The Verdict: fantasy baseball frenzy after the All Star break.

The All Star game represents the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season.  Even though all teams have played more than 81 games by now, the Mid-Summer Classic is still used as a line of demarcation between the first and second half of the season.  Generally, the two weeks after the All Star Game are used to determine whether a MLB team is going to be a buyer or seller at the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31.  In fantasy baseball, this is also the time when teams make those critical decisions that will have a lasting impact on the rest of the year, as well as in the future.

The difference between making trades in keeper leagues as opposed to non-keeper leagues has been discussed at length here before.  There are differing opinions on the subject, but generally speaking blockbuster deals are proposed and consummated during the weeks immediately after the All Star break.  This is because teams in keeper leagues need to make the same critical decisions as MLB teams whether they are going to pursue success today and sacrifice tomorrow, or vice versa.  The point is that fantasy baseball league commissioners should be on notice that they will have lots of potentially controversial trades to oversee in the immediate future.

By now you should be used to my preaching about having written rules or a constitution in place to provide guidance and authority with respect to handling such potential controversies.  The fact remains that commissioners empowered with the authority to approve or reject trades, as well as league members who are able to vote on whether to approve a trade, all possess enormous power and should be equipped with the proper tools on how to use such power.

Evaluating a trade in a vacuum only works to a degree in a non-keeper (or redraft) league because the evaluation is simply limited to the current season.  A trade of Andrew McCutchen for Oscar Taveras in a non-keeper league should never be allowed because Taveras has no value for this season.  But in a keeper league, there are other factors to analyze which would make this an acceptable trade.  Commissioners of keeper leagues need to look at the bigger picture to ensure that blockbuster trades are being made in good faith and have discernible benefits to both teams involved.

Here are some suggestions for how to handle the post-All Star break trading bonanza that is likely going to take place in both keeper and non-keeper leagues:

1. In a non-keeper league, teams that have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention or prize-winning slots should not be allowed to make trades.  The only reason a trade should be made is to improve your own team’s performance in some capacity.  If a team in a redraft league can no longer make the playoffs or win money, they should not be allowed to make deals which can ultimately affect the playoff chase.  I understand all of the arguments against this proposition.  Feel free to make them.  However, banning all trades by eliminated teams removes any and all speculation about the integrity of a trade made by a team without any hope of making the playoffs.  Of course there could be tainted trades made by playoff-contending teams.  But this is an easy decision to make to decrease that possibility.

2. When evaluating an alleged “dump” trade in a keeper league, consider the following factors when making your decision to approve or reject the deal: a) where each team is in the standings; b) the roster needs of both teams; c) the salary or contract status of the players involved in the trade; d) the quality of less expensive players or prospects being exchanged; e) the statistics accumulated by all players up to this point coupled with their projected output for the remainder of the season and beyond; f) the level of upgrade or downgrade by each team after the players are exchanged and the disparity between that difference; and most importantly g) whether there is any purported collusion between the teams making the trade.

3. Set a trade deadline.  Even in keeper leagues when trading is permitted during the off-season, there should be a moratorium on trades at some point in the season prior to the playoffs or whatever form of reward process your league has.

4. Keep an eye on the league’s transaction report and waiver wire for any suspected or possible manipulation amongst teams.  Unfortunately not everyone in a fantasy baseball league is honest, so be wary of teams attempting to collude by dropping players at certain times and using their waiver positions in a way to circumvent the proper methods.

At the end of the day, the next few weeks represent some of the most exciting in both real and fantasy baseball in terms of trading, transactions and roster management.  All commissioners should be prepared to deal with the plethora of deals that get sent in for approval.  If your league still employs the voting procedure by its members to approve or reject a trade, I still implore you to change that for next year.  Regardless, enjoy the All Star break because business is about to pick up.


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