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Dump Trades & Pujols: Unfairness or Bitterness?
Posted by Bret Cohen at 5/27/2008 3:07:00 PM
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In a blog post yesterday, my fellow esteemed writer and blogger Dalton Del Don called out a trade I made in our RotoWire Staff Keeper League, and a spate of comments ensued, many of which were filled with what I would call rather justifiable reactions of disgust. Dalton, however, was not very thorough in reporting the trade. His point -- that redraft leagues are better than keeper leagues -- is served by his use of the example, and is supported by legitimate evidence, even if I may disagree with it. Even so, I’m sure many of you will still disagree with the trade, especially given the not-so-nice (one might even call them “spiteful”) e-mails I’ve received from other owners in the league, some of whom have commented on the previous post. But perhaps because I am more interested in full disclosure in reporting, I wanted to correct the record a bit.

To set the scene, the league is an 18-team, 5x5 keeper league. On top of our 30-man rosters (23 of which start), each team has a 10-man minor league roster. Every top prospect (and every preseason second-tier prospect for that matter) is owned, so it’s very important to build through the minor league draft (and in trading for minor leaguers and minor league draft picks). For example, on my league-winning roster last season, I had on my team the following “graduated” minor leaguers, who can be kept at $3 in a league with a $260 budget: Rickie Weeks, Alex Rios, Delmon Young, Matt Cain, and Rich Hill.

Dalton reported: “In RotoWire’s Staff Keeper League, Albert Pujols was just traded for Dana Eveland and Jose Vidro.” This was incorrect. Though irrelevant to the point he was making, the deal also included a 2nd round minor league draft pick. For the reasons described above, these picks are valuable, to the extent that teams will trade superstar players just for first round draft picks during the season. Now, this might support Dalton’s argument in favor of yearly leagues, but it happens. Teams are extremely loath to part with first-round picks, and second-round picks aren’t far behind. Anyone passing judgment on this deal should at least be informed of the inclusion of such a pick in the deal. It certainly is more valuable than Jose Vidro, and something the other owner insisted be in the deal. Examples of minor league picks selected second by their teams in 2007 (giving a year for reflection) include Sean Gallagher, Travis Buck, Wade Davis, Jake McGee, Michael Bowden, Brian Barton, Joba Chamberlain, and Kevin Slowey. Minor leaguers being selected second this year include Alan Horne, Brett Anderson, Michael Burgess, Matt Latos, Wade Leblanc, Ben Revere, Matt Dominguez, Justin Maxwell, Chris Perez, Beau Mills, Christopher Davis, Chris Carter (Oakland), Adrian Cardenas, James McDonald, and Mat Gamel. So with that second-round pick, he’s going to get a significant player that’s not trash.

A second factor that should be reported, though probably assumed by anyone reading the post (and known by the other posting members of the league), is that Albert Pujols’s price was $60 (out of $260) -- Eveland was a reserve pick, and under the rules of our league could be kept for three additional years (2009 through 2011) at $5 a piece, and even longer at a higher price if the owner so chooses.

Now, many people panning the trade probably won’t care about Eveland’s keeper price, given the belief, presumably, that he’s obviously never going to pan out in the major leagues. This is a bit surprising to me, as we write for a fantasy sports web site relying largely on statistics and sabermetric analysis (though of course scouting reports are relevant). In 413.2 career minor league innings, the 24-year-old Eveland had a 2.61 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 406:127 K:BB ratio. Yes, he flamed out in limited trials for the Brewers and the Diamondbacks from the ages of 21 to 23. Is it really that large of a surprise, though, that he’s doing well this year? Is it completely irrational for another owner to believe he’ll continue to have a good year this season (his current stats, for the record, are a 2.90 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 44:24 K:BB ratio in 62 innings).

Many of the comments focus on Jose Vidro. That was a request of the other owner, to be able to start a player who would receive playing time. As Dalton’s post seemed to imply, Vidro was not a major part of the deal. The major parts of the deal were Eveland and the second-round pick.

So perhaps you’re still disagreeing with the trade on its face: unproven keepers for Pujols. In that case, you agree with Dalton, who makes a very legitimate point, that if you don’t like these kinds of “proven-for-prospect” trades then you shouldn’t be in a keeper league. Some other trades made in our league this year include:

  • Jose Reyes ($62), Mariano Rivera ($31), and John Drennan (minor leaguer) FOR Chase Headley ($4), Jeff Clement (minor leaguer), and Clint Barmes ($2).
  • Justin Morneau ($45), Kenji Johjima ($19), Ted Lilly ($13), and Michael Saunders (minor leaguer) FOR Greg Smith ($5), Ronny Paulino ($3), Blake DeWitt (minor leaguer), and Jake Arrieta (minor leaguer).
  • Ichiro ($45) and Brandon Snyder (minor leaguer) FOR Jeremy Hellickson (minor leaguer), Max Ramirez (minor leaguer), and Kevin Millwood ($1)

    I don’t pass judgment on these trades, but I use them to highlight a couple points. First, my trade is not beyond the pale of what the market is bearing in our league. For that reason, I don’t believe it should be singled out as “unreasonable,” though surely one could claim that all of these trades are “unreasonable,” and then we’re back at The First Hypothesis of Dalton (one which I have conceded repeatedly in this post is a legitimate one): viz., you shouldn’t play in keeper leagues if you dislike dump trading. This is a league comprised of RotoWire writers, and while some could argue that some are better than fantasy sports than others, I think it would be wrong -- and perhaps insulting -- to argue that this is your run-of-the-mill Yahoo public (yearly) league unbalanced trade.

