Polecats vs. 4 Ponies – 5 F.J. 36 (May 13, 2013) – Fantasy Baseball Trade (B.Posey/N.Arenado)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Polecats vs. 4 Ponies

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided May 13, 2013
Cite as 5 F.J. 36 (May 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 Polecats.  To help build their franchise, the Polecats were able to keep one player from each of the 11 other teams after their initial ten keepers were claimed.

The Polecats traded Buster Posey (C-SF, $3.40 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining) and Heath Hembree (RP-SF, $0.50 at his minor league salary and under team control at that salary until he is promoted to the big leagues) to the 4 Ponies in exchange for Nolan Arenado (3B-COL, $0.50 at his minor league salary and under team control for the next three years now that he has been promoted) and Devin Mesoraco (C-CIN, $0.50 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Polecats and the 4 Ponies 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 Buster Posey and Heath Hembree in exchange for Nolan Arenado and Devin Mesoraco looks completely inequitable.  Posey is considered an elite fantasy player given his offensive prowess at such a premium position as catcher.  Any trade involving a player like Posey would require additional scrutiny simply because of how valuable he is.  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).

The Polecats, a new franchise in the Incontinent League, have made several trades already this season dealing off high-priced talented players in exchange for less expensive and younger players.  See Polecats vs. 4 Ponies, 5 F.J. 21 (April 2013); Polecats vs. Moneyball, 5 F.J. 25 (April 2013); Polecats vs. Team Sabo, 5 F.J. 28 (April 2013); Polecats vs. 4 Ponies, 5 F.J. 32 (April 2013).  It has been disclosed that the Polecats’ strategy upon entering the league was to trade away expensive players and build a foundation for the future.  This is one of the key elements of participating in a keeper league where success must be sustained both in the present and the future.  As indicated in the above-referenced cases, the Polecats were allowed to build their roster by selecting players to keep from each of the other 11 teams after those teams claimed their respective keepers.  After doing so, they have traded away players such as Joey Votto, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and Dominic Brown in an attempt to accumulate less expensive talent. 

Much like Strasburg and Bumgarner, Posey is in the first year of his contract and the Polecats could have had him for two more years.  He is unquestionably the best fantasy catcher in baseball, let alone an NL-only league such as this.  The Incontinent League requires two catchers to be played in the starting lineup, so having Posey offers a discernible advantage.  While Posey has followed up his MVP campaign with an impressive start to the 2013 season (.294, 5 HR, 24 RBI, .399 OBP, .521 SLG through May 12, 2013), it is common knowledge that catchers typically cannot be relied upon for such consistent and productive offensive output long term.  Sure there have been exceptions, and Posey may eventually become one of them.  But it is understandable for this new franchise to not want to be tied down to Posey for the next few years at $3.40.

Hembree is a minor league pitching prospect for the Giants and could be being groomed to become the team’s closer down the road.  He has had success throughout his minor league career and will likely be in the majors later in 2013 or by 2014.

In exchange for Posey and Hembree, the Polecats acquired Nolan Arenado and Devin Mesoraco.  Arenado has been a highly-touted third base prospect for the Rockies over the past few years and has finally reached the big leagues just recently.  Through his first 13 games, Arenado has already hit three homeruns with a respectable .255 batting average.  It looks as though Colorado has handed him the job for good, so the 22-year old rookie will have ample opportunity to play this year and beyond.  Mesoraco’s fantasy value has changed with the wind over the past couple years.  He was regarded as one of the better offensive fantasy catching prospects but hasn’t demonstrated any of that prowess through his first couple years with the Reds.  However, he is now handling most of the catching duties for Cincinnati due to injuries, so now could be the time where Mesoraco finally fulfills his potential.

Could the Polecats have obtained a better package of players for the 2012 MVP and league’s best catcher?  That is distinctly a possibility.  However, teams are not obligated to shop players around for a more advantageous deal solely to appease potential criticism or second-guessing.  It is not up to the Court to make a determination on what is considered intelligent from each team’s perspective.  Allegedly unwise decisions should not be scrutinized or vetoed merely because they are allegedly unwise.  See Road Runners vs. Urban Achievers, 3 F.J. 47, 50 (June 2011) (holding that the main criteria for evaluating a trade is its inherent fairness, not whether it was an intelligent decision by a league member to make the deal).  Rather, the Court’s role is to ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained.  Victoria’s Secret vs. C-Train, 2 F.J. at 35.

When looking at the compensation provided by the 4 Ponies, the Court concludes that there is value in Arenado and Mesoraco.  They both represent less expensive talent with potential upside to allow the Polecats more financial flexibility in addition to the salary cap space they have created through their previous trades. 

Trading a star like Posey could undoubtedly change the landscape of the league in terms of the current standings.  The 4 Ponies are currently in 7th place but will get a significant boost in several offensive categories thanks to acquisition of Posey.  Not surprisingly, the Polecats are currently in last place and will likely have a difficult time ascending the standings this season thanks to the firesale of talent done by the team’s owner.  But as stated previously, they are a new franchise looking to build their roster for the future.  That being said, they did acquire a solid young third baseman in Arenado who can contribute right away, as well as a replacement catcher in Mesoraco who could have some value with extended playing time.  Sacrificing the present for the future is unquestionably one of the justifiable reasons for making trades such as this in keeper leagues.

There are discernible benefits afforded to both teams despite the facially disparate value of the deal.  Had this trade been consummated in a non-keeper league, the Court’s evaluation may have been different.  However, this is a keeper league where teams have both short-term and long-term goals (especially a new franchise in the league).  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the Polecats and the 4 Ponies.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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