The All-Star Game represents the halfway point of the major league season. Even though all teams have played more than 81 games by now, the Mid-Summer Classic is still used as a line of demarcation between the first and second halves. Generally, the two weeks after the All Star Game are used to determine whether a team is going to be a buyer or seller at the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31. In fantasy baseball, this is also the time when teams make decisions that will have an impact on the rest of the year and the future.
The difference between making trades in keeper leagues and non-keeper leagues has been discussed at length here before. Teams in keeper leagues need to make the same critical decisions as major league teams: Are they are going to pursue success today and sacrifice tomorrow, or vice versa? The point is that fantasy baseball league commissioners should be on notice that they will have lots of potentially controversial trades to oversee in the immediate future.
By now you should be used to my preaching about having written rules or a constitution in place to provide guidance and authority with respect to handling such potential controversies. The fact remains that commissioners empowered with the authority to approve or reject trades and league members who are able to vote on whether to approve a trade possess enormous power and should be equipped with the proper tools to use it.
Evaluating a trade in a vacuum works only to a degree in a non-keeper (or redraft) league because the evaluation is limited to the current season. A trade of Andrew McCutchen for Oscar Taveras in a non-keeper league should never be allowed because Taveras has no value for this season. But in a keeper league, other factors would make this an acceptable trade. Commissioners of keeper leagues need to look at the bigger picture to ensure that blockbuster trades are being made in good faith and have discernible benefits to both teams involved.
Here are some suggestions for how to handle the post-All-Star break trading bonanza:
1. In a non-keeper league, teams that have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention or prize-winning slots should not be allowed to make trades. The only reason a trade should be made is to improve your own team’s performance in some capacity. If a team in a redraft league can no longer make the playoffs or win money, it should not be allowed to make deals that can affect the playoff chase. I understand the arguments against this proposition. Feel free to make them. However, banning all trades by eliminated teams removes all speculation about the integrity of a trade. Of course there could be tainted trades made by playoff-contending teams. But this is an easy decision to decrease that possibility.
2. When evaluating an alleged “dump” trade in a keeper league, consider the following factors: (a) where each team is in the standings; (b) the roster needs of both teams; (c) the salary or contract status of the players involved in the trade; (d) the quality of less expensive players or prospects being exchanged;(e) the statistics accumulated by all players up to this point coupled with their projected output for the remainder of the season and beyond; (f) the level of upgrade or downgrade by each team after the players are exchanged and the disparity between that difference; and most importantly (g) whether there is any purported collusion between the teams making the trade.
3. Set a trade deadline. Even in keeper leagues in which trading is permitted during the offseason, there should be a moratorium on trades at some point in the season prior to the playoffs or whatever form of reward process your league has.
4. Keep an eye on the league’s transaction report and waiver wire for any suspected or possible manipulation among teams. Unfortunately not everyone in a fantasy baseball league is honest, so be wary of teams attempting to collude by dropping players at certain times and using their waiver positions in a way to circumvent the proper methods.
At the end of the day, the next few weeks represent some of the most exciting in both real and fantasy baseball in terms of trading, transactions and roster management. Commissioners should be prepared to deal with the plethora of deals that get sent in for approval. If your league still employs the voting procedure by its members to approve or reject a trade, I implore you to change that for next year. Regardless, enjoy the All-Star break because business is about to pick up.