Trades can get messy. Exhibit A: this conversation about a trade taken from an ESPN message board.
Matthew Berry jumped on a soapbox this week to talk about trade etiquette, and the transgressions he points out got me thinking. Most leagues really don’t talk about the rules or ethics of trading outside of whether to allow vetoes. And maybe we should.
As Berry explains in this week’s love/hate:
But the fact that some people on my Facebook page didn’t realize the significance of the term, or worse, understood it but just didn’t agree with it, let me know we have a real problem here. There is no guide to fantasy etiquette. There needs to be a set list of rules on how we act and behave in a fantasy league. It’s the only thing separating us from animals. Well, that and a good Wi-Fi connection.
Berry’s first rule — “be clear” — is his best one, and one most of us don’t even think about. But unless you want to get trade herpes, you should let all parties involved know if you’re talking to multiple owners about a potential trade.
Bringing that into the conversation might, in fact, give you an edge as other owners will act with more urgency to accept if they know they might miss out on a player. It can also prompt the other party to give you their best counteroffer because they know you won’t have to stick around and accept their garbage if you’ve got another owner in your ear.
Where I disagree is on Berry’s second rule:
Your word should mean something. If you negotiate in good faith over text, email or on the phone and then say, “OK, done deal, offer it on the site,” then you’ve got to accept the offer when it shows up. I don’t care if you got a better offer an hour later. Or you found out the guy you’re trading is now the starter instead of half of a committee. You agreed to a deal. It’s done. The Web part is just the paperwork.
In my opinion, that’s too hard of a line on accepting or rejecting. Even if you agree to a trade by phone or in email, that agreement should be considered tentative. The owners always have the right to back out of a deal or accept a better offer all the way up until they’ve clicked that little “Accept” button online (or on your league management software of choice). And committing by phone on Tuesday does not lock you into accepting that offer Wednesday.
Creating urgency is essential to trading. It’s part of negotiating for you to close the deal. So your work is not done until the other party accepts your offer.
If you agree verbally in writing outside of the league system, then you are obligated to send the offer quickly and follow up with the other owner soon after if they haven’t accepted within 24 hours or so.
If they get a better offer, proper etiquette would be for them to simply let you know that they’ve got a second party giving them an offer too good to refuse and give you the chance to sweeten the deal if you’re still interested. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
After all, you’re not buying a house. You’re trading fantasy players.
Sure, they could be bluffing about having another offer, but all’s fair on the fantasy trading floor.
On Berry’s other points, I’m onboard. Begging is the worst, but more often than begging, I usually get passive aggressive responses that rip the players on my team the other owner thinks are weaknesses while reenforcing their own perceived value of their trade bait. That’s just as silly as begging in my book if you plan to attempt a trade in the future.
RESPONDING! Oh, man, responding. I’m in several leagues where trade offers just die due to time limits. Several members of the league are known for not responding. And the rest of us talk about them in hushed voices and wonder if they never check their email, believe their team is just that good, or if they’re just too afraid to accept an offer.
I believe it’s fear in a lot of cases because people don’t feel informed enough to make a trade. Everyone worries that their deal will get attacked by other members of the league and go down in the history books as a “trade rape” or other deal gone bad for all future seasons.
There are a few instances where owners just choose not to respond, but those are more rare. The fantasy community needs more resources to help owners in getting past that fear of trading.
Vetoes on trades come up in every league — sometimes as the default system that is quickly abandoned when it doesn’t work. They NEVER work.
In my book, the only sane system is to take trade approvals out of the hands of the masses and put it in the hands of a commissioner or third party. That puts the burden on the commissioner, but it guarantees that trades can happen in a league and that a case can actually be made against a trade before it gets voted down.
Knowing the rest of your league will discuss with the commissioner when they believe a trade isn’t fair also goes a long way in enforcing Berry’s final guideline for trading, being human.
Overall, I think Berry makes some strong points we should all think about in trading. Trading is one of those spontaneous things that happens in some leagues and doesn’t in others. Proper etiquette would go a long way in making everyone more comfortable with trades, which really make a league more entertaining and enjoyable for everyone.