The Art Of The Deal (2021 Fantasy Football)

Not for the lack of cicadas in my vicinity, but the glorious summer season is upon us. There is no reason to fret about the lack of fantasy football in our lives, summer is a time to get outside and enjoy that 90+ degree heat with humidity thick like gravy. This fine summer evening, while I lay in my hammock, the sweat pouring down my beer and my back as well, I do what any sane fantasy football fan might do in this situation. That’s right, I open my phone to see if I can improve any of my dynasty teams.

Checking in on my roster in one of my deeper leagues, I see that my top options on the waiver wire happen to be Damiere Byrd and Devin Funchess. Needless to say, I’m not planning a waiver addition in that league any time soon. However, it just so happens that my team is also…well, let’s not mince words here…my teams sucks out loud. That puts me into a bit of a pickle, so to speak.

This happens to be a deeper league than most, but it still illustrates the point that in a properly functioning dynasty league, startable talent isn’t generally available on the waiver wire. In fact, in a properly functioning dynasty, the scarcity of talent should drive up trade volume. After all, if your only chances to improve are through trades and the draft, trading suddenly becomes the single easiest way to turn your down-trodden squad around quickly.

This is also the season that dynasty trade polls represent a clear plurality of the “content” that is produced for our amusement in the Twittersphere. But are all these trade discussions really relevant? Does it matter if one side won or lost a trade? Who gets to decide the winners and losers?

So many people get bogged down in trying to "win" their trades that they prevent themselves from moving players and improving their team in the first place.

Well, I for one am not going to sit by and let that happen. I’m going to lay here, perturbed by the heatwave and the opening week of Musky season thinking about how this hammock is great and all, but it not being 96-degrees at eight in the pm would also be pretty swell.


Identify Your Targets

The very first step of constructing a trade is to identify your targets.

Assess your team, the quality of your starters, and the players you have for depth. In more shallow leagues, or leagues with 10-mangers or less, or less than about 100-120 starting positions (10 starting positions x 10 manager’s teams), you will have to have comparably better starting players at each position, as compared to a league that starts more than that 120-player threshold each week. In those deeper leagues, depth becomes increasingly important in order to withstand the attrition of injury and missed games, not to mention byes all the way to week 17!

When you analyze your team, perhaps you can see that despite good depth at WR and RB, starting Jonnu Smith at TE isn’t going to help you win any weeks this upcoming season. Perhaps it’s in your best interest to try and trade away one of those RBs and a young promising WR, packaging them with Smith and perhaps a draft pick, consolidating all that value into a single upper-echelon TE or WR?

In assessing your target to trade away, you are in essence setting the budget for what you can expect to bring home from your shopping trip. This can help you assess your league and try to identify potential trade partners and trade targets for you to obtain.


Cost-Benefit Analysis

Player value is extremely dynamic, malleable one might even say, especially in context. You can massage value out of a deal, even in situations where others might perceive no conspicuous value.

The first step in assessing value is to assign the cost, i.e., what are you giving up? Of course, there’s the player(s) in the deal, but the implication of course is where the deal leaves you upon completion? One player (or more) over the roster limits perhaps?

In the run-up to the draft, all teams should be trying to trim unproductive players from valuable roster spots prior to or certainly immediately after the rookie draft, where managers will likely have a host of new rookies to accommodate on their rosters and a myriad of intriguing waiver additions. Taking on an extra full roster spot via trade has its own “cost” in this instance. Cutting a player to accommodate that incoming player defines this cost and needs to be factored into your valuation of the deal.

There are times when simply moving a player for picks or consolidating two players into one thus freeing up a roster spot is advantageous in and of itself, without even taking player value into account. That’s real value.

This is why two dimes and a nickel are rarely worth a quarter, at least in fantasy. In real life that’s probably a fair deal.


Trade Calculators

Trade calculators like DynastyTradeCalculator can give you a decent idea of the value of players being exchanged and can be useful when constructing or in the evaluation of trades. But trade calculators can’t factor in the context as discussed above.

I would caution anybody using these calculators that they do have pitfalls. They can be based on the perceived value of a player, which is subject to great volatility on the free market. They can also be based on expert consensus ranks or even draft acquisition cost, which will often ignore the value of outliers and higher variance players with real breakout potential. Even calculators with implied factoring of stat projections, we're still ultimately dealing with subjective opinion.

