Dynasty Trade Negotiation Strategies

One of the most exciting aspects of fantasy football is the art of the trade.  Dynasty football is that much more exciting than redraft trading when you consider the possible time element that is added to the equation.  In my many years of dynasty football experience I can safely say I’ve encountered almost every type of trade tactic known to man.  There is much to consider when we talk about trades.  There are tactics to be wary of from other owners, league trade rules to consider and tactics and strategies to consider when you offer a trade and when you evaluate a trade that is offered.  Before we get into all of that, let’s start with some definitions to consider.

Types of trades:

Needs exchange – This is usually a 1 for 1 that involves you trading to someone that is weak in one position that you are strong in and vice versa.

Veteran depth – This is when you trade for someone that will fill a short term need.  In dynasty this is usually for a longer period than in redraft, but it doesn’t have to be.  Mostly I’m thinking of buying productive but aging (or just straight old) veterans to try to win the championship if you’re close.  To much of this could leave you with an old roster that you can’t trade out of, so use with caution in dynasty.

Multiple player/pick exchange – This could be one to many or many to many but the point is you’re combining assets to get something of value from your trade partner.  In dynasty football, I would suggest this is the most common trade.

Bottom of the roster churn – I am SO guilty of this one.  I am always trading players at the bottom of my roster that I’m not sold on for future picks (and sometimes other players I am high on).  In dynasty, this is a great way to pick up low round draft picks if your strategy is to take volume in the lower rounds for a position of weakness on your roster.

Why point these trade types out?  Because it’s important to know what’s being offered and why.  It’s also important to know what to offer and why.  Awareness is your friend when it comes to trades.  That seems obvious, but is no easy task.  Knowing what your trade partner wants, what the market will bear, what the latest information is concerning the assets being traded are all critical.  Just as important is knowing and staying true to what you want and your long-term strategy for your team.

Mutual Value Exchange

No trade has ever occurred that didn’t fill a need for both sides.  I would position that no negotiation is successfully completed without mutual value exchange.  Now, sometimes what seems valuable doesn’t end up having the intended value, hence the fun (and danger) in negotiating trades.  But nobody in their right mind agrees to a trade that they don’t feel will benefit them in some way…period.  So, the goal is always to find the point at which value is created for your trade partner without going overboard to get the value that you believe you are receiving.  Easy, right?  I wish!  What are some of the ways you can accomplish this delicate balance?

Critical Negotiation Skills

Building a reputation helps – Having a reputation as a fair and honest trader helps tremendously.  If nobody will even consider your trades because you’re known to play too many games or inject emotion into the transaction, you’ll never be able to find that balance to achieve mutual value exchange.  Be a good trade partner, find win/wins when you can.  Be objective and realistic, it goes a long way to getting what you want in the long term.

Look for trades that will benefit your partners – I am constantly perusing my leagues rosters for trading opportunities.  I never just put a trade out there.  I always attempt to find the angle with my trading partner.  Look for their needs, places on the roster where they are weak and try to exploit that by filling a need.  Again, no deal gets done without mutual value exchange, if you’re not looking for  opportunities to add value (perceived or otherwise) then it will be harder to make any deals.

listen and pay attention to the signals that others are sending – Many leagues have a trading block and it pays to know what type of players owners are looking to buy/sell.  Even if the player you want is not on the trading block, the block can give you information that will help you get the player you want.  When negotiating back and forth, pay attention to what your trade partner is saying.  Most often they will signal their needs.  Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s blunt.  If it’s subtle, if you’re not aware enough you won’t pick it up and the trade will fall apart.

Don’t lead with your best offer, unless you state it clearly – This seems obvious but it’s really not.  I’ve been guilty of this many times to be honest, assigning value and then making an offer to close to that value, only to have the trade partner send an offer back that’s over the moon and not worth pursuing.  You want to entice, but leave room for negotiation.  From time to time, I will send an offer and say that this is the best offer, if I don’t want to dilly-dally and go back and forth.  Usually I do this with a trade partner that is known to be a little unrealistic or likes to go back and forth a lot.  If a trade is not done in four moves or less, in my book it’s usually not worth it.  This tactic of sending your best offer needs to be utilized only in certain instances, but can be effective with the right trade partner.