    Second, the number of minor league prospects being bounced around in these trades is not small. While Clement, DeWitt, Arrieta, Hellickson, and Ramirez are certainly above-average-to-very-good prospects, I would argue (and most of you would probably agree) that none of them are can’t-miss blue chippers. (I could also include here the argument made above, that the 2nd round draft pick I included could yield a similar top prospect.) How is a trade for them that much better than a trade for Eveland, who has a similar terrific minor league record and is putting up similarly terrific numbers against major league competition? The counterargument is either that “Eveland isn’t guaranteed to continue this success,” which can be made about those other prospects, or that “Eveland wasn’t a high draft pick,” in which case we should throw this whole statistical analysis “fad” out the window.

    Let me lastly state that I am posting this because I’m not afraid to run away from any debate that’s been going on about this, and wanted to continue to engage in productive, informed debate. I also want to reiterate (if I didn’t make clear throughout the post) that I love Dalton’s writing, he’s 10x (at least) the fantasy sports writer that I’ll ever be, and I’m not attempting to impugn him personally or as a writer. His point was merely that he prefers yearly leagues because he dislikes dump trading. In doing so, he merely left out a few details that I think help paint a different picture to those who are not familiar with this particular league. On the other hand, there have been numerous disdainful comments by members of the league direct at me via e-mail and in the comments to the previous post, so it’s likely that many of these people still don’t agree with my reasoning.

  • Comments....

    A couple other thoughts... I want to point out that Dalton in the last post noted: "Although it must be pointed out that Pujols' contract is so high, he's basically unkeepable." And with regard to the Browns' post about dealing Kershaw a few years back (as "a 'fair' dump trade"), it's really easy now to say that's a great trade, now that Kershaw has had a couple more successful minor league seasons under his belt. There are plenty of dump trades for prospects that haven't worked out (such as my trade for Ian Stewart a few years ago, when he was a "top prospect" in the game).
    Posted by bscwik at 5/27/2008 3:40:00 PM
    Bret you're contradicting yourself there in the last post.

    "So with that second-round pick, he’s going to get a significant player that’s not trash."

    "There are plenty of dump trades for prospects that haven't worked out (such as my trade for Ian Stewart a few years ago, when he was a "top prospect" in the game).

    You point out in the blog the potential of the second round pick-but then discredit it with the last post. It still doesn't look too fair but the rest of us don't know the dynamics of the league. I'm in a similar league-23 teams, 2 round minor draft, auction style, up to 5 MLers kept. There is no way this trade would have gone through, maybe if a first round pick was involved. However, I don't blame you, I blame the person who traded Pujols, I see why you did it. The other important question to curb large dump trades is what is the league's salary cap?
    Posted by kevinccp at 5/27/2008 4:16:00 PM
    Bret, you got Pujols? I say good for you. And if you did that in Staff League 2 (the league that I am in with you), then I'd also say "good for you." It's not your fault that the other owner agreed to a trade that was just a bad trade. Even if he wanted to dump and play for next year, he clearly could have gotten more than Pujols, especially this early in the season.

    As for other owners being spiteful to you, I think that's a shame. I suspect that they are really just upset that they didn't realize that the other owner was willing to trade Pujols (for that little) and are jealous that they didn't get to do the deal. After all, if we are being honest, there is not a person reading this who, if they got an owner to agree to give up Pujols for Eveland, a 2nd rounder, and Vidro, would stop and say "wait, I need to give you more to make the trade more fair." It doesn't happen. We all negotiate for the best deal we can get and do the deal. That's what you did, and I don't think that deserves criticism. The problem here was somebody dumping and giving up Pujols without getting a top prospect.
    Posted by MPStopa at 5/27/2008 5:12:00 PM
    Since you decided to take this to a public forum...

    I'm increasingly of the opinion that the staff league is broken. The $3 price tag on minor leaguers, and the 'bonus season' and $5 price tag on reserve picks, has destroyed the auction. Inflation is out of control, because the pool of stars NOT kept at well below market prices keeps shrinking and the amount of money to spend on them keeps increasing. (Staff League 2 folks, take heed... this is your future.)

    One of the side effects of that is trades like yours. You are absolutely right that the trade makes a reasonable amount of sense in our league; unfortunately, that just proves that the league's setup is nonsensical, not that the trade makes much sense in any other context.

    Even at an unkeepable price, a hitter like Pujols should fetch a lot more than a middling pitching keeper and a good draft pick.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my attempts to trade every good player I have for one great keeper, because that's the kind of farcical deal the league requires to be competitive down the road...
    Posted by ESiegrist at 5/27/2008 6:09:00 PM
    That Puljos league would have less drama if trades weren't allowed.......I would only do a league like that with no trading...then you either ride the guy out or be foreced to cut his salary next year. But then most people who play in leagues like that like the drama, so you reap what you sew.....I don't fault Brett for trying to do what he thinks is best for his team but that league set up looks like you are playing The Sims more than fantasy baseball....
    Posted by Zenguerrilla at 5/27/2008 6:25:00 PM
    Brett, you say "This is a bit surprising to me, as we write for a fantasy sports web site relying largely on statistics and sabermetric analysis (though of course scouting reports are relevant). In 413.2 career minor league innings, the 24-year-old Eveland had a 2.61 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 406:127 K:BB ratio."

    I don't think anyone is saying that Eveland stinks. I think they're just saying 2/3 of a season of Pujols, should bring a better package than what he got.

    If I were playing for this year and knew I could get Pujols for a sort-of-pretty-good pitcher and a draft pick, I would probably be able to offer a better pitcher than Eveland out of nothing more than just guilt.
    Posted by kennruby at 5/27/2008 7:06:00 PM
    not faulting you, Bret. There's no doubt you made a nice trade. But I don't think you would disagree with the notion that Pujols could have fetched a lot more, given that the owner knew it was an active trade market with lots of potential suitors.

    As to Erik's comments, I don't think the league is 'broken'. Taking a quick glance at our roster, and the core of our team were either minor leaguers (Hamels, Billingsley, Pence etc) or guys we took a gamble on a few years back (Upton, Harden several years back), and some nice pieces from earlier trades (Peavy).
    Posted by djbrown at 5/27/2008 7:16:00 PM
    I'm not buying that, Ken. If you could get Pujols for Eveland, a draft pick and Vidro, you would not pay more. Nobody would. And there's nothing wrong with that - we all shop for the best deal possible and pull the trigger once we get it. Again, the problem is with the league rules and not getting more for Pujols, not the guy who lands Pujols.
    Posted by MPStopa at 5/27/2008 7:20:00 PM
    I have never been in a keeper league but what about the idea that the salaries in the trade have to come within a certain range of each other. Just like the NBA. At least, there is something in place that shows that the trades have to be more than just for the future. Though, you might have people signing Van Horn out of retirement to make a trade work "financially" but I guess you will deal with that when it happens.
    Posted by nayfel at 5/27/2008 7:33:00 PM
    Bret as you know I am more of the mind of Don Del Dalton and would rather also play in yearly auction leagues. If I was in staff league one I would have ranted about your trade and then tried to find a better one.

    In my personal opinion the three biggest issues in any of the leagues (keeper vs yearly): communication, sense of urgency and our perceptions of current value/future worth.

    Communication - the ideal situation is that you play in a competitive league - you are looking to trade and post a note - in this case that you are looking to move Pujols for a package of players and picks.

    The reality is that sometimes it never gets communicated or we post a note and because the other owners are all busy (as most of use only do this on the side and make our livings elsewhere) they don't respond back or ignore the post or email from the owner looking to trade.

    This comes to the second point urgency. You take the time to make the post and looking to get a deal done, but receive little or few offers. Therefore when you do get real communication (these days mostly email or internet IM) - you jump it at (my ideal communication is phone with IM second and email last). This is because we have this unrealistic need to make the trade most of the time.

    Which leads to the final point - our perception of value. We all know Pujols is a fine player - but our perception changes when we see the $60 price tag (but should it? if a keeper league what has been the trend for inflation? my guess close to 40% so if Pujols is a $30-$40 player then he is then worth $42-$56 with inflation - close to our $60 value - maybe not so unkeepable). So maybe that makes him worth a great keeper (one of the $3 minor league types) a good player and a draft pick - or maybe he is worth more to an owner competing for the championship, but who hasn't bothered communicating with us.

    So what happens - we do what is easy. We deal with owners we chat with or who communicate with us and we lower our expectations of value. When in reality what we should do is walk away and come back another day or resolict trades to get what we think is true value.

    One final note - in my opinion all money leagues (including the NFBC) should be auction style yearly drafts. That way you have the option to buy the team you want and not live with the luck/fate of where you fall in a snake draft.

    Posted by jem37 at 5/27/2008 8:26:00 PM
    Bret, I loved your article here. You laid out all of the pertinent peripherals so we could get a much broader, all-encompassing picture of the trade and it's varied possible fallout/rewards. If my league were a keeper league and I could do so, I would trade my Miguel Cabrera for a Jay Bruce and a first round pick or ,straight up if I had to. Many would call this a foolhardy gamble . But, considering Cabrera's salary next year, it is a gamble I am willing to take, I would hope that everyone , having read your article, will come around and agree in part that this trade doesn't seem so very one sided. Both parties' needs were met. The only , albeit glaring, red flag is that the player is Pujols. Every person in every league wants that player , and that is going to have people seeing green no matter how you slice the trade. Have a good season., Colleen
    Posted by StarsnScrubs at 5/27/2008 8:59:00 PM
    I can honestly say that if I could get Pujols for Eveland, Vidro and a second round pick that I just wouldn't do it. It would be blatantly obvious to me, as I'm sure it was to Brett, that this trade would cause problems within the league and winning the league just isn't so important that I need to disrupt the entire league to do it. There are a number of misleading and completely wrong statements in this blog, though, that need to be cleared up.

    Your statement that Eveland could be kept for three more seasons at $5 is incorrect. Because he was selected in the reserve draft, this is his 'A' season and a decision on a long term contract will need to be made after next year. He can be kept for at most two more seasons at $5. This is how all of my reserve picks have been treated in the past.

    To that extent, your statement that the minor league prospects in the other trades don't have as much value as Eveland is misleading. Any minor leaguer counts as zero dollars towards next season and will have three seasons at $3 in the future at a minimum (as opposed to just two at $5 for Eveland). Not only will the minor league guys be cheaper, but they will also be cheaper for longer. This is before there's even any debate on whether those minor leaguers are actually better baseball players than Eveland.

    You mention that your trade is "not beyond the pale of what the market is bearing in our league". Last week I traded Hamilton ($3A) for Dunn, Derosa and Lackey, none of whom are keepers. Another trade last week was Colby Rasmus and Kevin Slowey ($3A) for F. Rodriguez. Clearly, there is a market in our league for better players than Dana Eveland and a second round reserve pick for Albert Pujols. It should not have been a secret to you or to the owner of Pujols. Why wouldn't you mention those trades in your blog? Do they not back up your arguement that the trade market won't bear much more than your offer?

    Last season I traded Vlad and Chad Cordero with expiring contracts for $1A Shields, Hamilton and Wade Davis. I made another trade to get $3A Garko and a minor leaguer for Sheets. I turned down numerous low ball offers for Carlos Zambrano and Chipper Jones. Those trades I made last year are a big reason why I'm currently in third place this season. Brett's version of what the market will bear in our league is misleading.

    Finally, Pujols at $60 is not so high that he couldn't be considered as a keeper in our league. He will almost certainly go for that price or higher during the auction next spring. That won't even be the highest price paid for a player in the auction.

    I have not protested the trade to the commissioner of the league and I haven't made any disparaging remarks about Brett or the trade. I did send an email asking if it was real or just a joke, though. Just because I do think it's a terribly one sided trade doesn't mean that I'm going to stop it, but it's still not going to sit well
    Posted by herbilk at 5/27/2008 9:17:00 PM
    edit- this got cut off from my last post:

    Just because I do think it's a terribly one sided trade doesn't mean that I'm going to stop it, but it's still not going to sit well with me. I think this is the sixth season of this league and we've never had a trade go to league vote or even cause this much uproar. I think that's the problem that I have with all of this, that it was just so obviously going to cause a league wide problem and yet both sides still did went through with it.
    Posted by herbilk at 5/27/2008 9:21:00 PM
    I wish this could have been kept internal instead of having two public blog posts before the matter was resolved (and it's not, more on that later, internally), and I said the same to Dalton. But since Pandora's Box is opened ... to those that are in the league and are complaining about the league's rules, where was that amendment to the league's constitution that you made in the offseason? Am I inflexible as a league commish? Tell me so. Let's have a healthy debate, let's have an alternative proposal, instead of saying it's broken. If it's not working, let's fix it.

    No-trade leagues are fine, they work for some people, but leagues can be structured so that the dump trades aren't too extreme. I personally enjoy trading. It's a skill to pull off a good trade, and it mirrors what real GM's have to do (and don't let that for a second suggest that I could ever be a GM - there's obviously way more to the job than what fantasy could lend to it). But ... major league GM's have to deal with the fact that Cam Bonifay or Bill Bavasi or Jim Duquette made that God-awful trade with someone else. Trading is a skill, just like drafting.

    I think I made a pretty good dump trade with Herb, where I got a $3 Josh Hamilton, $3 Kevin Slowey and a minor league Colby Rasmus. There's risk involved with all three of them for me, but I think I got good value still. It's possible - you just have to put the time in to do it.
    Posted by Erickson at 5/27/2008 9:27:00 PM
    Herb, your tone suggests that you are ticked at Bret and, respectfully, I think that's wrong. It's not up to him - or any owner - to offer more in a trade just to avoid upsetting other league members. You say that the trade upset other league members. WHY? Seriously, WHY? Isn't it because other league members are ticked that Bret convinced the guy to give up Pujols for cheap and you did not?

    The day I have to start offering another owner more in a trade (to avoid upsetting other league members), in an expert league no less, is the day that I start looking for a new league.
    Posted by MPStopa at 5/27/2008 9:51:00 PM
    Oh, and just to clarify, as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing ethically wrong with what Bret did. There was give-and-take in the negotiations, the other party actually chose Vidro over other alternatives, and he maximized his value. Bully for him. I'd avoid making a global point about this trade, either about keeper leagues in general or this trade in particular.
    Posted by Erickson at 5/27/2008 10:10:00 PM
    I'm not ticked at Brett and if that's the tone then it's been misinterpreted. I just wanted to point out inaccuracies in his post. He did say he wanted an informed debate, correct?

    My point wasn't that you *have* to offer more in a trade, rather to prove that the market is higher than Brett makes it out to be. Brett made the arguement that his trade was market value based on the trades he posted in this blog. I was simply showing that this was not true and that other trades within the last week bear that out.

    To say that league members have an issue with this trade because they wish they had made the trade is not true and it is certainly not true for me. People are upset because it goes beyond the spirit of the league and takes enjoyment out of the league more than any other trade to date.
    Posted by herbilk at 5/27/2008 10:13:00 PM
    I think the trade should be vetoed because it doesn't pass the smell test. We can lawyer it to death, and I didn't love the Morneau trade, but while that was on the line, this was over it. I know I've made plenty of prospect trades that changed the league, but I've also give Sheehan a $3 David Wright, Ball a minor-league Matt Holliday and someone a minor-league Clayton Kershaw. Which is the chance you take. But I can't really see Eveland having that kind of upside, and a second-round minor league/reserve pick is likely to be a prospect in the 60-80 range, given all the kept ones.

    I think the trade should be overturned personally, and I don't like people meddling with trades generally. It's just this one is wrong on its face. I think it's fine to clarify the issues, or get a better sense of what the criteria are generally, but I also don't think we should lawyer it to death.

    Unfairness is like injustice or obscenity - you know it when you see it. And it seems there's some agreement here.

    Posted by cliss at 5/27/2008 11:43:00 PM
    First off, I wish I hadn't brought this specific trade to light in a public forum. I had planned on writing my feelings on redraft vs. keeper leagues during my next blog post, and then this deal happens right beforehand, literally baiting me into using it as an example. Nevertheless, I regret doing so and apologize to all league members. I wanted to use it as an example to highlight my overall problem, which is a completely different topic of debate. The reason I didn't include the second round draft pick in my analysis was that it was too difficult to succinctly describe - yes, it was somewhat valuable, but it certainly wasn't the same as a second round pick in a yearly league. Dana Eveland may or may not be a good major leaguer, but right now, even during his successful 2008 stint, his 1.83 K:BB ratio is subpar and his .256 BABIP is 140 points lower than his career level. Albert Pujols is a top-10 player at minimum, and like Herb said, even at that high price, in this format, he might actually even be keepable. And Bret - I have no problem whatsoever with you taking me to task here, nor do I blame you for pulling off the deal.

    Posted by Dalton Del Don at 5/28/2008 12:47:00 AM
    Chris, obviously most of us think it's unfair. But maybe the other owner has a hunch that Pujols is going to blow out his arm. Maybe he thinks that Eveland is the next Webb. Whatever his reasons, unless he wasn't playing to win, I don't think the trade should be vetoed. When a league starts playing "big brother," it starts down a slippery slope. Where do you draw the line? What if it was a first round pick instead of a second? What if it was two first rounders? Three? People can always disagree about who gets the best deal - if owners are playing to win, I think trades should stand, regardless of whether they make a bad deal for themselves.

    Just my two cents (as an outsider to the league).
    Posted by MPStopa at 5/28/2008 5:38:00 AM
    I don't play in a keeper league but reading about this trade and the following debate has been refreshing. It's nice to see that experts have the same league problems as us common folk.
    Posted by Rugby12901 at 5/28/2008 7:28:00 AM
    I would have asked for more before trading Pujols but, if the market isn't there sometimes you just have to take what you can get. I don't see how this makes the league nonsensical, the Pujols owner got about as much as the Twins did for Santana, the Phillies did for Abreu, Montreal got for Pedro, ect. I also don't understand how having to pay inflated prices during an auction is unrealistic or nonsensical. Have you seen what real teams have doled out for Zito, Meche, Silva, Matthews, ect. To me re-draft leagues are unrealistic and nonsensical. You have no incentive to pay attention or make moves after bad-luck takes you out of contention, the motiviation to make trades is non-existant or irrational (You are stuck waiting for the rare instance where both teams can feel they are helping themselves more then they are helping the other team), and year to year results end up getting determined more by luck then managerial skill.
    Posted by baseball12 at 5/28/2008 7:40:00 AM
    Imagine if the MLB St. Louis Cardinals had Pujols signed for $50 million a year and tried to trade him. No other MLB teams would offer anything in return, because any player is worthless at that price (and would actual hinder the franchise's chance to be competative). The Cardinals would be better off releasing him outright in order to sign five $10 million players. That's a basic analogy for what happened in this situation.
    Posted by jagyrules at 5/28/2008 8:32:00 AM
    You're lawyering this Bret, but the whole league didn't collectively get up in arms about my trade because Headley and Clement have serious upside. They could understand why someone would want to give up a star for those prospects. That's why I mentioned the stars I lost - people think Headley and Clement could be two more in that line of them. Eveland is a middle of the rotation starter. There's no upside for Ball in your trade. That's why it's wrong on its face, and that's why people are against it.
    Posted by cliss at 5/28/2008 8:53:00 AM
    Why are Headley and Clement stars-in-waiting and Eveland a middle of the rotation starter? Their draft position? Or their minor league stats? Or a combination of the both of them? I'm assuming that your answer is most likely the latter. But Eveland has the stats to back everything up. How are Headley and Clement any more "proven"? And since when is trying to make a point "lawyering"? Am I doing anything different than you're doing?
    Posted by bscwik at 5/28/2008 9:25:00 AM
    This started out as a reply comment to my original blog entry about my Eveland, Vidro, and second-round reserve pick for Pujols trade -- which, in turn, was a response to Dalton Del Don's post that mentioned that particular trade in discussing his preference for redraft leagues over keeper leagues. It quickly consumed four pages of Microsoft Word, so here's a separate post about it. Refer back to original commenters (I wrote this through Mark Stopa's 5/28 5:38 AM post) in the previous post to see to whom I'm responding.

    All the comments were great, and thanks for the debate. Sorry to Jeff if you want to keep this thing under wraps and in-house, but I think this discussion serves a larger purpose of theoretically debating dump trades, and what is "objectively" fair or unfair. While this post may seem disjointed, I'll try to respond to the points raised in the comments to the previous post chronologically.

    Kevinccp (I know you’re a regular writer but I keep forgetting who): I wrote about including the second-round pick to talk about the present value he’d be receiving. You’re right: obviously, the pick isn’t guaranteed. But my overarching point was that pick is commensurate with the value other teams are receiving in most dump trades. In the Ichiro trade, the principle returns were Jeremy Hellickson and Max Ramirez, players who have never played a game in the majors. Arguably, at the time I traded for Ian Stewart, he was and even more highly touted prospect than those two. Let me disclaim by saying I don’t think the Ichiro deal was an unfair one, I’m just saying how the value I was trading was commensurate with that involved in the other deals in the league.

    Erik: your points are all extremely well-taken. What prices on minor leaguers and reserves would you propose to work better for the league in the future?

    Browns: I think you also make a good point as a compliment to Erik’s point. I think the league is won in part due to graduated minor leaguers, but also due to gambles on players at the auction who pan out and end up being great below-market keepers for a few years. Erik’s point is still valid, though: since you need these below-market keepers, either you have to draft them (like you did with Hamels, Billingsley, and Pence), or you have to trade for them. And who do you trade for them? Your Pujolses.

    Nayfel (again, sorry for forgetting who this is): the “matching salary” thing is a good idea in theory, but what happens is that prevents you from making a deal for a great keeper. For instance, say Albert Pujols is at $60 in our league and Hunter Pence is at $3. A straight-up trade would be disallowed under your matching salary rule, even though it would be better for the owner getting Pence, and even though the matching salary rule would be implemented to ostensibly protect the team getting the prospect.

    John: Great points. One part about being a good fantasy trader is knowing your options. In fantasy sports or in real-life negotiations, even if you’re itching to make a deal, you need to do your due diligence.

    Colleen: Thanks! Though I think the point of many of the posters is they believed this person could have received more. So the fact that the deal may be “fair” (which, of course, is always a subjective term) doesn’t mean it was the best deal that could have gone down. But see what happens in real-life sports.

    Herb: Let me first state that before my paragraphs in response, that I’m glad you responded in disagreement -- I do appreciate the healthy debate.

    On your first point, I think you may be misinformed. Eveland can be kept for three more seasons at $5. As a reserve pick, when kept his value is $5 A next season, not this season. Looking at the constitution now, it’s not entirely clear of the year designation of reserve picks. But I think that’s how Jeff explained it to me, and that’s how all reserve players have been kept the last few years.

    On your second point, I think what you say supports my point. Yes, the current minor leaguers will be $2 cheaper when activated, and cheaper for longer. My point was that Eveland has acquitted himself well at the major league level (albeit in a smallish sample) as well as at the minor league level. Shouldn’t that count for more than non-blue-chippers who have performed extremely well at just the minor league level? Of course, that doesn’t involve any debate on whether those minor leaguers are actually better players than Eveland, but I gather from the tenor of your post that you think they are. Maybe this other owner evaluated differently -- certainly, the stats could support his view of things.

    You’re right, I didn’t mention the Hamilton trade in my blog because it didn’t support my point about what the market is bearing with respect to trades in the league. I didn’t do it to be disingenuous, but because it was an outlier. If most of the trades in the league had been of the keeper value that had been given in that trade, then yes, I would have been lying, or not being frank. But if most of the trades have been of the “proven-for-prospect” variety, so I didn’t feel I needed to list every trade made in our league. But again, my comment was that my trade was "not beyond the pale of what the market is bearing in our league." Because the Hamilton trade was at the other extreme, doesn’t mean that my trade was not beyond the pale in the other direction: the “proven-for-prospect” direction. I never said once that the trade market wouldn’t bear more than my offer. I just said that my trade offer was within reason of what the majority of the trades so far in our league have been. By definition, even though there may be some theoretical market equilibrium, a market encompasses a wide range of values (which is why we have supply and demand curves: different people may be willing to buy or sell the same asset for different prices). So while it is perhaps relevant to the bigger-picture discussion to mention the Hamilton trade, deals like that don’t constitute the majority of the market in this league -- at least so far this season.

    I don’t think you would disagree that at the heart of fantasy sports, each owner should try to make the best deal possible for his or her team. I think you also make a good point that some trades should not be made to avoid pissing off the rest of the league. I think, however, that in normal practice the danger of those types of trades is largely overstated, especially where there is no collusion. Then again, your argument is "people are pissed off" -- or that the trade doesn't sit well with people. As I respond to Chris, many other trades in the league don't sit well with me, but I don't think that's a reason to impose my valuation on others. I also think that, as Mark noted, in an “expert” league such as ours that the dangers of a purely “unfair” trade are much lower than your run-of-the-mill public Yahoo league.

    Just because, as your comment explains, you were willing to hold out for better players in your deals last season, and that you’re profiting because of it, doesn’t mean that those deals constitute the majority of deals that go down in our league (Erik would argue, however, that even if the majority of deals that go down are “proven-for-prospect,” that still indicates a flaw in the system). All that’s saying is that you might be willing to hold out more than other owners. You did turn down numerous offers for Zambrano and Jones, and ended up not making dump-trades. That was your personal choice -- not every owner has the same trade philosophy as you. And while your decisions constitute one piece of the broader picture that is the trade market in our league, they don’t constitute the entire market. If you’re able to hold out and can get better players in the end, good for you. That’s the risk anyone takes in turning down a trade offer for an expiring asset. I don’t think I’m being misleading by not mentioning every trade made last year and this year that might be an outlier from the current trade market, but if it was implied in my post that no one trades established player keepers in our league, that truly was not my intention; by attempting to characterize the market, I was trying to show that the majority of the trades are of the “proven-for-prospect” variety.

    Perhaps Pujols at $60 could be considered a keeper in our league. I think, however, that in the 5 years of keepers in our league to date, there have been 2 or 3 players that have been kept over $60 (including Pujols). The other owner’s evaluation was that the assets he received in the deal will be more valuable (i.e., more below market-value) at auction than Pujols. And if Pujols isn't kept next season and goes for that price again, maybe he can spend another $60 on him. By keeping Eveland at $5, he increases his average auction dollars to spend on other players.

    For the record, I have also been dismayed with other trades that have gone down in our league over the past 6 years. That’s what happens in any league with imperfect communication -- hell, it even happens in professional leagues when one team thinks it could have offered more for a player than was actually traded (again, see the real-life sports example). But I think I would be presumptuous if I was to force my fantasy valuations on another one of the fantasy sports writers in our league. I think market-based arguments would be more compelling, but as I’ve explained above, I don’t think that they’re all too persuasive. Even more compelling are the “the-league-is-broken” arguments, but that’s something that needs to be discussed on a theoretical level with all owners.

    And, for the record, I didn’t think this would cause a league-wide problem. I did, however, expect it not to sit well with you in particular, because you recently gave up so much in a recent trade. I think, however, it’s worth noting that your trade had gone through and was available for all owners in the league to view -- and use to attempt to gauge the market -- at the time my deal was made. It is also my personal opinion that, given the other deals that have gone on in our league and my subjective valuation, that you gave up way too much in your trade. But I think everyone in our league is entitled to their own valuations, so they should act on those, and may the best fantasy player win.

    To your point that my deal goes beyond the spirit of the league… I really don’t know what to say to that. What’s the spirit of the league, to you? To make trades for which you personally perceive to be fair? I can’t count on two hands the number of trades made in this league over the past six years in which I said “I can’t believe he just made that trade, I would have given up more.” That’s what happens when you participate in a league where e-mail is the primary method of trade negotiation, and we all have many more important priorities in our lives. Therefore, the best lesson, it seems, is for every owner to make sure that when they make a deal, that they know every possible offer for their player.