Used properly, as a tool and an insight rather than as the final judge or jury, trade calculators can be useful when trying to construct trades to ascertain that you’ve met certain criteria for reimbursement when trying to craft a “package” trade if you don’t happen to have the exact change.


Constructing A Smashable Trade

There is a finesse to creating a trade that the other manager will be happy to accept, and quite frankly, some fantasy managers are better at this than others.

Done properly a well-crafted trade will ensure the cost/benefit analysis makes sense for both your team and for their team as well. Remain conscious of how the trade you’re offering will impact them, not just the value they’re receiving in return. Context matters in terms of the likelihood of getting your deal done.

Will it force them to drop a player and do they have a player with a slim value that they could drop to accommodate? Or, and this is especially true in more shallow leagues, are you asking them to drop one of their stashes if they wish to accept your trade?

If you’re looking to acquire their TE, would the trade you’re offering leave them without a start-able player at the position? I’ve got news for you, if your trade hamstrings that team’s ability to compete in the present or future, it doesn’t matter how “fair” your offer may be on paper.

Second, try to put yourself in the other manager’s shoes. What might they think about their team? Are they a contending team one flex spot away from a chip? Or are they a bottom-dwelling team that needs some new juice? Knowing what you’d do if you were them is a great direction to take when trying to craft an appealing trade offer.

Put simply, would you accept your trade offer?

Offering solid win-win-style trades is the best way to establish good rapport and a reliable trade partner for the future - and this is so much more vital to your ultimate success in dynasty football than most people seem to acknowledge.


Don’t @ Me

Another area in which I see so many fantasy managers ruin their chances of a productive trade, DM’ing could be the fastest way to permanently burn your bridges with a potential trading partner.

I understand the inclination for many is simply to reach out to the other manager to test the waters, a strategy that can absolutely function to close the deal. I often reach out in a trade to help me understand what the other manager is thinking. But I caution you, doing this the wrong way can easily torpedo a deal as well.

Everybody sees player values differently. Everybody. Messaging another manager to tell them their valuation is wrong, well, that’s just not going to work out very well in almost all instances. Have you ever had a fantasy manager lecturing you on why their trade offer is better for you than it is for them? Funny how their offers often resemble microwaved seafood leftovers passed off as grilled salmon, isn’t it?

If you do this not only will you risk insulting the manager with whom you’re trying to trade, reducing or even eliminating your chances of making a deal; but at that point you've probably diminished yourself in their mind as well, undercutting your ability to trade with them in the future.

I’m certainly not implying that negotiations aren’t possible. But perhaps, just maybe, a properly crafted deal won’t require your explanation?


Common Pitfalls To Avoid

One of the more common pieces of advice I hear on podcasts these days is to “send out a lot of offers”, the advice I endorse and to which I certainly ascribe; but please do so conscientiously. Don’t flood one manager with a bunch of middling offers; you’ll likely find your offers rejected with increasing efficiency if you do.

If an offer is declined, don’t keep sending them similar offers, increase the offer or change your target(s). In other words, if two dimes and a nickel won’t get you a quarter, a nickel and two dimes probably won’t do it either. Try offering three dimes if that quarter has the potential to accrue additional value in the near future. This is probably less true in real life, I might note.

Another common pitfall is to imply a discount on your players by asking others to “make you an offer” or, dare I say it, to put your players on the trade block. Of course, this is contrasted with simply pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and constructing your own damn trade offer.

The obvious advantage to constructing the trade yourself is that you can target specific players or draft selections. Inviting others to make offers on your players provides them at least some incentive to craft an offer that benefits their team more than your own. It can be difficult to negotiate yourself back to "even" in this situation and can lead to some frustrating negotiations.

In an ideal world, if you’re motivated to make a trade, you’re making the offers, not asking for them.

The most common pitfall? Failing to take initiative. How many times have you seen a manager shopping the 1.01 pick in a startup, only to sell it for no more than a 1.12 and a 5.12; whereby you have outraged managers who exclaim in the chat, “I’d have given you more than that!” and “WTF??”

The answer to these managers is always the same, “Then you should have made me an offer.”

Take initiative boys and girls, done properly, the worst that can happen is that you spend ten minutes concentrating on your phone instead of the oppressive heat and the developing sunburn and the mosquitos, oh, the mosquitos. On the bright side, at least there are no cicadas.

Enjoy your summer.

Twitter: @SubstanceD3

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