The Verdict: fantasy baseball keeper league trade dispute

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Lone Ranger vs. Greene County Giants

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE PAT VISKER MEMORIAL BASEBALL LEAGUE

Decided July 4, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 110 (July 2012)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league named the Pat Visker Memorial Baseball League (hereinafter referred to as “PVMBL”) that is hosted on CBSSports.com seeks an evaluation of a trade made between two teams. This is a fourteen-team mixed NL/AL keeper league that utilized a snake draft. Teams are required to retain seven players each season and all keepers can be retained indefinitely.

As with many rotisserie leagues, the PVMBL uses most of the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money. For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases. For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins minus losses; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; and (5) saves. Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games contained within the PVMBL.

Procedural History

The Lone Ranger (hereinafter referred to as “LR”) has made a trade with the Green County Giants (hereinafter referred to as “GCG”). LR traded Jose Reyes (SS-MIA), Josh Beckett (SP-BOS), and Wilin Rosario (C-COL) to GCG in exchange for Chris Sale (SP-CHW), J.J. Hardy (SS-BAL), and Derek Norris (C-OAK).

A member of the PVMBL has requested that the Court review this trade and determine whether it should be approved.

Issue Presented

(1) Should the trade between the Lone Ranger and the Greene County Giants be upheld and approved?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades. People pay money to participate in fantasy leagues, and generally they should be afforded the freedom to manage their team accordingly. Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness. 4 Ponies v. Carson City Cocks, 3 F.J. 13 (May 2011).

It is well documented that there is a different analysis of trades in a keeper league as opposed to a non-keeper league. A trade that may look facially uneven or lopsided could easily pass muster in a keeper league. Trades made between teams in a keeper league need to be analyzed by other factors besides merely comparing statistics. Grave Diggers vs. Chilidogs, 4 F.J. 5, 8 (January 2012). These other factors include salary cap flexibility, contractual status of players, and long-term planning at the expense of the current season. Smittydogs vs. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 33 (June 2010); Winners vs. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011) (holding that team owners in keeper leagues with no hope of contending in the current season must make critical roster management decisions of whether to trade established players to help build for the future).

The Court will evaluate the objective merits of a deal and ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained. Victoria’s Secret vs. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010). The Court will not undermine a fantasy owner’s ability to manage his/her team unless a deal is unfair or inequitable, rife with collusion, or not in the best interests of the league. Whether a trade is objectively intelligent or popular will not be part of the analysis. 4 Ponies vs. Beaver Hunters, 3 F.J. 26, 27 (June 2011). The virtue of a trade is measured in both quantifiable criteria and subjective needs of the teams involved. Carson City Cocks vs. Stud Muffins, 3 F.J. 23, 24 (May 2011).

No evidence has been submitted indicating any alleged collusion or malfeasance. As such, the Court will operate on the presumption that there is no collusive conduct between the parties.

At first glance, the trade of Jose Reyes, Josh Beckett and Wilin Rosario in exchange for J.J. Hardy, Chris Sale and Derek Norris looks slightly uneven. Reyes is regarded as an elite fantasy shortstop, so we must ensure that proper value is being offered in return for a player of such magnitude. See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011) (holding that elite players included in trades require additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable they are in terms of name recognition and reputation). Sale has had a terrific first half of 2012 and could be on his way to becoming an elite pitcher, but he is not quite at that level just yet.

The following chart represents a statistical comparison between the six players in the relevant roto categories through games played on July 3, 2012:

Player            AVG        HR        RBI       Runs      SB
Jose Reyes      0.272         3        21        41        19
Wilin Rosario   0.247        14        36        29         3
J.J. Hardy      0.234        12        32        39         0
Derek Norris    0.333         2         6         5         1

Player           Wins      ERA         K       WHIP      Saves
Josh Beckett        4      4.06        60      1.15         0
Chris Sale         10      2.19        98      0.97         0

As can be seen from this comparison, the hitters’ collective statistics lean heavily in favor of the package being obtained by GCG. While Hardy has better homerun and RBI totals, Reyes is markedly better in batting average and stolen bases. Reyes will also likely eclipse Hardy in runs scored by the end of the season. In addition, Rosario is light years ahead of Norris at this point. Even with Ramon Hernandez set to return from the disabled list in the foreseeable future, Rosario has earned the playing time and should still see a majority of the at bats. However, Norris was just recently called up and could be in line for more playing time if Oakland does indeed trade Kurt Suzuki or they tire of his lack of performance.

However, Sale represents an upgrade over Beckett who just recently came off the disabled list. Sale has emerged as one of the American League’s top starting pitchers and zoomed past Beckett in every significant category. Beckett has always been susceptible to injury and has also clashed with Red Sox management and the fan base this season. It is safe to say that Sale is well beyond the value of Beckett as of right now.

When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective. See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin). Here, this trade involves the swap of a catcher, shortstop and starting pitcher. Clearly, positional needs did not factor into the decision-making behind this trade.

GCG is currently in 4th place and is setting their sights on improving for this season. There is no question that Reyes and Rosario are significant upgrades at their respective positions. The tradeoff is swapping Sale for Beckett which does represent a downgrade on his pitching staff. This could have a negative impact on GCG because he just lost C.C. Sabathia to injury, Ricky Romero has been horrendous, and ace Stephen Strasburg could be limited in his innings and outings going forward. In the scope of analyzing the trade, there are discernible benefits and risks for GCG in making this trade.

On the other hand, LR is in 11th place and 50 points out of 1st place. They are trading away established players in exchange for a package of players that does not appear to have equivalent present-day value. This is symbolic of a team in a keeper league looking to build for the future. See Moneyball vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J. 67, 68 (May 2012) (upholding the 4 Ponies’ trade of Hanley Ramirez for a package of younger and less expensive talent as part of building for future seasons). It is indisputable that Sale has more value than Beckett, so that will help LR in both the short and long-term.

However, Hardy is an average, aging shortstop with good power but lacks production in all other categories. Additionally, Norris is a nice prospect that Oakland acquired in the Gio Gonzalez trade with the Washington Nationals. But Norris only has 30 at bats under his belt and still may not see regular playing time until some point next season, depending on what the As do with incumbent Kurt Suzuki,

When a team owner in a keeper league no longer believes he has any hope for contending in the current season, he must make a critical roster management decision of whether to trade off established players in exchange for unknown entities in building for the future. Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. at 102. This is precisely what LR has done in acquiring players like Sale, Hardy and Norris who do have some current value as well.

A trade will be rejected when the Court cannot objectively ascertain any benefit to one of the teams and the net result in no way makes a team better now or in the future. Los Pollos Hermanos v. Little Stumps, 3 F.J. 192, 195 (October 2011). This trade benefits GCG in their pursuit of success in the current season. The trade also provides LR with a couple players to build around for the immediate future, as well as a shortstop who can hit 30 home runs which may have solid trade value later in the year.

The dichotomy between LR and GCG’s motivations is precisely why the Court must look at trades in keeper leagues differently than non-keeper leagues. Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. at 34. However, had this trade been made in a non-keeper league, the Court could possibly reject it.

Here, a trade was proposed and agreed to between two teams with differing priorities. While the two packages are not completely equitable in terms of present-day value, the trade has discernible benefits for both parties without any specter of collusion. Based on the foregoing reasons, the trade should be approved as it was made in good faith and within the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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