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How to wheel and deal and still be liked

Wheeling & Dealing Etiquette

For many, thinking up trades is one of the most fun things about fantasy baseball. This article used to go through all the different types of trades, but I’ve edited that out. My only advice on that is to be persistent. If you have a roster issue that can’t be mended by an upcoming supplemental draft, then keep thinking of ways you can solve your team’s problem without making a bigger problem. Besides unnecessary depth and draft picks, you have minor leaguers and injured players at your disposal. Sometimes, it takes three or four teams to work out a deal that makes everyone happy.

OK, one more piece of advice. The prime trading season is August. That’s when you can get the most for all but your top 13 keepers. If you are certainly out of it (and I’ve seen some amazing comebacks), that’s the time to load up on draft picks and prime prospects. If you are in the championship hunt, that’s often when you can pick up a good reliever or fill a hole most economically, because that’s when teams know whether they really need those players or not. The sellers come out – and you know if you are one or not. Don’t forget some fading starters lose their jobs to September call-ups, so be careful about who you have and who you get. Anyone could get hurt and during the last four weeks, so depth is good for play-off contenders.

Now let’s get to the etiquette and trading techniques:

Be a Good Responder

Etiquette rule R1.: RSVP ASAP. If you don`t have time to give the offer full consideration in the next 25 hours, let them know. Check your e-mails every day. Those of you with cell phones probably check you messages every 15 minutes, so if you want a quick answer, that’s a good route (assuming he’s not a dinosaur like me).

Etiquette rule R2: Do not be offended by another manager`s trading style or his seemingly low ball offer. They are not trying to offend you or waste your time. They might have a completely different opinion regarding the players’ values – or possibly just thought you enjoy haggling. If you can diplomatically tell them your objections, you will both benefit.

Etiquette rule R3.: If you take a vacation away from your internet access, let everyone in your league know – as long as you can do so without alerting the robbers.

Be a Good Initiator

Etiquette rule I1: Do your homework. Avoid offering a player at a position where the other manager is already strong – or asking for a player they can’t afford to trade.

It is reasonable to try to sell why your trade offer would be good for his team, but . . .

Etiquette rule I2:  do not tell him why you think his player isn’t very good – that is ineffective and just pisses them off.

Etiquette rule I3: Be honest and forthcoming – never hide injuries – whether you are an initiator or a responder.

Etiquette rule I4:  Develop a reputation for making reasonable offers right off the bat. If you do, your trading partner is less likely to haggle you back. Low ball offers annoy some managers so much that they don’t even respond. Of course, it is impossible to know what they consider a low ball offer, so this is difficult to avoid. Just try to be sensitive about it and have honest communication.

It would be nice to know who on your team you think the other manager overvalues and who on his own team he is undervaluing. There is a greater chance you can do this if you can engage the trading partner in a friendly phone conversation. If the other manager has formidable depth at the position of the player you are seeking – inquire about all those players at that position. It becomes less obvious who you want. If you are after a player during the winter before the protection lists are due, inquire about other players you might think are on the bubble to see if the player you seek is being held closely for protection or not.

Etiquette rule I5: The initiator should be the first to name names. Yes, anyone who negotiates professionally knows it is generally better to get the other party to bid a price first. Go ahead and try, but not to the point of being annoying, if you are the initiator.

Etiquette rule I6: Be clear whether it is a firm offer or not. One owner used to piss me off with his coy offers that I thought were genuine, but were really just feelers. As a responder, try to make sure you understand whether or not the offer is firm.

Open bids 

Just stating to the league that you are looking for a catcher, for example, and are offering relievers or prospects or whatever is usually ineffective. Go back to the Initiator rules and don’t be so lazy. However, sometimes when a big star is being sold, you might have found that other managers will think you colluded or were being stupid as they may feel they would have offered you much more. So, sometimes (especially if you are an inexperienced cellar dweller) it is OK to broadcast that you are offering that big name a day before you finalize the deal you have in mind.

Also, in the off season, I sometimes offer players for the highest draft pick or alternative deal such as a really good prospect, etc. Declare that you will trade your player to the highest bidder. Give a response deadline or, better yet, contact each owner individually. Insist that you will accept only the highest bids from each manager. You will not come back for a higher pick or throw-in. You will weigh the bids as is and take the best one. Say this way it saves them from getting into a bidding war. Warning, though: this can backfire. Some managers do not like to work this way and refuse to participate. It depends on your league mates.

Advice for Sharks

If you are a veteran Scoresheet manager with ample trophies to show for it, don`t take advantage of weaker managers. Those of us who play this game are naturally competitive, so this rule may be a challenge to follow. Take this as a reminder. Anyone with a conscience will feel better taking the high road. This is a game – which is about having fun – not just winning.

Retracting Offers

If you make an offer, stick to it, unless the circumstances significantly change – in which case withdrawal your offer ASAP. At the risk of sounding too lawyerly, put an expiry date on your offer. This is a risk, though. Some managers resent it, so it might be best to ask. “Look, I’ve made offers which were held in limbo for weeks. I’m sure you wouldn’t do that, but just as a good habit, do mind if we put an expiration date on this offer of Sunday at 9pm?”

In 2006 or 2007, some of us in the Scoresheet community had a round table discussion about trading ethics/etiquette that mostly concerned when a trade is irrevocable. For example, the pros and cons of the expiry date idea was touched upon in this discussion. Of course, ultimately a deal isn’t a deal until both parties have confirmed it with Scoresheet. This discussion came before we all could confirm the trades by the web. However, all of the ethical and etiquette issues still apply. Besides, it is a fun read: 

Trading Etiquette Workshop

John Carter