    Jeff: I agree with you that you made a pretty good dump trade. You might have received more than the market was generally willing to bear. To you, I’m willing to say kudos, and let's move on.

    Chris: Why don’t we veto your Reyes trade also, because it doesn’t pass the “smell test.” What does that mean? Because you personally would have given up more? Because your valuations are different? Also, to trot out your Wright, Holliday, and Kershaw trades is extremely misleading. I would like for you to go through every single prospect you’ve traded in the history of this league and evaluate whether they panned out. You’ve also traded Elijah Dukes, John Patterson, Reynel Pinto, Ricky Nolasco, and Kendry Morales. How did those players pan out? Were they subsequently kept? Hell, I’ve traded Joakim Soria, and had Ryan Braun and Billy Butler on the table for a washed-up closer a couple years ago before pulling the deal right before it was accepted. My point is, if we all knew then what we knew now, the trades would be a lot different. I’m not saying you haven’t traded good players in the past, but I don’t see how your “Clayton Kershaw at the time” is any different than your “Reynel Pinto at the time” is any different than my “Dana Eveland at the time.” Yes, Kershaw seems now to have a higher ceiling. But a major leaguer with a proven minor league record and having a terrific major league season doesn’t pass your “smell test”? Maybe we should present every potential trade to you before deciding whether to allow or disallow it?

    Dalton: I think it takes a few years in this league to adequately gauge the auction and FAAB markets in this relatively unique league, as it does any market to which you’re new -- I've paid some godawful prices for players in the past. While Pujols at $60 “might even be keepable,” it certainly won’t be at much below market value. The highest price ever paid at auction for a player, I believe, was Pujols at $68 after his 2005 season. I paid $61 for Derrek Lee that year. Ouch. At this point, Pujols is not among my projected keepers (but, of course, I’m leaving open the possibility that my valuation is much different than others’). And I love your use of stats! Finally, some objective debate (not that the subjective element isn’t worth debating). I think that Eveland’s BABIP is misleading, given his young age and the relatively small sample size at the time (for the same reason, perhaps, his new stats aren't relevant? Though, of course, it wouldn't be "wrong" for someone to think they are.). Maybe Milwaukee’s defense was just that bad? Maybe he was just breaking in as a 21-to-23-year-old and it’s finally clicking? Perhaps his previous career .396 BABIP was a mite too high, and was due to normalize? Also, if we’re comparing him to other minor leaguers traded in other deals, who other people have cited as “better” prospects, shouldn’t we be comparing his minor league BABIP to their minor league BABIP? As an aside, do you know where to find minor league BABIP?

    Let me again disclaim that I love this debate, and I think it's very useful for not just our league but other leagues who may be struggling with the same issue. I welcome the comments of everyone who has something to say, and I don't intend to antagonize with the tone of some of my responses.
    Posted by bscwik at 5/28/2008 10:10:00 AM

    People might have thought I got some good deals (and it's funny you bring up Morales who I threw in with a $1 Aaron Harang and Adam LaRoche for Jon Lieber and Jason Lane - so that might have been our worst one yet), but no one was up in arms about them to this extent. That's what I mean by the smell test - not only my personal opinion which is that it absolutely should have been vetoed, but the fact that everyone else is troubled by the deal, too. Maybe people thought I got a good deal, but it didn't start this - that's what I mean by the smell test - this trade stinks.

    I'm not accusing anyone of collusion - I don't believe there was cheating here. I do believe that there was severe, apathetic neglect which is the other valid reason to veto a deal that's terrible on its face, that people see and obviously believe is a bad deal. That's what's going on here.
    Posted by cliss at 5/28/2008 10:59:00 AM
    Chris, that still doesn't say where you draw the line. It's a slippery slope and there has to be a line somewhere, right? Where is it? I hear what you are saying about the "smell test," but that's so subjective. Don't leagues need objective criteria? For instance, Staff League 2 is set up where if a certain number of owners vote to veto, the trade gets disallowed. Isn't your league set up that way?

    I guess I like falling on the letter of the constitution in situations like this - that's what it's for, to prevent in-season controversy. And if the constitution doesn't cover a situation like this (e.g. because there is no rule in place to prevent a trade if a certain number of owners vote to veto it), then it should be amended during the offseason. And if there was such a rule, and a sufficient number of owners didn't vote to veto, then, to quote Bugs Bunny, "that's all, folks."
    Posted by MPStopa at 5/28/2008 12:22:00 PM
    There should be rules, but there aren't. But fairness is like obscenity or justice or other undefinable concepts. You know it when you see it. No other trade has gotten this type of attention in the league's five-year history. It's instinctively a poor trade in my opinion, and apparently I'm not alone. You can lawyer something like this to death - create criteria and rules and exceptions to both, compare similar trades in the past and hypotheticals about possible trades in the future. But people saw this deal and instinctively, viscerally thought: "No way, that's total b.s." Enough to express it in a way that hadn't been done in five years in the league.

