Moneyball vs. Nub Dawgs – 4 F.J. 192 (August 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (M.Bourn/F.Francisco/J.Soler)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Moneyball vs. Nub Dawgs

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided August 15, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 192 (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

Moneyball has made a trade with the Nub Dawgs.  Moneyball traded Dee Gordon (SS-LAD, $0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract), Frank Francisco (RP-NYM, $1.50 in the first year of his existing contract) and Jorge Soler (OF-CHC, $0.50 in the minor leagues and can be retained at this salary until he is promoted to the major leagues) to the Nub Dawgs in exchange for Michael Bourn (OF-ATL, $2.70 with one year remaining on his existing contract) and Mike Leake (SP-CIN, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Moneyball and the Smittydogs 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, Frank Francisco, and Jorge Soler in exchange for Michael Bourn and Mike Leake 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). 

Michael Bourn is the best player in this trade. Through August 14, 2012, he is batting .292 with nine homeruns, 50 RBI, 81 runs scored and 31 stolen bases.  Typically one the most prolific base stealers in baseball, Bourn has hit with slightly more power than normal and has maintained a solid batting average despite striking out frequently and not having a great on base percentage.

In addition to Bourn, Moneyball also acquired Mike Leake.  Leake has had a sub-par year thus far with only four wins, a 4.51 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and 91 strikeouts in 131.2 innings.  He has remained healthy and made all of his starts despite some bouts of ineffectiveness.  However, he has the benefit of having good run support and one of the league’s best bullpens behind him,

In exchange, the Nub Dawgs acquired Dee Gordon, Frank Francisco and Jorge Soler.  This is not a package with much current value.  Gordon is currently on the disabled list with a fractured thumb he sustained in early July.  Before the injury, Gordon was struggling mightily both at the plate and in the field.  There were already questions about whether he would remain the team’s starter.  Since the injury, the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez and have no intentions of moving him away from shortstop.  While Gordon does possess great speed and stolen base capability, he hasn’t demonstrated yet that he can handle major league pitching on a consistent basis.

Frank Francisco, the beleaguered closer for the Mets, has had a very inconsistent season.  He recently came back from an oblique injury and finds himself on a different Mets team than before he got hurt.  He has 19 saves into June, but since then the Mets have tanked and not had many save opportunities.  When he has pitched, he has been atrocious including almost blowing a four run lead against the Braves.  His peripheral numbers are awful including a 5.52 ERA and 1.71 WHIP.  Despite all of that, he remains the Mets closer and will get every opportunity to save whatever games the Mets are winning for the rest of the season.

Jorge Soler, a highly-touted outfield prospect for the Cubs, was just promoted to Single-A after demonstrating he could hit for power and steal bases in the Rookie League.  At 20-years old, he still has at least a couple years before he is ready to make an impact at the big league level.  He does possess long-term value and can be retained by the Nub Dawgs for only $0.50 while he remains in the minor leagues. 

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).  Neither of these teams are in contention for this season.  Moneyball’s motivation for acquiring Bourn is to help offset the loss of Andrew McCutchen who was previously traded.  See Moneyball vs. Smittydogs, 4 F.J. 188 (August 2012).  Bourn won’t supply the power or run production of McCutchen, but his runs scored and stolen bases will be equivalent if not better. 

The Nub Dawgs are clearly in rebuilding mode as they look to the future.  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).  Bourn was only under contract through the end of 2013, so they were able to move him for Soler as part of their long-term planning.  Plus, Francisco, as inconsistent as he has been, will likely still be the Mets closer in 2013.  Finally, Gordon does have potential if the Dodgers give him a chance to play.  That remains to be seen, so his value is in question right now.     

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 makes Moneyball better by adding Bourn to their outfield as a replacement for McCutchen.  The Nub Dawgs get a top prospect in Soler, plus a closer – albeit an average at best closer.  Even after losing Bourn, they still have Bryce Harper and Andre Ethier in their outfield.

The difference in salary cap with this trade is negligible for both teams.  This deal is indicative of two teams out of contention constructing their rosters for the future according to their own respective strategies.  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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