Sunday, May 2, 2010

Trade Wars

Earlier this week in the UPL we had the following trade: 1B Justin Smoak and SS Marco Scutaro of Pauly's Hats for Bats were to be shipped to CJ's JimmyDix Longballs for SP Jered Weaver and OF prospect Mike Stanton. On the surface, there doesn't appear to be anything earth-shaking about this deal. Except that the thugs in the commissioner's office auto-vetoed the deal--and then that set off Pauly. I won't reproduce the transcript of Pauly's message board rants (and yes, there was more than one rant), but I will give you a visual representation. First we had this:

And then some of this:

Finally, Pauly had to be restrained like this:

Honestly, I can't blame Pauly for being upset. Both he and CJ watch a lot of the MLB, have their own strategies for fantasy baseball, and had negotiated a deal that they each thought helped their own ball club. And while CJ later admitted it was OK for the deal to be nixed, Pauly was bouncing off the walls in frustration at the autoveto, reminiscent of Rupert's frustration with last year's Mauer/Lester for Holliday/Berkman deal that was autovetoed.

The resulting discussion on the UPL message board seems to be heading in the direction of ending the "autoveto" era as we know it. While it's hard to say what the new rules for trades will end up being, it looks like there is growing momentum to give managers more control over their own teams.

Last year I blogged about the challenges of deciding what's "fair" in fantasy baseball trades. Here's an excerpt from that post:
And what makes for a "reasonable" or "fair" trade anyway? I suppose in a non-keeper league certain things can be measured, such as how a player had done in the past and, if relevant, how that player has done so far that year. So in that case, you're trying to estimate how the players involved in the trade will do over the next 2 to 6 months.

But what about a keeper league? Doesn't the fact that you can keep players for the next year (and possibly for 5, 10, or 15 years) drastically change the equation? Isn't it possible you could propose a trade that the majority of owners will see as "obviously unfair to you," only to discover 5 years later that it was unfair to the other guy? (Except for the fact the trade was voted down and never happened. Lucky for the other guy...)
In fact, ever since the UPL first considered going to a keeper format, we've had discussions about how valuing trades might be affected. For example, in a non-keeper format, if you try to trade a top 50 player for a top prospect who likely won't see the field until September, the trade likely gets vetoed or voted down as unfair. But in a keeper league, trading away a top 50 player for a minor leaguer might be a key deal to set yourself up for a dynasty that starts in three seasons. Who knows?

On October 17, 2008, the Chairman first proposed taking UPL Baseball into the keeper era. At the time, in the comments section I warned about the difficulty in evaluating trades involving veterans for prospects. However, only now do I realize that I hadn't quite done a good enough job explaining my proposed solution. (I thought it really hard in my head, but I didn't type the words on my keyboard.) Here's what I proposed:

If it's a keeper league, I'd be in favor of putting restrictions on trades and waiver wire moves. For instance, a team could make no more than two trades in a year and the trades would have to be limited to at most two players for two players.

What I meant to add was this: By putting restrictions on the type (up to two players for two players) and number (two per year) of trades, we would give managers the right to make ANY trade they want without any possibility of it being voted down or vetoed. Period.

My thinking was that if we're going to give managers more control over the risks they're willing to take in trades (i.e., give up proven major league talent for top prospects), then there would need to be an associated cost: cap the number of trades in a season. Some people don't like the idea of fewer trades, and I can see their point. But capping the number of trades might increase the quality of trades by making people pick their spots better as to when to make a trade (such as right before the draft or right before the trading deadline).

Regardless, the key here is to somehow find the right balance between letting managers have fun making their own decisions and still keeping the integrity of the game intact for the league. If anyone out there has a solution to share with regard to how their league handles trades, I'd like to hear it.


Greg said...

For the sake of discussion, I'll propse an updated solution since I've backed away from my original "capping trades" idea.

How about we form a committee that has the power to veto a trade with a majority or tied vote? Here's how it would work:

Take the Top 5 finishers from the previous season, and they will comprise the "Trade Committee." This committe would then be allowed to vote "no" on a trade only if they believed that the trade involved collusion. If at least half the members of the committee vote "no," the deal gets nixed. If one or more members of the committee are involved in the deal, then the remaining members would be left to vote on it. (For instance, if two members of the committee make a trade with each other, then two of the other three committe members would have two days to vote no for reasons of collusion.)

The reason I've proposed using the top 5 finishers is because A) They likely are people who pay close attention to the league and B) There will be some turnover in the committee from year to year.

clauff said...

I like how you think Greg and I think there's some merit to assigning a committee. You've identified a key loophole in our current system and it's that we often don't have enough managers paying attention during the 2-day time period of a trade to get anything vetoed, so having a committee of some sort that HAS to weigh in during that 2-day trade period would make it more definitive.

The problem is, how do you keep the top of the league from acting in their own best interests and trying to nix trades that may hurt them?

Greg said...

The problem is, how do you keep the top of the league from acting in their own best interests and trying to nix trades that may hurt them?

I suppose that's nearly impossible to stop if someone is intent on doing that. But I basically trust everyone in the UPL to have integrity when voting on a trade. Different people might use different standards to vote against a trade, but I doubt anyone would abuse their power. And besides, under the proposal I outlined above, more than one person would need to vote with malice in order to break the system.

Pauly said...

I am quite amused by this post. It's like I have to look at it every day to remind me of how bad I got screwed. :)

funny stuff though!

Greg said...

Pauly, yeah, pictures of Mt. Piniella erupting are always good for a laugh. ;-)