Team A vs. Team B – 5 F.J. 53 (May 21, 2013) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Dispute (C.Kimbrel/Y.Cespedes/B.Butler)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Team A vs. Team B

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
AN ANONYMOUS FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE

Decided May 21, 2013
Cite as 5 F.J. 53 (May 2013)

Factual Background

An anonymous rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “the league” is a 13-team mixed AL/NL keeper league utilizing a snake draft.  Teams are required to protect thirteen (13) players each year.  However, players in CBS’s top 50 pre-season ranking are ineligible to be protected.  This means the top 50 players in CBS’s 2014 projections will be available in the pool of players to be drafted.

As with many rotisserie leagues, this is a 5×5 league for scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money.  For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) on base percentage; (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 league.

A member of the league has submitted a proposed trade between two fellow league members and seeks an opinion on whether the trade should be approved. 

Procedural History

Team A traded Ben Revere (OF-PHI), Kyuji Fujikawa (RP-CHC), Hisashi Iwakuma (SP-SEA), and Adrian Gonzalez (1B-LAD) to Team B in exchange for Billy Butler (1B-KC), C.C. Sabathia (SP-NYY), Craig Kimbrel (RP-ATL), and Yoenis Cespedes (OF-OAK).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Team A and Team B 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 Ben Revere, Kyuji Fujikawa, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Adrian Gonzalez in exchange for Billy Butler, C.C. Sabathia, Craig Kimbrel, and Yoenis Cespedes looks inequitable.  Kimbrel would be considered an elite fantasy player given his dominating numbers as one of, if not the most, premier closer in baseball.  Any trade involving a player like Kimbrel would require additional scrutiny simply because of how valuable he is.  See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011). 

This 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 based on factors other than simply 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).

However, this particular keeper league is unique in that the top 50 players according to CBS’s pre-season rankings cannot be retained.  Because of that, the Court cannot know for sure whether any of the players involved in this trade will be eligible for retention or not next year.  That does not mean we cannot speculate or make assumptions.  Of all the players involved in this trade, the most likely candidate to be included in 2014’s top 50 rankings is Kimbrel.  But even that is a stretch given he was not even in the top 50 for 2013 according to three of CBS’s top fantasy writers (see http://fantasynews.cbssports.com/fantasybaseball/rankings/roto/overall/latest).

Assuming arguendo that none of the players involved in this trade will be ranked in the top 50 for 2014, then they will all be eligible to be kept next year.  This bodes quite well for Team A who is clearly getting the better end of this deal in terms of present day value as well as long-term benefits for next season.

This trade represents an even swap in terms of the players’ positions involved.  It includes the exchange of a first baseman, outfielder, starting pitcher and relief pitcher.  Based on this, the deal does not represent a specific positional interest by one team.  There is no salary cap or contractual ramifications implicated in this trade since players are kept year to year assuming they fall outside of the top 50 pre-season rankings.  Furthermore, the record is devoid of any information regarding where these teams are in the standings or the composition of the rest of their respective rosters.

Since all of the foregoing factors and elements of a keeper league trade have been eliminated from the analysis, we must look at a statistical comparison of the compensation being exchanged.  Again, we have an even swap of positions so we can directly compare the players to one another. 

The following represents a statistical comparison between each player at the same position who was trade for the other as of May 21, 2013:

 

OBP

HR

RBI

Runs

SB

Yeonis Cespedes

.286

8

21

21

1

Ben Revere

.291

0

5

14

8

 

OBP

HR

RBI

Runs

SB

Billy Butler

.375

5

30

17

0

Adrian Gonzalez

.373

4

29

11

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

W

ERA

WHIP

K’s

S

C.C. Sabathia

4

3.43

1.32

56

0

Hisashi Iwakuma

5

2.37

0.86

61

0

 

W

ERA

WHIP

K’s

S

Craig Kimbrel

0

2.60

0.98

28

14

Kyuji Fujikawa

1

6.75

1.17

12

2

The greatest disparity between the two packages is the comparison of Kimbrel to Fujijkawa, and Cespedes to Revere.  Team A is exponentially upgrading by obtaining Kimbrel and Cespedes in exchange for Fujikawa and Revere.  The exchange of Sabathia for Iwakuma is an essential wash given their current statistics.  The same could be said for the exchange of Butler for Gonzalez.

In order for a trade to be deemed fair and equitable, there must be discernible benefits obtained by both teams.  It is plainly obvious that Team A will greatly benefit from this trade and likely ascend in the standings given the assets he would be acquiring.  However, the Court cannot reasonably decipher any present or long-term benefit obtained by Team B in this trade.  Given the statistical comparisons, the only advantage Team B could possibly be receiving is a slight upgrade with Iwakuma over Sabathia.  Swapping Kimbrel for Fujikawa demonstrates no possible benefit given Fujikawa just returned from injury and is not even the Cubs’ closer at the moment.  Additionally, Revere has been banged up and, when at his best, only contributes stolen bases.  Cespedes, while also coming back from injury, is a much greater source of the same speed plus power and run production. 

Typically the Court is extremely liberal in evaluating trades made in keeper leagues because we recognize the numerous factors that go into the analysis besides merely comparing statistics.  This case is unique given the applicable rules for keepers.  The Court did make broad assumptions that all players involved would be eligible for retention since they likely will not be in CBS’s top 50 pre-season rankings for 2014.  Of course, that is a fluid process depending on how these players perform the rest of the current season.  But we can only evaluate the merits of this trade at the present time and make other assumptions and projections based on stats and data currently available. 

In this deal, Team B is not receiving equitable compensation.  According to the information known about this league, there are no discernible benefits being afforded to Team B to justify the inequity of the compensation.  The Court must ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained by not allowing lopsided trades such as this from being processed.  Victoria’s Secret vs. C-Train, 2 F.J. at 35.  Based on the foregoing, the Court rejects the proposed trade and remands the case back to Team A and Team B so they can work out a more reasonable and equitable trade.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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