Cajun Crawdads vs. 4 Ponies – 3 F.J. 78 (July 24, 2011) – fantasy baseball trade (U.Jimenez/T.Hudson/D.Hudson)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Cajun Crawdads vs. 4 Ponies 

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE 

Decided July 24, 2011

Cite as 3 F.J. 78 (July 2011)

Factual Background

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 ten (10) players during each off-season with each individual player allowed to be kept for a maximum of three (3) years.  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 $36.00 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) 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.

Procedural History

The Cajun Crawdads have made a trade with the 4 Ponies.  The Cajun Crawdads traded Tim Hudson (SP-ATL), Ubaldo Jimenez (SP-COL), Drew Stubbs (OF-CIN), Carlos Ruiz (C-PHI), and Ramon Ramirez (RP-SF) to the 4 Ponies in exchange for Jhoulys Chacin (SP-COL), Daniel Hudson (SP-ARZ), Brett Wallace (1B-HOU), and Randy Wolf (SP-MIL).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Cajun Crawdads and the 4 Ponies be upheld and approved?

Decision

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.  See Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 33 (June 2010).

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 trade of Tim Hudson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Drew Stubbs, Carlos Ruiz and Ramon Ramirez in exchange for Jhoulys Chacin, Daniel Hudson, Brett Wallace and Randy Wolf looks fair and even.  There are big names involved on both sides of the trade (including one Hudson each) and neither package seems to blow the other away upon doing an initial “sniff test.”  Based simply on this year’s performance and anticipated production for the rest of the season, the deal is equivalent as well.  For the 4 Ponies, Jimenez has the most potential to be a dominant fantasy player given his previous success in the first half of 2010.  While he has struggled for most of 2011, he seems to have regained his form lately despite having a losing record and a relatively high ERA compared to where he was a year ago.  Tim Hudson has always been and will continue to be a winning pitcher in both real and fantasy baseball.  When healthy, he is a lock for 12-15 wins and a ERA of under 3.50.  He doesn’t strike many batters out at this point in his career, but he won’t hurt you in that category either.  Drew Stubbs is a fantasy anomaly as he is great for stolen bases and runs scored in a potent Reds’ lineup.  But he also leads the league in strikeouts.  While that doesn’t necessarily have an adverse effect in a roto league, it does translate to a lower batting average and possible days off against more skilled pitchers.  Ruiz is a serviceable fantasy catcher as he plays almost every day and is in the middle of a good Phillies’ lineup.  He will not put up astounding numbers, but he is certainly a better option than most others.  Ramirez is a solid middle reliever who will help in the ERA and WHIP categories.    

In exchange for that package, the Cajun Crawdads acquired Jhoulys Chacin, Daniel Hudson, Randy Wolf and Brett Wallace.  Chacin looks like he will be a solid starting pitcher in both real and fantasy baseball.  Now with one full year under his belt, he has been relatively inconsistent which is not unexpected of such a young pitcher.  He has shown flashes of brilliance that indicate he will become a very good pitcher for a long time.  Daniel Hudson has emerged as the ace of the Diamondbacks despite slowing down just a bit after a great first half.  He has the talent and numbers to be a great fantasy pitcher as well.  Randy Wolf is a journeyman pitcher with marginal fantasy value because he does not strike a lot of batters out and pitches to contact so he tends to give up a lot of hits.  Finally, Brett Wallace has been regarded as one of baseball’s top prospects as indicated by the fact he was traded twice in major deals last year.  He has had a respectable rookie campaign and should continue to improve as he gains more experience.  Given the Astros’ situation, it is likely that Wallace will become the face of the franchise by 2012 if Hunter Pence is traded.

To illustrate the equality of the trade, the following is a statistical comparison of all players involved in the trade and their numbers through July 18, 2011:

Player

AVG.

HR

RBI

Runs

SB

Drew Stubbs

.253

12

33

63

24

Carlos Ruiz

.266

4

20

29

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brett Wallace

.281

4

26

35

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player

Wins

ERA

K’s

WHIP

Saves

Tim Hudson

9

3.39

91

1.13

0

Ubaldo Jimenez

6

4.00

108

1.30

0

Ramon Ramirez

2

2.20

37

1.09

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jhoulys Chacin

8

3.60

110

1.20

0

Daniel Hudson

10

3.72

109

1.22

0

Randy Wolf

6

3.62

91

1.34

0

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).  The 4 Ponies, currently in first place and making a push to stay there the rest of the way, needed starting pitching help to complement Cliff Lee, so acquiring Tim Hudson and Ubaldo Jimenez certainly accomplished that.  Ruiz provides a nice alternative to incumbent catcher John Buck who is a killer for batting average.  Finally, Stubbs provides additional stolen bases and runs scored to an already strong team comprised of Jose Reyes, Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, and Justin Upton.  On the flip side, the Cajun Crawdads, currently in 9th place, acquired D.Hudson and Chacin to go along with an already young and talented pitching staff that includes Jair Jurrjens, Mat Latos, Jonathan Niese and Shaun Marcum.  Trading away Stubbs clearly indicates they are punting the stolen base category because there is no one else on his roster that has accumulated any significant steals to date.  This strategy is understandable if you can improve on other categories in a significant way, which the Crawdads believe they can based on the acquisition of younger pitching talent.  Having lost Ike Davis since April (and likely for the rest of the year), the Crawdads needed some help at first base which Wallace clearly does. Based on the foregoing analysis, the needs of each team were equally met with this trade.

In terms of keeper league status and salary cap value, this trade epitomized what teams in roto leagues do in order to plan for the future in terms of player acquisition and salary cap flexibility.  The Cajun Crawdads, in 9th place, did have Jimenez in only the first year of his contract which means they could have controlled him for another two years.  However, they recognized their chance to acquire two young players (Chacin and D.Hudson) who they can still control next season for a total of $0.60 less than Jimenez.  Additionally, Stubbs was in the last year of his contract as well and would have become a free agent next season anyway.  The 4 Ponies, in 1st place, are looking to win the league this season, which justifies trading off players under control for expiring contracts. 

As referenced in Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010), the dichotomy between the Cajun Crawdads and 4 Ponies’ 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. 

Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade is fair, equal, and free of collusion.  The trade should be approved as it comports with the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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