The Verdict: fantasy baseball keeper league trade

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Grave Diggers vs. Woodchucks

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE WESTERN NY ROTISSERIE BASEBALL LEAGUE

Decided Aug. 17, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 196 (August 2012)

Factual Background

A fantasy baseball league called the Western NY Rotisserie Baseball League (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “WNYRBL”) is composed of 20 teams and has been in existence since 1987. The WNYRBL, hosted on CBSSports.com, utilizes an auction format for its annual draft and bidding on free agents when making transactions. Each team has a draft budget of $260 and an after-auction salary cap of $325. It is a mixed AL/NL keeper league where each team may keep a minimum of five players and a maximum of 15 players from one season to the next within its 23-man roster.

Each team’s roster must always contain 23 players, which include two catchers, one first baseman, one second baseman, one third baseman, one shortstop, one middle infielder, one corner infielder, five outfielders, nine pitchers, and one utility player (may be a hitter or pitcher).

As with many rotisserie leagues, the WNYRBL uses the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money. For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) home runs; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases. For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins; (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 Roto league.

The WNYRBL also has a three-round minor league draft to build a farm system with a maximum of seven players to hold at a salary of $5 per player. These players may be held until they are called up and activated by their major league team.

Because this is a keeper league, players may be signed to contracts as part of their retention from year to year. The rules regarding players’ contracts are as follows:

XV. LONG TERM CONTRACTS

A player who’s been under contract for two consecutive seasons at the same salary must, prior to the freezing of the rosters in his third or option season, be:

1. Released;
2. Signed at the same salary for his option year; or
3. Signed to a guaranteed long term contract.

If released, the player returns to the free agent pool and becomes available to the highest bidder at the next auction.

If signed at the same salary for the option year, the player must be released back into the free agent pool at the end of the season.

If signed to a guaranteed long term contract, the player’s salary in each year covered by the new contract (which commences with the option year) shall be the sum of his current salary plus $5 for each addition year beyond the option year. In addition, a signing bonus, equal to one half the total value of the contract, but no less than $5 shall be paid.

Trades between teams are permitted pursuant to Section XI of the WNYRBL’s rules.

Procedural history

The Grave Diggers have made a trade with the Woodchucks. The Grave Diggers traded Alfredo Aceves (RP-BOS, $10 in the first year of his existing contract), Ryan Madson (RP-CIN, $4 in the first year of his existing contract), and Justin Masterson (SP-CLE, $6 in the first year of his existing contract) to the Woodchucks in exchange for Mat Latos (SP-CIN, $15 in the final year of his existing contract) and Joe Nathan (RP-TEX, $9 in the final year of his existing contract).

Issue presented

(1) Should the trade between the Grave Diggers and the Woodchucks 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. See 4 Ponies v. Carson City Cocks, 3 F.J. 13 (May 2011).

The scope of the Court’s authority is to govern and advise when there is a dispute as to the validity of trades, rulings, decisions or other issues that arise within the league. Silveramo v. Nation, 2 F.J. 38, 41 (October 2010) (holding that making a judgment on whether an individual did something stupid falls outside of the Court’s jurisdiction). It is not up to the Court to make a determination on what is considered intelligent. Unwise decisions should not be scrutinized or vetoed merely because they are unwise. Road Runners v. Urban Achievers, 3 F.J. 47, 50 (June 2011) (holding that the main criteria for evaluating a trade is its inherent fairness, not whether it was an intelligent decision by a league member to make the deal). Rather, the Court’s role in this jurisdiction is to evaluate the objective merits of a deal and ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained. Victoria’s Secret v. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010).

The approval or rejection of a trade should be based on whether the deal is fair, free from collusion, and in the best interests of the league. Whether a trade is intelligent or popular will not be part of the analysis. See 4 Ponies v. 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. See Carson City Cocks v. Stud Muffins, 3 F.J. 23, 24 (May 2011).

No evidence or suspicion of collusive conduct has been presented. As such, the Court will presume that the subject trade was agreed to between the parties free from any type of collusion or illicit arrangement.

