On Thursday, I discussed my views on non-contenders trading with contenders in fantasy leagues and whether or not there should be special considerations when making such deals.  Naturally, this evolved into a discussion in the comments section on how this applies to keeper leagues versus redraft leagues, leading reader brucegilsen to request:

Derek, I think you should post an article about your take on dumping. It should lead to an interesting discussion. My 24-year-old 4×4 25/280 NL only league uses an in-season salary cap to prevent contenders from building $500 super teams and it would be fun to discuss on here.

While I don’t think a league’s rules should ever be left up to a single person, if I were creating a keeper league myself, I would definitely take a very laissez-faire approach to the matter.  The same as I’m against trade vetoes, I am (for the most part) for so-called “dump trades.”  If an owner is in a position to win a championship this season, I believe it should be fully within his rights to sacrifice the future of his team to secure a banner.  I’m fully aware that this is an unpopular opinion among many people, but it’s how I feel, generally speaking.

Last week, I said that a team in contention shouldn’t have artificial limits put on its ability to make trades with non-contenders, and I feel the same logic applies to teams who are out of contention and want to offer up their non-keepable stars for long-term assets.  Sure, some may see it as unfair that one owner gets Justin Verlander and Josh Hamilton for a pair of B-level prospects, but his competitors have the exact same opportunity to trade for Verlander and Hamilton or to respond with trades of their own.  Yes, maybe it becomes an arms race, but there’s still skill in that. There’s the skill of posturing, negotiating, and such when making these deals.  There’s the skill of setting your team up for this situation (i.e. acquiring enough long-term assets along the way for use in stretch-run dump trades).  There’s the skill of evaluating your position once July and August roll around—do I have enough ammo for this arms race, and if not, do I have a big enough to warrant weathering the storm? Or is it smarter to sell?

This being said, I wouldn’t necessarily be against some form of regulation on dump trades.  Nothing extreme, but something to help maintain a semblance of competitive balance might not be bad.  Reader brucegilsen’s league uses a salary cap.  Other leagues, like reader eliyahu’s, use a reverse salary cap (aka salary minimum).  An idea of mine would be to penalize teams for finishing below a certain threshold.  Go ahead and dump trade all you like, but for every roto point below 40 (or whatever) that you finish, you’re going to lose $10 in next year’s auction. This helps keep dump-trading in check while simultaneously allowing owners to make some interesting strategic decisions.

I can see the other side of this argument that many make, and I think the side of the fence where each individual person falls really comes down to what that person is hoping to get out of the fantasy baseball experience, what kind of game they want to be playing.  Some want it to mirror real-life baseball as much as possible.  Some simply want it to be as much fun as possible.  There are an infinite number of reasons for playing fantasy baseball, and these reasons will dictate a person’s thoughts on this matter.  There are no right or wrong answers here, but I’m sure it will still make for some interesting discussion.  Take it away, guys…

Thank you for reading

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Derek may prefer a hands-off approach but my guess is that dump trades are the single biggest source of keeper league acrimony and dissolution. It's dispiriting to the others when one team lands a Verlander & Hamilton in a dump trade and totally changes the dynamic of a pennant race. The dumping team doesn't have the constraints on trading stars that real-world teams do (long-term contracts, no-trade clauses, fan sentiment, TV ratings, etc) nor the same incentives to get fair value in return. Moreover, the dumps often follow pre-established channels of friendship or workplace proximity, causing resentment. In our 25-year old keeper league, we have established a value trading cap-- the maximum amount of salary one team can trade to another in a single season is the draft value of the highest value player. This year, Pujols was the highest at $50, so that's the cap. An out-of-it team can still trade Pujols to a contender (or some combination of players totalling 50 or less), but if they also have Verlander, they have to find another partner. It's worked well.
The idea that we shouldn't be allowed to make trades, or do anything else within the rules because our competitors don't like it seems pretty problematic to me. Too many people seem to have this idea that they should be allowed to control the strategy that other players use for their teams. For example, if you have Trout or Harper (cheap and controllable long term), why should I not be able to offer you rentals of Pujols and Verlander, who are of no use to me any more, to substantially increase my chances of winning in the future.

It's not like other people are being shut out from making similar deals or acquiring particular players - they are entirely free to make offers. If another player makes me a better offer for the Pujols and Verlander, he'll get them instead.

Also, people tend to make deals with friends or people they work with for one reason - they talk about the league with those people more. Your rule seems to me to be an example of a rule that appears to make sense, but is actually just an unnecessary infringement on a manager's right to run his team as he sees fit.
Say the team going for it already has a guy that cost $35 who tore his ACL and is out for the season. Could an owner trade Pujols ($50) and Verlander ($35) for prospect and $35 injured player? As in, do the salaries of the players going to the dumping team matter to the between teams trade cap?
One problem with this approach (a value trading cap) is that the guys who got drafted cheap years ago, blossomed, and are now in the last year of their contract become absurdly valuable.

