In Pursuit of the Grail vs. Screaming Psychopaths – 6 F.J. 35 (March 28, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (C.Gonzalez/A.Beltre)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

In Pursuit of the Grail vs. Screaming Psychopaths

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE COLLEGE AMIGOS FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE

Decided March 28, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 35 (March 2014)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league called the College Amigos Fantasy Baseball League (hereinafter referred to as “CAFBL” was established in 1999 and is hosted on CBS.  The CAFBL is a 14-team mixed AL/NL keeper league utilizing an auction-style draft with a budget of $260.00 for 27 players.  Teams are permitted to maintain up to five (5) players during each off-season with players’ salaries increased by $2.00 multiplied by the number of years they have been kept.  The salary of a player acquired in the draft is his auction price.

As with many rotisserie leagues, the CAFBL 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) home runs; (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.  The CAFBL applies a head-to-head format where each category is considered a win.

The CAFBL has a written constitution with rules and guidelines in place regarding trades.  The relevant rules pertaining to trades are as follows:

8.     TRADES

8.3   Trades do not affect the salary or contracts of players.
8.4   Trades may only involve players in the instant trade and may not involve cash, players to be named later, or future considerations.

9.      TRADE REVIEWS

9.1.  Trades shall be referred to a 3rd party reviewer and that decision is final.
9.2   The 3rd party reviewer may consider the contract and salary of players for keeper purposes, but the primary considerations of review shall be preservation of the integrity and overall competitiveness of the current season.

The CAFBL’s commissioner submitted a proposed trade between two league members and seeks an opinion on whether the trade should be approved.

Procedural History

In Pursuit of the Grail traded Adrian Beltre (3B-TEX, $26.00 salary in 2014) and Rafael Soriano (RP-WAS, $7.00 salary in 2014) to the Screaming Psychopaths in exchange for Carlos Gonzalez (OF-COL, $40.00 salary in 2014) and Lucas Duda (OF-NYM, $5.00 salary in 2014).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between In Pursuit of the Grail and the Screaming Psychopaths 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 CAFBL 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).

It should be noted that the CAFBL’s rules specifically state that the validity and equitability of trades shall primarily consider the overall integrity and competitiveness of the current season.  As such, the Court defers to the league’s guidelines for the standard of review.  This means that we will deviate somewhat slightly from the norm and focus on the immediate effect and impact of this trade rather than broaden the scope and break down the long-term benefits typically afforded in keeper league trades.  In Pursuit of the Grail vs. Screaming Psychopaths, 6 F.J. 5 (February 2014).

At first glance, the trade of Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano in exchange for Carlos Gonzalez and Lucas Duda looks fair and equitable.  Gonzalez is considered an elite player for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable he is based on his statistical production across the board  See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011).  When a player of Gonzalez’s caliber is traded, it is imperative to make sure the compensation being exchanged is equitable and sensible irrespective of the number of players obtained in return.  A player’s value is not necessarily equivalent to the accumulation of several other less valuable players’ statistics.  See Team Sabo vs. Nub Vader, 3 F.J. 55, 56 (July 2011).

When a trade such as this is consummated involving the exchange of players at all 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).

It should be noted that while Gonzalez is an elite fantasy player, he is also classified as an injury risk.  Since becoming an everyday player in 2010, he has missed significant time each season due to various injuries.  In fact, since playing in 145 games in 2010, he has failed to surpass 135 games played in every subsequent season including only 110 games played in 2013.  That being said, there is inherent risk in acquiring Gonzalez despite his undisputed talent.  We can understand why the Screaming Psychopaths would be willing to trade him and his $40.00 salary so long as the compensation in return was equitable.  While Lucas Duda was included in the trade with Gonzalez, he has hardly any fantasy value so his presence in the deal is irrelevant to the analysis.

The Screaming Psychopaths received Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano as compensation.  Beltre is arguably the second best third baseman for fantasy purposes behind Miguel Cabrera.  It just so happens that the Screaming Psychopaths also own Cabrera who could be in his last season qualifying at third base. [1]  If he does not play the requisite number of games at third base this year, then the Screaming Psychopaths would be left with Xander Bogaerts and Miguel Sano as his only options at third base in 2014.  Bogaerts will primarily be playing shortstop this season, so he could possibly lose eligibility at third base as well.  By acquiring Beltre, the Screaming Psychopaths ensured themselves of having an established third baseman going into 2015.  He also provides a lethal combination with Cabrera at third base and corner infield this year.

The acquisition of Soriano also makes sense because the Screaming Psychopaths have lost Aroldis Chapman to injury for at least a couple months[2].  They have accumulated several closers and relief pitchers in choosing to punt starting pitchers.  The loss of Chapman was a significant blow to his strategy, so obtaining Soriano is a reasonable move to replace those saves.

On the other hand, In Pursuit of the Grail took the opposite approach with respect to his pitching staff.  Soriano was his only closer, so he has opted to punt the saves category in order to consummate this deal.  While he does take a step back at third base having to replace Beltre with either Brett Lawrie or David Freese, there is no question that he has vastly improved his outfield with the acquisition of Gonzalez.  As we stated previously, Gonzalez is a health risk which is even more magnified given that In Pursuit of the Grail’s two other primary outfielders are Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Kemp.  However, if they are all healthy and productive, he could arguably have the best outfield trio in the entire CAFBL.

This deal makes 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).  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between In Pursuit of the Grail and the Screaming Psychopaths.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


[1] Miguel Cabrera will primarily play first base in 2014, but he still qualifies at third base due to the number of games he played there in 2013.

[2] Aroldis Chapman was hit in the face by a line drive sustaining a fractured orbital bone.  The early estimate on his potential return is 8-10 weeks.

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