Diamond Kutters vs. MonKeY MaKeR – 6 F.J. 122 (May 2, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (P.Fielder/E.Hosmer/C.Kimbrel)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Diamond Kutters vs. MonKeY MaKeR

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE JABRONI LEAGUE

Decided May 2, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 122 (May 2014)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league called the Jabroni League (hereinafter referred to as “JL” was established in 1999 and is hosted on CBS.  The JL is a 12-team mixed AL/NL keeper league where teams are permitted to maintain a maximum of six (6) players.  GM’s can either retain players under a one-year contract or a three-year contract.  If a player was acquired during the auction draft, his value escalates $5.00 the following season.  If a player was acquired via free agency, his value escalates $8.00 the following season and then $5.00 every subsequent year capped at three years of keeper eligibility.

The JL uses a standard 5×5 format for its 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.

All trades made between GM’s are subject to review.  Due to the fact that the JL is comprised of several clusters of family members and close relatives, the commissioner has the sole authority to submit all trades to the Court for review to avoid any potential conflicts.

The commissioner has submitted a trade to the Court for review to determine whether it should be approved or rejected.

Procedural History

The Diamond Kutters traded Prince Fielder (1B-TEX), Jason Heyward (OF-ATL) and Ernesto Frieri (RP-LAA) to MonKeY MaKeR in exchange for Eric Hosmer (1B-KC), Brett Gardner (OF-NYY), and Craig Kimbrel (RP-ATL).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Diamond Kutters and MonKeY MaKeR 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 JL 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 Prince Fielder, Jason Heyward and Ernesto Frieri in exchange for Eric Hosmer, Brett Gardner and Craig Kimbrel looks fair and equitable.  None of the players in this deal are considered elite for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable they are.  Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011).  While Kimbrel is arguably the best closer in both real and fantasy baseball, his presence in this deal does not elicit the need for any extra scrutiny because closers are volatile and saves can arbitrarily come and go throughout the season.

This trade involves the even exchange of a first baseman, outfielder and relief pitcher.  As such, there are clearly no specific positional needs being addressed outside of mere upgrades and changes at the same positions.  See Moneymakers vs. Logan’s Heroes, 6 F.J. 92, 93 (April 2014).GM’s in roto leagues are free to prioritize which categories they want to pursue improvement in when making trades and managing their rosters.  Team Sabo vs. 4 Ponies, 5 F.J. 167 (August 2013) (approving a trade where a team higher in the standings traded Mat Latos for Homer Bailey because he needed improvement in the WHIP category despite Bailey having better statistics with wins, ERA and strikeouts); Joba’s Mustache vs. Obtuse Wardens, 5 F.J. 40, 41 (May 2013); Stud Muffins vs. Cajun Crawdads, 4 F.J. 61, 63 (May 2012).

The biggest disparity in value of this trade is the difference between Kimbrel and Frieri.  Frieri has been removed as the closer for the Angels and replaced by Joe Smith.  It appears that the job is Smith’s to lose now as the Angels have lost all confidence in Frieri.[1]  See Moneymakers vs. Rangers, 6 F.J. 119, 121 (May 2014).  In comparison, Kimbrel has already has eight saves along with an incredible 24 strikeouts in only 11.1 innings pitched.  His ERA is up to 2.38 because of a couple early season hiccups and a bout of soreness in his shoulder.  Despite that, he remains the most dominant closer in baseball.  The Diamond Kutters earn the advantage by a wide margin when comparing the relief pitchers in the trade.

The remaining pieces of this trade all represent players who have been struggling to meet expectations.  Two great examples are the first basemen being swapped in this deal.  Prince Fielder was expected to have a big season after being traded to Texas during the off-season.  However, he has gotten off to a very slow start batting just .205 with two home runs, nine RBI and 12 runs scored.  In comparison, Eric Hosmer does have a solid batting average of .299 but he has yet to hit a home run and only has nine RBI and 11 runs scored.

Despite these current statistics, Fielder is still the better option and is more valuable than Hosmer.  Fielder has a lengthy resume comprised of eight consecutive seasons with at least 25 home runs and a career batting average of .284.  When the weather gets warmer in Texas and the Rangers lineup is completely healthy, Fielder will likely put up the numbers that fantasy GM’s have grown accustomed to.  While Hosmer is a solid hitter, he does not have the same pedigree as Fielder and will fall well short of his power and run production.

Continuing the theme of disappointing and underachieving players, Jason Heyward is at or near the top of the list for fantasy GM’s over the past couple years.  Heyward never capitalized on his breakout 2012 season and remains a conundrum for GM’s thanks to his putrid .205 batting average with only two home runs, seven RBI, 11 runs scored and four stolen bases.  In comparison, Brett Gardner has a superior batting average of.269 to go along with one home run, nine RBI, 12 runs scored and seven stolen bases.

To demonstrate that this trade is fair and equitable, we must look at the sum of all the parts on each side of the deal.  While Kimbrel emphatically is better than Frieri, the difference is made up by the collective value of Fielder and Heyward being superior to Hosmer and Gardner.  Granted Hosmer and Gardner have much better batting averages and more stolen bases at this point.  But over the course of the season and based on each player’s projected value, the combination of Fielder and Heyward will outperform the other two which helps make up the difference in the disparity between Kimbrel and Frieri.

Even without knowing the teams’ rosters, this deal appears to make sense from both teams’ perspectives.  See Los Pollos Hermanos vs. Little Stumps, 3 F.J. 192, 195 (October 2011) (holding that a trade will be rejected when the Court cannot objectively ascertain any benefit to one of the teams and the net result in no way makes a team better now or in the future).  Even though, arguably, that difference is not enough to completely balance the scales out, this trade still presents fair and equitable compensation for two packages of players being exchanged for each other.  Not all trades have to match up completely in order to pass muster.  Rather, the perceived and projected value of the players must be in line with what is deemed reasonable and equitable.  That is exactly what we have here.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the Diamond Kutters and MonKeY MaKeR.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


[1] In his first 12 games, Frieri is 0-2 with two blown saves, an ERA of 7.59 and a WHIP of 1.59.

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