Stud Muffins vs. Beaver Hunters – 4 F.J. 179 (August 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (S.Victorino/H.Pence/D.Fowler)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Stud Muffins vs. Beaver Hunters

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided August 14, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 179 (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

The Stud Muffins have made a trade with the Beaver Hunters.  The Stud Muffins traded Shane Victorino (OF-PHI, $3.50 in the first year of his existing contract), Hunter Pence (OF-SF, $2.60 in the final year of his existing contract), and Jordan Zimmermann (SP-WAS, $0.40 in the final year of his existing contract) to the Beaver Hunters in exchange for Dexter Fowler (OF-COL, $2.00 in the first year of his existing contract), Archie Bradley (SP-ARZ, $0.50 in the minor leagues and can be retained at this salary until he is promoted to the major leagues), Roger Bernadina (OF-WAS, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract), and Vance Worley (SP-PHI, $0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Stud Muffins and the Beaver Hunters 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 Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Jordan Zimmermann in exchange for Dexter Fowler, Roger Bernadina, Archie Bradley and Vance Worley looks slightly uneven in terms of present-day value.  This is largely because Victorino, Pence and Zimmermann are all solid starting players on MLB playoff-contending teams whereas Bernadina is a platoon player, Bradley is only at Single-A, and Worley has been inconsistent during his sophomore season.  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). 

Shane Victorino, recently traded from the Phillies to the Dodgers, is arguably the best player in this trade from a roto standpoint.  He is currently batting .263 with 10 homeruns, 45 RBI, 54 runs scored and 27 stolen bases.  While he has been inconsistent for most of the season despite being a MLB free agent at the end of 2012, he has produced solid overall numbers with a good combination of run production and speed.

Hunter Pence, also traded by the Phillies at the MLB trade deadline to the San Francisco Giants, has been somewhat of a disappointment with batting average and stolen bases.  He is only hitting .256 with 18 homeruns, 70 RBI, 64 runs scored and five stolen bases.  More was expected of him in his free agent season and having the benefit of hitting in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park.  Nonetheless, his power numbers are respectable for an OF2 in roto formats.

The final player in the package being acquired by BH is Jordan Zimmermann.  Now a couple years removed from Tommy John surgery, Zimmermann has quietly been a very good pitcher for the Nationals on the league’s best staff.  Often times he is overshadowed by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.  But Zimmermann has won nine games with a very impressive 2.35 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 110 strikeouts in 145.1 innings.

On the other hand, Dexter Fowler is by far the best player being acquired by the Stud Muffins.  Currently he is batting .293 with 12 homeruns, 41 RBI, 61 runs scored and 10 stolen bases.  Fowler has the benefit of playing his home games at Coors Field at hitting in front of players like Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.  Unfortunately, Tulowitzki’s injury has had a lingering effect on the Rockies’ entire lineup.

The rest of the compensation obtained by the Stud Muffins is hardly worth getting excited over.  Roger Bernadina has proved to be a solid 4th outfielder on the Nationals with a .296 average and 13 stolen bases.  However, barring an injury, he is unlikely to ever see consistent playing time with Bryce Harper, Mike Morse and Jayson Werth patrolling Washington’s outfield.  The Court does recognize it is possible that the Nationals could let Adam LaRoche leave via free agency at the end of the year and move Morse to first base.  This could potentially open up a spot for Bernadina in 2013.

Vance Worley had a spectacular rookie season in 2011, but he has taken a step backwards in his sophomore season.  His numbers have gotten better since a horrendous start to the season.  He has six wins with a 3.97 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and 97 strikeouts in 118 innings.  These numbers pale in comparison to Zimmerman.  Finally, the Stud Muffins also acquired Archie Bradley, a hard-throwing pitching prospect for the Diamondbacks at their Single-A level.  He is only 20 years old with electric stuff, but he is likely at least two years away from making an impact at the major league level.

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 Beaver Hunters clearly have a “win now” mentality by obtaining Victorino and the expiring contracts of Pence and Zimmermann.  This package will unquestionably help BH right away.  They are currently in 3rd place and only 3.5 points out of 1st place.  The additions of Victorino and Pence should help the Beaver Hunters with their offensive categories as they sit in the middle of the pack in runs scored and stolen bases.

The Stud Muffins are currently in 4th place and five points behind the Beaver Hunters.  It appears that they are punting the season by trading away Victorino along with the expiring contracts of Pence and Zimmermann.  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).  The acquisition of Fowler will offset the loss of Victorino going forward.  While Bernadina, Worley and Bradley don’t necessarily have equivalent current value, there is potential for value long-term.

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 Victorino, Pence and Zimmermann.  In return, the Stud Muffins were able to turn them into potential assets going forward.

In terms of the salary cap and financial ramifications of the deal, the Stud Muffins will obtain $3.00 in cap space.  This is a significant amount as it represents 1/12 of the IL’s in-season salary cap which would allow them to make other moves if necessary.  While obtaining salary cap flexibility in a keeper is league is one of the many objectives teams have for making trades to rebuild for the future, its benefits can be trumped by the inequitability of the current players being traded away.  Beaver Hunters vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J. 129, 131 (July 2012).  That is not the case here.

The Beaver Hunters do in fact get the better end of the deal for the remainder of the season.  However, the compensation provided to the Stud Muffins is sufficient enough in terms of value that the trade is fair and equitable.  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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