Speedboys vs. Kramerdogs – 5 F.J. 109 (July 15, 2013) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Rejected (P.Goldschmidt/A.Wainwright/B.Harper)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Speedboys vs. Kramerdogs

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided July 15, 2013
Cite as 5 F.J. 109 (July 2013)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league called The Incontinent League (hereinafter referred to as “roto league” or “IL” is a 12-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’s commissioner submitted a proposed trade between two league members and seeks an opinion on whether the trade should be approved.

Procedural History

The Speedboys traded Paul Goldschmidt (1B-ARZ, $0.50 in the final year of his existing contract and will become a free agent at the end of the season), Adam Wainwright (SP-STL, $0.70 in the final year of his existing contract and will become a free agent at the end of the season), and Rafael Soriano (RP-WAS, $2.70 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining) to the Kramerdogs in exchange for Bryce Harper (OF-WAS, $0.50 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining), A.J. Burnett (SP-PIT, $0.10 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining), Trevor Rosenthal (RP-STL, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining, and Archie Bradley (SP-ARZ, $0.50 in the minor leagues and can be controlled at this salary until he is promoted).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Speedboys and the Kramerdogs be approved?

Decision

The Court has consistently ruled that people who participate in fantasy leagues should be given the freedom to manage their teams according to their own preferences.  Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness.  See Gangrene Master Yoda vs. Team Dizzle, 4 F.J. 284, 285 (October 2012); 4 Ponies vs. Carson City Cocks, 3 F.J. 13 (May 2011).

When presented with a dispute over the fairness or equitability of a trade, the Court will evaluate the objective merits of a deal and ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained.   Victoria’s Secret vs. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010).  Typically, the approval or rejection of a trade is based on whether the deal was made without collusion, has equitable consideration, and comports with the best interests of the league.  See 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 Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Wainwright and Rafael Soriano in exchange for Bryce Harper, A.J. Burnett, Trevor Rosenthal, and Archie Bradley looks inequitable in terms of present day value.  Goldschmidt has become an elite fantasy first baseman, especially in an NL-only league such as this.  In addition, Wainwright is unquestionably a top five fantast starting pitcher in an NL-only league.  As such, this trade will require additional scrutiny due to the inclusion of such elite players  See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011).

The Incontinent League is a keeper league which can lead to a different evaluation of a trade as opposed to a non-keeper or redraft 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).

This deal is the epitome of a “dump trade” where a team out of contention trades star players and valuable assets to a team competing for the championship in exchange for less expensive salaries or younger prospects.  While dump trades can affect the competitive balance of the league, they still deserve rational consideration unless there is specific prohibition of such actions in the league’s rules.  See Yankees vs. Tips, 5 F.J. 98 (July 2013) (holding that the Court must defer to the league’s rules which specifically prevented dump trades from being allowed).  Here, there are no such rules so the Court is free to evaluate this trade on the merits.

There is no question that this trade represents the dichotomy of keeper league trade strategy where one team in contention has a “win now” mentality by acquiring more expensive players who may not be under contract following the season, coupled with a trade partner who building for the future by selling off assets.  Knights vs. Seawolves, 5 F.J. 46, 48 (May 2013).  The Kramerdogs are only one point out of 1st place and are understandably in hot pursuit of taking over the top spot.  The acquisition of players like Goldschmidt, Wainwright and Soriano will go a long way in achieving that goal.  On the contrary, the Speedboys are in 7th place and looking to build for the future by trading away expiring contracts.

The motivations of both teams seem readily apparent and in good faith.  However, a trade of this magnitude must be looked at very closely to ensure its present-day inequity does not go against the spirit of the league.  That is because lopsided trades can throw off the competitive balance of a league and create a slippery slope for future trades.  The Court has no issues with the idea of trading superstar players so long as the package in return is equitable and makes sense given the needs of both teams.  See 4 Ponies vs. Beaver Hunters, 3 F.J. 26, 29 (June 2011).

