Beaver Hunters vs. Cajun Crawdads – 5 F.J. 142 (July 31, 2013) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (C.Crawford/E.Gattis/W.Ramos)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Beaver Hunters vs. Cajun Crawdads

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided July 31, 2013
Cite as 5 F.J. 142 (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 Beaver Hunters traded Carl Crawford (OF-LAD, $2.80 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining) and Wilson Ramos (C-WAS, $0.50 in the final year of his existing contract) to the Cajun Crawdads in exchange for Evan Gattis (C-ATL, $0.60 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining) and Juan Pierre (OF-MIA, $0.20 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining)

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Beaver Hunters and the Cajun Crawdads 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 Carl Crawford and Wilson Ramos in exchange for Evan Gattis and Juan Pierre looks fair and equitable.  None of the players involved in this deal are considered elite for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny.   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 considered a low-end “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 Cajun Crawdads are currently in 5th place and are only three points out of one of the prize-winning slots.  They are clearly making a push for success this year as indicated by this even swap of catchers and an outfielder.  The Cajun Crawdads are taking on Carl Crawford’s albatross of a contract which costs $2.80 per year through 2015.  Crawford has been a major disappointment in both real and fantasy baseball accumulating a .288 batting average with only five homeruns, 16 RBI, 40 runs scored and 10 stolen bases.  He has been injured frequently and has only played in 67 games thus far.  However, he does represent an upgrade over Juan Pierre who hits even less and has been relegated to a reserve player on the Marlins.

In addition to Crawford, the Cajun Crawdads have acquired Wilson Ramos and his expiring contract.  While not expensive, Ramos serves merely as a rental.  He has also been victimized by injuries, but since returning from his latest DL stint Ramos has had a very productive month of July.  Assuming he stays healthy, he should start seeing a majority of the playing time for Washington.

The Beaver Hunters are clearly out of contention this season and receive $2.50 in salary cap relief by making this deal.  They also acquired Evan Gattis who has been a pleasant surprise this year belting 16 homeruns and driving in 40 runs while having eligibility at catcher.  With injuries and a lack of production from the Braves outfield, Gattis will likely get playing time both behind the plate as well as in the outfield and occasionally at first base.  Gattis is under contract for another two years which is important since incumbent catcher Brian McCann is a free agent after 2013 and could leave Atlanta.

This trade makes sense from both teams’ perspectives.  It personifies the dichotomy of trade strategy that exists in keeper leagues. On the one hand, the Beaver Hunters are building for the future by obtaining a young catcher who can provide power numbers that are only rivaled by few others at that position.  They also obtain significant salary cap space and get Juan Pierre’s stolen base production at a low cost.  On the other hand, the Cajun Crawdads are trying to win right now and are willing to take on the expensive contract of Carl Crawford on the chane he can remain healthy and productive.   Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the Beaver Hunters and the Cajun Crawdads.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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