Team Sabo vs. Nub Dawgs – 4 F.J. 158 (August 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (S.Marte/A.Chapman/B.Beachy)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Team Sabo vs. Nub Dawgs

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE 

Decided August 2, 2012

Cite as 4 F.J. 158 (August 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

Team Sabo has made a trade with the Nub Dawgs.  Team Sabo traded Starling Marte (OF-PIT, $0.50 as a minor leaguer who doesn’t have to be activated until he reaches 130 at bats and then can be signed to a 3-year contract), Mike Leake (SP-CIN, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract), and Brandon Beachy (SP-ATL, $0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract) to the Nub Dawgs in exchange for Aroldis Chapman (RP-CIN, $0.50 in the final year of his existing contract) and Christian Yelich (OF-MIA, $0.50 in the minor leagues and can be kept at this salary until he is activated).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Team Sabo and the Nub Dawgs 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 Starling Marte, Mike Leake and Brandon Beachy in exchange for Aroldis Chapman and Christian Yelich looks equitable.  None of the players involved in this trade 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). 

This deal is the epitome of a keeper league trade where one team out of contention for the playoffs is trading away a current asset in exchange for younger and cheaper talent.  Team Sabo, currently in second place and ten points out of first, clearly has aspirations of winning the league or at least securing the runner-up spot.  The acquisition of Chapman will assuredly help boost Team Sabo’s position in the standings with respect to saves.  He ranks 9th in the league in saves, so obtaining Chapman should enable him to secure a few more points right away given how well Cincinnati has played and how dominant Chapman has been.

Chapman’s emergence as one of the elite closers in baseball makes him the most valuable player in this trade.  As of August 2, 2012, Chapman has four wins with 23 saves.  As if that wasn’t impressive enough for a closer who didn’t secure the role until May, he also has an incredible 1.39 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and 96 strikeouts in just 52.2 innings.

In addition to Chapman, Team Sabo is also acquiring Marlins’ minor league prospect Christian Yelich.  He does not figure to make an impact for at least another year or more, so he has no current value.  Given Miami’s inability to find an everyday centerfielder, Yelich could be in line for that position when he is ready to be promoted sometime in 2014.

Contrarily, the Nub Dawgs are in 9th place and 13.5 points behind the 8th place team.  Given their position in the standings at this point, it is evident that they are punting this season and focusing on rebuilding their roster for 2013.  The centerpiece of the package that Nub Dawgs is receiving is Pirates’ rookie outfielder Starling Marte.  Marte burst onto the scene just a couple weeks ago and made a splash by hitting a homerun on the first pitch he ever saw as a major leaguer.  He is projected to be a five-tool player who can contribute for Nub Dawgs over the next three years.

Nub Dawgs also received Mike Leake and Brandon Beachy.  Leake is a marginal fantasy pitcher because he pitches to contact.  Despite only having four wins on a Reds team that has a good offense and dynamic bullpen, Leake also has a meager 4.44 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and only 79 strikeouts in 119.2 innings.  The acquisition of Beachy is essentially negligible because he just recently had Tommy John surgery and only has one more year remaining on his current contract.  In a best case scenario, he could be back sometime around the 2013 All Star break if everything goes perfectly in his recovery and rehabilitation.  Otherwise, he has very little value with respect to this trade.

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 Team Sabo is in a “win now” mentality.  The acquisition of Chapman directly serves his motivations by pursuing points in the saves category where he is severely lacking.  His only other closer is John Axford who has been a disaster in Milwaukee and may or may not get more save opportunities down the stretch

The Nub Dawgs are currently in 9th place and are looking ahead to the future.  The exchange of Chapman, whose contract expires at the end of the season, for Marte, is indicative of a team looking to maximize future value for a current asset.  Moneyball vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J 67, 68 (May 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.  See Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011).  What makes this trade fair is the fact that the Nub Dawgs are acquiring a legitimate prospect that can contribute for the rest of this season and should only get better with time..    

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 Team Sabo better by adding Chapman to their pitching staff.  The Nub Dawgs do take a big hit in pitching, but the acquisition of Marte does set them up to have one of the best outfields in the league next year.  .

In terms of the contractual and financial ramifications of the trade, there is only a $1.00 differential which hardly has any consequence on either team.  Chapman’s contract expires at the end of this season so the Nub Dawgs would have lost him anyway.  Here, they obtain Marte who they can control for the next few years. 

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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