Carson City Cocks vs. Cajun Crawdads – 6 F.J. 190 (May 25, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (P.Goldschmidt/M.Trumbo/K.Medlen)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Carson City Cocks vs. Cajun Crawdads

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE

Decided May 25, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 190 (May 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 Carson City Cocks traded Paul Goldschmidt (1B-ARZ, $4.20 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining) and Will Venable (OF-SD, $1.40 in the second year of his existing contract with one year remaining) to the Cajun Crawdads in exchange for Mark Trumbo (1B/OF-ARZ, $3.40 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining), Brandon Beachy (SP-ATL, $0.10 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining), Kris Medlen (SP-ATL, $0.20 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining), and Scott Van Slyke (OF-LAD, $0.20 in the first year of his existing contract with two years remaining).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between the Carson City Cocks and the Cajun Crawdads 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 Paul Goldschmidt and Will Venable in exchange for Mark Trumbo, Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen and Scott Van Slyke looks slightly equitable.  Paul Goldschmidt, the runner-up for the 2013 National League MVP, is considered elite for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of his inherent value and projected statistical production.  See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011).  The Court has no issues with the idea of trading a superstar player 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).

When a trade such as this is consummated involving the exchange of players at different positions, it can reasonably be concluded that both GM’s have different interests and priorities with respect to the composition of their rosters.  See In Pursuit of the Grail vs. Reloading Again, 6 F.J. 12, 13 (March 2014).  GM’s in roto leagues are free to prioritize which categories they want to pursue improvement in 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).

The Carson City Cocks are currently in 11th place and nine points behind the 10th place team.  The Court can surmise that they are taking the approach that epitomizes the thought process for GM’s in a keeper league that no longer have any hope for contending in the current season.  He/she must make critical roster management decisions of whether to trade off established players in exchange for less expensive entities in building for the future.  See Winners vs. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. at 102.

Despite the fact that it is only the end of Week 8 of the fantasy baseball season and we have not even reached Memorial Day, it is still within the Carson City Cocks’ discretion to make the realistic determination of his own team’s fate for the rest of the season.  See Victoria’s Secret vs. NY Cowboys, 6 F.J. 149, 151 (May 2014).  By virtue of making this trade with the Cajun Crawdads who are in 2nd place, the dichotomy of keeper league trade strategy has been exemplified given the competing interests of one team in a “win now” mentality coupled with a trade partner looking to build for the future by trading away expensive assets.  Knights vs. Seawolves, 5 F.J. 46, 48 (May 2013).

What makes this case unique and distinct from other similar cases is that practically the entire package of players going to the Carson City Cocks is currently injured.  Granted, Mark Trumbo should return within a few weeks after sustaining a fractured foot in April 2014.  His power and run production will certainly help offset the loss of Goldschmidt who has emerged as one of the top five fantasy players in baseball.  The real debate is how to analyze Beachy and Medlen.  Both Atlanta pitchers underwent their second Tommy John surgeries earlier this year and will miss the entire 2014 season.  It is completely premature and speculative to determine when or if they will be able to recover and return from their second operations.  Clearly both pitchers have tremendous talent and track records that prove they can be effective major league pitchers.  But no one can predict whether either of them will be able to match their previous success.

Assuming Trumbo does come back within a few weeks, he can be considered serviceable compensation for the loss of Goldschmidt.  Trumbo will not provide similar batting average or stolen bases, but his power and run production can help offset Goldschmidt’s absence.  Because the gap between these two players is relatively manageable, the potential for both Beachy and Medlen to come back in 2015  is valuable enough to make this deal more than equitable.  Both Beachy and Medlen are still under team control for another two years at very inexpensive salaries.  This makes the risk palatable and manageable for the Carson City Cocks as they look to rebuild.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the Carson City Cocks and the Cajun Crawdads.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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