Though Major League Baseball’s non-waiver deadline has passed, we are still seeing important trades occurring in August, such as the Jay Bruce move to Cleveland this past week.
We all play in leagues with varied rules for interleague trading in-season. Chances are that we have disagreed with one or more of them. While rules cannot be changed mid-stream, the best time to discuss potential alterations for next year is now - when the issue is upon us.
In that vein, I asked three industry leaders a series of questions about interleague trading. In doing so, we took a “clean sheet” approach. I asked them, based on their preferences and experiences, this:
“If you were starting a brand new AL-only or NL-only re-draft league and could make the rules, how would you set them up and why?”
While I certainly have opinions, I want to lead with the views of these friends, who also happen to play in and administer leagues in which I compete. They are Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer Ron Shandler of ronshandler.com, USA TODAY Sports' Senior Fantasy Editor Steve Gardner and Mastersball’s own Todd Zola.
Here are responses to five questions posed to the group of analysts, with my remarks following.
1) If a player is traded into the league (AL to NL or vice-versa), should he become eligible this season?
Zola: “Yes. As inexact as the FAAB process is, I like the conundrum between spending early and often or waiting for the MLB trading deadline. Further, the trend in recent seasons is for deals to begin earlier than the last week, adding another layer of FAAB management.”
Walton: You may think I started with a Captain Obvious question, but there are still some who believe the player set that started the season is the one that should be used the entire way. However, Steve makes a great point about natural pool expansion.
Gardner: “It’s similar to minor leaguers being called up to me. New players to spend FAAB money on. You know that’s a possibility going into the season so you have to plan for it.”
2) Should owners continue to receive stats if a player is traded out of his initial league?
Gardner: “My overriding sentiment is that since the lines between the two leagues are already blurred so much – from umpiring and interleague play throughout the season – there’s really no reason (besides convenience) to separate players. The designated hitter and the rules around it aren’t enough to make any real difference in the way the game is played.
“Previously, the leagues would only see their league’s pitchers and you could say the two leagues were definitely separate. You can’t anymore. That’s why I feel like there really isn’t any difference when players switch leagues. So players’ stats should continue to count.”
Zola: “Yes. I understand the argument equating injury-prone players and players with contracts and scenarios rendering them prime trade targets and there are players in both subsets that get hurt or dealt unexpectedly. Still, to me this game should be about generating player expectations, converting to a rank then developing a corresponding draft strategy.
“Playing time is integral to player expectations. I just feel we shouldn't be penalized if a player is dealt to the other league. A trade just feels different than an injury.”
Shandler: “Absolutely. Since the arrival of interleague play, the lines between the leagues have been blurred. Any league that still prohibits keeping players/stats from interleague trades is just being stubborn. It's 2017. “
Walton: Ron hits on a key underlying inhibitor in considering league rules changes – not specific to this one. There is a natural reluctance in some leagues to touch the rules. Some just want to leave things as they always have been. Others are suspicious of their league mates trying to shift the competitive balance through the rules.
That may sound crazy, but I bet you have encountered it!
The third question is moot, since all four of us are in favor of continuing to allow stats from a player traded out of the league. However, I am including the responses for your consideration.
3) If you would allow no stats following the trade, should the losing owner receive compensation?
Ron notes how complicated and potentially unfair this could become.
Shandler: “This is where things start going off the rails. There is no adequate/equitable compensation to an owner for the loss of a player through no fault of his own. Even before interleague trading dulled the lines, I was in favor of keeping players/stats for the duration of that season.”
Zola: “With the caveat I'm against any form of compensation for losing player for any reason, I'd want to keep it consistent with compensation for injured players. If there's no compensation for injured players, then none for traded players. If there is, then the process should be the same.”
Walton: I think Todd’s general point is an especially good one. Consistency in approach is paramount. Having said that, I am against compensation.
4) If you are in favor of compensation, how would you administer this? (Awarding the players the MLB team received in return, FAAB rebate, etc…)
Shandler: “I am not in favor.”
Zola: “If the rest of the league wanted compensation, I'd agree to FAAB. Even if it's more complicated, I'm in favor of a prorated method, using the number of weeks left in the season.”
Walton: I agree with Ron. Steer clear.
5) Does the answer to #4 change if the league is a waiver priority league, rather than one using FAAB? (For example, an adjusted waiver priority for all free agents or on other players coming into the league only)
Shandler: “You're just playing games juggling commodities that are not equivalent to the loss/gain of a player. There is no logical reason to prohibit the retention of a player who crosses leagues.”
Zola: “Hmm, been awhile since I played in a waiver league and it was mixed so I don't have any first-hand experience with this iteration. Thinking through the different possibilities, I don't like giving the owner losing the player the option of picking up the returning player since some will get a stud and some will get a prospect. I also don't like jumping up waiver priority, so unless presented a method that escapes me, I'd prefer no compensation.”
Gardner: “I like the rule we have in my home AL- and NL-only keeper leagues where the owner of the player who goes to the other league has the right of first refusal for the player he’s being traded for. If there are multiple players involved, it goes in order of highest dollar value of the players lost. We use waiver priority in that league, so any trades would supersede the waiver process.”
Walton: As we conclude, we finally see a bit of a variance in opinion. However, it should be noted that the original ground rules of our roundtable specified re-draft leagues. As the stakes are higher in keeper leagues, Steve’s preference to compensate for players lost via interleague trades should be given a fair hearing in those formats. Perhaps we can delve into this variation in a future installment.
No matter how you feel about the interleague trade subject personally, it is always a good idea to take your league’s temperature throughout the season and be ready to engage your peers on potential changes for next season – especially if you are a proactive commissioner!
In closing, I would like to thank Ron Shandler, Steve Gardner and Todd Zola for participating in this discussion.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.