Polecats vs. Speedboys – 5 F.J. 18 (April 5, 2013) – Fantasy Baseball Trade (P.Maholm/T.Skaggs)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Polecats vs. Speedboys

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided April 5, 2013
Cite as 5 F.J. 18 (April 2013)

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’s commissioner submitted a proposed pre-draft trade between two league members and seeks an opinion on whether the trade should be approved.  The league’s draft is scheduled to take place on April 6, 2013.

Procedural History

The Polecats traded Paul Maholm (SP-ATL, $1.00 with one year remaining on his existing contract) to the Speedboys in exchange for Tyler Skaggs (SP-ARZ, $0.50 with one year remaining on his existing contract).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Polecats and the Speedboys 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.

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).

At first glance, the trade of Paul Maholm in exchange for Tyler Skaggs looks fair and equitable.  Neither 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). 

In this particular case, both Maholm and Skaggs are under contract by their respective fantasy owner through the end of 2014.  So this is not a matter of one team selling off an expiring contract in exchange for younger and less expensive talent.  Rather, it appears that the Polecats are looking to obtain Skaggs for the potential that he is called up by the Diamondbacks later in 2013 or at the very least for 2014 when he is slated to be part of Arizona’s rotation.  Another motivating factor could be that Skaggs will have greater trade value going forward than Maholm who is much older and is relatively one-dimensional in many roto formats.

Because this trade took place before the league’s draft, the Court cannot analyze the teams’ rosters and draw any conclusions from a team-building perspective.  However, this trade represents a starting pitcher in exchange for another starting pitcher so neither team is at an advantage or disadvantage from a positional eligibility standpoint.

Maholm is the number two starter in the Braves’ rotation.  He has the benefit of pitching for a team with an explosive offense and arguably the best bullpen in baseball.  There is no dispute that Craig Kimbrel is the best closer right now.  He will be productive in terms of wins and ERA, but he does not strike out a lot of batters and can be very hittable which could affect his WHIP. 

Skaggs is one of the Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospects and likely the next in line to be elevated into their rotation if someone goes down with an injury.  However, he struggled during his first trip to the big leagues in 2012 and did not have a good spring training in 2013.  His value purely lies in potential right now.

Given that Maholm is a pedestrian starting pitcher and Skaggs is currently an unknown commodity, they both carry similar risks and rewards.  The difference in salary between them is only $0.50 which hardly makes a difference in terms of obtaining any ancillary financial benefits.  The Court doesn’t see any reason why this trade should not be consummated.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the Polecats and the Speedboys.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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