Tricks of the T.R.A.D.E.
By Jeff Pasquino
July 14th, 2010

"Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That's how I get my kicks." - Donald Trump

Finally, after weeks of your planning and a grueling four hours of drafting, you have your fantasy football franchise all set for the season. Barring injuries, coaching decisions, players not meeting expectations, or other players bursting on to the scene, you have nothing to worry about with the stable of talent you acquired in the draft.

Sound likely? That's what I thought.

For the rest of the season, you will be active in looking for any glimmer of talent to improve your team. It is also rather likely that one or more of your players are going to lose time to an injury. So what can you do to better your team, week after week?

Most leagues have waiver wires and free agency, which are either a free-for-all or a bidding process with transactions occurring at set times each week between games. Those decisions can be made in a vacuum - meaning that you can decide what to do to hopefully better your franchise by yourself and without anyone else's involvement. There is also another way that most leagues allow an owner to improve their team, but it is the most complicated method of all. This technique requires time and patience, and most of all interpersonal relations, which is a fancy way of saying "people skills". As you may have guessed already, I'm talking about trading players.

The Art of the Deal

What makes trading so difficult? First of all, it is the only method of improving your team that requires another team to be involved. It takes (at least) two owners to come to an agreement for a trade to happen, and that reason alone is responsible for many trades never coming to fruition. While you may think that you are offering a fair and reasonable trade, the other owner may think that you are way off in your valuation of talent, or simply may not want to help you improve your team.

There are ways that a good owner can improve his (or her) chances of making a deal. While there are more than just five things to keep in mind when working on a trade, remembering these will help you complete a deal that might lead you to a championship. I first introduced using the word "TRADE" as a handy pneumonic to remember five concepts both here and here, and new for this season are five more:

  • "T" is for Tailoring - By tailoring I mean that when you put a player on the market, consider making specific offers to potential trade partners. If you just say "Anquan Boldin is available" to the rest of your league, who knows exactly what you are looking for in return? That's just it - you don't. Try making the announcement and then follow up with an offer or two to a few choice teams in your league that might need the guy you are marketing. This gives your best trading partners an idea as to what it might take to make the deal. It will also help your credibility as a deal-maker if you do make the trade shortly after making the announcement, as everyone will know that you mean business (and will act fast in the future).
  • "R" is for Repeat Business - This is more about managing your trade partners, which can actually be more beneficial to you in the long run than any particular deal you make. Let's say you traded away Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes this past winter and you feel a little bad that you killed that guy's team with that anchor of a player. Make another trade with him (or her) that is a little more in their favor than usual and just say "I felt bad about how the Holmes deal turned out. Let me make up for it here and we can talk more about future deals down the road." That type of move can go a long way to keeping your best trade partners happy and willing to deal when you need a quick trade the most.
  • "A" is for Attitude - We all try and make one-sided deals. That happens. But after a while, other owners notice the pattern - or even worse, they get wind of your trading style. Nothing can crush your ability to trade more than having a reputation of being a terrible deal-maker Work with your other fantasy team owners and try and make more "Win / Win" deals. Sometimes it even makes sense to overpay for players you want at the expense of depth. Give up your extra WR or RB to upgrade your starters and then look for that next waiver wire gem. Letting other owners know that you are willing to pay fair or above market value sometimes will make them come to you first when they want to move another guy.
  • "D" is for Dialogue - The internet is a great place, but it is often a cold and impersonal setting. Is your league based more online than in person? That can really hurt trading and making offers. If you don't know how to communicate with several of your other fantasy owners, you are effectively shutting off one or more potential trade partners. Sending an e-mail or a blind trade offer that is too one-sided may seem like a way of getting talks started to you, but if he opens it and laughs at the ridiculous deal a counteroffer may not be heading back your way. Find out how each of your leaguemates like to talk about possible deals and use those methods to make some moves.
  • "E" is for Education - Or to say it another way, effective education. When you make a trade offer to another team, try to avoid giving what appears to be a lesser player for a better one without some kind of explanation. If you intend to give Thomas Jones for LeSean McCoy, you might want to remind them that Rice will be the "next man up" in Kansas City if Jamaal Charles goes down with an injury (whom they have on their roster). It is quite possible that they aren't as up on the latest injury and depth chart news, so give them a nice "heads up" included in the offer. Also, if you are looking to give a particular player or players to another squad because you think you see a need on their team, let them know that this is why you're structuring the deal in that way. Beware in how you educate - this is where the "effective education" comes into play - as some owners will take offense if you try and teach them something they already know or if you put too much spin on the education. Don't make it sound like you're insulting their intelligence when you mention the news or the stats you want to point out to them. Remember, friendly owners always make more deals.
  • The "T.R.A.D.E." ideas listed above are just some of the concepts that are needed to negotiate a successful fantasy football deal. Hopefully you can refer back to these as you learn to incorporate them into your interactions with other league owners and get more trades to come (and go) your way. Also be sure to check out Trader Joe's in our discussions forum that will also be featured in the weekly columns once again this season.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.