How to Make Good Trades in Fantasy Baseball

When it comes to making deals in fantasy baseball, there are a few vital tips to follow to win out in your leagues.

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 7: Marcell Ozuna #20 of the Atlanta Braves hits into an RBI fielder's choice during the first inning during the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox at Truist Park on May 7, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/Getty Images)

When it comes to making deals in fantasy baseball, there are a few vital tips to follow.

The best part about fantasy sports is trading. If you disagree or play in a no-trades league, this article isn’t for you and more importantly, I feel bad for you!

Trading gives you the power to control those who fit on your roster while shipping those who are better off elsewhere. If the player you receive performs well, there is no better feeling. And if the player you gave away performs well, there are few worse feelings. After all, you’ve never played fantasy if you haven’t been on the wrong end of a trade!

At this point in the season, we are starting to get a feel for what’s real and what’s fake. If you feel that your team could be improved in one area because you own a surplus in another, the time to strike is now.

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I’ll provide some general trade strategies and lessons learned throughout the years as well as a few examples of deals I’ve seen so far this season. Hopefully some of these transactions give you the confidence to start up a conversation with some of your league mates. 

Happy trading season!

The Classic 2 for 1

If you were patient enough to wait on making moves until now, congratulations. Your team is most likely having a solid season. So far this season I’ve pulled the trigger on two deals.

I received Marcell Ozuna for Tanner Bibee after two weeks into the season, something I am obviously very happy about. Next I turned a hot Michael Busch into an injured Royce Lewis which may or may not work out, we’ll take a rain check and check later on. All in all I think my trades have been solid. But solid does not win championships, greatness does.

Everybody loves a great deal. Sometimes in life, certain deals sound too good to be true. This is the basic idea of the 2-for-1. Why would someone ever want to give away two players for one?

You see, there are multiple reasons I typically side with receiving one player versus two when it comes to trading.

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First, I believe the production of that particular player will outweigh anything the other two are capable of doing on my squad. If I have two outfielders rotting away on my bench with an already strong starting outfield, there’s no reason to keep wasting production where it doesn’t count. Instead, cash in on their value and maybe add a solid pitcher or infielder from another team who is looking for outfield assistance.

Secondly, roster spots are vital. If you can create a spot on your team by completing a 2-for-1 or 3-for-2 move, it opens up a wide range of possibilities on the waiver wire. Once the trade goes through, the world is yours and you may add the best player available.

You could also use that spot to activate one of your players off the IL when he is ready to go. Or maybe go get that top prospect who’s been cooking in AAA but has yet to get the call. Like I said, the extra roster spot makes for infinite possibilities while keeping things flexible. 

Thirdly, psychology is involved. There’s something people like about receiving more than they are giving away. Fantasy managers might think they’re getting the better end of the deal just based on numbers alone.

It Never Hurts to Ask

The old adage ‘You might as well try’ is true in many parts of life but also one of the most valuable lessons when it comes to fantasy baseball.

After a decade of playing this game, it never fails to amaze me how people own such different opinions on various players. You might think there is no chance of landing a particular player just because of his name alone. 

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However, there have been countless times in which I’ve asked league mates about someone in particular which starts the conversation. And to my surprise, we often own differing thoughts. For example, many people have differing opinions on veterans versus rookies.

There’s a real stigma surrounding older players in fantasy, it seems as if everybody wants the new shiny toy while those consistent veterans are often forgotten about. 

I remember a trade last year in which I was looking for a slugging DH in exchange for one of my outfielders. I owned Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as one of my reserves while another squad had JD Martinez.

The season was already in June so JD had been crushing for the Dodgers. Did I think I could land him? Not really. Was I still gonna ask? Of course. And after some discussion we came to an agreement to exchange both players. He didn’t think JD could keep it up solely because he was an older player who didn’t provide any steals.

When I see JD Martinez, I see one of the most reliable bats in the league. 

This can especially be true in dynasty leagues, where you have to buy younger and sell older if your team is out of contention. I think it’s funny that in real life baseball just like fantasy, teams often count out older players. Nelson Cruz would have a lot of disagreements with that one!

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When trading, I love taking the age discount on veterans because they have already proven their worth consistently. Prospects and younger players on the other hand have not had the chance to do this, leading to some lopsided deals where young guys just don’t work out. 

Study the Market & Underlying Data

In its simplest form, trading is sniffing out what your associate needs. A lot like supply and demand, study what the market is in short supply of and attack that weakness. I often preach how important it is to not only know your own team needs, but the needs of other teams as well. 

Don’t ever be too bothersome or pushy about a deal because it just turns people off. They start to wonder why you want a certain player so badly. After all, the best trade partners are those who you’ve built a quality relationship with in the past. Just talking about the game with another manager in your league can lead to good relations.

This can also help create leverage between teams, a fun little trading detail. If one person hears there is interest in a specified player, his price will only rise.

At last year’s trade deadline, one owner made it known that he would be selling Adolis Garcia for younger prospects, this sent everyone into a frenzy. You should always keep your composure when making deals, but a prize like that will often drive up competition to land such talent. 

As fantasy general managers we are expected to be quick with our waiver wire decisions because if you’re too slow, quality players vanish. I would offer more cautious advice when trying to figure out if a certain player is the real deal. And as a general principle, always check Statcast and Baseball Reference. If there are any red flags, this is where you will find them. It’s important to take your time when evaluating because once submitted, these decisions are final. 

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If the expected stats aren’t predicted to continue, it’s probably time to sell a player at his highest value. However if the back of his baseball card illustrates consistent production from years of experience, it’s time to initiate a conversation and try to come to an agreement.

Buying low and selling high are great, sure, but selling youth while buying experience has worked out even better for myself in the past.

A lot of these dependable performers often come with what I call the ‘Boring Tax’. Even though their style of play is considered to be pretty vanilla, owners are more willing to give them away because they don’t do anything too flashy.

Some pitchers I got last year by taking advantage of this perception were Aaron Civale, Bryan Woo, and Bailey Ober. None of these guys scream excitement, rather your everyday 9-5 grinders. More importantly they could even be league winners come playoff time.

Overall, trading is a necessary practice if you want to take your team to the top.

Yes, trading is a risk. There are indeed productive bats and arms available on the waiver wire but the better players typically come from other teams in your league who were taken back on draft day. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake because if you don’t act at all, your team could be stuck in mediocrity. A place nobody wants to be!

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