Team Sabo vs. 4 Ponies – 4 F.J. 204 (August 22, 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (A.Burnett/T.Hudson/J.Taillon)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Team Sabo vs. 4 Ponies

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided August 22, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 204 (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 4 Ponies.  Team Sabo traded Tyler Colvin (1B-COL, $0.20 in the first year of his existing contract), Ben Sheets (SP-ATL, $0.50 in the first year of his existing contract), Tim Hudson (SP-ATL, $0.90 in the first year of his existing contract) and Jameson Taillon (SP-PIT, $0.50 in the minor leagues and can be retained at this salary until he is promoted to the big leagues) to the 4 Ponies in exchange for A.J. Burnett (SP-PIT, $0.10 in the first year of his existing contract), Paul Maholm (SP-ATL, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract), and Carlos Gomez (OF-MIL, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Team Sabo 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 Tyler Colvin, Tim Hudson, Ben Sheets and Jameson Taillon in exchange for A.J. Burnett, Paul Maholm and Carlos Gomez 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).

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).  This trade represents the needs of both teams at opposite ends of the standings. 

Team Sabo is currently in 2nd place and looking to either make a final run at the championship or at the very least secure his current spot.  He is tied for 6th in the league in wins, so the acquisitions of Burnett and Maholm should provide a boost in that category.  Through August 21, 2012, Burnett is 15-4 with a 3.63 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 137 strikeouts in 151.1 innings.  He has become the ace of the surprising Pirates and has a chance to win 20 games despite missing the beginning of the season with a fractured orbital bone.  Maholm has 11 wins and should continue to benefit from being traded by the Cubs to the Braves where he is in a pennant race and has the support of a great bullpen. 

Team Sabo leads the league in stolen bases already, so the acquisition of Carlos Gomez should help him secure that lead.  Gomez has 23 stolen bases and has been receiving more consistent playing time.

Contrarily, the 4 Ponies are in last place and are looking to build for 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).  Granted, Hudson and Sheets are older pitchers and not ideal candidates to build around in the long run.  However, Hudson still obtains results as indicated by his 12 wins and respectable 3.69 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP.  Sheets’ long-term value is extremely questionable.  It is a miracle that he is even pitching again given all of the arm injuries he has sustained.  He started his comeback by going 4-0 and looking dominant.  But since then he has lost three straight decisions and didn’t look good doing it. 

Tyler Colvin is somewhat of a fantasy enigma.  His relatively short career has been very inconsistent between his time with the Cubs and now the Rockies.  Once he was given a chance to play regularly in Colorado, he exploded with massive production in a short amount of time.  But he has cooled down despite still hitting .292 with 14 homeruns and 52 RBI.  It remains to be seen where he fits into the Rockies’ long-term plans, but if he gets significant at bats playing at Coors Field then he could be valuable going forward,

The 4 Ponies real planning for the future centers around the acquisition of Pirates’ prospect Jameson Taillon.  He was the second overall draft pick in the 2010 draft and was just recently promoted to Double-A.  Taillon is still at least a year away from making an impact at the major league level, but he can be stashed for only $0.50 a year while he is in the minors.  Taillon has excellent stuff and is regarded as one of the top 20 prospects in all of baseball.

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 Team Sabo better by adding additional pitching depth with the acquisitions of Burnett and Maholm.  In addition, he puts himself in a position to all but guarantee winning the steals category.  In return, the 4 Ponies do get some established players who can contribute right away and for next year.  But they also get a top pitching prospect to go along with the other good young pitchers he has such as Matt Harvey, Nathan Eovaldi, and Trevor Bauer.

The salaries of the players involved in both packages are identical.  This deal is indicative of two teams in a keeper league at opposite ends of the standings who are bettering themselves according to their own respective motivations.  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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