There's a lot of really strong dynasty analysis out there, especially when compared to five or ten years ago. But most of it is so dang practical-- Player X is undervalued, Player Y's workload is troubling, the market at this position is irrational, take this specific action to win your league. Dynasty, in Theory is meant as a corrective, offering insights and takeaways into the strategic and structural nature of the game that might not lead to an immediate benefit, but which should help us become better players over time. (Additionally, it serves as a vehicle for me to make jokes like "theoretically, this column will help you out".)
How to Trade (When No One Else Can)
I see a lot of sentiment in the dynasty community that managers should be active year-round. A lot of people in this space are happy to create expectations for how others should play. I'm not a big fan of that; everyone should play dynasty the way they want to play it. If people want to take the summer off, that's fine. My oldest league will go years at a time without any player movement between February and June, and that's fine, it works for everyone involved.
I also see a lot of complaints from people who play in one specific way that others in their league don't respond well to that particular style. In particular, there's a type of manager who loves to send out a big mass of trade offers hoping to trigger counteroffers to which they can respond with counter-counteroffers until, finally, a middle ground is reached.
And a lot of dynasty managers hate these unsolicited, frequently lowball trade offers and will largely just ignore them or reject them without countering. To the initiating manager, this can be frustrating and make it feel like it's "impossible to trade", which would be terrible for a dynasty league (which offers few other routes for player acquisition)... if it was true.
I've played in several of these "inactive" leagues, and I've always been able to make up a disproportionate share of the total trade volume. As an example, I recently documented a rebuild from start to finish. I started negotiations for the first trade on September 10th, 2020, and I completed negotiations for the last trade on October 10th, 2021; in the thirteen months in between, I turned over 22 of the 24 players on my active roster and was responsible for 55% of the league's total trades, 67% of the total players and picks traded, 73% of the "significant" trades (involving more than a future 1st worth of value on each side), and 80% of the "large" trades (involving more than six players and picks changing hands).
It's not like I just found two or three receptive managers, either. Out of eleven potential trade partners, I completed deals with eight of them and completed "significant" deals with seven of them. I nearly had a deal with a ninth manager before an injury derailed negotiations, I had productive discussions with a tenth manager, and the eleventh manager... just didn't have anything I wanted (though he's a nice guy and I'm sure I could have traded with him if he did).
How did I pull this off? I wanted to share some tips and tricks for how to trade (when no one else can). This is not meant as a primer on how to approach trading or how to identify who to trade for (this is Dynasty, in THEORY, not Dynasty, in Practice). Instead, it's just a few things that I've found useful for bridging the gap between "offered" and "accepted".
#1: Meet People Where They Are, Not Where You Wish They Were
Life would be a lot easier if everyone liked negotiating the same way, but they don't. If you want to get something done, it's important to find out where the other manager is comfortable and negotiate there.
I make it clear to everyone in my leagues that I am happy to discuss any trade at any time and, most importantly, on any platform. I've negotiated trades in back-and-forth offers, on the league message board, via email, via text, on the phone, through the office communication platform, and in person. Wherever my leaguemate is, I make an effort to be there as well.
#2: Try to Figure Out What Your Leaguemates Want
You're never going to get anything unless you give something your trade partner wants. It's super easy to start trade negotiations by deciding what you want and then just throw stuff at the wall until something sticks, but you need to consider things from the other perspective; if a manager doesn't think a trade will make her team better, she's not going to accept it no matter how many sources you cite to tell her what a great deal she's getting. How do you figure out what your leaguemates want? I find the best practice is to...
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