Tip Drill: Let's talk fantasy baseball trade strategy

It’s never too early to trade, gamers. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Fantasy experts often recommend that no one should contemplate trades before some far-off date, perhaps in May or June. Stick with your guys, they say.

That advice, of course, is absolute trash.

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First of all, trading is fun. It’s social. Fantasy baseball is a game, so it’s meant to be played. You cannot win a league without being active and engaged. This means, unless you drafted a perfect team (which you didn’t), you should always be open trade discussions.

Anyone who exited a fantasy draft with clear team weaknesses would be well served to address them as soon as possible, particularly if early-season stats support their initial concerns. Why wait to correct a known problem until you only have two or three months remaining in your season? Act now, with 150-plus games still ahead of you. Also, we happen to be at a point in the fantasy season in which your league’s dead money is still paying attention, willing to overreact to small samples. You need to take advantage of those managers before they buy their first football mag.

Again: Trading is fun, people. Get to it.

For those about to deal, we have five strategic recommendations to make your negotiations more pleasant and profitable…

Don’t be a trade spammer

A special circle of fantasy hell awaits these owners. Few things can wreck a league quite like the person who won’t stop sending garbage offers, everywhere. Everyday. To everyone. These managers are forever offering four Marlins for, say, Mike Trout. Typically, the trade proposals from these monsters are too hilariously awful to reward with a counter. Don’t trade-spam, people. It’s beyond bad form. Limit yourself to reasonable offers that might conceivably help both sides. Which brings us to this…

Take a minute to consider another owner’s needs

Honestly, it doesn’t even take a minute. Maybe 30 seconds. Just look at the standings, scroll once through another person’s roster. It isn’t all that difficult to quickly identify areas of need for a potential trade partner. Do it. When you initiate a trade, the responsibility is squarely on you to propose a plausible, balanced deal that makes sense on both sides. It isn’t necessary for your first offer to be your richest, obviously. But you’ll have a much better chance to eventually complete a deal if it’s clear you’ve considered the other owner’s roster. This small demonstration of seriousness can’t hurt.

One-for-one deals are the easiest to complete

A few days ago, I mentioned to an owner in one of my leagues that I was interested in dealing a bat for an arm — preferably a non-closing relief pitcher with good ratios. (It’s an N.L.-only league with an IP cap, and I’m looking for quality innings. But you don’t need to hear my fantasy problems.) Ostensibly, this owner and myself are well matched as trade partners. It’s not difficult to construct a sensible one-for-one swap that serves the interests of both teams. The opening offer from the other party, however, was a seven-player deal in which I would have given up Paul Goldschmidt.

I’ll remind you that the original goal of the trade discussion was to swing a low-level exchange in which I received a non-closing reliever.

Shoot your shot, I guess.

In my experience, the simple one-for-one, need-for-need deals are generally easiest to execute. Not every trade has to involve superstars. Not every deal has to address all conceivable problems with your roster. I don’t have any sort of philosophical objection to sprawling multi-player deals that reshape multiple rosters, mind you. But these trades are usually the most challenging to complete, and often involve greater risk of veto. So beware of trade creep. Try to keep your offers focused on the immediate needs of both sides, without tossing all possible names into the mix.

Don’t trade for something you can find on the wire

This should be fairly obvious, but just in case: If you can drop the least useful player from your roster to address a position or category need, do it. Most of the Yahoo fantasy community plays in mixed leagues with 10 or 12 teams, a format in which many stats will be available via the free agent pool. Saves, for example, can always be acquired in-season. New power sources will emerge (although we can’t promise an Aaron Judge every year).

So even though we fully endorse and encourage early-season trades, we should also acknowledge the fact that an add/drop is always Plan A.

Worry about winning the league, not the trade

This is, by far, the single most important piece of trade-related advice we can pass along. Too often, fantasy managers get distracted by the idea of winning a deal, losing sight of the much more significant goal of collecting a league trophy. It’s perfectly fine to take a slight loss in terms of overall value if you can improve your team’s outlook. Trade from areas of surplus to address your roster shortcomings — that’s how it’s done. Draft day is behind us, so you can’t be tied to prices you might have paid in March.

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