Relief for your toxic assets

Last week, we witnessed one of the more bizarre potentially season-ending injuries ever when Kendry Morales broke his leg in the process of an innocuous jump onto homeplate while engaging in a completely routine celebration of a walk-off homer. This instance reminded me to share with you, what I think is a helpful rule that was instituted a few years ago in my main keeper league.

Before revealing the rule, I would like to talk briefly about the Morales injury. This is not related to fantasy baseball, but please indulge me for a paragraph here.

There’s been a fair amount of chatter about whether Morales’ injury will, or more appropriately should change the way teams celebrate walk-off wins, especially walk-off homers. I can only attribute this to the existence of this debate to the 24-hour news cycle, which compels media to grasp for inane content and manufacture controversy. What happened to Morales was a freak accident. His team mobbing him at the plate wasn’t even responsible for the injury. It looked like he landed awkwardly on his leg. This was a celebration-related injury only to the extent that jumping on to the plate is part of the walk-off homer celebration, yet it seems like many of the commentators are gravitating to the team mobbing a player as the dangerous part of the celebration. This makes no sense. Again, this was a freak accident, period! This should not change anything!

Oh, and I suppose some may oppose the walk-offcelebrations on the grounds that they are tasteless or overly exuberant. That’s a totally different argument, and I am not addressing the proponents of that argument. …Chillax, grandpa – did you know that you don’t have to wear a hat and tie to the ballpark anymore either? OK, now I’ve addressed those people.

To the rule. A couple of years ago, my league instituted what we call a conditional, “keeper DL spot.” We had a couple of instances in which a player an owner was planning to keep got hurt for the remainder of a season, thereby forcing the owner to either occupy one of his two DL slots with a player who would never return, ostensibly cutting in half the number of DL spots he had, or in the case of an owner with already full DL, burn a roster spot to retain a player who has no chance of returning or drop the player outright and basically forfeit a keeper. This didn’t seem fair. It’s bad enough to lose one of your core players for an extended period of time, but for the injury to also manifest as an albatross on your roster management is just cruel and unusual. So, we instituted a very simple rule. This rule as written below is my idealized version of the rule, the actual rule in place in my league is a bit different, as it lacks the more stricter clauses of item No. 3 below.

If one of your players goes on the DL, you can, at that point, label him as one of your keepers for the following year and enact the keeper DL clause.

1. Upon enacting this designation, this player must be kept the following season. Surgery goes wrong and six months later you find out he won’t be ready for the following season’s Opening Day, too bad.
2. The player’s owner can then drop the player outright and nobody else in the league is allowed to pick him up. Despite sitting in the free-agent pool, his keeper owner retains his rights.
3. If the player returns from the DL prior to the end of the season, the original owner is not allowed to play him, though he must, at that point, roster the player again within three days of his activation, or the player becomes an actual free agent. The keeper DL rule is set up specifically to apply to players on the DL, and mainly for those who are out for the season. Therefore the player/owner is only protected as long as the player is actually on the DL. The preclusion on using that player in the starting line-up along with the penalty of him then becoming an actual dead roster spot is to ensure owners don’t use this feature as a free, additional DL-spot for any keeper with only a moderate injury – i.e. it’s really only worth it to use this option if your keeper is really out for the season and your DL is already full.
4. The player is still eligible to be traded in the offseason; he does not have to be kept by his previous season’s owner, so long as that owner is able to find another owner who is willing to keep him. Ostensibly, my designating the player as a keeper at the time of injury does not imply that he must be my keeper.
5. Once the keeper designation is made, it is not reversible. For example, Morales’ owner in this league also owns Beckett and Rollins, who occupy his DL spots. This owner can’t enact this option for Morales and subsequently pick him back up when he has room on his DL (say, Rollins returns) in order to revert Morales from keeper-DL to normal DL.

That’s pretty much the extent of it. In principle it is very simple and it doesn’t really have all that many technicalities. Like any good amendment to a league contract, we’ve written it out intending to cover all possible scenarios, but intuitively it is very simple and the “fine print” rarely comes into play.

I’ll sign off this week with two questions to the readers.

