Last Week’s Question:
How Can a Commissioner Encourage Trading
in a Stagnant League?
column featured Evan’s concerns about the lack of trading
in his league. The good news for Evan is that I received far more
suggestions from readers than I can include in the column, but
the bad news is that the vast majority of suggestions cannot realistically
be implemented midseason.
The shared assumption of the commissioners who wrote in appears
to be that it is fairly easy to coerce isolationist owners into
becoming active traders by limiting their other options. The general
approaches appear to be 1) reducing the number of players available
on the waiver wire (generally by increasing the roster size and/or
the number of teams in the league); 2) reducing the number of
waiver wire transactions owners are permitted to execute in the
course of a season; and/or 3) reducing the fees for trades relative
to other methods of player acquisition.
Mike wrote in to explain his league’s limited success with
My 10-team league has been together with the
same core group for about 7 years, and trades have always been
rare. A couple of years ago we changed our transaction fees to
encourage trading. Previously, you were charged $2 per player
regardless of the transaction, so . . .
Old Fee Schedule:
Drop a player = $2; add a player = $2;
Straight 1 for 1 trade = $2; 3 for 3 trade cost each owner $6.
New Fee Schedule:
Drop a player = $3; add a player = $3;
Any trade, regardless of the number of players involved, costs
each owner $4.
Has it helped? Only slightly, but it certainly has inspired more
Thanks to Mike for reporting that this approach has helped
“only slightly.” Of the 3 approaches mentioned above,
the reduction of trade costs relative to other transactions appears
to be the weakest. In fact, no one who wrote in claimed that making
trades cheaper solved the problem of trading all by itself (though
many commissioners use this incentive in conjunction with other
approaches). Based on Brad’s response, it may be better
to limit the number of waiver wire transactions first—and
to resort to making trades cheaper than WW acquisitions only if
owners still need an extra nudge:
Several years ago I was in a Yahoo league
where there was some concern about owners not trading due to personality
conflicts. As commissioner, I decided to limit the number of free
agent signings a team could make during the season. Actually,
I severely limited it—to 6. Extra signings were awarded
to losing teams and to teams who completed trades. This gave owners
incentive to engage in trade talks throughout the season. A few
of the owners hated this rule, but it did its job.
Additionally, in a pay league, we discussed a rule where each
free agent signing would cost a certain amount but each trade
would be free to encourage trades. We did not implement the rule,
but it's another possible path.
The structure of Tyson’s league is such that owners
cannot reasonably expect to meet their own personnel needs over
the course of the season without trading because the talent available
on the waiver wire is marginal and because owners are permitted
only a limited number of waiver wire transactions:
I am the commissioner of a 12-man PPR league
in its 12th season. To me, trading throughout the season continues
the risk-reward process we all love so much about the draft. Our
roster model prevents position hoarding and promotes trading.
The model is as follows:
17 roster spots which must include the following at all times:
4 RB; 4 WR; 2 QB; 2 TE; 2 Def; 2 K; & 1 any position.
I then restrict each owner to 1 free agent pick each week. Waiver
priority is determined by the previous week’s win/loss and
then prioritized by points.
This might seem horribly confining, but it forces owners to trade
consistently. Something as easy as trading kickers can get the
trading waters stirred up. We also allow moving up in the waiver
order as a piece of a player trade. For example, I had the first
waiver priority this week after a horrible loss. Clinton Portis’s
owner desperately wanted Ryan Torain. He then traded me Ronnie
Brown and Chris Chambers for Johnny Knox and Brandon Jackson,
and I moved from the first waiver position to the 7th. Maybe some
of these ideas will help Evan get some trades going next year.
Eric takes things a step further than Tyson by giving
owners a financial incentive to trade in addition to limiting
their free agent options:
The simplest way to encourage trading is
to restrict the number and quality of the available free agent
pick ups. For one, I will only reluctantly play in a league smaller
than 12 teams; I prefer 14 as it allows for a simple schedule
(everyone plays each other once) and the available talent pool
is that much smaller. Second, adding another flex player to the
traditional 1QB/2RB/2WR/TE/K/D lineup and accordingly adding another
player to rosters (so, in this instance, carrying 16 or 17 players
on the roster) means there are yet again fewer quality players
in the FA pool. Basically, people will follow the path of least
resistance when looking to upgrade their lineup; if you reduce
the effectiveness of trolling the FA wire, they will have to start
looking at other people's rosters for help.
We also make a distinction between FA moves and trades, restricting
FA moves to a weekly or seasonal max and making all trades free.
Again, the idea is to make the path towards trades as attractive
as FA pickups. We still haven't quite reached that balance point,
but we're getting a lot closer.
Paul reported making a number of changes to his league
this year to discourage apathy and encourage trading. He sees
a connection between apathy and a lack of trading that is likely
relevant in most leagues. You can’t trade with people who
are no longer even checking on their fantasy teams because they
have given up, so Paul advocates a weekly payout for the high-scoring
team just to keep everyone invested enough in the league to give
trades some consideration. He also mentions waiving the fee on
a number of transactions just to get people used to the idea of
modifying their rosters:
Our first 4 acquisitions are on the house.
Most people burned through those the first 2 weeks. Getting roster
movement as a habit early can help get people used to the idea,
and trades end up being just another roster move.
