Major League Baseball's trade deadline came and went last Sunday. There were some trades, but of course there were also players on the block who didn't move.
In Roto, we're more likely to make blockbuster deals than our real Major League counterparts are (at least in my home leagues. The two expert leagues I'm in are far more conservative about trading, which is a subject beyond the scope of this post). This is primarily because the bad contracts we're saddled with would cost a few dollars to eat, not millions of dollars. Adam Dunn was waived in my A.L. home league a week ago. The team that cut Dunn lost nothing; the White Sox would be on the hook for an incredible sum of money.
But I do believe that even in Roto, the old adage "the best trades ever are the ones you never make" often applies. Below are a few examples where it's generally better to sit tight than it is to make a deal at the deadline:
You're not going to win this year and giving up too much for next year
If this is the case, you probably should have dumped in June. However, sometimes late injuries or poor performances can turn what looked like a competitive team in June into a dog in mid-July. I understand the idea that you don't want to sit on your hands and finish 4th, but there are certain trades you probably shouldn't make. Trading a low farm pick for William Bloomquist under these circumstances is probably OK. Trading Shelby Miller for Bloomquist is not.
Dead in a category but still plugging away
This is often a rookie mistake, but I've seen a veteran owner try to swing for the fences in a category where he can only gain 1-2 points more than a few times. Yes, sometimes 1-2 points can win you your league. Typically, though, the amount an owner has to surrender for these 1-2 points just isn't worth it.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul
This happens all year long and not just at the trade deadline. I can gain three points in wins. I trade for a starting pitcher. The hitter I trade is going to lose me three points in home runs. I'm oversimplifying but you get the idea. There are more nuances to these types of analyses than this, but trading three points of category to gain three points of category will net you nothing. These trades make a little more sense earlier in the season because categories can shift and sometimes getting value makes more sense than pushing for categories. At the deadline, category improvement should be your primary focus.
Dumping Mistake #1: One (or more) Trades Too Many
I'm all for maximizing your team's value for next year if you've packed it in. But don't just keep churning. There is one owner I play with who is a compulsive trader and can't help himself. At the 11th hour last night, he traded Michael Choice for an $8 A.J. Burnett. Choice isn't an uber-prospect, but Burnett's the kind of guy who won't go for $8 next year in an A.L.-only auction. This was a silly trade.
Dumping Idea: Build up Your Farm
Speaking of Choice, it's generally a good idea to accumulate farm players and farm picks. Even if you wind up with more farm players/picks then your league allows you to carry next spring, you can always trade them for something of value in March. One team's bubble guy is another team's freeze. However...
Dumping Mistake #2: Don't Trade Real Freezes for (Most) Farm Players
If you can get Jesus Montero for Michael Brantley at $11, maybe that's a good trade for you. But don't trade Brantley for a marginal farm player or a mid-round farm pick. Your primary goal should be to build value to hedge against auction inflation. You might hit the lottery with that farm pick, but chances are you won't.
I love trading and can be classified as a moderately aggressive trader. However, this article can be summed up by saying don't start making trades for the sake of making trades. If a trade seems to be a draw for you, then it probably is, and often it's worse than that.