Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Do trade pitches work?

This week, it’s THT Fantasy’s turn to host the Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. The question we asked (thanks to commenter Bookie for giving us the idea last time around):

Have you ever “pitched” or “marketed” a player in a trade and changed a potential trading partner’s opinion about the player? Or, conversely, have you ever had you own opinion about a player changed by an opponent’s pitch? Or could pushing a player actually have a negative effect and make a deal less attainable?

As fantasy baseball players, I’m sure we’ve all had trade negotiations before, but honestly, have we ever truly changed our potential trading partner’s mind about a player?

Tommy Landry — RotoExperts

Sure, I’ve pitched players on multiple occasions. That works great with novices, but experienced players (like in all my leagues) see right through it. Personally, I have strong opinions and no one will change that in most cases, unless I simply haven’t been paying attention to a particular guy. In fact, when I go to look at the numbers to evaluate if I’m being oversold on someone, that’s a critical point in our ability to close a deal. If it appears they’re playing games, game over.

Patrick Cain — Albany Times Union

I never try to offer my bait first as I feel it instantly makes the guy less desirable. Instead I’ll propose something in writing with a guy just slightly as productive. Then try to get the opposing manager to counter with who he sees as a slight upgrade aka the guy I actually want to unload. This is best when working with guys that aren’t stars. This year in my auction I took both Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Eventually I did need to move Cabrera so I was willing to be forthright with him.
I can’t say an opposing player has changed my mind. I have changed others’ opinion, but doing that is a case-by-case example.

Jon WilliamsAdvanced Fantasy Baseball

I never try to change another owner’s mind about a player. My pitches simply state the facts with an emphasis on how the suggested transaction would benefit both of us. I find that the savier owners will get defensive when you question their judgment on a player or suggest that they may not understand how to rate a player properly. Instead I simply sell the facts. For example, last off-season I traded Carlos Gomez (at $21 in a 12tm, 5×5 AL-only League) to another owner for a cheap Joba Chamberlain (he was also a serious Red Sox fan which helped) by selling him on a few very true facts – that despite his poor batting the skills the Minnesota Twins were still heavily invested in the future of Gomez, and that he would continue to steal bases at every opportunity and finally that 40 stolen bases, even with a .240 batting average would be useful on the right fantasy team.

Adam Ronis — Newsday

I was able to pitch a trade recently. There was a lot of discussion going on back and forth for quite some time with many different combinations. I was acquiring Prince Fielder as part of the multi-player deal and was sending back Joey Votto to take Fielder’s roster spot. I was telling the owner how I wouldn’t be surprised Votto might put up better numbers in the second half than Fielder. He seemed to get sold on that because he never proposed Votto in one of the deals; I did. I also had to push Aaron Harang hard since at the time he had just five wins and had to convince the owner that wins are determined by a myriad of factors often beyond a their control. He was pushing for Wandy Rodriguez or Matt Cain, but I wasn’t going to do it.

Mike Podhorzer — FantasyPros911

Considering I have made a whopping one trade all season in three leagues, if I ever did successfully change a potential trading partner’s opinion about a player, it has departed my memory at this point! Maybe I have been successful at one time in the past, but I really cannot recall. I personally can’t stand the whole marketing of a player though. I know the stats, I know the current situation and league standings, I have my own opinion. I couldn’t care less what you want to throw out at me and it has never changed my mind in the past, nor do I expect it to change my mind in the future.

In fact, it actually annoys me when owners tell me about who they are offering like I am some newbie who just learned about this game of baseball this year. Because of this, I rarely try marketing my players in trade offers or making comments when I offer a trade though the website. If I did try to pitch my players, I am inferring that my trading partner does not know the players, does not have an opinion himself, does not know where his team needs help or have a clue where he sits in the category standings. That is just insulting, in my opinion. To be honest, if I was ever able to change someone’s opinion on a trade, that might be a sign that I need to replace this owner for my league next year!

Mike Silver — The Hardball Times Fantasy

My response would be that pitches are pretty difficult because of the element of suspicion. I don’t know for sure if I’ve ever influenced anyone. I think pitches can help, because they’ve affected me before, but they never get me to completely revamp my opinion of a player. I’ve found that you can cast doubt or slightly improve an opinion, but nothing too substantial.

For the readers, your trade partner will always be suspicious of you, so any way to upgrade your credibility is helpful. Be careful of saying too much and make sure that it is framed in a way that the trade seems mutually beneficial. I don’t think I’ve ever thought less of a player because of a pitch. In my experience, the only time it’s been hurtful is when it looks like you’re trying to dump someone (I made this mistake with Andrew McCutchen this year) either by proposing them multiple times or pushing too hard.