No matter what you do, there's no perfect solutions.
Dump trades are fine, as long as the "dumping" team gets actual value.

What I suspect causes most of the trouble is when the team in the hunt gets big pieces for the playoffs, yet is not perceived to have given anything up in return. That starts to blur the line between legitimate trading of this years piece to come back next year (I trade you this year's pieces for a shot next year), and teams colluding (Here's a good player, hope you win).

Of course, the people who usually complain about these deals have never made a better offer for the same players. One of the most frustrating things is when you go around the whole league trying to get best value for a rental player, accept the best offer, and then still have people moaning that you didn't get enough when nobody will give you any more.
Oh for sure. I've been on the receiving end of those complaints too. It's always "you didn't get enough in return" from the guy who wouldn't give you any serious offer.

What gets me worked up is when an LM who is out of the playoffs trades away their best players to a contender, but gets waiver wire guys in return. Not fringy-but-rosterable players, but actual waiver wire guys picked up a short time ago.

To me, that crosses the line between legitimate "punting this year for next year" trade strategy to "I don't care anymore, here's the championship" type of shennanigans.

I guess when I hear the term "dumping", I think of an LM who doesn't care anymore giving away very useful players to the first person they see, no matter what garbage, if anything at all, they get in return. I would describe trading the present for the future as punting, but that's just semantics, really.
1. Everyone has the same opportunities.
2. Dumping at the end of the season, pre-trade deadline is fine, it's dumping early in the season- with a manager who has already given up- that causes fights. Getting a Kemp, Verlander etc... with just a month and a half to go is not really going to change the standings all that much in roto.
3. The bottom place finishers in a league should not be rewarded with high draft picks or the same amount of FAAB$ that helps control tanking issues.
4. I think that the more keepers you have it actually helps this situation.
19 team AL/NL, keeper (3 yr contracts), $260 draft and $100 FAAB. We have an in-season $315 cap, July 31 limited trading deadline after which teams can deal w/ those 4 up or down from them or w/in 15 points. Full trade deadline August 31. It is a good balance of free market while forcing some decisions regarding deals and curtailing some blatant stupidity that is, as others have said, the biggest source of league angst. League has been around 14 years so this is the result of a lot of fine-tuning and seems to work as well as any.
Every league has different rules and dynamics. To set up how our leagues (one AL and one NL only, keeper leagues running for the last 25 years) here are the dynamics: $260 budget, 40 man rosters with 23 active, contracts are A, B and C (3 years) and then back into the auction pool next year. Players with either "C" contracts or who have been purchased or kept for $25 or more are labeled as "asterisk" players. In the months of April through July an owner can make one trade with any or all 11 other owners that are unbalanced by only one asterisk player, e.g. none for one, two asterisks for three, NOT none for two. Balanced trades, e.g. one asterisk player for one, can be made in any number with the same other owner and without other restriction. In August an owner can make only one such unbalanced trade total, NOT one with each other team. After the last Sunday in August, no trades at all.

By limiting trades to one unbalanced (by one asterisk player) trade, one owner can't "dump" all of his high priced/expiring contract players in one one trade to one owner. You can make two such trades with one owner but they have to be done in two different months. Each owner can only make one such trade in August and none in September.

It seems to work pretty good, other than complaints when an owner "dumps" early (April/May). Then there are complaints, but really all owners have the same opportunity to obtain asterisk players from a bad/dumping team that wants to start rebuilding for next season early. They just need to stay in contact with early poor performing teams.

If you have owners that trade valuable assets for waiver wire assets(our waiver wire/FAAB bids is very shallow with 40 man rosters), I welcome the charitable donation of such incompetent owners. Historically they only last one or two years in the league.

The above system seems to work pretty well for our leagues.
I am 100% for allowing players to dump short term assets for a better chance in subsequent seasons. My league keeps 5/year so there isn't a whole lot of "Verlander for Rookie X" kind of trades; it's more likely a star like Verlander goes to a rebuilding team for some closers or SP depth. One high-quality keeper for multiple lower-quality or non-keepers.

The only time this becomes acrimonious is if a team on the bubble - say, a few games out of a playoff spot - sells for next year, but even then, it's that manager's decision and if he or she wants to give up, I'm happy to take advantage of it if I'm a contender.

As for arms races, it's actually pretty fun to see some of the crazy good teams going at it head-to-head with the season on the line.