For fantasy junkies like me – and probably you – deep keeper and dynasty leagues are the zenith of modern civilization. I’m not here to extol their virtues. It suffices to say that they scratch a certain itch – the one you had as a kid when you were daydreaming about running your own major league club.
These deep formats also have something in common. No matter what, somebody is eventually going to make a horrific-looking trade. However, the way a trade looks on paper can be deceptive. Yesterday, the Cardinals traded a lot for Paul Goldschmidt. Some (ahem, me) might say they dealt too much. They also unmistakably improved their 2019 roster in a way that only minimally weakens their future chances at winning. It’s important to consider how a deal affects competition.
Another consideration is that apparently lopsided trades still work out in the “losing” owner’s favor pretty frequently. I’m going to make up some numbers now. Based on all the trades I’ve seen that are widely panned as unfair but also aren’t clearly unconscionable, I estimate somewhere between 35 to 40 percent of them ultimately favor the loser. From my perspective, the crowds aren’t very wise. So, even though your rival probably gotten more in a sketchy looking swap, it doesn’t mean they’re totally screwed. This is akin to winning a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em after being behind on the flop. It happens all the time.
So, the lede is thoroughly buried. Now why are we here again? To talk about unconscionable trades and the immediate steps a good commissioner should take. While the design of a league should encourage trading – negotiations are half the fun! – too many terrible trades can be ruinous.
This is one of the first questions I received during my chat on Tuesday:
To me, this hugs the line between exceptionally bad and unfathomable. In other words, we’re in unconscionable-adjacent territory. Prospects like Dylan Cease gain value in deep formats, but so do young superstars like Alex Bregman. If the Bregman owner received Maikel Franco, Cease, another Cease, and a third Cease, it would still look like a bad trade.
In leagues I run, I address terrible trades in two ways. It’s important to note that the following is intended for highly competitive leagues. More casual formats should be met with more casual rules.
I make all trades revocable for 24 hours. You may revoke a trade for any reason such as an ill-timed injury or a much better, late offer. An important caveat – if you revoke a trade, you may not deal those players for a period of 14 days. During the season, this serves as a strong disincentive to any shenanigans.
In an offseason scenario like the above Bregman trade, it’s not such a big deal to realize you could have gotten twice as much and back out the trade. Of course, cancelling a trade is poor form. In fact, it’s codified as such in the draft constitution for the Dynasty To Be Named Later (DTBNL).
“24 Hour Revocability” any party to a trade may back out for any reason within 24 hours. This is done by contacting the commissioner. The owner(s) who back out may not trade the players involved for a period of 14 days from the original trade. For example, if I trade Max Muncy for Kevin Kiermaier and change my mind, I cannot trade Max Muncy for two weeks. This penalty is waived in the event of major injury. “Major injury” to be defined on a case-by-case basis at the commissioner’s discretion. Note: It is poor form to back out of a trade.
I tend to trust myself to make fair decisions as the commissioner. For a more neutral version of this rule, simply drop the clauses about injury.
The second way I deal with unconscionable trades is more… draconian. Here are two more trade-related items from the aforementioned DTBNL Constitution:
- Vetoes are at the Commissioner’s discretion. There is no voting process. Generally, trades will be allowed unless they are grossly unconscionable. A vetoed trade is likely to be accompanied by the removal of the offending owner. This is a highly unlikely scenario.
- The Commissioner reserves the right to demand a rationalization for any trade. The rationalization may be published to the league.
Two things are happening here related to unconscionable trades. If an owner makes a deal that is so terrible it simply can’t be allowed, then I see no reason to retain that owner. However, I will give them a chance to explain their side of things. Perhaps I’ll upgrade my opinion. Notably, I have never vetoed a trade.
When To Veto
One example of a trade I would have vetoed comes to mind. The “losing” owner of this deal quit our 20 team, keep 28 dynasty about a month after making this swap. The commissioner then tried to undo the trade, but it was already too late. The time to act is immediately or not at all.
Ironically (or not), this trade involves Bregman, Franco, and Cease. It’s also an example of a terrible looking trade aging well for the losing owner. I mean, he still screwed up badly, but at least those prospects improved as a group.