“Fair” does not mean “equal.”
Whether you have a day job, follow politics or simply have children, something that you must realize is that being fair does not necessarily mean being equal. Better put, in The Art of the Deal, nowhere does it mandate that a trade needs to be equal for it to be proposed or accepted. In fact, I offer to you that if you are looking for equality before accepting or proposing possible trades, you are doing yourself a disservice. Let me be much more explicit by giving you these two rules that you must internally believe:
1) If you are an offering coach, it is NOT your responsibility to be concerned with equality of a deal
2) If you are a receiving coach, it is NOT your responsibility to give back equal value in any deal
Notice that I used the term “internally believe”? I say this because to verbally express this prior to any communication(s) will only serve to shut down discussion or otherwise damage the potential trade relationship going forward. Understanding these two rules are tenets of successful (not in getting deals done, but deals benefitting your team) trading is all that is required … verbalizing them is something that is needed .
Let’s talk a little bit about value. Every coach will have their own valuation system. Some will place more value on position, some may place more value on WRs in a PPR system, many prefer age over production while others may only look at fantasy points per game (fppg). Whatever the metric, value is a subjective argument as it relates to equality. If you only view value from a pure fppg perspective, that is one way to establish equality but it is also unrealistic as it is far too one dimensional.
Another very important fact about value is that the term immediately takes on another dimension when a player is applied to a different roster. A 13 fppg WR on a roster full of good receivers will not nearly hold the same value as that same player on WR-needy team. Understanding the specifics of the team in trade with you is vital. That same 13 ppg WR could be highly valued, to a degree much greater than his positional ranking, to that same needy team … and therefore will command more value in return. Making these teams your target is an exceptional way to trade off your depth for younger players, draft picks or a combination of both.
When looking at, and accepting, the two tenets above, you are ready to engage another coach. Once you have identified what you are looking for and what you are willing to move to get it, it’s time to choose, in order, your targets. Your first step is to assess the strength and position of your target’s team and coach. Where is he weak? Is he competitive within his division? Is he rebuilding or trying to get over the top? This assessment should ultimately yield your approach to him. There are a thousand ways to open a dialog for a trade … but your attitude can make all the difference.
If you’ve done a thorough assessment of his team, and yours, you understand what dry powder you have available to get a deal done. By staying positive, complimentary and through using reinforcing statements such as “let’s help each other” or “I’d like to see you win your division” may sound cliche’ but are statements the opposing coach can buy into and will keep the lines of communication open.
Personally, I don’t much care for deals where I am giving up the same fppg as I am receiving. Unless my team is an opposite match of my trade partner in areas of need, there just isn’t enough catalyst for a trade in most situations. I like to find true opportunities in teams that are loaded in a particular area of need for my team. Note that this isn’t always a starting roster need, it could just as easily be for purposes of pairing with other players/positions to later trade. Regardless, coaches that have substantial depth, young performing talent or have other areas of need are more likely to trade for less in return due to the fact that the player may never see their starting lineup. Additionally, if the team isn’t competitive but has an aging stud, there exists enormous potential to land this play due to the fact that he will “not be in the league by the time you’re competitive. This trade helps you.” Do not be afraid to make statements like that. Just like it isn’t your responsibility to give up equal value, as a subjective statement, you don’t have to be correct when you say it … you just have to be convincing. but tread lightly.
I firmly believe that you do not want to be overly aggressive with your value assessments or statements. Yes, you want to be convincing and, yes, you want to maintain a positive approach in your dealings, but avoid belittling a coach, his team or otherwise coming off as superior. To do so is a no-win situation. You must keep your assessments and statements positive and reassert the value that the trade has for HIS team.
If you are being approached for trade, much of the same preliminary due diligence must be performed. With any luck, you already know everything important about the offering coach’s team. In most situations, this is the ideal scenario in that when another team comes calling, you are in a position of strength. This is why it is extremely important that when you are the offering coach, that you enter into negotiations in a very low-key and neutral way … in order to retain the strength; you’re not an offering coach, you’re a strategist working for the benefit of both teams.
Near the top of your to-do list when approached, is to immediately assess the value of the trade for the offering coach in order to determine his desire for the deal. Your goal, just like at any other time, is to give up as little as possible while returning greater value (to you). From this point, a trade may take only moments or days. And unlike when you are the offering coach, this is the only situation where you can carefully insert a statement such as “if you want him you’re going to need to make it worthwhile for me”. This is just your way of saying “you’ve come to me for this trade and I expect greater value in return” or “I’m not interested in an equal trade solely to benefit you”. Realize that in most situations, these previous two statements can be often implied so limited use is suggested, lest you come off as caustic and unapproachable, or worse, a coach that constantly overvalues his players.
To summarize, your goal in either situation, buyer or seller, is to create an environment and/or setting of team-work and success in the trade discussion. The work involved up to this point can be significant in both time and results. Understand the differences between “fair” and “equal” and use them to your advantage to complete a transaction. We all like to be the benefactor of a great trade, but your approach before and your actions following the trade will largely determine whether your level of success and possible future transactions.
In our next installment, we’ll look at the dark underbelly of successful trading, the snake-oil that is sometimes required and the psychological factors that are always in play.