The Court understands that the Speedboys would lose both Goldschmidt and Wainwright at the end of the season because their contracts are set to expire.  Given that, it makes sense that the Speedboys would want to receive some form of compensation for them rather than lose them for nothing at the end of the season.  We must analyze whether the package of Harper, Burnett, Rosenthal and Bradley is sufficient enough to pass muster.

Bryce Harper is one of the best young players despite being sidelined with a knee injury earlier this season.  However, the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year has relatively pedestrian numbers thus far.  He clearly has the talent and ability to become a true superstar, but at 20-years old he still has a lot to learn.  He is only under contract through 2014, so he would need an immediately dramatic improvement in his offensive output for the Speedboys to reap any benefits from this.

In addition to Harper, the Speedboys would also acquire Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett.  Burnett has definitely revitalized his career in Pittsburgh after a disastrous tenure with the Yankees.  Despite his 4-6 record, Burnett has pitched well compiling a 3.06 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 110 strikeouts in only 100 innings.  He is a solid fantasy starter, but the biggest question in this analysis is what will the Speedboys get out of him not just this year, but next year?  Burnett’s current MLB contract is set to expire at the end of the season and there was a lot of speculation that he would retire after 2013.  That isn’t anything we can expect to know for quite some time, but it must be considered a possibility in this equation.  That is because Burnett could possibly be a two month rental much like Goldschmidt and Wainwright are in the package going the other way.

Finally, the Speedboys are also acquiring Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal and Diamondbacks pitching prospect Archie Bradley.  Rosenthal has emerged as a dominant set-up relief pitcher for St. Louis, but there doesn’t appear to be any chance for him to become the closer.  Edward Mujica has been nearly flawless filling in for Jason Motte, who will likely return to that role when he comes back next year.  Bradley is the second highest rated prospect in Arizona’s organization, but he likely won’t make an impact for at least another year and a half to two years.  He certainly has a lot of upside and is a valuable prospect to acquire.

We must look at the sum of the parts when evaluating the overall compensation being provided for an elite package such as Goldschmidt, Wainwright and Soriano.  The Speedboys would be getting a young star in Harper who is still putting up pedestrian statistics, an aging starting pitcher in Burnett who may retire at the end of the season, a middle reliever in Rosenthal, and a highly-touted pitching prospect who is at least a year away from promotion.  Is that sufficient compensation for Goldschmidt, Wainwright and Soriano?  The Court does not believe so.

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.  See Los Pollos Hermanos vs. Little Stumps, 3 F.J. 192, 195 (October 2011).  The Court understands that this trade is merely a rental by the Kramerdogs since Goldschmidt and Wainwright are free agents after the season.  However, even three months of their services, along with one of the top closers in the National League (Soriano), is far too valuable to exchange for a package comprised merely of Harper, Burnett, Rosenthal and Bradley.

It is normally acceptable for teams in keeper leagues to make trades that do not have equivalent present-day value, but a deal so completely lopsided and against the best interests of the league will be rejected.  Smittydogs vs. Moneyball, 4 F.J. 57 (May 2012) (rejecting a trade of R.Braun and E.Jackson for R.Delgado, D.Gordon and B.Abreu); Team Sabo vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J. 50 (May 2012) (rejecting a trade of J.Votto and T.Clippard for D.Stubbs, F.Rodriguez and S.Marte).

The fact this trade could have playoff implications within the IL is not in and of itself a reason to reject a trade in terms of the best interests of the league.  Any trade consummated could have a serious effect on the league.  The Court must intervene since it cannot objectively discern enough of a benefit for the Speedboys to accept this package in exchange for Goldschmidt, Wainwright and Soriano.  We are not saying that the Speedboys were obligated to seek more in compensation from the Kramerdogs or anyone else for that matter.  They are free to do so after this decision is finalized.  But the Court must reject this trade as it is currently constructed because the disparity in value is too much to overcome in terms of other keeper league rationales.

Our responsibility is to maintain the integrity of leagues.  We advocate for the ability to manage teams according an owner’s preferences.  But there is a conflict when an owner’s desire to manage his team manifests itself in a truly lopsided trade at the expense of the league.  We cannot allow that to happen.   Based on the foregoing, the Court rejects the proposed trade.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather