Lil Nicky vs. Stritz-4-U – 6 F.J. 432 (July 27, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (M.Scherzer/R.Braun/C.Kluber)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Lil Nicky vs. Stritz-4-U

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE JABRONI LEAGUE

Decided July 27, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 432 (July 2014)

Factual Background

A rotisserie fantasy baseball league called the Jabroni League (hereinafter referred to as “JL” was established in 1999 and is hosted on CBS.  The JL is a 12-team mixed AL/NL keeper league where teams are permitted to maintain a maximum of six (6) players.  GM’s can either retain players under a one-year contract or a three-year contract.  If a player was acquired during the auction draft, his value escalates $5.00 the following season.  If a player was acquired via free agency, his value escalates $8.00 the following season and then $5.00 every subsequent year capped at three years of keeper eligibility.

The JL uses a standard 5×5 format for its 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.

All trades made between GM’s are subject to review.  Due to the fact that the JL is comprised of several clusters of family members and close relatives, the commissioner has the sole authority to submit all trades to the Court for review to avoid any potential conflicts.

The commissioner has submitted a trade to the Court for review to determine whether it should be approved or rejected.

Procedural History

Lil Nicky traded Max Scherzer (SP-DET, can be kept for $37.00 in 2015), Kyle Seager (3B-SEA, cannot be kept in 2015), Ryan Braun (OF-MIL, can be kept for $39.00 in 2015), and Elvis Andrus (SS-TEX, can be kept for $27.00 in 2015) to Stritz-4-U in exchange for Corey Kluber (SP-CLE, can be kept for $6.00 in 2015), Jake Petricka (RP-CHW, can be kept for $8.00 in 2015), Jean Segura (SS-MIL, cannot be kept in 2015), Alex Gordon (OF-KC, can be kept for $21.00 in 2015) and Trevor Plouffe (3B-MIN, can be kept for $6.00 in 2015).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Lil Nicky and Stritz-4-U 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 JL 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, Kyle Seager, Ryan Braun and Elvis Andrus in exchange for Corey Kluber, Jake Petricka, Jean Segura, Alex Gordon and Trevor Plouffe looks fair and equitable based on present day value.  Scherzer and Braun are 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).  However, the Court recognizes that Braun’s value has been somewhat diminished this year due in large part to his assorted injuries as well as a significant regression in his power numbers after returning from his 65-game suspension in 2013.

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 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).

Since the record is devoid of any information regarding where either of these teams are in the standings, we can only draw inferences from the trade itself on whether the dichotomy of keeper league trade strategy is being employed.  Knights vs. Seawolves, 5 F.J. 46, 48 (May 2013) (holding that keeper leagues tend to demonstrate a dichotomy in trade strategy where one team is in a “win now” mentality coupled with a trade partner looking to build for the future by trading away expensive assets).  We can surmise that Stritz-4-U is pursuing a league championship this year and to win right now by acquiring the expensive contracts of Scherzer, Braun and Andrus, as well as the expiring contract of Seager.  In contrast, Lil Nicky appears to have conceded the current season by dumping pricy and expiring contracts in exchange for less expensive players.

Scherzer has followed up his incredible 2013 season with a stellar beginning to 2014.  Thus far he is 12-3 with a 3.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 161 strikeouts in 139 innings.  While Scherzer ranks as an elite pitcher, his value is matched evenly in this deal with Corey Kluber.  Kluber has been exceptional for Cleveland going 10-6 with a 2.77 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 162 strikeouts in 149.1 innings.  While Kluber actually has better numbers in some categories than Scherzer, he is also $31.00 less expensive.

It has been well documented by the Court how Ryan Braun’s value has been diminished yet he still maintains elite status.  His batting average and peripheral numbers have been solid despite missing several games this year with a variety of injuries.  But his power and run production has seen a noticeable decrease ever since returning from his suspension related to the Biogenesis scandal.  It is questionable whether he is a viable keeper option in 2015 with a price tag of $39.00.  That being said, he is essentially being exchanged for Alex Gordon.  While Gordon does not have absolutely equivalent statistics, they are close enough to be considered equitable and sufficient.

Both Segura and Seager’s contracts are expiring at the end of the season, so this exchange represents both GM’s needs and desires in terms of a specific position as well as specific categorical benefits.  Seager is a better overall player with respect to his home runs and RBI, but Segura has proven he can steal bases and score runs.  In addition, a straight comparison of Segura to Andrus shows that there is marginal difference in these players outside of Andrus’ expensive salary of $27.00.

The additions of Petricka and Plouffe to the deal are ancillary.  Petricka could have some value if he remains the closer for the White Sox.  Thus far he has five saves and should see most if not all of Chicago’s save opportunities for the foreseeable future.  Plouffe is a utility player with power, but he doesn’t provide much else in terms of value.

After making this trade, Lil Nicky nets $62.00 in salary cap relief.  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).  In this case, the compensation being exchanged is fair and equitable.

Even without knowing their rosters or the current standings, this deal appears to make sense from both teams’ perspectives.  See Los Pollos Hermanos vs. Little Stumps, 3 F.J. 192, 195 (October 2011) (holding that 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).  It is considered a dump trade given the numerous expensive contracts and big names being traded by Lil Nicky, but they are receiving sufficient compensation in return.  Just because the value of the packages is not totally equal does not mean that the trade is not fair and equitable.  Lil Nicky is receiving enough present day and future value, along with significant salary cap flexibility.  Based on the foregoing, the Court approves the subject trade between Lil Nicky and Stritz-4-U.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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