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The art of making lowball offers

5/17/2009

If all goes right and the rules of law and contracts prevail, my wife and I officially will sell our old house Friday, eight excruciating months after having put it on the market. Needless to say, there have been plenty of things along the way that have made me angry, frustrated, peeved, miffed and occasionally livid.

An economy that tanked historically two days after our first open house? Yeah, I didn't like that.

Buyers who deemed the house "overpriced" despite the fact that it was the least expensive four-bedroom colonial in our town for four months? Lord almighty, I feel my temperature rising.

Well-meaning friends and family who blithely suggested, "Why don't you rent it out?" when the spring selling season was finally on the horizon? Must … bite … tongue!

But I never minded when a buyer made a lowball offer, provided they did it the right way. You see, there's an art to making lowball offers, and understanding the rules is what might allow you to make a deal, instead of just making the other guy angry, frustrated, peeved, miffed and occasionally livid.

Casing the Joint

Not all lowball offers are created equal. In truth, there are two different types, and they serve different purposes.

The first lowball offer is the "Hail Mary," when you're trying to get something for nearly nothing. When there's a player who you think is being undervalued, or better yet, despised by his owner, you toss out a crazy proposition, praying it'll get accepted. Of course, very often you'll find that this type of attempt draws a quick rejection, or worse, a response with more four-letter words than a Lewis Black routine.

The second lowball variation is the "first offer" variety, when you're really interested but you want any ensuing trade talks to take place on your terms. You have no realistic hope that that first offer will be accepted, although it's lovely if that ends up being the result. Instead, your goal is to set a low baseline so that even after a few compromises, you're still paying below face value.

During my home-selling escapades, I dealt with both kinds of lowball offers, and the only time I took it personally was when Realtors insisted their clients were making a first offer, but when we countered, their response was, "Actually, our first offer was our best offer." Ugh … don't waste my time.

Fantasy imitates life. If you're throwing a Hail Mary, send along a short message to crystallize your position. "I'm willing to bet Cole Hamels improves on his 5.04 ERA, but I'm not willing to bet much." Personally, I am willing to bet much, but that's another story. Likewise, if your offer is just a starting point, throw in a note like, "I'd be willing to put Jeremy Guthrie in the deal if you don't like Fausto Carmona." It signals that you're looking to haggle, thus encouraging a counter.

Finally, no matter which kind of bargain-basement offers you tend to try, do yourself a favor by sending a semi-even offer occasionally. If you get the rep for being a chronic lowballer, your trading days are done.

Three I'm Stealing

Javier Vazquez, SP, Braves: Going into the weekend, here's the list of pitchers who have allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, struck out more than 50 and walked fewer than 15: Johan Santana, Zack Greinke, Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren and Vazquez. However, thanks to giving up a combined 11 runs in two early May starts, Vazquez is the only one who might be obtainable. His strikeouts and stinginess with the walks make him a fantasy ace who gets less respect than Rodney Dangerfield in his prime.

Edwin Jackson, SP, Tigers: Despite striking out 20 and walking only three in his past 20 innings and sporting an ERA of 2.42 for the year, Jackson is still owned in less than half of ESPN leagues. Skepticism is high. I repeat, skepticism is high. But for the uninitiated, Jackson was a true blue-chip prospect for the Dodgers who made it to the majors right around his 20th birthday. This isn't a fluke. He's blossoming at age 25, and while this move makes more sense in shallower leagues right now, by next month, it may be sound in all formats.

Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox: He's owned in every league, and I think this is a good time to make a move on him. First, his batting average of .229 is disappointing his owners. Second, he's got a sore heel, so there could be a "here we go again" factor after he missed so much time a year ago. Here's the thing. Quentin has been desperately unlucky, with only 20 percent of his balls in play falling for hits once you exclude his homers. The guy has hit 20 line drives this year, and only 10 have resulted in hits. His heel will heal, his liners will start turning into hits, and he has the ability to hit 25 more homers with a .275 average the rest of the way.

Three I'm Dealing

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Forgive me, father (and I mean my actual dad), for I'm about to sin. After watching Big Papi go 0-for-7 on Thursday with three strikeouts and more men stranded than the first season of "Lost," I simply have to take off my Red Sox-colored glasses. There are only eight players in the majors who have hit more fly balls than Ortiz this year, and all of them have at least three homers. I'll love you forever, Papi, but I'm trading you for almost any player who I believe still has 20 homers in him. Excuse me while I go beat myself about the head and neck with a Red Sox commemorative mini-bat.

Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels: I know for a fact that some people are still plenty high on Kendrick, as I'll explain later. After all, with four homers and five steals, he appears to be on pace for a 20-20 season. But Kendrick is known for two things: a high batting average and plenty of days on the DL. I think he has a better chance of getting hurt than getting hot the rest of the way because he has hit a grand total of 14 line drives all year, way too low for a guy known for great contact. Let him figure it out, or at least try to, on another roster.

Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves: How can a guy with that many J's in his name have so few K's in his game? I know he hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start and is sporting a 2.06 ERA after eight outings, but as the weather heats up, I'm terrified of this extreme fly-ball pitcher who has had only one game with more than four strikeouts all year. In 2008, he topped that level in 15 of 31 starts, so this is new and disturbing. Maybe he's built to succeed, even without the ability to strike batters out, but I just think he's a guy whose popularity is on the rise and if you can deal him now, you're selling at the top of his value.

Pulling the Job

I made a pair of trades in my anonymous public leagues this week, both for a scuffling team that had middle infielders Jose Reyes, Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips, Howie Kendrick and Rafael Furcal, and little else on offense. First, I traded Kendrick straight up for the struggling Geovany Soto, and then I dealt my biggest chip, Kinsler, along with waiver-wire pickup Ricky Nolasco, for Carlos Lee and Max Scherzer. The moves bolstered my lineup in the places it was sagging, and I also picked up a pitcher who I think is on the verge of breaking out.

In the S.T.E.A.L., the biggest and most recent deal was the blockbuster in which Michael "Bernie Tradoff" Spettigue dealt Mark Teixeira and Jon Lester to "Don Vito Corle-own this league" (aka Taylor Gould) for Albert Pujols. Personally, I love this deal for Mr. Tradoff.

Finally, I've received steady e-mails saying, "We want more access to the S.T.E.A.L.!" This column isn't designed to be a running diary of the league, but I understand the desire to follow more than a few moves a week. So here's the link to the league's home page. Hmmm, now that it's public, I guess I better try to get out of the middle of the pack.

Until next week, don't just win your league. Lowball it.

Shawn Peters is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him your own grand theft rotos by clicking here.