The Verdict: rebuilding for both teams in a keeper league trade.

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Nub Vader vs. 4 Ponies

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided September 1, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 233 (September 2012)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league called The Incontinent League (hereinafter referred to as “roto league” or “IL” is an 11-team NL-only keeper league utilizing an auction-style draft and transaction platform. Teams are permitted to maintain up to ten (10) players during each off-season with individual players allowed to be kept for a maximum of three (3) consecutive years under contract. Each team is also permitted to keep two minor league players which are in addition to the ten players kept. This roto league also has a $26.00 draft salary cap, as well as a $36.00 in-season salary cap that is applicable for all teams.

As with many rotisserie leagues, the Incontinent 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) homeruns; (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 Incontinent League submitted a proposed trade between two league members and seeks an opinion on whether the trade should be approved.

Procedural History

Nub Vader has made a trade with the 4 Ponies. Nub Vader traded Dee Gordon (SS-LAD, $0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract), Anthony Rizzo ($0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract), Andrelton Simmons (SS-ATL, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract), Devin Mesoraco (C-CIN, $0.50 in the first year of his existing contract) and Jacob Turner (SP-MIA, $0.50 minor league salary) to the 4 Ponies in exchange for Wilin Rosario (C-COL, $0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract), Michael Fiers (SP-MIL, $0.50 in the first year of his existing contract), Tyler Colvin (OF-COL, $0.20 in the first year of his existing contract) and Oscar Taveras (OF-STL, $0.50 minor league salary).

Issue Presented

(1) Should the trade between Nub Vader and the 4 Ponies be approved?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual 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).

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. See 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, ripe 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 Dee Gordon, Anthony Rizzo, Andrelton Simmons, Devin Mesoraco and Jacob Turner in exchange for Wilin Rosario, Michael Fiers, Tyler Colvin and Oscar Taveras looks fair and equitable. None of the players involved in this deal are considered elite for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable they are based on their statistics and name recognition See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011). However, several of these players are stars with significant value.

This trade represents two teams who have already punted the current season after previous trades they have made, including with each other. See Nub Vader vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J. 122 (July 2012). 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 an attempt to build for the future. Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011). This trade demonstrates an ability for two rebuilding teams to satisfy each other’s needs in a non-remarkable manner.

The best player in this trade is arguably Anthony Rizzo, who is now being traded back to the 4 Ponies only after being acquired less than two months before. See Nub Vader vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J. 122 (July 2012). The Court notes the record is devoid of any rules in the Incontinent League which prohibits tradebacks. Tradebacks are defined as trades made between two teams whereby a player is returned directly to the team that previously traded him from the team he was directly traded to. The Court also notes that it is common for fantasy leagues to prohibit this type of transaction in order to prevent a “player rental” scenario. Given that the rules are silent about this, it will not factor in the analysis of the trade itself.

The rest of the players involved are all relatively young and unproven commodities with different degrees of upside. Rosario has displayed impressive power for a catcher with 23 homeruns, but Mesoraco is certainly equitable compensation for him when considering his potential. Despite platooning most of the season and not having great offensive numbers, Mesoraco is the catcher of the future for the Reds and should become more consistent over time.

Jacob Turner was a highly-touted prospect with the Tigers before being dealt to Miami earlier in the season. He will get an opportunity to entrench himself as a fixture in the Marlins’ rotation as they attempt to establish an identity going forward. In exchange, Nub Vader acquires Michael Fiers who has been a pleasant surprise on a disappointing Milwaukee Brewers team. Fiers has amassed 8 wins with a 2.85 ERA and is averaging over a strikeout per inning.

Andrelton Simmons was very impressive in his time with the Braves before sustaining an injury which derailed his season. He replaced an unproductive Tyler Pastornicky and should be given the chance to establish himself as the Braves shortstop of the future. But the biggest question mark in this trade is arguably Dee Gordon. Gordon was given the everyday shortstop job but did not produce anything offensively, and then his fielding skills suffered. Blessed with tremendous speed, Gordon could not get on base enough to sustain fantasy value with stolen bases. Then Gordon got hurt and Los Angeles acquired Hanley Ramirez to take over at shortstop. The plan going forward is to leave Ramirez there which means Gordon is likely going to end up back in the minors or get traded.

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). This trade makes sense for both teams. The players included in both packages have upside and are relatively inexpensive in terms of fantasy salary cap value so that neither team is handcuffed with a burdensome contract.

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). As previously discussed, the trade includes a plethora of young players with upside. Both teams assume the same risks involved with unproven talent, but there is enough talent included to make it worth the exchange.

The difference in salary cap with this trade is $1.30 which is negligible for both teams. This deal epitomizes trades that are made in keeper leagues where teams decide to either compete for the current season or look to build for the future. The value of the players involved is commensurate with both teams’ needs. Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade should be approved as it comports with the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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Comments

  1. Sam said...

    I really like this series, but is it possible you could post some cases that illustrate different points of law, if that is the correct term?

    There have already been so many this year that basically boil down to some fool complaining about a trade, have no evidence of collusion, and the trade not being grossly lopsided enough to overturn.

  2. Kevin said...

    Really hoping this column gets a mercy killing before next season. Hasn’t the gimmick of legal jargon and formatting worn off? There’s about 1500 words for a decision that probably could have fit into a tweet.

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