Team Sabo vs. Nub Dawgs – 4 F.J. 146 (July 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (M.Bumgarner/A.Ethier/C.Utley)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Team Sabo vs. Nub Dawgs 

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE 

Decided July 19, 2012

Cite as 4 F.J. 146 (July 2012)

 Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league called The Incontinent League (hereinafter referred to as “roto league” or “IL” is an 11-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 submitted a proposed trade between two league members and seeks an opinion on whether the trade should be approved.

Procedural History

Team Sabo has made a trade with the Nub Dawgs.  Team Sabo traded Andre Ethier (OF-LAD, $2.30 in the first year of his existing contract), Ross Detwiler (SP-WAS, $1.00 in the first year of his existing contract), and Chad Billingsley (SP-LAD, $1.30 in the first year of his existing contract) to the Nub Dawgs in exchange for Madison Bumgarner (SP-SF, $0.50 in the final year of his existing contract) and Chase Utley (2B-PHI, $1.60 in the first year of his existing contract).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Team Sabo and the Nub Dawgs be approved?

Decision

The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades.  People pay money to participate in fantasy leagues, and generally they should be afforded the freedom to manage their team accordingly.  Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness.  See 4 Ponies v. Carson City Cocks, 3 F.J. 13 (May 2011).

It is well documented that there is a different analysis of trades in a keeper league as opposed to a non-keeper 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).

The Court will evaluate the objective merits of a deal and ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained.  See Victoria’s Secret vs. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010).  The Court will not undermine a fantasy owner’s ability to manage his/her team unless a deal is unfair or inequitable, ripe with collusion, or not in the best interests of the league.  Whether a trade is objectively   intelligent or popular will not be part of the analysis.  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.

At first glance, the trade of Andre Ethier, Ross Detwiler and Chad Billingsley in exchange for Madison Bumgarner and Chase Utley looks slightly uneven.  None of the players involved in this trade are considered elite for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable they are based on their statistics and name recognition  See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011).  Utley was once considered elite and Bumgarner could be on his way to earning such status.  For the purposes of this trade on the present date, they are not.

Bumgarner is the best player involved in this trade as he has emerged as one of the top starting pitchers in the National League.  He is currently 11-5 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and has 104 strikeouts in 122.2 innings.  In just his second full season, Bumgarner has proven to be so good as to warrant a six-year contract extension from the San Francisco Giants.  At just 22 years old, he is on his way to becoming one of the premier pitchers in the National League.

Along with Bumgarner, Team Sabo is acquiring Phillies’ second baseman Chase Utley.  Utley just recently returned to the big leagues after missing the first three months with a lingering knee injury.  Once heralded as the best second baseman in fantasy baseball, injuries have sapped him of his power.  He can still be productive when he plays, but he is a major injury risk and is in decline already in his early 30’s.

In exchange, the best player the Nub Dawgs are acquiring is Andre Ethier.  Despite having missed a few weeks with an oblique injury, Ethier is still batting .298 with 11 homeruns and 60 RBI.  He hasn’t developed into a true power hitter yet, but he is a proven run producer with a solid batting average.  Now that he is contractually locked up in Los Angeles, he should continue to benefit from hitting next to Matt Kemp in the Dodgers’ lineup for years to come.

The Nub Dawgs also acquired Ross Detwiler in the trade.  Detwiler has been very solid in the Nationals’ vaunted pitching rotation despite being overshadowed by the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.  He was temporarily put in the bullpen when Davey Johnson errantly went with Chien-Ming Wang for a few starts, but Detwiler returned to the rotation and has posted a sub-3.00 ERA in his previous four starts.  He carries a low ERA but also has a low strikeout ratio and tends to be limited to under 100 pitches.  Despite all of that, he is a solid pitching option on a team that is winning and has a very good bullpen.

The final player involved in the trade is enigmatic Chad Billingsley.  Once regarded as a solid fantasy pitcher, he has struggled mightily since 2010.  Currently he is on the disabled list with elbow inflammation and there is no timetable yet for his return.  When healthy, Billingsley is a marginal pitcher because he tends to overwork himself with deep counts and an inability to escape big innings.

When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective.  See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin).  It is clear that Team Sabo, currently in 4th place, is looking to make a run for this season.  Bumgarner joins a pitching staff which also already includes Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson and Mat Latos.  Team Sabo appears motivated to gain in points with respect to wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts as a way to offset the lack of points he will likely get in saves (due to John Axford being his only closer and subsequently being removed as Milwaukee’s closer).

The Nub Dawgs are currently in 9th place and are looking ahead to the future.  There are no minor league prospects involved in this trade, but the exchange of Bumgarner, whose contract expires at the end of the season, is indicative of a team looking to maximize future value for a current asset.  Moneyball vs. 4 Ponies, 4 F.J 67, 68 (May 2012)   When a team owner in a keeper league no longer has any hope for contending in the current season, he must make a critical roster management decision of whether to trade off established players.  See Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011).  What makes this trade fair is the fact that the Nub Dawgs are actually acquiring quality players in return with both current and future value.    

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.  Los Pollos Hermanos v. Little Stumps, 3 F.J. 192, 195 (October 2011).  The trade certainly makes Team Sabo better by adding Bumgarner to their pitching staff.  They also can potentially reap the benefits from Utley if he somehow regains his past form at a scarce position such as second base or middle infield.  The Nub Dawgs do take a hit in pitching because Detwiler is a downgrade from Bumgarner and Billingsley isn’t even active.  But the acquisition of Ethier does markedly improve their outfield.

In terms of the contractual and financial ramifications of the trade, there is only a $2.50 differential which hardly has any consequence on either team.  The Nub Dawgs had previously acquired salary cap flexibility in some of their prior trades, so this is demonstrative of what their long-term planning had been.  Instead of losing Bumgarner for nothing when he re-enters the 2013 draft, the Nub Dawgs acquired a top outfielder who is under contract for another two years. 

Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade should be approved as it comports with the best interests of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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