On May 21, the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment was presented with a case involving a dispute over a trade. This is not uncommon; a lot of the cases submitted to the Court are disputed trades. What made this case stand out was that the league had unique keeper requirements which ended up as the reason the proposed trade was ultimately rejected. As I have discussed before, trades in keeper leagues get more leniency because of the many factors that go into such deals besides pure present-day value. In this case, it was the keeper rules that ended up sealing its fate.
The trade was made in a 13-team mixed AL/NL keeper league whose teams are required to protect 13 players each year. However, players in CBS’ top 50 preseason ranking are ineligible to be protected. This means the top 50 players in CBS’ 2014 projections will be available in the pool of players to be drafted.
As with many rotisserie leagues, this is a 5×5 league for scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money. For offensive players, the five categories are on-base percentage, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored and stolen bases. For pitchers, the five categories are wins, earned run average, WHIP, strikeouts and saves. Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season; head to head games aren’t part of the league.
Team A traded Ben Revere (OF-PHI), Kyuji Fujikawa (RP-CHC), Hisashi Iwakuma (SP-SEA), and Adrian Gonzalez (1B-LAD) to Team B for Billy Butler (1B-KC), C.C. Sabathia (SP-NYY), Craig Kimbrel (RP-ATL), and Yoenis Cespedes (OF-OAK). No evidence was submitted indicating any alleged collusion or malfeasance, so the Court operated on the presumption that there is no collusive conduct between the parties.
At first glance, the trade looked inequitable. Kimbrel could be considered an elite fantasy player given his dominating numbers as one of, if not the most, premier closers in baseball.
But, because this is a keeper league, trades tend to be evaluated differently. A trade that may look uneven or lopsided could easily pass muster in a keeper league based on factors other than simply 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).
However, this keeper league is unique in that the top 50 players cannot be retained. Because of that, the Court cannot know for sure whether any of the players involved in this trade will be eligible for retention next year. That does not mean we cannot speculate or make assumptions. Of all the players involved in this trade, the most likely candidate to be included in 2014’s top 50 rankings is Kimbrel. But even that is a stretch given he was not in the top 50 for 2013 according to three of CBS’ top fantasy writers (see http://fantasynews.cbssports.com/fantasybaseball/rankings/roto/overall/latest).
Assuming that none of the players involved in this trade will be ranked in the top 50 for 2014, then they will all be eligible to be kept next year. This bodes quite well for Team A, which is clearly getting the better end of this deal in terms of present day value as well as long-term benefits for next season.
This trade represented an even swap in terms of the players’ positions involved. It included the exchange of a first baseman, outfielder, starting pitcher and relief pitcher. Based on this, the deal did not represent a specific positional interest by one team. There were no salary cap or contractual ramifications in this trade since players are kept year to year assuming they fall outside of the top 50 preseason rankings. Furthermore, the record was devoid of any information regarding where these teams were in the standings or the composition of the rest of their respective rosters.
Since all of the foregoing factors and elements of a keeper league trade were eliminated from the analysis, we had to look at a statistical comparison of the compensation being exchanged. Again, we had an even swap of positions so we directly compared the players to one another.
As of May 21:
OBP HR RBI Runs SB Yoenis Cespedes .286 8 21 21 1 Ben Revere .291 0 5 14 8 OBP HR RBI Runs SB Billy Butler .375 5 30 17 0 Adrian Gonzalez .373 4 29 11 0 W ERA WHIP K S CC Sabathia 4 3.43 1.32 56 0 H. Iwakuma 5 2.37 0.86 61 0 W ERA WHIP K S Craig Kimbrel 0 2.60 0.98 28 14 Kyuji Fujikawa 1 6.75 1.17 12 2
The greatest disparity between the two packages is the comparison of Kimbrel to Fujijkawa, and Cespedes to Revere. Team A is exponentially upgrading by obtaining Kimbrel and Cespedes in exchange for Fujikawa (who has subsequently been lost for the year) and Revere. The exchange of Sabathia for Iwakuma is an essential wash given their statistics at the time. The same could be said for the exchange of Butler for Gonzalez.
For a trade to be deemed fair and equitable, there must be discernible benefits obtained by both teams. It is plainly obvious that Team A would have greatly benefited from this trade and likely ascended in the standings given the assets he would have acquired. However, the Court could not reasonably decipher any present or long-term benefit obtained by Team B in this trade. Given the statistical comparisons, the only advantage Team B could possibly have received is a slight upgrade with Iwakuma over Sabathia. Swapping Kimbrel for Fujikawa demonstrated no possible benefit even if Fujikawa returned and avoided season-ending surgery. Additionally, Revere was banged up and, when at his best, contributes only stolen bases. Cespedes is a much greater source of the same speed plus power and run production.
Typically the Court is extremely liberal in evaluating trades made in keeper leagues because we recognize the numerous factors that go into the analysis besides merely comparing statistics. This case was unique given the applicable rules for keepers. The Court did make broad assumptions that all players involved would be eligible for retention since they likely will not be in CBS’s top 50 preseason rankings for 2014. Of course, that is a fluid process depending on how these players perform the rest of the current season. But we can only evaluate the merits of this trade at the present time and make other assumptions and projections based on stats and data currently available.
In this deal, Team B was not receiving equitable compensation. According to the information known about this league, there were no discernible benefits being afforded to Team B to justify the inequity of the compensation. The Court’s role is to ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained by not allowing lopsided trades such as this from being processed. Based on the foregoing, the Court rejected the proposed trade.