Smittydogs vs. Bill & Suzie’s Tavern – 6 F.J. 543 (September 7, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (C.Crawford/J.Lagares)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Smittydogs vs. Bill & Suzie’s Tavern

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided September 7, 2014

Cite as 6 F.J. 543 (September 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 Smittydogs traded Carl Crawford (OF-LAD, $1.90 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining) to Bill & Suzie’s Tavern in exchange for Juan Lagares (OF-NYM, $0.70 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Smittydogs and Bill & Suzie’s Tavern 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 Carl Crawford in exchange for Juan Lagares looks fair and equitable in terms of present day value.  Neither player in this deal is considered elite for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable they are.  See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011).

Typically the only circumstances where we will reject a trade are: 1) if the deal is made in violation of league rules; 2) if the deal is made through collusion; 3) the deal is so grossly lopsided that is has a detrimental effect on the whole league; and 4) if the deal makes absolutely no sense and/or fails to improve at least one of the team’s rosters in any capacity.  Grand Theft Votto vs. That Wimpy Deer, 6 F.J. 39, 42 (April 2014).  Given the circumstances surrounding this trade, we are only analyzing whether numbers 3 or 4 apply.

This trade involves the even exchange of outfielders for one another.  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).

Bill & Suzie’s Tavern is currently in 1st place holding on to a slim two-point lead over the 2nd place team.  They are clearly still competing this season in pursuit of a league championship, and as such this trade epitomizes 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).  On the other hand, the Smittydogs are in 8th place and building towards the future.

The acquisition of Carl Crawford makes a lot of sense for Bill & Suzie’s Tavern.  Crawford has 22 stolen bases which is the primary statistic he contributes.  Bill & Suzie’s Tavern is unlikely going to catch the next team ahead of them in the standings for stolen bases, but they can fend off the other teams that are right behind them.  At this point in the season it is critical to not lose any points in the standings, especially with only a two-point lead.  So the addition of Crawford is clearly intended to stave off the teams that are just a couple stolen bases behind them.

From the Smittydogs’ perspective, they are saving $1.20 and acquiring a player in Juan Lagares who plays more frequently and has relatively similar offensive numbers to Crawford besides stolen bases.  Crawford is batting .271 with six home runs, 32 RBI, 45 runs scored and 22 stolen bases.  Lagares is batting .282 with four home runs, 44 RBI, 44 runs scored and nine stolen bases.  He is the centerfielder of the future for the Mets and has shown great improvement offensively in 2014.

This trade falls square within the keeper league trade strategy dichotomy.  Crawford is purely a short-term fix for Bill & Suzie’s Tavern who is pursuing a championship and as such need to be aggressive and protective of their slim two point lead.  On the other hand, the Smittydogs are building for the future by acquiring a less expensive player who provides very similar value and has more upside than the expensive veteran.  There is sufficient value being exchanged for each other.  The motivations of both teams are obvious and the deal satisfies the needs of both parties.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between Bill & Suzie’s Tavern and the Smittydogs.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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