Ball Breakers vs. Squatch’s Squad – 6 F.J. 525 (August 23, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (C.Sale/D.Duffy)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Ball Breakers vs. Squatch’s Squad

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE PELHAM BAY KEEPER LEAGUE

Decided August 23, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 525 (August 2014)

Factual Background

A head-to-head points-based fantasy baseball league called the Pelham Bay Keeper League (hereinafter referred to as “PBKL” was established in 2002 and is hosted on CBS.  The PBKL is a 12-team mixed AL/NL keeper league where teams are required to retain four (4) players.  At least one keeper must have had a salary of $2.00 during the previous season and the other three keepers can have any salary.  Any player not selected as a keeper will be eligible for the next season’s draft.  Keepers must be announced seven days prior to the draft date.  Once keepers are announced, owners may only trade one of their four keepers.  Owners may not trade players that they have not elected as one of their keepers.  Prior to keepers being announced, owners may trade any player from last season’s roster with the understanding that the players involved in the trade must be kept.

The salary cap for each team is $310 which includes reserves and DL players. The salary cap will increase to $325 on July 1st. The salary for keepers will be increased as follows:

1st year:           $5.00 added on to the original salary he was on your team for.

2nd year:         $10.00 added on to the player’s salary after the 1st year.

3rd year:          $15.00 added on to the player’s salary after the 2nd year.

4th year:          $20.00 added on to the player’s salary after the 3rd year.

 The PBKL’s rules regarding trades are as follows:

X. TRADES

10.1. Teams are allowed to make trades until 11:59 PM on August 31.

10.2. If a pitcher is involved in a trade, that pitcher must be kept for 3 starts or 14 lineups. A violation of this rule will result in an illegal move.

10.3. If a trade causes a team to have an illegal roster that team must correct it via waiver wire/free agency prior to lineups locking or else they will be subject to an illegal lineup.

10.4. Any team that acquires a player in a trade made prior to draft day is forced to keep the player acquired in the trade, unless a serious injury occurs.

10.5. There is no limit to the number of trades a team may make during the season.

10.6. Future year’s draft picks may be traded on July 1st and beyond, subject to approval. A maximum of 2 future draft picks may be traded during the regular season. Draft picks traded for keepers in the offseason are allowed. (a $50 deposit (per pick) is required by any team trading away a future pick).

 10.7. The only “condition” you can include in a trade is a conditional draft pick regarding where they finish in the standings. You cannot add a condition that will prevent an owner from keeping a player acquired in a trade.

10.8. The fairness of all trades will be decided by a 3rd party website service.

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

Procedural History

The Ball Breakers traded Danny Duffy (SP-KC, $2.00 salary in 2014 which increases to $7.00 if kept in 2015) to Squatch’s Squad in exchange for Chris Sale (SP-CHW, $15.00 salary in 2014 which will increase to $25.00 if kept in 2015).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Ball Breakers and Squatch’s Squad 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 PBKL 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 Danny Duffy in exchange for Chris Sale looks slightly inequitable.  Sale is 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).  He has become one of the best pitchers in baseball and has had a dominant season despite missing time with an injury.

This trade is comprised of starting pitchers being exchanged for each other.  When a trade such as this is consummated involving the exchange of players at the same positions, it can reasonably be concluded that both GM’s do not have any specific positional needs to address.  Rather, they are seeking specific improvement in a particular category or have other keeper league strategies in mind.  See Mudhen Wannabe’s vs. Screaming Psychopaths, 6 F.J. 399 (July 2014).  GM’s are free to prioritize the areas on their rosters that they want to pursue improvement 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).

Squatch’s Squad is currently in last place and is clearly dumping Sale in an effort to obtain salary cap relief.  He would have been a strong candidate to be kept in 2015 but for the $10.00 increase in his salary which appears to be prohibitive for Squatch’s Squad.  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).  This is why we must look closely at the compensation being provided for one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Chris Sale is 10-3 with a 2.11 ERA, 0.91 and 158 strikeouts in only 20 starts.  These numbers are even more impressive considering he missed time earlier in the year with an injury and plays for a bad White Sox team.  However, Danny Duffy has had a successful return from a serious surgery and looks to be completely healthy.  He is 8-11 with a 2.53 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 98 strikeouts.  As we know, a pitcher’s win-loss record is not indicative of how well he has pitched or what kind of quality he has.  Duffy’s peripheral numbers are very solid despite a low strikeout total.  He also has the benefit of pitching on a team that has a dominant bullpen which can protect leads and increase his win total.

The Ball Breakers are currently in 4th place and pursuing a championship this season.  This goal is furthered by the acquisition of Sale who will help offset the loss of Masahiro Tanaka who has been out for the past month and is questionable whether he will be able to return.  This, coupled with Squatch’s Squad’s goals of unloading valuable assets in return for less expensive players, epitomizes the dichotomy of keeper league trade strategy.

Duffy is certainly not as valuable as Sale, but he does have comparable statistics in all categories except strikeouts.  He also immediately fills the void left by Sale and replaces him in Squatch’s Squad’s pitching staff.  Duffy will only be $7.00 in 2015 which presents him with a potentially inexpensive keeper option if he so chooses.  We are not suggesting that Duffy be kept, but rather we recognize that he is a talented young pitcher who does not cost significant dollars for a team looking to rebuild.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the Ball Breakers and Squatch’s Squad.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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