Rule Change Season by Brad Johnson November 20, 2017 From now until the end of the calendar year, overeager fantasy baseball enthusiasts will be discussing potential rule changes for the 2018 season and beyond. We’ve just begun the process of voting on a couple subjects in my 20-team dynasty. We keep 560 of 900 rostered players (including amateur teenagers). It’s a deep format. We have a bit of problem with owners getting stuck in rebuild mode. Up for debate at this time are two issues. I suggested moving the trade deadline back from August 10. Another owner wants to add a fifth outfielder slot. We also always talk about increasing the quantity of keepers too. No matter what’s on the table, it’s important to be wary of how new rules will affect competitive balance. When designing a league or tinkering with an existing one, I seek to accomplish the following: Maximize the number of owners with a legitimate shot to win/place Maximize the number of owners attempting to win That’s it. Two interrelated bullets comprise my entire philosophy. When more teams are trying to compete, the experience is better for everybody. However, people need to feel like they have a chance if they’re going to compete. And if they’re stuck in a rebuild for too long, they’ll stop participating in the league. Too much futility can lead to multiple dead rosters. Those rosters then become gangrenous. You’re left with the choice to amputate (contract) or else the entire league dies. If most participants in a league aren’t at least halfheartedly trying to contend at the start of a given season, then that league is showing signs of dysfunction. I figure roughly three-quarters of teams should enter the year with an open mind towards contending. That’s not to say an underperforming team shouldn’t pivot mid-season. By September, the number of contenders should be roughly the number of paid spots plus three or four teams. Last year, I pivoted my 12th place roster in early-June, cashing out aging stars like Miguel Cabrera and Josh Donaldson along with a slew of other valuable names. And when my effort to retool immediately began to bear fruit, I pivoted back towards contending. I finished third. It may have been my most enjoyable fantasy campaign of all time. Even as I rebuilt with an eye towards the future, I always kept the door open to contend. And it worked out. I rebuilt without touching a prospect, instead picking up big long term pieces like Mookie Betts and Anthony Rizzo. I have to admit, I was quite lucky too. Justin Smoak, Zack Godley, and Chris Taylor were all throw-ins to various deals. And that’s my point. When you try to contend, you’re in a better position to get lucky. For that reason, asset value tends to flow uphill to contending teams. And if assets accumulate on contending rosters, then it behooves leagues to design rules that encourage contention – usually by making it easier to rebuild quickly. I can’t speak for other sports, but – in my supposedly expert opinion – baseball prospects are too fickle to go all-in on a deep rebuild. The lone exception is if you’re the only full rebuild owner and can hoard most of the top 25 fantasy prospects. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever emerge from your rebuild. We have one guy who took the prospect path and now owns players like Josh Bell, Jake Lamb, Addison Russell, Joey Gallo, David Dahl, Aaron Judge, Marcus Stroman, Luis Castillo, and others. He’s finally turned the corner after years of futility. And he’s the exception. The other eight owners stuck in rebuild limbo aren’t anywhere near a competitive roster. Dynasty leagues frequently turn into a collection of haves and have nots. And it requires a delicate skein of rules to help the have nots without unfairly disadvantaging the top performers or encouraging a race to the bottom. The teams that need the most help are usually the ones who finish at the bottom of the standings. However, a poor showing can also signal a disengaged owner or somebody whose skills don’t match the rest of the league. For now, be thoughtful when proposing rule changes. There are always unintended consequences. Be aware that your aim should be to promote league health rather than increase your own competitive advantage. I know, it’s tempting to look out for yourself, but you’ll have more fun over the long haul in a healthy league. Tomorrow, I’ll go into some specific examples from my dynasty format to highlight a few common pitfalls.