Trading Etiquette Workshop
Who is Scoresheetwiz?
Archived Commentary
Most Useful Sites
Archived Analysis
Quick Links (revised)

Fantasy knights of the square path discuss Trade Ethics

The following are excerpts from discussions on trading etiquette/ethics posted in mcscoresheet during the summers of 2005 and 2006. The comments weren’t necessarily made in this order. I aimed to piece them together to make as cohesive a giant discussion as possible. 

JRM is John R. Mayne a District Attorney and Rotowire contributor who framed much of this discussion.

MC is Dan Young, a.k.a. Medea’s Child the moderator of mcscoresheet.

Wiz – that’s me: John Carter

Garth – Garth Hewitt

Ari – Ari Houser

Andy - Andy Cleary


JRM: Let's try a few examples for our Trading Ethics workshop:

I get offered Belliard for Ellis today.

Tomorrow, I accept.

The other owner says, "Nah, changed my mind." 

Assuming the original statement was phrased as an offer, the deal is enforceable and made. Commissioner should step in and enforce. 

MC: Agree, though, I'm a bit reluctant to absolutely affirm that the Commissioner should step in and enforce, particularly if he's a member of the league and might have a vested interest, and also if there's not specific written proof (an e-mail) evidencing the above. 

Wiz: How many leagues have commissioners? Do they or anyone have a mandate to settle such disputes? Vetoes? But, yes, it is generally unfair of that owner to change his mind in one day without notifying the other owner before he got back to him. Generally though, the only punishment is that reneging owner loses credibility.

JRM:    I get offered Belliard for Ellis today.

[A week later] I accept the offer. 

This is not an enforceable acceptance because there is an implicit presumption in the offer that it is open for a reasonable amount of time. I think that's two days or before the next period starts, whichever is earlier. You could reasonably set different deadlines. But I think if I wait six days, I'm making my own trouble. 

MC: I think [the] two day suggestion is reasonable . . . 

Garth: Nothing is done until both have confirmed it. There is no problem changing your mind. You make an offer, the other guy must decide in a day whether to accept or not accept. (No answer in a day is a not-accept.) A choice to wait is simply a "No" with the knowledge that you are interested. Five days later, he is welcome to ASK if you are still willing. 

Wiz: There ought to be sufficient time for someone receiving an offer to carefully consider it - especially if it is a multi-player or big name trade - without the offer being taken back other than due a change in circumstances as discussed. Otherwise the person who receives the offer a) wastes an X amount of time weighing the offer and b) is at a huge disadvantage - the person making the offer would then know the person getting the offer is favorable to the deal and could then ask for more. 

MC: . . . If someone makes an offer, they should be allowed to revoke it at any time, prior to acceptance, for whatever reason. . . 

Wiz:  . .. If the original offer maker didn’t get a message back to you that the offer is off before you accepted it, then it would be unfair for the original offer maker to renege on the deal if the deal was accepted within x days, where x is 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending on the value and complexity of the deal, the time of year, the make-up of the league, etc. 

Ari: I agree with this. But it's also up to the person receiving the offer to communicate this. I will usually lay low while I consider – if you email me instead of calling or showing up at my office, you are implicitly agreeing to me not dropping everything and responding immediately -- but if I think I need a lot of time (>1 day for sure, less than that in some instances) or have been in frequent email contact just prior, so my delay in responding would be odd, I'll say "I'm thinking about it, I'll let you know."

Folks I trade with a lot will often say: "Just got your offer. I'll look at tonight and get back to you" or something like that. It can be frustrating, because I'm usually either juggling multiple proposals I've made to different teams, or am waiting on their response before I offer another deal to another team, etc, but at least I know what to expect and when. 

MC: Although I believe a good point was made that "I"ll think about it" can be construed as a request for extension of time which arguably allows the original offerer to back out, in the end, I tend to agree that such a message is really equivalent to no response. 

JRM: "I will think about it," is an implicit request for an extension of time. Unless you reject that request (as by saying, "Think faster," or, "Come back when you're ready to deal; I'm shopping my guy,") you've implicitly consented. 

Day 1: JRM: Kendrick for Brazelton

            Sid: I'm going to seriously think about that.

Day 4: Sid: Sold!

I think this is a deal. 

Day 1: JRM: Kendrick for Brazelton

            Sid: I'm going to seriously think about that.

Day 2: JRM: Don't think too long, you Brazelton-hogger. I could change my mind at any point without notice. If you want to do it, let me know, and I'll tell you if I'm still so inclined. 

This functions as a revocation of the original offer and an invitation to the other owner to make an offer.

Ari: You've got to let them know you're pulling the offer and give them an opportunity to take if they respond to it.

Me: Brazelton for Kendrick

JRM: I'll think about it

Me: Nevermind

strikes me as wrong, unless there's significant time or circumstance change between 2 and 3.

Andy: I think it's a little annoying, but surely an offer can be rescinded any time *before* it has been accepted for whatever reason you want? I certainly think so. 

