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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

This is the type of year when any of us, no matter how experienced we are, can benefit from useful tips on trading. No matter what we say, dispensing advice is easier than actually being able to execute it successfully. Challenges in pulling off deals are not fundamentally different in industry leagues than in local leagues. Diverse people with diverse approaches essentially guarantee that.

My story this week is about low-ball offers.

We’ve all seen them. Some live and die by them. Others consider them the fantasy equivalent of the plague.

As in most cases, I land somewhere in between the two extremes. I don’t make low-ball offers (at least on purpose), as I respect my peers too much for that. On the other end, I prefer not to burn bridges after receiving such inquiries, even if they are initially insulting.

Trying to improve my starting pitching in National League Tout Wars recently, I looked for potential trade partners who might value one of my stronger categories, on-base percentage, in return.

I contacted one of my peers, who has a good staff and is among the leaders in the pitching categories, asking about his two top starters. Surprisingly, he came back with an offer for his best pitcher, one of the hottest currently in the game. That was the good news.

The bad news was that his offer was essentially a four-for-one – my team’s best power source, a strong OBP contributor, a very good starting pitcher almost ready to come off the disabled list, plus free agent allocation dollars (FAAB).

The price seemed so rich that my initial reaction was to send an angry response. Instead, I sat on it for a day and eventually replied with a two-fold answer. First, I thanked him for responding. So many offers that disappear into the ether lead me to appreciate any replies received. Second, I said that we were so far off on a trade that I did not want to counter because I did not want to insult him.

Walking away was made easier since in the meantime, I had quickly found another trade partner in ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockcroft. Unwilling to deal his top two starters, Cockcroft made his third, Jason Hammel, available. I offered one of the top shortstops statistically this season in Brandon Crawford in return.

Almost no one accepts a first offer, and Cockcroft was no exception. He countered by expanding the deal to a 2-for-2. The inclusion was a swap of pitchers tilted in his direction.

I replied by making that observation along with an assertion that the initial deal as proposed is fair to both teams, in terms of value and risk. He agreed and the deal was done.

The next day, league leader Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus, commented on Twitter about the trade. That led to a public dialogue between the three of us, which included our views of low-ball offers.

Here is a subset of the exchanges.

Cockcroft (@SultanofStat): Indeed, @B_Walton made a good opening offer. Big fan of that move. Sometimes the first pitch is the best pitch.

Gianella (@MikeGianella): I'm a big fan of starting with a fair offer. Life is too short.

Cockcroft: Builds good rapport with the trade partner for future dealings, too. If needs are cut and dry, no need to haggle.

Walton: Agreed. Had one incredibly one-sided offer from a peer. Didn't know how to counter without being equally insulting.

Cockcroft: I hear you. That's the pitfall of the opening lowball offer. Makes climbing out of said pit more challenging.

Gianella: if someone starts with a really poor offer, chances are good I won't respond.

That latter point is the only one with which I disagree. I respond to every e-mail, though as noted above, I let the ugly ones age longer than the others. My take is that I will play in leagues with these same owners over and over and I want to remain as positive as possible with all of them.

As it turns out, my lowball offerer came back and said that he would not be insulted by any proposal. That is not my style, but still serves as a good reminder that not everyone looks at these types of trade negotiations the same way.

We were still too far apart on my initial inquiry, but I decided to try again with a different angle. I went back to this same peer with a new proposal for a couple of much lesser deals, which he is apparently at least considering. Another downside of dealing with this particular individual is that he must read his e-mails about every third day – but communications methods will be the subject of another column down the road.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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