Don’t send insulting trades – Sometimes I’ll get an offer that is so far away from realistic value that it’s obvious the trade partner is just phishing for a sucker.  If you’re going to make an offer, you want to be on the bottom edge of realistic value, not at or above and not below.  You can ruin your reputation if you are obviously looking for a discount, it’s not worth the trouble.

Know your trading rules – It’s easy to make a mistake when trades go through immediately, so be aware of what you’re trading if rules are liberal and all trades go through without arbitration.  Also, know how long trade offers stay open.  The last thing you want is a trade offer out there that you forget about and then the player you’re getting gets injured and your trade partner pulls off the trade!

Use trade calculators, but don’t rely on them – I’m not saying that trade calculators aren’t valuable, they are.  I’m saying that even with all of the calculations that go into those calculators, nobody really knows the value of what your trading, so it’s a good guideline but don’t rely on it.  Don’t use a trade calculator to justify your position, that is a mistake.  Use it to understand the relative value that the marketplace will bear and then use good judgement.

Tactics to Avoid

At the end of the day, negotiations come down to psychology, and whether you can keep your wits and objectively make your team better in the face of what could be very intelligent and well thought out (and sometimes very deviant) tactics by your trading partners.  All is fair in love and war they say, and you don’t want to make mistakes by having a trade partner lead you right into a trap.  It happens.  So here are some tactics I’ve come across in my time where, when I see them I walk away.  Period.  If someone is playing a game like this, they are not doing it with me.  I’m sure this is not a full list, so if you have some that you’ve utilized or that have been used on you, feel free to comment below to add to the list!

Trade partner offers for you to make an offer – This is a pet peeve of mine.  Someone will ping me and say, “What are you looking to get for…” and then waits for me to make the first offer so they can assess and either take that or try to move me higher on the value scale.  Never make an offer on your own player.  Always make someone who wants something of value from you to make the first move.  That gives you the discretion to make the next move…or not make the next move.  If you make the first offer on your player, you are ceding control of the negotiation to your trading partner.  In any negotiation, you never want to cede power to the other side.  That is a recipe for failure.  If someone wants something of value from you, make them make an offer on it.

Trade partner makes an offer and pulls it quickly – I see this from time to time, someone will make an offer so that it comes across on email and then pulls it almost immediately.  Despite what you may think, this was not a mistake.  This is an attempt to whet your appetite for a trade that most likely is not there, then when you inquire you find out the real price and the trade partner is hoping your blind desire for the trade you first saw will anchor you in la-la land in order to pull of the trade that he really wants.  If you see this, ignore the behavior.

Trade partner offers multiple assets that add up to one assets quality – This is pretty common and while I wouldn’t say avoid this one, I would say be careful.  Several mediocre dynasty assets do not add up to one elite dynasty asset.  When I get a trade offer to get Matt Jones, Mike Wallace and Jason Witten for giving Julio Jones, my first thought isn’t “YES” it’s “if I do this I’m ceding an elite dynasty asset for two mediocre over the hill assets and an unproven RB”.  Even if you add in a draft pick I would be very wary of this type of deal.  Is it possible that Matt Jones goes off and Wallace and Witten have career years?  Yes.  Is it probable, No.  But you know what you’ll get with Julio Jones barring injury, why would you give that consistent elite production up just for depth with low upside?

Trade partner agrees to a trade and then sends over a slightly better deal for themselves –  Let me tell you the story.  This trading partner engaged me through email and we negotiated back and forth on some mid-level talent and low round picks.  The picks we agreed that I would give were a 3rd and a 5th but when he sent me the trade on the system it was a 3rd and a 4th.  When I asked him about the discrepancy he played very coy.  In other words, he did it on purpose.  I took the trade.  Now you may ask why I did that and you’d be right to question it.  I took it because the player I was getting I really wanted and I knew if I called off the trade I would not get him.  So, you say, I caved.  In a way I did, but the longer term implication for me is that I was never going to trade with that partner again.  He completely lost my trust and in fact he was out of the league the following year.  It was kind of like going to a restaurant and not liking the meal but rather than complaining, you just pay for the meal and never go to that restaurant again.  No matter what you’d do in that situation, be wary of trade partners who use this tactic.

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