Anyway, rather than go into all of the various cases, I'll say what I've always said: there is no substitute for clarity. . . I mean, come on, we're all males here, we've all dealt with - either personally or through the mass media - the phenomena of a woman expecting us to read minds and come to a detailed complex conclusion based on a word or a look from them. Do we need to do this *to each other*? ;-) 

JRM: One of the owners in our league always couches his acceptances with, "If you're still interested, I'll do [offer]" which is nice, but I think unnecessary. If you make an offer where there hasn't been a significant change in circumstances, and the other guy accepts timely, that's a deal. The offeror can't back out.

MC:  . . . the two owners could conceivably get hung up on what constitutes a significant change in circumstances. 

JRM:    I get offered Belliard for Ellis today.

At 6 p.m., Ellis announces his true age of 37, noting that "I thought no one would find the records in that third-world frozen area we call South Dakota, but I'm caught."

I then accept the offer. 

These circumstances radically change the situation, and the other owner should have an opportunity to refuse to complete the deal.

MC: Absolutely agree.

Garth: Any changes automatically signal that a deal is not necessarily still on the table. While it is still best for you to confirm that you are withdrawing an offer, these events constitute a change in the situation: 

Any Monday morning

Any start by any pitcher in the deal

Any injury -- no matter how slight -- to anyone in the deal or anyone on either team that might be affected. (e.g. if you offer a 2nd SS and your first gets beaned.)

Any trade is made by you or the other guy. In fact, any trade in the league that that might change your situation.

Anyone on your team is called up or sent down. 

Wiz: Additionally:

Any major league transaction which impacts playing time or park effects of any of the players involved

Significant previously unknown personal circumstances revealed about a player such as a lie about his age (see above) or a psychological problem (think Greinke) 

At what hour on a Monday such an offer expires depends, perhaps, on whether the trade was made on a Sunday night or the known habits of the managers involved. However, no matter how well it is defined, there could be a level of interpretation or subjectivity as to what constitutes a significant change. Then you have to rely on communication and decency. Afterall, a trade isn’t a trade unless confirmed to Scoresheet by both parties, but there are consequences to being untrustworthy in a Scoresheet league. 

Ari:  If the other trade and the injuries affect the desirability of the deal from your end, I think you can say "sorry, circumstances changed while you were waiting." And in the future, be sure pull back your offers if you no longer want to do them, especially if you have an "I'll think about it" pending.

Correct etiquette on his part would be "I know XX and YY just got hurt and you traded with team Q, but if that offer is still on the table I would do it."

Wiz: In a poll taken among 27 responding mcscoresheet members, 2/3 (18) agreed that: 

You make a trade offer. The other owner sends an e-mail saying he'll think about it. He later accepts--without asking if the deal is still on the table. In the meantime, circumstances have changed for you. However, you did not explicitly revoke the offer or set a time limit in any way. You should not feel pressured to make the deal. His asking for more time should allow you to reconsider, too. 

The other option offered for that scenario was:

You should make the deal. You made the offer and didn't qualify it in any way. The offer was still open and he has every right to accept. 

Andy: It does depends on the wording though: there's a difference between "I'm offering X for Y" and "would you be interested in X for Y"?

Wiz: I get annoyed by those coy unofficial offers. Obviously those managers are just trying to weasel out from you how much you like those players so he can adjust his real offer to get the most out of you. The only defense is to be vigilantly on your guard and say, “sorry, I’ve been burned in the past by answering that sort of question. Make me a firm offer, please, and I’ll let you know”. Am I being paranoid?

JRM:    I get offered Belliard for Ellis today.

I send a response, "I'll take Belliard and a 31 for Ellis."

Trading partner: No.

JRM: OK, then I'll do Belliard for Ellis.

Trading partner: No.

Trading partner has a right to do this because I've implicitly rejected his offer with my counter.

MC:  . . . if a trading partner is going to go down that road, turnabout is certainly fair play.

Wiz: That seems a bit harsh to me, but if you guys say so, it must be acceptable.

JRM: All of this may sound like lawyer-talk to some, but the laws of contracts are exceptionally useful when it comes to trading discussions and avoiding hurt feelings. In all these things, if you have a reasonable, objective baseline of a standard of behavior, all league members will be happier.

So, I don't get upset when someone indicates they might do a deal with me on Monday and then radically reconsider the next day; I don't mind if offers get revoked or reworked. But if there's an offer and acceptance, there's a deal.

Wiz: - except under all the circumstances described above. When is an offer no longer an offer? What constitutes acceptance? 

After all this reasoned discussion, there are still disagreements and gray areas. Suffice to say there is a trade-off in the gray zone between getting the deal the way you want it and keeping good will and your reputation spotless. Communication clears away most of the gray, but there is a trade-off there of sounding like an undesirable wheeler-dealer. (One poster said he wouldn’t trade with someone who imposed a deadline unless it was heavily in his favour.) At least, I hope this article gives you a better understanding of what others expect.


- the members of mcscoresheet
- edited with additional comments by John Carter