4 Ponies vs. Smittydogs – 5 F.J. 89 (June 28, 2013) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (D.Wright/J.Teheran/K.Jansen)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

4 Ponies vs. Smittydogs

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided June 28, 2013
Cite as 5 F.J. 89 (June 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 4 Ponies traded Julio Teheran (SP-ATL, $1.90 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining), Matt Carpenter (2B-STL, $1.00 in second year of his existing contract with one year remaining), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS-MIA, $0.10 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining), and Heath Hembree (RP-SF, $0.50 in the minor leagues and can be retained indefinitely at that salary until he is promoted to the major leagues) to the Smittydogs in exchange for David Wright (3B-NYM, $2.80 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining), Daniel Murphy (2B-NYM, $0.10 in the final year of his existing contract), and Kenley Jansen (RP-LAD, $0.60 in the final year of his existing contract).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the 4 Ponies and the Smittydogs 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 Julio Teheran, Matt Carpenter, Adeiny Hechavarria and Heath Hembree in exchange for David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Kenley Jansen looks uneven in terms of present-day value.  Wright is a borderline elite fantasy third baseman, especially in an NL-only league such as this.  As such, we must utilize a heightened amount of scrutiny when evaluating this trade.  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 trade is the epitome of the keeper league dynamic where a team that is out of contention during the current season trades away its valuable assets in an attempt to build for the future.  See Winners vs. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011).    The Smittydogs, currently in 10th place and 34 points out of a prize-winning slot, have furthered their critical roster management decision to punt the remainder of this year and build for the future.  See Moneyball vs. Smittydogs, 5 F.J. 85 (June 2013) (upholding the Smittydogs’ trade of Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez in exchange for Zack Wheeler, Didi Gregorius and Drew Pomeranz).

As previously stated, trades made in a keeper league must be evaluated by other factors besides statistics.  See Harem Hawkings vs. Harbor Yankees, 4 F.J. 40, 42 (April 2012) (holding that a more expensive player could be financially prohibitive in the long run compared to a cheaper player who offers more financial flexibility).  While Wright is unquestionably one of the top third basemen in an NL-only league, he only has one year remaining on his contract and the Mets’ lack of offensive depth in their lineup has been a hindrance to his production despite putting up solid numbers all things considered.  Wright has not come close to approaching the power numbers he once had since 2008.

In addition, both Daniel Murphy and Kenley Jansen’s contracts expire at the end of the season.  Rather than lose them both for nothing, the Smittydogs have included them in this deal to assure they receive some compensation despite both being productive and inexpensive.  Murphy provides meaningful production with batting average at second base which is hard to come by in an NL-only roto league.  In addition, Jansen has been anointed the Dodgers’ closer supplanting Brandon League.  Jansen can be dominant, but there is significant risk that comes along with him given his health issues and heart condition.

Since the Smittydogs are giving up such an impressive package of talent, the Court must ensure that they receive a discernible benefit from the compensation they receive from the 4 Ponies.  The Smittydogs are acquiring Julio Teheran, Matt Carpenter, Adeiny Hechavarria and Heath Hembree.  Teheran has long been regarded as one of the top pitching prospects coming through the Braves’ organization.  After struggling during the early part of the 2013 season, Teheran has settled in and started fulfilling the potential many saw in him.  He is currently 5-4 with an impressive 3.22 ERA and 1.20 WHIP to go along with 71 strikeouts in 89 innings.  With Brandon Beachy likely to return at some point this summer, all indications are that Teheran has secured his spot in the rotation and should remain there for the foreseeable future.

Matt Carpenter has been one of the biggest surprised of the 2013 fantasy season and has turned into a tremendous bargain for fantasy owners.  His .316 batting average and 58 runs scored have proven to be incredible production for a player with multiple position eligibility and batting leadoff for the best offensive team in the National League.

Hechavarria has struggled during his rookie season with the young Marlins.  He is more known for his defensive prowess, but given Miami’s rebuilding plan he will continue to get playing time.  In a best case scenario, he wouldn’t be cracking a fantasy owner’s starting lineup right now.  But in a deep NL-only league, he at least plays every day and will be given every opportunity to succeed for a franchise going through growing pains.

Hembree is one of the key players in this deal as reports from San Francisco indicate that he could be promoted to the Giants in the near future.  Hembree is viewed as a late inning relief pitcher who could emerge as the closer at some point in the near future.  At $0.50 per year over the next few years, Hembree could provide significant value, especially if he emerges as the closer down the road.

The 4 Ponies, currently in 5th place and only one point out of a prize-winning slot, are clearly in a “win now” mentality by acquiring Wright and the expiring contracts of Murphy and Jansen.  Despite downgrading at second base by swapping Carpenter for Murphy, they do receive upgrades at third base and in pitching by obtaining a closer.

The Smittydogs appear to be out of contention for one of the top four money prizes this season.  However, their acquisitions of Teheran and Hembree add additional inexpensive cornerstones to build around along with their previous acquisitions of Zack Wheeler, Didi Gregorius and Drew Pomeranz.  Both teams satisfied their respective goals and obtained discernible benefits.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the 4 Ponies and the Smittydogs.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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