There are a couple scenarios that I think can help readers:

One is for a person who is particularly guarded against trading with you (think of your personal rival in your best league, or Billy Beane with the Red Sox and Kevin Youkilis; I know you’ve all read Moneyball). I have a fantasy rivalry with my friend Phil in one of my most important leagues. Whenever he suggests a player to me, it upgrades my opinion of the player, but because I know that he wants said player, I become so guarded that it substantially raises my asking price.What would probably work in that situation would be to use a decoy.

First, suggest a lower priority player, then, if you’ve anticipated the response correctly, you’ll have an easier time with the player you really want (because the other person will think that they’re not getting worked over or are not giving up too much). These scenarios will always be difficult to deal with, but it will help somewhat.

Another scenario is one that helped me get Lester this year. I asked an owner “what will it take to get Jon Lester?” (while he was slumping, of course), and he listed off a few players. When you know who a different owner likes, it is easier to boost their opinion of that player. This won’t lower their asking price, but it should help a lot in preventing them from having doubts about whether the offer is fair. This should increase the likelihood that the offer sticks and that they don’t raise their asking price.

Other than that, I’ve had relatively limited success with pitches, unless you’re trading with someone who is really new. In my experience, you can’t try to hit home runs, you have to let the trade come to you.

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Eriq Gardner – THT Fantasy

EDIT: After reading this post, our own Eriq Gardner had some interesting follow-up ideas that I thought deserved to be shared with everyone:

Interesting that changing a non-novice opponent’s mind is perceived as a foolish endeavor by experienced hands. I wonder if that means by extension that a willingness to keep an open mind is perceived as a liability.

Personally, my goal in making a trade offer and pitching a rationale never is to change someone’s mind. If that happens, great. But if someone comes back to me and says something like, “No, I can’t do that deal. I believe an ace pitcher is more valuable than any hitter,” I’m happy to work inside that framework and explore a very different deal that sends a very good pitcher for a more valuable hitter. My goal is to execute a trade that improves my team and I’m more than willing to accept someone else’s logic and appear to change my own stance in the interest of that goal.

Interestingly, there have been times when a team witnesses my change of stance and begins to question their own logic, going back to the first offer. I guess one should only practice what they preach.

Concluding thoughts

As I sort of expected, the participants agreed that changing any non-novice opponent’s mind about a player is hard to do, at least to any significant extent. What do you guys think? Have you ever been successful in doing this?

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Derek Carty
Derek Carty

After reading this post, our own Eriq Gardner had some interesting follow-up ideas that I thought deserved to be shared with everyone.  I added them to the end of the post.  Thanks, Eriq!

Rob McQuown
Rob McQuown
re: “Or could pushing a player actually have a negative effect and make a deal less attainable?” … Reading through the internal THT discussions just now, and then reading these good insights, I don’t know that any discussion of “pitches” should fail to include “negative pitches”. While I know it’s not “professional” of me, and may actually hurt me in the long run, I immediately reduce my willingness to trade when someone feels the need to describe the weaknesses in my players (that he’s attempting to acquire) to me during the trade discussions.  I have noticed that often the people… Read more »
Thanks for the opportunity to vent:) What I find really frustrating, is negotiating with owners who just look at the names and/or when people were drafted, rather than the league standings or the actual current season stats of the players involved. I had Aardsma in my AL-only (3rd best closer in Yahoo rankings to this point) but offering him in trades you’d think I was peddling Rich Garces or something. Went through similar things with Aaron Hill….The first-place team in my AL-only lost his only closer (Sherrill) to the NL at the deadline. I figured any of the people within… Read more »
I think a subtle pitch that points out the merits of the trade can swing a trade partner from neutral to in favor of the trade.  If an owner dislikes a player, I don’t think any pitch is going to make him like the player. It drives me crazy when trade partners put down my players as Rob described.  One owner told me my players aren’t very exciting (even though my team is in 2nd place battling for first) right after he traded for Emilio Bonifacio!  I almost walked right then, but after getting in a few shots of my… Read more »
Interesting read, guys, thanks. I’ve long been interested in the statistical analysis of baseball but never played fantasy until this year when a friend pulled me in.  I’ve been stunned at the unwillingness of owners in the league to trade.  There have been 4 trades this year and I instigated two of them.  I thought trading was the biggest reason why people played fantasy! I suspect many of the guys are afraid of being taken, and would rather finish poorly and blame the fates for a down year than take gambles that might pay off. Or maybe I’m just in… Read more »
Rob McQuown
Rob McQuown
dan – My experience with fantasy (and sim) leagues is that they vary a lot with regard to owner activity, and also, the same owners vary a lot depending on team situation.  As a general rule, I think trading goes up exponentially with league size, for several reasons – the most obvious being that there are more people with whom to trade, but also things like replacement level being lower makes trading more appealing… in one of my ESPN league, I was trying to decide whether to risk picking up Liriano for his start (I chose wrong, sadly, but at… Read more »