The Verdict: fantasy baseball frenzy after the All Star break

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.

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  1. Chicago Mark said...

    Hello Michael, 
    I’m in a keeper league (auction) where you own a player for three years including the year drafted.  I have always supported the idea that a team trading a holdover get back in return the value of that player for the remaining holdover years. 
    Example:  My team owns Starling Marte at $2 for 2014 and 2015.  If I should trade him I want his value in return for those 2014 and 2015 years.  If we agree that Starling’s value is say $20, I want approximately $40 in return for that trade.  Understand that I also support that I would be getting about 50% value for any player I get back as I’d only get 1/2 year of his production in return.  So in the end I might get back two excellent players for Starling Marte. 
    The problem of course is what a trade like this does to the balance of power in the standings. 
    What are your thoughts?  Or everyones thoughts??

  2. Chicago Mark said...

    3Am and I have the internet to myself.  So write on. 
    The following trade was made in my league. 
    $6 Mark Trumbo with a contract expiring after 2014
    for non-holdovers
    Verlander and Adrian Gonzalez
    I supported the trade as I explained that Trumbo has about $35 in value for 2014 and the Gonzo/Ver portion had about $38 in value remaining for 2013. 
    Of course ther’s debate on the exact value of the players envolved.  But you understand the concept/thought process. 
    Would you allow this trade?  If not, on what basis would you reject it?  And lastly, what would rules would you write to assure this trade doesn’t need this scrutiny to reject?
    Sorry, lots of questions.

  3. Brad Johnson said...

    On #1, if a team is truly mathematically eliminated from any kind of benefit on July 17, the league has been poorly designed.

    I’m testing a new payout structure in a 12 team keeper league that has payouts for 1st-10th place. Most of the payouts are below the buy-in, but when each spot in the standings is worth $5, it gets people to try harder. I’ve already seen some success with the strategy, one team that was deep in the cellar after May made some trades and is now in the middle of the pack. He usually would have had a fire sale by now.

    I put that system in place because our keeper mechanism (unlimited keeps, previous price +$7) was causing some heinous trades to be made. Mediocre players who MIGHT be keepable for $8 were being traded for top 20 star quality talent. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work for a redraft too.

  4. Michael A. Stein said...

    @Brad – I didn’t necessarily mean a team would be out of playoff contention as of today.  But rather, once a team is mathematically eliminated at some point in the second half is when they should be precluded from making trades.  Again, that is only for a non-keeper league. 

    I like your idea of having a pay-out for all teams to help motivate them to compete until the end.  That incentive could be an argument against banning trading by eliminated teams in redraft leagues.  But I would still recommend preventing eliminated teams from trading in order to remove any gray areas or suspicions of impropriety by teams with less incentive.  In a keeper league, I think it works much better.

  5. Michael A. Stein said...

    @Mark – I understand the fact pattern you are laying out.  In a keeper league, it is much easier to rationalize making deals that are not equitable in terms of present-day value.  If you have a player in the last year of his contract, there is obvious motivation to acquire some compensation for him rather than lose him back to the draft for nothing.  But I don’t think it is a simple as subjectively quantifying a player’s dollar value and making the numbers add up.

    Every trade must be evaluated on its own while taking into account several factors which I laid out in the article.  Your example of Trumbo for Verlander and A.Gonzalez doesn’t look equitable in a vacuum.  But, there are other things to consider before reaching a conclusion on whether it should be approved. 

    It is a fine line in balancing the freedom to manage your team against the overall integrity and best interests of the league.  Trades like you cited could clearly have a significant impact on the standings.  This is why they must be scrutinized heavily, especially given the quality of the players involved. 

    If you want some more input about that trade along with a suggestion about rules, send me an email to

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