Cajun Crawdads vs. Moneyball – 4 F.J. 237 (September 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (D.Wright/J.Papelbon/K.Lohse)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Cajun Crawdads vs. Moneyball

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided September 5, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 237 (September 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 Cajun Crawdads have made a trade with Moneyball.  The Cajun Crawdads traded David Wright (3B-NYM, $2.80 in the first year of his existing contract) and Jonathan Papelbon (RP-PHI, $2.40 in the first year of his existing contract) to Moneyball in exchange for Juan Francisco (3B-ATL, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract), Kyle Lohse (SP-STL, $0.30 with one year remaining on his existing contract), and Chad Billingsley (SP-LAD, $1.30 in the first year of his existing contract).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Cajun Crawdads and Moneyball 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 David Wright and Jonathan Papelbon in exchange for Juan Francisco, Kyle Lohse and Chad Billingsley does not look fair and equitable in terms of present day value.  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).  However, Wright and Papelbon are stars with significant value.

This trade personifies the thought process of teams in a keeper league where other factors besides current statistical production must be taken into account.  If this trade was made in a non-keeper league, the Court would immediately reject it.  However, when a team 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.  Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011). 

David Wright is arguably the best player in this trade.  In an NL-only league such as this, he is unquestionably one of the premier third basemen in the league.  He had an MVP-type first half of 2012, but he has cooled off considerably along with the entire Mets team.  Wright’s average has plummeted to .313 and his homeruns and RBI have stagnated over the past six weeks.  However, he is in the prime of his career and is playing for a new contract, whether it is an extension with the Mets or in advance of free agency after 2013. 

Jonathan Papelbon has been one of the best closers in the National League during his first year with the Phillies.  Despite blowing his last save opportunity against the Braves, Papelbon has racked up 31 saves for an otherwise disappointing Phillies team.  He is one of the best closers in an NL-only league and should be even better in 2013 whenPhiladelphialikely returns to the top of their division.

The package being offered in return for Wright and Papelbon is underwhelming.  Juan Francisco is one of the candidates to take over third base for the Braves after Chipper Jones retires at the end of the season.  Francisco has shown he can hit for sporadic power, but he has not developed any type of consistency yet in his career.  He has 58 strikeouts in only 173 at bats which indicates poor plate discipline. 

Kyle Lohse is having a career year at just the right time as he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.  He has 14 wins, a 2.81 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 111 strikeouts in 179.2 innings.  These are very impressive numbers and well worth the value at his salary of $0.30.  Chad Billingsley looks like he is done for the season due to his arm injury.  After a very disappointing 2011 season, Billingsley rebounded in 2012 to once again become a viable fantasy option.  But he still battled bouts of inconsistency and didn’t have the strikeout rate to compensate for the relatively high WHIP.  He also was hampered by self-induced high pitch counts which prevented him from going deep into games and likely costing him wins. 

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 obvious why Moneyball would make this trade.  The acquisition of Wright is a significant upgrade at either 3B or MI.  He also can make up for some lost power and run production while Carlos Beltran is out with an injury.  Further, Moneyball ranks towards the bottom of the league in most pitching categories including ERA, WHIP and saves.  The addition of Papelbon addresses those concerns in spades.

On the other hand, the Cajun Crawdads are clearly going in a different direction.  The losses of Wright and Papelbon cannot be understated.  However, they are saving $2.60 in salary cap space which is significant enough to make other moves.  They do obtain a top starting pitcher, at least based on what Lohse has accomplished this year.  If Billingsley is able to return to form in 2013, then the Cajun Crawdads will have two relatively inexpensive starting pitchers at the top of their rotation.  As for Francisco, he has enough raw power to take a chance on in the event he does become the everyday third baseman for the Braves next year.

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).  As previously discussed, the trade involves the exchange of established star players for less expensive assets with potential upside.  There are benefits to both teams despite the current inequity of the deal.  That being said, this deal epitomizes trades that are made in keeper leagues where teams decide to either compete for the current season or look to build for the future.  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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