4 Ponies vs. Beaver Hunters – 6 F.J. 142 (May 11, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (J.Fernandez/M.Bumgarner/G.Stanton)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

4 Ponies vs. Beaver Hunters

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided May 11, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 142 (May 2014)

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 Francisco Rodriguez (RP-MIL, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining), Giancarlo Stanton (OF-MIA, $4.10 in the first year of his contract with two years remaining), Madison Bumgarner (SP-SF, $4.30 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining) and Albert Almora (OF-CHC, $0.50 in the minor leagues) to the Beaver Hunters in exchange for Jose Fernandez (SP-MIA, $0.50 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining), Dominic Brown (OF-PHI, $1.80 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining), Javier Baez (SS-CHC, $0.50 in the minor leagues) and Mike Leake (SP-CIN, $0.10 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining)

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the 4 Ponies and the Beaver Hunters 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 IL 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 Giancarlo Stanton, Madison Bumgarner, Francisco Rodriguez and Albert Almora in exchange for Jose Fernandez, Dominic Brown, Javier Baez and Mike Leake looks fair and equitable.  Given that the IL is an NL-only league, Stanton, Bumgarner and Fernandez are considered elite players for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of their inherent value or projected statistical production.  See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011).

When a trade such as this is consummated involving the exchange of players at different positions, it can reasonably be concluded that both GM’s have different interests and priorities with respect to the composition of their rosters.  See In Pursuit of the Grail vs. Reloading Again, 6 F.J. 12, 13 (March 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 4 Ponies are currently in 11th place and seven points behind the 10th place team.  It appears that they are planning for the future by entering into this deal.  When a GM in a keeper league no longer has any hope for contending in the current season, he/she must make a critical roster management decision of whether to trade off established players in exchange for building towards the future.  See Winners vs. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011).

Besides the fact that they are trading away star players like Stanton and Bumgarner, the biggest factor in this trade appears to be the salary savings.  The 4 Ponies are netting an astounding $7.00 which represents almost 20% of their allotted in-season salary cap.  While obtaining salary cap flexibility in a keeper is league is one of the many objectives teams have for making trades to rebuild for the future, its benefits can be trumped by the inequitability of the current players being traded away.  Beaver Hunters vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J. 129, 131 (July 2012).  However in this case, it appears that the compensation being exchanged is equitable.

Despite the financial aspect of the trade, it is a balanced deal based on comparisons of the players exchanged for each other.  Both Bumgarner and Fernandez are true ace pitchers with great statistics.  Given that they both have four wins and Fernandez has outperformed Bumgarner in all other categories (ERA, WHIP and strikeouts), the edge has to be given to the 4 Ponies for the acquisition of Bumgarner.  That advantage is evened out because the Beaver Hunters upgrade with Giancarlo Stanton over Domonic Brown.

As for the remaining pieces, we can surmise that the 4 Ponies preferred improving their starting pitching depth at the expense of the saves category.  After trading away Francisco Rodriguez, the 4 Ponies do not have a legitimate closer until Jason Grilli returns from the disabled list.  Incredibly, Rodriguez already has 15 saves as he has re-emerged as a viable fantasy closer.  Mike Leake is a relatively pedestrian fantasy pitcher who doesn’t strike out a lot of batters but will also not hurt your ERA or WHIP.  Here, the edge goes to the Beaver Hunters with Rodriguez.

Finally, when comparing the minor league prospects the clear edge goes to the 4 Ponies with the acquisition of Javier Baez.  While Almora is also recognized as one of the Cubs top prospects, that is more associated with his defensive skills.  Baez is a legitimate top ten baseball prospect who will be a very effective offensive shortstop assuming that is where the Cubs keep him.

This trade satisfies both teams competing needs and priorities.  The 4 Ponies are obtaining significant salary cap flexibility which will allow them to make further acquisitions later in the year if the opportunity arises.  Given that they are second to last in the standings, the 4 Ponies are engaging in the prototypical keeper league strategy for a team that is not expecting to contend for a playoff berth or monetary payout.

The Beaver Hunters are taking on $7.00 in extra salary but they have also acquired some major pieces to help them contend for a monetary prize.  In addition, both Stanton and Rodriguez have two more years on their contracts so they will also be providing long-term benefits as well.

The trade makes sense from both GM’s perspectives and satisfies their respective needs.  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).  The fact that there are star players on both sides of the trade further illustrates that it is balanced and fair.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the 4 Ponies and the Beaver Hunters.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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