Lil Nicky vs. Ballbusters – 6 F.J. 443 (July 29, 2014) – Fantasy Baseball Trade Review (J.Bruce/J.Weaver/C.Blackmon)

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Lil Nicky vs. Ballbusters

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE JABRONI LEAGUE

Decided July 29, 2014
Cite as 6 F.J. 443 (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 Gio Gonzalez (SP-WAS, can be kept for $23.00 in 2015), Jered Weaver (SP-LAA, can be kept for $21.00 in 2015) and Jay Bruce (OF-CIN, can be kept for $29.00 in 2015) to the Ballbusters in exchange for Charlie Morton (SP-PIT, can be kept for $8.00 in 2015) and Charlie Blackmon (OF-COL, can be kept for $8.00 in 2015).

Issue Presented

(1)   Should the trade between Lil Nicky and the Ballbusters 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 Gio Gonzalez, Jered Weaver and Jay Bruce in exchange for Charlie Morton and Charlie Blackmon looks does not look fair and equitable based on present day value.  None of the players involved in this deal 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).

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 the Ballbusters are pursuing a league championship this year and to win right now by acquiring the expensive contracts of Gonzalez, Weaver and Bruce.  In contrast, Lil Nicky has conceded the current season and continues to trade away expensive players as part of his rebuilding process.

Statistically, Charlie Morton and Gio Gonzalez are a wash based on this year’s numbers.  Morton is 5-10 with a 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 106 strikeouts in 132.1 innings while Gonzalez is 6-6 with a 3.55 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in 93.2 innings.  The addition of Jered Weaver along with Gonzalez certainly tips the balance in favor of the Ballbusters as Weaver is currently.11-6 with a 3.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 110 strikeouts 139.1 innings.  While Weaver is a solid fantast pitcher, he is by no means elite nor does he have the same value as he did just a few years ago.  His inclusion in the deal does not create such a disparity that warrants any heightened scrutiny..

In terms of the batters being traded, Jay Bruce has the better resume.  However, he has been abysmal this season batting .215 with 10 home runs, 42 RBI, 48 runs scored and nine stolen bases.  He is currently on the bereavement list and should be back shortly.  But it remains to be seen whether he can salvage the season with any type of continued production for the rest of the year.  That being said, it is understandable why the Ballbusters would want to buy low on Bruce who is perennially a 30 home run/100 RBI player.  In exchange for Bruce, Lil Nicky acquires Charlie Blackmon who is batting .302 with 14 home runs, 54 RBI, 56 runs scored and 19 stolen bases.  Those numbers are somewhat misleading because most were accumulated early in the season before Blackmon went into a prolonged slump.  However, his overall numbers and production cannot be denied, so this exchange weighs in favor of Lil Nicky who acquires a player that contributes in all five roto categories.

After making this trade, Lil Nicky nets $57.00 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 the Ballbusters.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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