    Posted by cliss at 5/28/2008 12:52:00 PM
    How was it expressed in a way that hadn't been done? Posted it on a blog and people commented on it? I know multiple people who made comments about other deals this season -- maybe next time we can take an official tally of visceral reactions to all deals and compare. Have you spoken to all 18 members of the league?
    Posted by bscwik at 5/28/2008 1:09:00 PM
    Bret and 3D,
    You guys are right on the money about openly discussing this as it happens in every league that is a keeper league that's been around. I think I've stated before I'm in a league here in Buffalo that's been around more than 20 years and we have finally evolved our format to the following: Auction budget =$260. After the auction, your salary cap is $320 with any FA not draft or a MLer being $10. MLers are $5 good for 3 years (any players taken in the draft is 3 years at that price). We play 23 teams, 24 players per team, no active reserves-you can reserve dl or players that are sent to the minors. We hold a minor league draft 2 rounds (whoever finished 8th the year before gets 1st pick, 7th-the last cashing spot-gets the last pick of the first round and first pick of the second and reverses. After the draft, there can only be 5 players in your minor system. After many trade disputes we have gone to using a website to rate and evaluate trades. We use lenient score until 3 weeks before the trade deadline, then the score is more strict to pass a trade (preventing total dumps). I noticed Mark's comment about owners vetoing trades-the problem we found is like it or not some owners are better friends with other owners and cannot look at trade objectively or could vote against out of spite-"you vetoed my trade last year or didn't accept a better offer from me". The highest a player went this year was Crawford ($55). Most elite players went at $40. Pujols at $60 seems grossly inflated. This may be due to your 30 player rosters, your 10 player minor system. Also, do you guys have a salary cap for the season? I'm not a huge fan of ours being $320, but if it was $280, $300, it would limit dump trades, but allow trades like Pujols for Webb (hitting or pitching), as each player should be close in value. I'm not saying our league is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, just some thoughts.
    Posted by kevinccp at 5/28/2008 1:14:00 PM
    I meant MLer called up during the year is $10.
    Posted by kevinccp at 5/28/2008 1:15:00 PM
    Chris, well there's the problem - there are no rules. In an 18-team league, there should be a rule where if a certain number of owners (say 10 or 12) vote to veto a trade within a certain period of time (36 or 48 hours) that the trade gets vetoed.

    I think that's the moral for subscribers to take out of this - if you want a rule in place to veto trades, make sure it's in the constitution.
    Posted by MPStopa at 5/28/2008 1:26:00 PM
    Exactly...I'm surprised no one has pointed out that the goal of fantasy baseball (ie the purpose of having a salary cap, limited contracts in keeper leagues, etc) is to approximate the actual function of MLB. In my NL-only keeper league, the commissioner has the power to veto any trade if he deems it not in the "best interests of (fantasy) baseball." And he's never actually had to do it, because a dump trade will draw a protest every time.
    Posted by SaltLakeCityBuzz at 5/28/2008 2:35:00 PM
    There are actual rules to reviewing trades in the Staff League. They are:

    c. The Commissioner has the power to veto any trade that may significantly and unfairly alter competitive balance in the league or that appears to be the result of collusion.

    d. An overturned trade can be appealed by the owners, subject to a 2/3 majority vote by the league. The owners involved in the trade receive a vote.

    e. A league-vote to overturn a trade can be initiated by a minimum of eight (8) owners of the league, subject to a 2/3 majority vote. The owners involved in the specific trade receive a vote.
    Posted by Erickson at 5/28/2008 3:16:00 PM
    Rule #1 in being a good commish.....don't put yourself in bad situations.....You league is a cest pool for bad situations from the looks of it.....I find it funny how you all do dump trades in May? ROFL What your trade deadline June 1st....I have to disagree that your set up is anyting close to real life GM, but I did find that line pretty funny. As far as trading being a skill, ya I can agree with that...but I will label a guy who wins a no trade league and EXPERT before I do a guy who trades scrubs for 1st rounders to win the league, but that is just my opinion.....good luck with the league, looks like a fun game if you like drama...LMAO
    Posted by Zenguerrilla at 5/28/2008 7:53:00 PM
    Trade deadline is actually after the MLB trade deadline.

    I think that you misread my comment about GM's having to deal with the trade market and reacting to other GM's making bad trades. There are plenty of fun ways to play fantasy baseball - just because one way works for you doesn't invalidate other structures.
    Posted by Erickson at 5/29/2008 12:16:00 AM
    I love it. Liss is like the other sour grapes owners I have had to deal with in leagues. These types usually get all bent out of shape when they aren't involved in a deal. Don't be angry that YOU didn't get Pujols...if you had a better deal to offer, where was it? Get over yourself. Erickson is the better Radio guy, is what why you are angry?

    Of course, I am kidding about that last comment, I love both of you on the radio, but this argument seems immature. Was it collusion? No. People thought Mark Shapiro was an idiot for trading Big Fat Bartolo Colon away for what looked like nothing a few years back..that worked well for him, didn't it?
    Posted by mrhappycrappy at 5/29/2008 6:45:00 AM
    Well I play in a wide variety of fantasy trade, serpintine/auction, keeper/1yr....One big point here I would think is.....are owners investing $50/yr or $300+/yr.....I am guessing the latter with the amount of foam spewing out of some mouths. Like Erickson said before though, you all knew the rules going into the draft and you could of made amendments so.....guess you are SOL now. Does this deal offset the balance of the league? If not, what kind of deal would? lol Collusion is pretty harsh term considering it is a deal in May....I wouldn't suspect that....People involved in the deal get to vote on a veto? Hmmm.....strange....had anyone ever vetoed their own trade? rofl JE, your my favorite guy out here so don't take my sarcasim to heart :-p
    Posted by Zenguerrilla at 5/29/2008 8:21:00 AM
    Thursday afternoon... waiting for it...
    Posted by bscwik at 5/29/2008 1:56:00 PM
    I don't think anybody was criticizing the Colon trade where they? I remember being shocked at the haul he received.

    Oh, and check out Eveland's line today.
    Posted by vtadave at 5/29/2008 4:09:00 PM
    As I said: "Thursday afternoon... waiting for it..."
    Posted by bscwik at 5/29/2008 4:28:00 PM
    If Pujols blows out his arm today, does that change the fairness of this trade? No. So Eveland's line today doesn't change the analysis, either.
    Posted by MPStopa at 5/29/2008 5:25:00 PM

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