Ball Breakers vs. Jock Itch – 6 F.J. 529 (August 30, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Rejected (G.Stanton)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Ball Breakers vs. Jock Itch

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

Decided August 30, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 529 (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 a 6th round draft pick in 2015 to Jock Itch in exchange for Giancarlo Stanton (OF-MIA, $9.00 salary in 2014 which will increase to $14.00 if kept in 2015).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Ball Breakers and Jock Itch 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 Giancarlo Stanton in exchange for a 6th round draft pick in 2015 looks completely inequitable.  Stanton 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 is one of the preeminent power hitters in baseball which makes him all the more valuable given the decline in offense over the past several years.

Trading away a superstar player in exchange for a draft pick perfectly exemplifies the dichotomy of keeper league trade strategy where one team in contention has a “win now” mentality by acquiring more expensive players coupled with a trade partner who building for the future by selling off assets.  Knights vs. Seawolves, 5 F.J. 46, 48 (May 2013).  Here, the Ball Breakers are currently in 4th place and appear to be trying to make a late season run at the league’s playoffs or a championship.  On the other hand, Jock Itch is currently in 8th place and is clearly building for the future by acquiring a draft pick for Stanton.

In keeper leagues, it is quite common for GM’s to trade future draft picks as compensation for players in a deal.  Draft picks in subsequent seasons are assets commonly bartered in keeper leagues.  See Bald Eagles vs. Weasel D, 3 F.J. 205, 208 (November 2011).  But when a player of Stanton’s caliber is the player traded, the draft pick(s) being exchanged need to have sufficient value to be considered equitable.

Not only is Stanton viewed as a player who will help for the remainder of this season, but he is a cornerstone to build any keeper league team around.  The fact that he will only cost $14.00 in 2015 makes him an essential lock to be kept.  Even when his salary increases to $24.00 in 2016 he will still be a bargain given his prolific production in all roto categories (he does have 10 stolen bases thus far as well).

Stanton is a rare talent at only 24 years old.  In 2014, he is batting .294 with 33 home runs, 97 RBI, 83 runs scored and 10 stolen bases.  In this day and age where pitching dominates, there are few players in both real and fantasy baseball that make as big an impact as Stanton.  As such, we must ensure that Jock Itch is receiving sufficient compensation in terms of the draft pick he is obtaining.  Assuming Stanton was available in the 2015 draft, we find it unfathomable that he would not be considered at least a first or second round pick.  Even if a league had a unique scoring system or some other intricacy, we cannot and do not come close to equating Stanton’s value with a 6th round draft pick.  That is far too wide a distance from what he is actually worth if he were to be traded for one draft pick.

White it is normally acceptable for teams in keeper leagues to make trades that do not have equivalent present-day value, a deal that is so completely lopsided and goes against the best interests of the league will be rejected.  See Smittydogs vs. Moneyball, 4 F.J. 57 (May 2012) (rejecting a trade of Ryan Braun and Edwin Jackson in exchange for Randall Delgado, Dee Gordon and Bobby Abreu); Team Sabo vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J. 50 (May 2012) (rejecting a trade of Joey Votto and Tyler Clippard in exchange for Drew Stubbs, Francisco Rodriguez and Starling Marte).  Lopsided trades throw off the competitive balance of the league and create a slippery slope for future trades.

The Court has no issues with the idea of trading superstar players so long as the package in return is equitable and makes sense given the needs of both teams.  See 4 Ponies vs. Beaver Hunters, 3 F.J. 26, 29 (June 2011).  However, here the disparity is far too great between an elite player like Stanton with tremendous keeper value in exchange for merely a 6th round pick.  If Stanton’s salary was projected to be in excess of $50.00 or $60.00 next year, this trade would make a lot more sense and be much more palatable.  But the fact is that he can be kept for only $14.00 which makes him one of the best values in the entire league.  Based on the foregoing, the Court rejects this trade between the Ball Breakers and Jock Itch.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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