Polcats vs. Moneyball – 5 F.J. 25 (April 17, 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade (T.Hudson/D.Brown/M.Adams)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Polcats vs. Moneyball

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided April 17, 2013
Cite as 5 F.J. 25 (April 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 Incontinent League previously had 11 teams during the 2012 season.  Entering the 2013 season, the league added a 12th team known as the Polcats.  To help build their franchise, the Polcats were able to keep one player from each of the 11 other teams after their initial ten keepers were claimed.

The Polcats traded Tim Hudson (SP-ATL, $0.90 in the final year of his existing contract), Domonic Brown (OF-PHI, $1.80 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining), and Kevin Frandsen (3B-PHI, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining) to Moneyball in exchange for Matt Adams (1B-STL, $0.50 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining), Mike Fiers (SP-MIL, $0.50 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining), and Laynce Nix (OF-PHI, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Polcats and Moneyball 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 Tim Hudson, Domonic Brown and Kevin Frandsen in exchange for Matt Adams, Mike Fiers and Laynce Nix 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). 

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).

In this particular case, Tim Hudson’s contract will expire at the end of the season meaning he will become eligible for next year’s draft.  Rather than lose him for nothing, the Polcats are furthering their goal of building for the future at the expense of the current season.  See Polcats vs. 4 Ponies, 5 F.J. 21 (April 2013) (The Court accepted the league commissioner’s testimony that the Polcats were looking to build a foundation for their team in the future after just joining the league this season).  Hudson is unquestionably a better pitcher despite his lack of strikeouts. Assuming he remains healthy, he can be counted on for approximately 15 wins, a sub-4.00 ERA, and a relatively low WHIP.  Essentially, the Polcats will replace Hudson with Mike Fiers who is $0.40 less expensive and can be retained through 2014.  Fiers has gotten off to a slow start in 2013, but he is coming off a 2012 season in which he had a 3.74 ERA and struck out more than one batter per inning.

The player with the most value that the Polcats included in this deal is Domonic Brown.  He is in the first year of his contract and can be controlled for another two seasons.  Brown has finally secured an everyday position on the Phillies so he does possess value going forward.  In exchange for Brown, the Polcats acquired Matt Adams for $1.30 less.  Adams does not play every day, but his power and run production in a limited number of at bats could prompt more playing time, especially if Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran miss time due to injury which frequently happens.

Finally, the exchange of Kevin Frandsen for Laynce Nix is a wash because these are two reserve players who do not contribute much in any capacity due to limited playing time.  Additionally, they both have the same salary and contract status so they cancel each other out.

This trade furthers the respective goals of both teams.  The Polcats will save $1.70 in salary cap space which they can use in conjunction with the money saved from previous trades.  This will allow them to make further acquisitions later in the season to help accumulate talent for the future.  In a keeper league, teams must not only look at the present, but they must consider the future needs of their teams.  As a new franchise, the Polcats are doing exactly that.

On the other hand, Moneyball is currently in 9th place but improved its roster with the acquisitions of Hudson and Brown.  Clearly Moneyball is seeking to compete during the 2013 season by acquiring the expiring contract of Hudson.  But from a long-term perspective, they also obtained Brown who can be a fixture in his outfield for the next two years assuming he continues to produce.

There are discernible benefits to both teams in making this trade.  The value exchanged is equitable and it furthers the respective goals of both league members.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves this trade between the Polcats and Moneyball.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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