The Evil Empire vs. WAD Squad – 6 F.J. 388 (July 21, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (J.Bautista/M.Scherzer/C.Janssen)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

The Evil Empire vs. WAD Squad

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

Decided July 21, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 388 (July 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 Evil Empire traded Max Scherzer (SP-DET, $26.00 salary in 2014) and Josh Harrison (2B-PIT, $2.00 salary in 2014) to WAD Squad in exchange for Jose Bautista (OF-TOR, $16.00 salary in 2014) and Casey Janssen (RP-TOR, $17.00 salary in 2014).  Bautista and Scherzer were previously kept.  If kept next year, Bautista would increase to $26.00 and Scherzer would increase to $41.00.  If kept, Harrison and Janssen would be subject to $5.00 increases to their current salaries.

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between The Evil Empire and WAD Squad 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 Max Scherzer and Josh Harrison in exchange for Jose Bautista and Casey Janssen looks slightly inequitable.  Bautista and Scherzer are both 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).   The fact that they are on opposite sides of this deal helps balance out any potential disparity that may exist.

When a trade such as this is consummated involving the exchange of players at all 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 are free to prioritize the areas on their rosters that they want to pursue improvement 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 Evil Empire is currently in 6th place and seems to be making a run at winning this season.  Bautista is having a very good season thus far batting .289 with 17 home runs and 54 RBI.  Most importantly, he has been healthy for most of the season which has been a big concern over the past few years.  He is relatively inexpensive to keep in 2015 at $26.00 which is indicative of the risk that was associated with him due to those aforementioned injuries.  In addition to Bautista, the Evil Empire has also acquired Casey Janssen who has thrived as Toronto’s closer.  Thus far, Janssen has 14 saves to go along with a dazzling 1.22 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.

On the other hand, WAD Squad is in 9th place and is presumably playing for the next year.   Even after previously trading away Kenley Jansen[1] they still have plenty of depth with relief pitchers to trade away Janssen.  They also have depth on offense to trade away Bautista with other outfielders on their roster which include Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury Matt Kemp and Rajai Davis.  In addition, they also have Edwin Encarnacion stashed on the disabled list so his pending return will offset any offensive loss by trading away Bautista.  The acquisition of Scherzer gives WAD Squad a formidable duo along with the recently acquired Jon Lester and represents a change in philosophy and strategy heading into 2015.

The Court sees no reason to reject this trade.  The value being exchanged for each other is fair and equitable.  The net difference in salary between the two packages is negligible.  This deal represents the motives of two teams seeking to improve at different positions and have exchanged equitable value to further those goals.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the trade between the Evil Empire and WAD Squad.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


[1] See Mike’s Mobsters vs. WAD Squad, 6 F.J. 384 (July 2014) (approving the trade of Kenley Jansen in exchange for Jon Lester).

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