Why the league-wide trade solicitation is bad strategy

Let me just start by saying how jealous I am of Derek, who is at First Pitch Arizona. Why he didn’t take me along just for a big Hardball Times fantasy presence is unknown, so feel free to chide him for this (just kidding)! I am sure Derek will have some great posts on it, so keep checking back upon his return.

In one league I am in, a keeper dynasty draft league, I am a background adviser with a co-owner. He is my partner in my high stakes league, and since I run that team, he essentially does the day-to-day management of this other team. So I essentially act as a consultant for this team, and get all of the league wide e-mails.

A few days ago I received the following:

Willing to deal the following if anyone is interested…

Alex Gonzalez
Zack Duke
Ruben Gotay
Jeff Kent
Nomar Garciaparra
Armando Benitez
Brett Tomko
Salomon Torres

Any problems here? Well, just a few. The first is that virtually none of these players has any significant value that is worth acquiring in a trade, aside from Kent. Even in an NL-only league I doubt anyone will be rushing to acquire Nomar Garciaparra or Brett Tomko.

But what is worse is that the owner who sends this email is telling the entire league that he doesn’t value these players. He is saying he will deal them to anyone for whatever he can get. Does that sound like good strategy? I hope not.

So, even if he values Kent, he signals to the league that he doesn’t. It is guilt by association. If he includes Kent in a list of flotsam like this, he is lumping them together. So anyone who is interested in Kent knows that there is a possibility that he needn’t give up great value for Kent. At a minimum the owner interested in Kent will at least think that he can be acquired for less than fair value.

Two more problems: the first is that your motives are transparent and lazy. Everyone in the league knows what you are up to. Since everyone knows it you have far less negotiating power than you might think. Generally the league wide e-mail is an attempt to get as many trading partners as you can, a laudable goal. But rarely does this happen. The more likely scenario is that no one responds or very few. Since everyone knows what you are trying to do, no one wants to be the patsy in a scheme to get as many trading partners to drive up the price.

The second is that no one has any obligation to respond. You aren’t telling an owner how you can help him, or how he can better his team. You are asking him to help you out. Why should he respond to this? He won’t unless he is desperate, and if he does you won’t get fair value for any reasonably good players.

Taking a list of your worst players and saying “someone give me anything for one of these” is never good strategy. Laziness and sloth are not characteristics of a winning fantasy owner. Put in the time to make a few phone calls and to look at people’s rosters.

In this particular instance it may not make a difference since the players being offered have very little value. That does not change the fact that there is no reason to go the league-wide e-mail route. Certainly in the case of good players (like Kent) this is never correct. As I write this there has been no interest in any of these players, including Kent, and this is not surprising.

This e-mail was followed by the following:

Dan Johnson (ON BASE!):
I offered Dan Johnson for a 3rd-round pick. I’d accept a supplemental 3rd-round pick now, or a pick (or picks) in subsequent seasons, or something like that. I will consider offers of less if you want to try me.

So far, the highest offer is something like a 5th-round pick. There won’t be anyone this good available in the 3rd round of the draft. On-base percentage is a category in this league, after all!

Josh Barfield (STEALS!):
I offered Barfield for a 2nd, but I’d take less than that… make me an offer, please! He will get drafted in the 2nd round by someone, but I’d take a lesser pick obviously. Someone has to have roster space to take a chance on a guy with this sort of speed (35 SB in 959 career AB).

I cannot paint a pretty picture of his 2007 season, but he was only 24 years old. Casey Blake looked awful at 3b in the playoffs, and Peralta really should be at 3b instead of SS. So, it’s not unreasonable to expect Cabrera to play SS with Barfield getting another try at 2b. And he’s stolen 35 bases in 959 career AB, which is a lot in the slow AL. :>>

Updates on available players:

Josh Barfield (make me an offer!)
Sean Casey (I would give something back, but he’s a good BA/OBP guy)

Kyle Davies
Miguel Batista
Dan Johnson (make me an offer!)

Chad Gaudin
Chris Lubanski

Jensen Lewis (you saw what he did to the Yankees in the playoffs)
Shane Costa (needs a chance, he keeps destroying AAA pitching)

Rich Thomson (9 K in 6.2 IP after similarly crazy AAA numbers, 22 years old)
Odalis Perez
Chris Snelling

Mackay McBride
Mitch Talbot
Craig Wilson
J.R. House
Shawn Riggans
Brendan Donnelly (won’t take up a roster spot in 2008)

This is as lazy as it gets. While there are some reasonable targets here, the owner is going the wrong way about it. Suffice it to say that sending around a list of all available players and draft picks you would accept is not a strategy I endorse. Entreating your fellow owners to “make me an offer!” is hardly the way one should start negotiations. I considered sending an e-mail saying I would give up a low round pick for Barfield or Johnson, but decided against it. I am sure that had I done so this owner would have lambasted me for “insulting” him with a low-ball offer. Yet, isn’t this what he asked of the league?

One of my co-owners in my high stakes league called me yesterday to talk deal. We are not allowed to make deals until after Thanksgiving. But he was laying the groundwork. We discussed what I thought of my team, whether I would be rebuilding after my victory, what players I liked etc. So when he is looking to do a deal he will know how he can try to help me and help himself. That is the smart way to do it, laying the groundwork ahead of time, thinking about how he can help me and understanding what my goals are for the coming season.

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