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August 4, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Leagues With In-Season Salary Caps

by Mike Gianella


One of the most common complaints from fantasy baseball players revolves around trades with disparate value. While this complaint exists in non-carryover leagues, it is a far more common issue in keeper leagues, where there is always room for debate about what constitutes fair value. Depending upon what your league is like, a cost-controlled Byron Buxton for Miguel Cabrera and Felix Hernandez trade either sounds eminently fair or like a complete and utter sham.

One conundrum in auction-style Roto leagues is that depending upon the league’s contract, salary, and freeze limit rules the market price for Buxton might very well be much higher than it is for Cabrera and Hernandez. There are several reasons that this phenomenon might occur, and to catalogue all of them is well beyond the intended scope of this article. In some leagues, though, it isn’t uncommon to see trades where three, four, or even five major league players are swapped for a cost-controlled Buxton.

While this might be the fair market price, trades like this often do create a feeling of frustration and agitation among a fantasy league. An owner’s hard work building a contender in the offseason and at the auction can be completely undone by one trade because a team out of the running valued Trout so highly. It isn’t necessarily unfair—a player’s worth is in the eye of the beholder—but it does convert fantasy baseball from a competition about trying to evaluate talent and accrue the best statistics into a race to try to acquire the hottest future studs so you can flip them to another owner at the deadline.

One way to attempt and curtail these types of trades in auction leagues is to institute a salary cap. In most auction leagues, there is a $260 Auction Day salary cap. However, an in-season salary cap isn’t necessarily a universal rule. Whether or not you want to use one depends on how you feel about the issues I outlined above.

In my long running home league, we instituted a $350 in-season salary cap years ago and it has worked out extremely well. Some have asked me why not institute an even lower salary cap like $320 if you are interested in truly curtailing this year for next year trades. The answer is because the goal of the $350 cap isn’t to completely quash dump deals, but rather to engineer a happy compromise. Our league likes pulling the trigger on dump deals but does not want to see the types of crazy 8-for-8 trades that used to turn a sixth-place team into a first-place team in one fell swoop.

I’m not here to advocate what your league should or shouldn’t do. If you do play with salary caps, though, below are a few general guidelines for how this rule will impact your league, and the best ways to navigate a league that uses this scheme.

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Related Content:  Fantasy,  Salary Caps

3 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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eliyahu

My long running keeper league has a $320 salary cap that rises to $330 after July 31st. Equally important, we have a salary floor that slides from $240 to $230 to insure that dump trades don't get excessive. We've found that this band works exceptionally well.

Aug 04, 2014 06:04 AM
rating: 0
 
cedis81

We are in the third year of our keeper league, where keepers can be kept for three years. We've had issues with dump trades in the past, so we decided to institute a 320 cap (260 at draft). It didn't work out so well as a three dollar Puig with one year left netted Strasburg, Posey, Koji and a six dollar Trout in his final year. He was pretty close to the cap, but he was able to fit it with a couple other minor pieces going in the other direction. Another trade was a $1 Corey Dickerson getting back $12 Goldschmidt in the final year of his year deal (the day before he got hit!), Alex Cobb, Jason Heyward and Fernando Rodney.

Obviously, everyone values keepers differently (I can't even get a bite on 2 years of $1 Polanco or 2 years of $8 Yelich), but these trades have really swung the tide in the favor of the buying team. Obviously they were made well within the rules, but this is very similar to the issue you had laid out in the intro. I'm against telling others in the league how to value their players, but are there any other ideas out there either in addition to the cap or instead of the cap to at least kind of limit the heavy flow of talent going in one direction?

Aug 05, 2014 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
eliyahu

The salary floor is critical on this front. Another very useful rule is automatic $3 salary bumps the following year for anyone traded mid-season. We've found that both of these rules are quite effective.

Aug 05, 2014 11:56 AM
rating: 1
 
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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Closer Report: Week 19 (08/04)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Tra... (07/31)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: A S... (08/07)
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