A couple years ago after winning my fifth World Series in a row, I realized I needed to figure out a way to make this mode harder until SDS actually put a minute of time into it. Still waiting on that last part but as anyone who has played this mode knows, it's super easy to dump bad contracts, make unbalanced trades and generally patch any holes you have until you've built a 130 win juggernaut every year. So I put a few rules on myself which has made the game a bit more enjoyable:
-Always have budgets on. I know it can be annoying because the bank doesn't really make that much sense but it does keep things in check financially.
-Turn trades off from the start of the season until after the draft. This just mirrors real life. There are hardly ever any trades during this stretch of the season and in Franchise it's a time when the CPU makes a bunch of those weird roster balancing trades that throw off the rosters. Last year in mid-April the White Sox traded Eloy for Jorge Alfaro and Lewis Brinson... just cuz.
-After the draft you can start building your trade pool. You'll need a piece of paper. In June, the only teams you're allowed to trade with are those who are already double digits out of a Wildcard spot and their division. Once you get to July, you can trade with any team that is under .500. I'm going to refer to this as "shopping" for the rest of the post.
-As for trading specifically, if they are on the trade block, they are fair game regardless of what team they are on. Who knows why some guys get put on there but it is what it is.
-If you are "shopping" for a player who is not on the trade block but is on one of those teams from the bullet above, you are not allowed to build your own trade package. You have to hit square to get an offer from them and you take it or leave it. This prevents you being able to throw in guys who for whatever reason, the CPU likes even though they shouldn't (a 67 OVR who is 29 but has A potential). If a player is on the trade block, you can build your own trade package.
-There is a bug regarding offseason trades in which you'll offer a middle reliever and they'll offer their best prospect in return. There is also one where new draft picks don't have any trade value in the offseason and you can just throw them in to any trade you want. These are two I haven't been able to find a "fix" for yet other than just holding yourself accountable to not do it. If you're working on a trade and you add a player whose decent and the interest bar doesn't move at all, it's a bug. If you're offering Casey Sadler and the Rays are offering you Wander Franco, it's a bug. But obviously, that's up to you.
-I'm also messing around with some ways to convert starters to relievers in a way that mirrors real life but haven't gotten the perfect solution. Something like you trim 20 points from stamina but get to put that 20 into fastball velocity but it still tanks their OVR. I'll update if I find something that works.