Moneyball vs. Nub Dawgs – 4 F.J. 162 (August 2, 2012) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (R.Dempster/J.Bruce)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Moneyball vs. Nub Dawgs

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE 

Decided August 2, 2012

Cite as 4 F.J. 162 (August 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

On July 30, 2012, Moneyball has made a trade with the Nub Dawgs.  Moneyball traded Ryan Dempster (SP-CHC, $0.80 in the first year of his existing contract), John Mayberry (OF-PHI, $1.00 with one year remaining on his existing contract), and Carlos Zambrano (SP-MIA, $0.60 in the first year of his existing contract) to the Nub Dawgs in exchange for Jay Bruce (OF-CIN, $3.50 in the first year of his existing contract), Carlos Marmol (RP-CHC, $2.40 in the final year of his existing contract), Chad Billingsley (SP-LAD, $1.30 in the first year of his existing contract) and Ted Lilly (SP-LAD, $1.30 in the first year of his existing contract).

Issue Presented

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

Decision

The first issue that must be addressed by the Court is the fact that this trade was made on July 30, 2012.  This was prior to the MLB trade deadline and before Ryan Dempster was traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers.  Of course in this NL-only league, Dempster has been rendered useless now that he is on an American League team.  While we now know how this played out, the Court will only evaluate the trade based on what was known on the date the deal was consummated.  At that time, there was certainly the risk and possibility that Dempster could get dealt to the American League.  But at that moment, he was still a member of the Cubs and the Nub Dawgs certainly knew it was possible he could be traded out of the National League.

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 Ryan Dempster, John Mayberry and Carlos Zambrano in exchange for Jay Bruce, Carlos Marmol, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly looks inequitable.  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).  Jay Bruce is the best player involved in this trade, but he does not qualify as an elite fantasy player at this stage of his career.  However, he is on pace for a 30 homerun, 100 RBI season.  At only 25 years old, he is already established as one of the best young power hitters in the game and will only get better as he continues to learn plate discipline.

The other pieces of this package include Carlos Marmol, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly.  Lilly has been on the disabled list since May with a shoulder injury and only recently started a minor league rehab program.  Billingsley has fallen on hard times since 2010 and is one of the most frustrating and inconsistent pitchers in baseball.  While he pitched exceptionally well upon his recent return from the disabled list, he is anything but a proven commodity at this point. 

Speaking of inconsistent, Carlos Marmol is the poster child for such a term.  After signing a hefty contract extension to be the Cubs closer of the future, Marmol has been an unmitigated disaster the past two years.  Only recently has he been given the closer’s job back and picked up a few saves.  He cannot be trusted and his bouts of wildness will help massacre fantasy teams’ accumulated ERA and WHIP.

The Nub Dawgs have been quite active in trying to build their roster for the future.  The recent acquisition of Starling Marte in exchange for the expiring contract of Aroldis Chapman has helped reshape the structure of their roster as they hope to contend in 2013.  See Team Sabo vs. Nub Dawgs, 4 F.J. 158 (August 2012).  The Nub Dawgs also recently acquired Andre Ethier who they will have under contract for the next two years.  See Team Sabo vs. Nub Dawgs, 4 F.J. 146 (July 2012).  These trades have given the Nub Dawgs depth and flexibility in their outfield which has made Jay Bruce expendable.  While Bruce may have been expendable, he is still a very solid player that is worth valid compensation. 

In exchange, the best player the Nub Dawgs are acquiring is Ryan Dempster.  As the Court stated previously, we must evaluate this case based on Dempster’s standing as of July 30, 2012.  At that time, he was a member of the Chicago Cubs and rumored to be traded to a variety of teams including the Yankees, Braves, Dodgers and others.  The Nub Dawgs had to know and consider the possibility that Dempster could be traded to an American League team which would render him useless in this NL-only league.  Despite that possibility, the Nub Dawgs went ahead and acquired him anyway.    

Dempster has been a solid pitching option all season despite only having five wins on a very bad Cubs team.  He was amongst the league leaders in ERA and would undoubtedly see an increase in wins if traded to a contending team. 

In addition to Dempster, the Nub Dawgs also acquired John Mayberry and Carlos Zambrano.  After a disastrous end to his tenure in Chicago, Zambrano was hopeful to rejuvenate his career in Miami.  He pitched well for the first couple months of the season and became a relevant fantasy pitcher again.  However, he has since fallen on hard times and reverted back to the form that ran him out of Chicago.  Zambrano pitched himself out of Miami’s rotation and has been relegated to the bullpen.  He could get an opportunity to start again, but he has proven to be unreliable and not worth starting on a fantasy team.

In the case of John Mayberry, he has been equally frustrating and disappointing from an offensive perspective.  After a breakout season in 2011, Mayberry was given a starting job with the Phillies, especially in the absence of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to start the year.  Unfortunately, Mayberry became exposed playing every day as he failed to hit for average or generate any power.  Now that the Phillies have traded Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, Mayberry should get plenty of playing time.  But he has not proven he can be productive with all of these at bats.

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).  Even though these are the 8th and 9th place teams, they are in very different positions in the standings.  Moneyball is in 8th place and only four points out of 5th place and 8 points out of 4th place.  Their motivation for this trade is to make a miraculous run for a payout this season. 

The Nub Dawgs are currently in 9th place and have punted the season because they are 13.5 points behind Moneyball.  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).  They were able to trade away Marmol’s expiring contract and receive something in exchange for him as opposed to losing him for nothing at the end of the season.      

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 Moneyball better by adding Bruce to their outfield.  Pitching-wise they should be able to squeeze a few saves out of Marmol and get average production from Billingsley and Lilly. 

The Nub Dawgs do take a hit in terms of present-day value of the players exchanged.  However, they will net $6.10 in salary cap flexibility which is 17% of the league’s permitted in-season salary cap.  This is an incredible amount to have at one’s disposal for making additional trades.  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).  That is not the case here.

Granted this trade now looks completely inequitable because Dempster has been traded to the Texas Rangers and is ineligible for Nub Dawgs.  However, the trade was consummated on July 30, 2012 and not reported to the Court until August 2, 2012.  When a case is submitted requesting retroactive adjudication, the Court will only consider the facts, circumstances, and statistics as of the date of the incident.  All subsequent details will not be part of the analysis.  See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 218 (November 2011).

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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