Although Paul’s rule here applies to WW moves as
well as trades, Evan might be able to adapt it successfully to
his league midseason—perhaps by stipulating that the first
trade each week for the rest of the season will cost the owners
Commissioners in keeper leagues may be interested in this rule
from Daniel’s league (though Daniel is clearly aware of
the opportunities for abuse that it presents to trading partners):
I play in a keeper league in which each owner
is allowed to keep 2 players from the previous year. Each of the
two players must play at different positions (i.e. one may not
keep 2 RBs or 2 WRs). Keepers from the previous year are written
in the draft board in the round in which they were previously
drafted by the SAME owner. If an owner keeps a player that they
did not originally draft (i.e. through trade or free agency) then
that keeper is represented in the final draft round. For example,
I kept Antonio Gates for a 5th round pick because I drafted him
in the 5th round, and I kept Reggie Wayne in the 15th (final)
round because I acquired him through trade. This system encourages
trading because of the long term keeper value of a player acquired
As a caveat, I am trying to modify this rule to prevent owners
from swapping two high profile players, such as Chris Johnson
for Adrian Peterson, just to improve keeper value.
That caveat has me worried that the potential for abuse
is more problematic than the lack of trading might have been,
but I can see what Daniel is going for—and I wish him luck
in solving his new problem.
This Week’s Question:
What Do Commissioners Do When an Owner
Drops Out of a League Midseason?
Tim appears to be having trouble with owners who have lost contact
with his league:
What do other commissioners do when league members "drop
out" mid-season? I have had league members who don't make
line-up changes (leaving bye week and injured players in the starting
line-up) and don't respond to league e-mails.
I know that most readers will assume that the problem here is
apathy—and that the solution is to keep the league so interesting
that no owner becomes apathetic. However, we have discussed strategies
for keeping apathy at bay in the past—and we all know that
they don’t always work.
For whatever reason, some owners just stop checking on their
FF teams at some point in the season. Maybe they have a good reason
(such as a family emergency), or maybe they just don’t feel
like playing fantasy football any more. So instead of talking
about what we can do to keep leagues from losing owners in the
first place (see my Week 8 column
for 2008 and my Week 9 column
for 2009), let’s focus on what commissioners can do
in response to owners who bail midseason.
Imagine a 12-team league. In Week 6, the owner of the Lame Ducks
(a 3-3 squad) wins the lottery and abandons the league to go on
a 2-month cruise with his family. The commissioner huffs and puffs
and tells him to stay on top of his lineup for the rest of the
season just to maintain the integrity of the league, but the lottery
winner is never heard from again.
The commissioner assumes that the only fair thing to do is to
turn on the “autopilot” feature that his website provides.
So the lineup for the Lame Ducks deteriorates as injuries accumulate
in the next few weeks. In the first six weeks, owners who played
the Lame Ducks faced a competently managed team. By Week 10, the
Lame Ducks have become the doormat of the league. The one kicker
that the owner had on the roster is on a bye in Week 10. His primary
quarterback is injured. His backup QB is playing against the Ravens.
He doesn’t have 3 healthy active receivers for the week,
so the computer has decided he will use both of his tight ends
instead of trying to pick up a wideout from the waiver wire.
The owner that trounces the Lame Ducks in Week 10 secures the
last wildcard spot by virtue of finishing one half a game ahead
of an owner who lost to the Lame Ducks back in Week 2. The playoffs
turn into a long, acrimonious argument about how the wrong teams
advanced to the postseason.
At the end of the year, all of the owners, including the commissioner,
agree that putting the Lame Ducks on autopilot was not fair to
the teams that had already lost to the Ducks when they were actively
managed. The commissioner asks the other owners what he should
have done differently. Imagine that you are one of those owners.
Is your answer any good?
Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of
Mark Den Adel)
Last week I was 2-1. I was wrong about the Bengals, who failed
to deliver vs. Tampa Bay.
1) Pittsburgh over Cleveland –
I haven’t used Pittsburgh yet, but now that Roethlisberger
is back I expect a monster game out of Pittsburgh. They’ll
win “big” with Ben over Cleveland. Does anyone envy
Colt McCoy going up against the Steeler Defense? Or Peyton Hillis
against the #1 rush defense? Pittsburgh should win this game by
a 20-point margin.
2) N.Y. Giants over Detroit –
The Lions are happy about their first win, but they will have
to be happy with that one victory for a while yet, as they are
not ready to compete with the Giants, who have played very well
against much better teams than Detroit (such as the Bears and
Texans). Detroit is 24th against the pass, so expect Eli Manning,
Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith all to have big days.
3) Chicago over Seattle –
Seattle has been a bad road team against mediocre competition,
and they will look even worse against the elite defense of the
Bears (3rd stingiest in the league against the run, giving up
just 79 yards/game). The Seahawks have made the trade for Lynch,
but we have no proof that he is a better fit than Forsett. With
Cutler the Bears win by ten or more points.
Upset of the week – Baltimore over
New England has won seven games in a row coming off of a bye,
but most of those contests were against the questionable Buffalo
Bills—not the rock-solid Ravens. The Ravens are 2nd in passing
defense, which means Brady would have had his work cut out for
him even if Randy Moss were still his primary target. In the playoff
game last year at New England, Ray Rice had 159 yards rushing.
Baltimore creamed the Ravens 33-14 despite a miserable day for
Joe Flacco, who completed just 4 out of 10 passes for a measly
34 yards. Now that Flacco has Anquan Boldin as a target, he should
improve on that performance—and Baltimore should win again.
For responses to this week's fantasy
question please email me.