Have any of you heard of or used a rule like this before, or do you have you own measures to protect against DL-ed keepers handcuffing a team’s ability to make roster moves?
2. Generally speaking, how do you handle your DLs. How many spots do you think is optimal, relative to roster and/or league size?

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  1. Steve said...

    We have unlimited DL spots, but once a player is activated from the DL in MLB, you must, within 2 weeks, activate him, or he is a FA.  We don’t decide keepers until a couple of weeks before the auction.

  2. Jonathan Sher said...

    Hi Derek. The league in which I lost Morales has 17-man reserve lists, so while his injury knocks me out as the front-runner this year, it won’t hurt my roster flexibility during the year or the off-season. Since we have big reserves, we don’t have, or really need, DL slots.

  3. Millsy said...

    I know in our 20-team keeper league, we have a limit on the number of Free Agent pickups allowed during the season (pretty stringent at 14).  The limit isn’t a huge deal since we also have 30 man rosters, with 3 DL slots and as many as 10 “minor leaguers”.  Needless to say, there’s not much on waivers anyway.

    However, given the fact that we have a minimum IP and GS limit for each 2-week H2H session to avoid putting in only relievers on the staff, we had to do something about pitcher injuries to ensure owners were meeting the minimums without being penalized too much for the uncontrollable injury.  After all, if 2 or 3 SP get hurt on an team, they may no longer be able to meet the minimum IP and have to forfeit categories.

    For this reason, we instituted a ‘Pitcher DL Move’, in which an injured Starting Pitcher can be released back into the player pool in exchange for another SP only, and that owner is not penalized with a Free Agency move.  It’s worked pretty well, I think, and leaves plenty of consideration for making Free Agency moves.

  4. Derek Ambrosino said...


    Yes. He counts toward your keeper total, so Morales would be one of your ten in your case.

    We only have two DL spots. I’d probably rather have 3 and not have to use this rule. But, overall the rule has served us well.


    I’m not sure how I feel about unlimited DL spots. Sometimes I think I’d rather just have expanded rosters w/ no DL at all, like the NBA does. Regardless, we too do not decide keepers until a few weeks before the draft, with the exception of any keepers who were claimed via this rule.

  5. Jason B said...

    I’m in a 10-team NL H2H league with only two bench slots and one additional DL spot, which I think is too few and your team has to stay very healthy or else you have to keep DL’ed players in your lineup, or cut them loose and replace them with someone productive. Frankly, neither seems like a good solution. I think we need about 1 more of each, but I play along and don’t rock the boat.

    I’m also in a 10-team NL-only roto league with five bench spots and 0 DL slots, which seems to work reasonably well; that many bench slots lets you absorb a couple of DL hits (although I just had all five slots filled with players on the DL that I had drafted – Webb, Jurrjens, Rollins, Renteria, and Lidge).  I think this system has worked out pretty well.  When your team is healthy you can juggle your lineup a bit for days off, favorable matchups, platoons, etc.  When you’ve got some players on the shelf you’ve got some slots to absorb them.

  6. Kevin said...

    We have an 8 team keeper league with 6 keeper players and 5 DL spots.  This eliminates the need for a keeper DL rule as well as keeps you from having to drop a player because your DL is full.

  7. don gale said...

    Does the DL Keeper count against your total keeper number? We have 24 man rosters with 10 keepers. So would the DL’d guy still be one of 10 keepers or would he be an 11th keeper?

    We have 3 DL spots and I think it’s perfect. Two spots, in my mind, is too few. In a deep league, having to drop a talented player just because you get unlucky is really brutal, especially when another team with no injuries can then pick him up for free.

    As far as keepers being DL’d, that’s just something we have to deal with. If you have DL room, put him there and keep him. If not, cut ties and hope you’re able to draft him next year.

  8. Adam said...

    Like Steve, we have unlimited DL spots.  We require all players to come off our DL by the start of the scoring week aftre they come off the DL in real life.  And we ban anyone from picking up a player already on the DL to prevent hoarding of potentially useful players (obviously, you can draft players expected to be on the DL to start the season, but you can’t place players on the DL until week 1 so you can still only draft a maximum of 30 players).

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