Rule Change Season Pt 2 – Real Live Examples

Yesterday, I mused about rule changes in dynasty leagues. My point was pretty simple – league health is the number one priority. A healthy league is one with many contenders and few rebuilding owners. Unfortunately, rule proposals rarely focus on health. Instead, there is a tendency to “fix” non-problems, often to the benefit of the top performing owners.

In that linked column, I referenced a few rule changes we’re considering in my 20-team dynasty league. Let’s look at those in more depth here while considering unintended consequences.

First, we’re looking at moving the trade deadline from August 10 to September 10. My belief is that this usually confers additional leverage to non-competitive teams, specifically rosters looking to rebuild or retool mid-season. However, leveraging your position as a seller requires you to channel the essence of Scott Boras.

When there is about a month left in the season, certain skill sets – such as Billy Hamilton’s speed – can have preposterously warped value. An owner who needs to gain five steals on his or her rivals can justify overpaying for a solution. Real dollars are worth more than perceived fantasy value.

I couldn’t trade Hamilton for Ronald Acuna today, but the right scenario might have presented itself in August or September. Similarly, if an owner in need of steals is sitting on a generous lead in home runs, then the situation could be arbitrage-able for the Hamilton owner.

Moving a trade deadline back can be a double edged sword if the selling owners offer too much supply and are too eager to strike a deal. Luckily for my league, since we keep 28 players, owners should rarely feel like they must trade a player. Retiring talents like David Ortiz are the exception. In leagues with few keepers, a late trade deadline usually favors the buyer.

The second rule we’re considering is to add a fifth outfielder. Currently, we use standard deep rosters except with one catcher, four outfielders, and two utility slots. Most leagues have five outfielders and one utility.

This one is a tad tricky to unpack. The owner suggesting the rule has finished first, second, and first over the last three years. His roster is stacked and won’t be going away any time soon. He’s found that players like Denard Span and Jayson Werth don’t have any trade value even though it feels like they should. I don’t disagree, but the way to improve their value is to increase the quantity of competitive owners.

Presently, we have 80 outfield slots leaguewide. A good chunk of the 40 utility jobs go to outfielders too. There are a maximum of 90 outfield jobs in the majors. In reality, only 66 outfielders had 450 or more plate appearances last season. Since we’re a weekly lineup league, productive part-timers have diminished value. The Spans and Werths of the world are near the bottom of the full-time outfielder pool, overlapping with some of the highest quality platoon hitters.

Adding a fifth outfielder would probably improve the trade value of a Span or Werth. However, this generally benefits the owners of old, fading talents. And those owners tend to be the same ones who have fielded strong rosters for years. The rebuilders aren’t going to find many players like Werth available to them at sensible rates. Their concept of value is different from the contenders. Sure, they could try to arbitrage the system by using early draft picks on these players. They’re usually (rightfully) focused on discovering the next Cody Bellinger.

More active roster spots also means that a rebuilding team has to find an additional quality hitter before they’re viable to contend. It’s a simple truth – the shallower the roster, the easier it is to pivot from rebuilder to contender.

As for increasing the number of keepers, this again tends to favor the contending owners. While it helps a rebuilder if they can sit on more minor leaguers as they develop, it’s helps a contender even more if they have room to hang onto major league growth assets.

It can also become increasingly easy to aggregate talent for top teams – the number one goal when managing a dynasty roster. One rebuilding owner in our league has about 24 should-be-kept players. A couple other rebuilders are looking a tad light too. Meanwhile, the recent contenders are mostly swamped with keeper worthy talents. I have 35 plus a couple more I think other owners may like more than me.

Increasing the number of keepers could likewise increase the pressure for rebuilding owners to disaggregate their talent – generally a good way to get stuck in a rebuild. However, it’s probably preferable to lighting several roster spots on fire. It’s a painful catch-22.

Parting Thoughts

The source of proposed rule changes can matter. Even when trying to be altruistic, we all tend to suggest rules that will improve our own experience. More than anything else, I want most teams to contend because I will enjoy it – and it plays to my strengths as an owner. That it’s also good for league health is a happy side effect.

When the guy who won your league suggests a new rule, don’t be surprised if the rich will get richer as a result. Similarly, ideas put forth by owners of struggling rosters should probably be given extra consideration.

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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Ken Giles Right Hook
Ken Giles Right Hook

Great articles Brad. For the sake of league parity I’m trying to implement contracts (I’m the commish). I’ve been facing opposition from the two of the 4 most successful in the league. I myself have a stacked team and want this to be done, so
I’m an advocate of league-wide competition rather than my own teams success league-assisted success.
During the 3 years of our league we’ve seen 4 same division winners and 5 of 6 playoff spots taken up by the same teams. Bad management has been a factor, but for the most part teams aren’t able to make substantial changes when you have 3 teams stacked with talent. It’s a 20 non-cost keeper league (probably where I made my first mistake) and 15 stashed prospects.
I have been pushing for making a switch that keeps the fun and strategic aspects of the league but also helps balance rosters and force the elite teams to have to be better in roster construction. I also don’t see reducing keeper spots as the fun approach to dealing with this issue.
My proposal has been implementing contracts but two of the 4 elite teams are fighting me on it because they know that they won’t be able to keep all of their loaded team in tact. Prospects drafted would get value deals of $1/6 yrs and upon implementing this new league structure owners would get to decide how long they get to keep each player (up to 5 years if they are willing to spend $18 on them with a $120 cap with the contract rules changing to lesser amounts after re-structuring the league.
Do you think there’s a way I can compromise on this to help get these two owners on board?

Jim Melichar
Jim Melichar

“Keep forever” leagues have never made any sense to me. We’ve been playing a dynasty format for 20 years that I really enjoy, so I’ll drop it here for you.

Cap of ~$200-260 (you choose, we use $217). Each year if you want to keep a player his salary increases by $2. Every three years he doubles.

E.g.: I sign a player for $3 this year, his progression is $3/5/7 -> $14/16/18 -> $36/38/40

We also use a minor league system as well. Using a 4-round draft, players when promoted are given contacts of $4/$3/$2/$1.

The entire system very much mimicks the real-life MLB salary process. Players become very expensive after 6 years on the same contract, but are very controllable in their first few years.

Ken Giles Right Hook
Ken Giles Right Hook

Thanks. I’ll take that into consideration