aren't going to make many trades, and you'll offend lots of folks – it's stunning how easily-offended fantasy owners can be. We're like Hiltons and Lohans. So before you make an offer, look for ways to legitimately help a potential trade partner. Generally, I'm not interested in making deals that fail to address a category or position in which I'm struggling. Fantasy trades are primarily about need. You can win a trade value-wise, yet not help your team very much at all.
In the Helton/Harden deal, I'm given the opportunity to significantly upgrade a position. One of my starting infielders is hitting .179 with no home runs and three RBI. It's a problem. The dude offering me the top-tier star clearly recognized this. I'm sure he also noticed that I have an abundance of pitching, and replacement options at first base in Chris Duncan and Adrian Gonzalez. Nicely played, sir.
Don't lead with your best offer, but lead with a good one.
It's just a guess, but I'm thinking this guy might be willing to part with a little something more than he's offered. He's gotten my attention, though. The first trade offer is an opening position in the negotiation, a way to cordially begin the dialogue. If your offer is just absurd, there's no place to go. I'll reject the trade without response. But if there's quality on both sides of the ledger, we're talking. Two days ago, I wasn't thinking about flipping either Helton or Harden. Now? Hmmm.
This one's not really an absolute. It's important to know your enemies. I'm in leagues with a few folks who are loath to counter-offer, highly suspicious of me, and who, as a rule, dislike trading. With these owners, I often cut to the chase. And they rebuff me. It happens.
If they've owned him before (and it worked), maybe they'll own him again.
It's just a theory, and I lack sufficient data to back this up, but I feel like owners are a bit more willing to consider a player they've owned in the past – especially if they owned him during a successful season. The player I've been offered was a significant contributor to my squad when I last won this head-to-head league. So yeah, there was a little spasm of nostalgia when I saw his name in the trade offer. Do I miss checking box scores and seeing that the infielder-who-shall-not-be-named went 2-for-4 with a HR and a SB? Sure I do.
The guy I've been offered is still in his prime as a hitter, too. If you're really shopping for bargains on the trade market, find someone who owned Jim Edmonds or Gary Sheffield at the peak of their usefulness.
Buy low. And if you can't buy low, buy injured.
If you're any good at this stuff, you're aware that buying low and selling high is what you'd like to do in any market. If some owner in your league is ready to flip Alfonso Soriano, make an offer. Like, now. Stop reading, click on "Fantasy Home," and do it.
It might seem a bit riskier to make a play for an injured player, but this can also pay dividends if the cost isn't too great. Sunday afternoon was really the perfect time to make an offer for Harden – he left his start against the Yankees with shoulder discomfort, though he's downplayed the injury. Is it possible that he'll hit the 60-day DL? Well, sure. But it's hardly the likely scenario. It's a long season, and he's going to be a useful starter. But you just never know when an owner is going to overreact to initial reports of tightness, tweaks, strains, and pending MRIs. Tip of the cap to the shrewd owner in my league who made a play for Harden on Sunday night.
One last trade-strategy tip:
If you write a fantasy column, compliment the owner with whom you're attempting to deal.
Um … this might not apply to everyone.
OK, a few quick notes from the weekend games:
The Marlins closer-by-committee? Henry Owens appears to be the committee. Matt Lindstrom and Randy Messenger both pitched an inning in Florida's 8-4 loss yesterday, while Kevin Gregg and Taylor Tankersley each went one frame in an 11-4 win on Friday. No late, high-leverage innings in either of those games, and no Henry Owens. Tankersley could pick up a few stray saves, but Owens is really the guy I'd look to add right now. Jorge Julio is a steaming buffet of walks and hits.
Brad "As I Wanna Be" Evans beat me to it, but I'll echo the sentiment: Ryan Theriot is worth owning, particularly for those trolling for steals. He had three of the Cubs' four lousy hits yesterday off Kyle freakin' Lohse, giving him three consecutive multi-hit games. Theriot also has three SB in limited playing time. If he doesn't get 450 at-bats this year, Patrick Fitzgerald needs to get involved.
Boof Bonser had eight Ks in 5.1 innings against the Devil Rays on Sunday before the wheels came off. Or more accurately, before the fly balls began to leave the field of play. He has wicked movement and surprising velocity on his breaking stuff, and a mid-90s fastball. And no, I'm not dropping him in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League. I realize this bothers many of you. Bonser's next two starts should be against Kansas City, then he'll get Tampa Bay again. He's 14.4 percent owned, and I expect that percentage will fall as more of you cowards drop off the Boof-wagon.
Speaking of the F&F league, I added Tim Lincecum Monday morning. He's 2-0 at Triple-A Fresno with 17 strikeouts and only six hits allowed in 12 innings. The next run he allows will be his first. He has a triple-digit fastball, and a variety of curveballs. He's owned in 1.2 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If Lincecum doesn't get called up soon, Fitzgerald should get involved there, too.
Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Apr 16, 2007 3:58 pm, EDT
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