At first glance, the trade of Alfredo Aceves, Ryan Madson and Justin Masterson in exchange for Mat Latos and Joe Nathan looks fair and equitable. None of the players involved in this deal are considered elite fantasy options for the purpose of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable they are. See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 218, 220 (November 2011).

Latos is arguably the best player in this trade. After leaving the pitching-friendly confines of Petco Park in San Diego, Latos struggled early in the season adjusting to his new team in Cincinnati. But he has been dominant since the All-Star break and has allowed only five total runs in his last five starts. Overall he has amassed 10 wins along with a 3.36 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 134 strikeouts in 148.2 innings. He has the benefit of great run support and one of the league’s best bullpens, so Latos should continue to be an ace for the rest of the season.

Nathan has been very solid in his first season with the Texas Rangers. Now two years removed from surgery, Nathan has proven he is back at full health with 23 saves, 2.72 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and averaging over a strikeout per inning. Nathan also has the benefit of closing for a great team in a pennant race, so he should see plenty of save opportunities the rest of the season.

In comparison, Alfredo Aceves has been inconsistent all year despite actually having one more save than Nathan. His ERA is over a full run higher and he may not have as many save chances with Boston struggling so much. Justin Masterson is a talented but frustrating fantasy pitcher. He has the ability to be a top starter, but he can never put it all together, as evidenced by his sub-standard 4.50 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.

This trade epitomizes the strategy employed in a keeper league. Because of the existence of future considerations and long-term planning, trades made 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); see also Harem Hawkings vs. Harbor Yankees, 4 F.J. 40, 42 (April 2012) (holding that a more expensive player could be financially prohibitive in the long run compared to a cheaper player who offers more financial flexibility).

The Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from both perspectives. See Cajun 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). The record is devoid of the both teams’ rosters. However, it is apparent that the Grave Diggers, currently in fourth place, are looking to either make a run at improving in the standings or at least assuring that they maintain one of the seven payout positions in the league. The acquisitions of Latos and Nathan represent an upgrade over Aceves and Masterson (Madson is clearly not a factor now because he is out for the entire season recovering from surgery). This “win now” mentality is demonstrated by the Grave Diggers’ willingness to take on two more expensive expiring contracts.

In contrast, the Woodchucks, currently in 12th place and 23.5 points out of the final payout position, have punted the current season. When a team owner in a keeper league no longer 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. See Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011). The Woodchucks would have lost Latos and Nathan at the end of the season anyway as their contracts were set to expire. Instead of losing them for nothing, the Woodchucks were able to acquire two closers and a decent starting pitcher for less money than Latos and Nathan cost.

In this 20-team league, having multiple closers is a luxury. Fantasy owners in roto leagues are free to prioritize which categories they want to pursue improvement in when making trades and managing their rosters. Stud Muffins vs. Cajun Crawdads, 4 F.J. 61, 63 (May 2012). Granted, Madson is out for the season and will be a free agent. There is no guarantee where he will be or whether he will be closing in 2013. It certainly does not appear he will be closing in Cincinnati given the emergence of Aroldis Chapman. But with so many teams in need of a closer, it is likely he will be given the opportunity somewhere in the league.

The dichotomy between the Grave Diggers and Woodchucks’ 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. 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. See Los Pollos Hermanos v. Little Stumps, 3 F.J. 192, 195 (October 2011). Here, both teams obtain their respective desired benefits with equitable value being exchanged.

Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the subject trade between the Grave Diggers and Woodchucks as it comports with the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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Comments

  1. Terry H. said...

    These articles always crack me up.  My leagues bar trades based only on collusion, nothing else.  Leagues that do this sort of league-wide “approve” and “decline” simply substitute collusion between two owners with the much more odious collusion of the rest of the league vs. one owner.  In other words, they conflate envy with collusion, then go on to codify the envy.

  2. Michael A. Stein said...

    I am not a proponent of league voting for trades.  Everyone has their own agenda which can inhibit people’s ability to make fair deals.

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