As I have explained before, I run a business called Fantasy Judgment, an independent, expert dispute resolution service for fantasy sports leagues. Part of why I was asked to write for The Hardball Times was to share with you some of the cases that are submitted and the decisions written resolving such issues. Before anyone goes on the attack with accusations of self-promotion, this goes to the very heart of my column that analyzes various issues within the fantasy baseball universe. Most of the issues that come across my desk are trade disputes, so I wanted to share a recent decision with you to show how we evaluate proposed trades and come to our decisions.
THE SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT
Smittydogs v. Stud Muffins
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE
Decided April 22, 2011
Cite as 3 F.J. 10 (April 2011)
A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “The Incontinent League”) utilizing an auction-style draft and transaction platform seeks an evaluation of a trade made between two teams within the Roto league. This is an NL-only keeper league where each team is permitted to maintain up to 10 players during each offseason with each individual player allowed to be kept for a maximum of three years. Each team is also permitted to keep two minor league players which are in addition to the 10 players kept. This Roto league also has a $36 in-season salary cap that is applicable for all teams.
As with many rotisserie leagues, the subject Roto league 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 Smittydogs have made two trades with the Stud Muffins which can be evaluated concurrently. The Smittydogs traded Todd Helton (1B-COL) and Brooks Conrad (3B-ATL) to the Stud Muffins in exchange for Jason Motte (RP-STL) and Mitchell Boggs (RP-STL).
(1) Should the trades between the Smittydogs and the Stud Muffins be upheld and approved?
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions and trades. The standard of review has been that people pay money to purchase a team in a league, draft their team and manage it accordingly. Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication and savviness.
The Court also acknowledges that the analysis for evaluating trades is much different in a keeper league than a non-keeper league. A trade that may look uneven or lopsided on its face may receive a different opinion when it is involved in a keeper league. The reasons for this are obvious, but must be restated. In a keeper league, teams that are having unsuccessful seasons are more likely to continue to pay attention and make moves that will set themselves up for better success in the following season. They can do this by acquiring young talent that is not under contract within the league, or by dumping salary (assuming it is an auction league) and allowing greater financial flexibility to sign key players in the next season’s draft. In non-keeper leagues, there is no rationale for thinking ahead, nor is there any need to stockpile young, inexpensive talent.
Another factor that the Court must always consider is whether there is any collusion or under-the-table dealings going on between teams. The Court has not been presented with any evidence of such malfeasance, so assumptions will be made that this is not an issue.
At first glance, the individual trades of Todd Helton in exchange for Jason Motte, and Brooks Conrad in exchange for Mitchell Boggs look slightly uneven. However, when viewed in totality as if it was a two-for-two trade, the deal makes more sense. It should be noted that the Smittydogs acquired Ryan Franklin (RP-STL) earlier in the season, and he has since lost his job as the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals. Clearly this served as a motivating factor for Smittydogs to acquire two potential candidates that will be obtaining Franklin’s save opportunities.
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, the Smittydogs were in need of saves due to Franklin’s demotion, so there was an inherent need to acquire potential replacements for him.
Todd Helton was once one of the premiere players in the league and a top option in terms of fantasy production. However, due to age and injuries, he has been sapped of the power and run production the fantasy baseball community was accustomed to for almost a decade. At this point in his career, Helton cannot be relied upon to play every day, nor can he be relied upon to contribute mightily in any of the roto categories.
However, he is still capable of reaching .300 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs if he remains healthy enough. He will be afforded every opportunity to play consistently for a Rockies team that is expected to contend for the National League West title. It makes sense that he would be desirable by the Stud Muffins in exchange for a couple of Cardinals relievers without a track record of success.
The puzzling aspect of this trade is Brooks Conrad who is nothing more than a bench player. He was given significant playing time in 2010, and besides a game-winning grand slam home run, he did nothing remarkable other than make errors filling in for Chipper Jones. Conrad’s role is solely as a reserve, and he hasn’t even been given an opportunity to start a game yet in 2011. That being said, his inclusion in these deals doesn’t increase or decrease their value.
None of the players involved cost significant salary dollars, and their values only net a $0.10 difference which is hardly enough to consider as a factor in the trade. Additionally, none of these players are projected to be long-term assets for either team.
As referenced in Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010), the dichotomy between the Smittydogs and the Stud Muffins’ motivations is precisely why the Court must look at trades in keeper leagues differently than non-keeper leagues. However, had this trade been made in a non-keeper league, the Court would still likely approve it.
These two trades were made concurrently and subsequently evaluated in totality for judicial economy and ease of reference for the parties. Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trades are fair, equal, and free of collusion. The trades should be approved as they comport with the best interests of the league.
IT IS SO ORDERED.