Beaver Hunters vs. 4 Ponies – 4 F.J. 129 (July 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (J.Votto/A.Hill/V.Worley)

 SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Beaver Hunters vs. 4 Ponies

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided July 16, 2012

Cite as 4 F.J. 129 (July 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

The Beaver Hunters made a trade with the 4 Ponies.  The Beaver Hunters traded Vance Worley (SP-PHI, $0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract), Gaby Sanchez (1B-MIA, $0.50 in the final year of his existing contract), Aaron Hill (2B-ARZ, $0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract) and Nolan Arenado (3B-COL, $0.50 in the minor leagues and under team control at this salary until he is promoted to the major leagues) to the 4 Ponies in exchange for Joey Votto (1B-CIN, $4.60 with one year remaining on his existing contract) and  Anthony Bass (SP-SD, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Beaver Hunters 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 Vance Worley, Gaby Sanchez, Aaron Hill and Nolan Arenado in exchange for Joey Votto and Anthony Bass does not look equitable.  Votto is the only player in this trade considered elite for the purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable he is by name recognition, reputation, and performance.  Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011); see also Team Sabo vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J. 50, 51 (May 2012) (holding that Votto is by far the best first baseman in the entire NL-only roto league).  Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, is having another MVP-caliber season with a .342 batting average, 14 homeruns and 49 RBI. 

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).  It is clear that the Beaver Hunters, currently in 2nd place and only 3.5 points out of 1st place, are looking to win the championship this season.  Acquiring Joey Votto, the premier first baseman in an NL-only league, would unquestionably help further that goal.

The 4 Ponies, currently in last place, have already punted the current season based on several of the prior trades they have made.  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.  See Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011).  This trade does demonstrate the 4 Ponies desire to accumulate and stockpile less expensive players with potential upside. 

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).  The trade certainly makes the Beaver Hunters better by adding the best first baseman in the league to their team.  While they do sustain a downgrade at second base trading Hill leaving them with Ryan Theriot, Chris Nelson or Drew Sutton as options, it pales in comparison to the incredible upgrade they obtain by acquiring Votto.

The 4 Ponies have been working overtime to overhaul their roster in an attempt to build for the future.  They realize they will not win this year, with or without Votto.  However, under no circumstances does this package of players remotely make the 4 Ponies better right now or conceivably in the future.  A player’s value is not necessarily equivalent to the accumulation of several other less valuable players’ statistics.  See Team Sabo v. Nub Vader, 3 F.J. 55, 56 (July 2011).  Granted, Nolan Arenado is a highly-touted prospect.  But his projected value or potential does not equate to the value of the best first baseman in the entire roto league. 

In terms of the contractual and financial ramifications of the trade, the 4 Ponies will be netting an additional $3.60 of salary.  This is a significant amount as it represents 10% of the permitted in-season salary cap.  However, the 4 Ponies have been accumulating salary cap flexibility throughout the season with their previous trades.  While doing so is certainly an objective for a team who is rebuilding, its benefits are trumped by the inequitability of the current player(s) being traded away. 

The Court has no issues with the idea of trading superstar players so long as the package in return is equitable and makes sense given the needs of both teams.  4 Ponies v. Beaver Hunters, 3 F.J. 26, 29 (June 2011).  The inequitability of this trade is also exacerbated by the fact it is being made between the 2nd place team and the last place team.  That is not to say teams at polar opposite ends of the standings cannot or should not make trades.  But when deals such as this are made which do not have equitable value or conceivably benefit the team lower in the standings, it creates more of a perception of impropriety and unevenly affects the balance of power in the league.  Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade is not equitable and should be rejected.  The parties should have an opportunity to amend the deal to comport with the best interests of the league.  

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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