Few aspects of fantasy baseball have created as much controversy and discussion as anti-dumping rules. Fantasy team owners take advantage of their also-ran status to trade away their expensive studs and expiring contracts for under priced veterans, rookies, and minor leaguers. The owner dumping his present season is hoping to gain an advantage in the next one. The owner benefiting this season is willing to trade cheap keepers to improve his chances of a championship. Message boards from one end of the internet to the other have hosted the debate. Is it more important to protect the integrity of the draft and good team management or to protect the ability to trade freely as in real baseball? Should poorly managed teams benefit from trades with aggressive contenders at the expense of other contenders? Are dump deals a form of collusion or is rebuilding your fantasy franchise via dumping a right worth protecting? Regardless of your answers, most leagues have instituted rules to prevent dump deals or at least limit them.
The most commonly adopted rules have been an In-Season Salary Cap and a system for vetoing unpopular deals. These rules, however well intentioned, are flawed. A salary cap prevents an owner from moving a large amount of salary for a smaller amount. This might put a severe drag on dump deals but it also prevents many perfectly fair deals. Why should an owner with the expiring contracts of Chad Billingsley $10 and Jose Reyes $17 be prevented from trading for $40 Carlos Lee and $45 Matt Holliday? Even worse than preventing owners from making fair deals is allowing other owners or even just the league’s commissioner to decide if the trade should be allowed or not. Compare it to the Boston Red Sox given the power to decide if the New York Yankees can complete a deal with the Houston Astros. A trade that seems unfair can often greatly reward the owner making the questionable deal.
Fantasy leagues cannot afford to ignore the owners that despise dumping. If a majority of owners would like to prevent such trades, leagues must take action or their futures become endangered. A Google search will reveal thousands of owners who left their leagues because their rivals took a different stance on dumping. However, it is just as important that a league consider their solutions carefully. An overly aggressive solution can make the league less fun for those owners that like to make frequent trades. The best solutions will encourage all owners to finish as high in the standings as possible. If league members at some point discover that finishing in a money position is impossible, then that owner should also see the value in finishing seventh or even eighth rather than eleventh or twelfth.
CHANGE THE MINOR LEAGUE DRAFT ORDER
Fortunately, good solutions exist. A very simple solution that works well in conjunction with other solutions is changing the order of minor league and reserve picks. Rather than simply using the reverse of the standings as your draft order, reward the owner that finishes in the highest non-money position with the first pick in your supplemental drafts. Dole out the remaining picks in a similar fashion, with the second pick going to the next highest placed team and so on. The teams in the money would receive picks in reverse of the standings after the non-money teams. The teams finishing out of the money still receive the best minor league/reserve picks, but in a twelve-team league, that has prizes for the first six spots, the seventh place team receives a reward for its superior effort.
EARLIER TRADE DEADLINES
Every league should have a trade deadline in place but often it is late in August. A great change to make moves the deadline for uninhibited trading to a week after the Major League Baseball trade deadline in July. During the month of August, owners can trade with teams within two spots of them in the standings. The late July deadline limits dumping by taking place before most teams’ elimination from contention. The limited trading in August allows teams to make the small adjustments that injuries and MLB transactions make necessary without allowing the drastic trades between the second place team and the last placed team.
THREE-YEAR CHAMPIONSHIP PRIZE
By far the best solution to dumping is instituting a Three-Year Championship. This rule’s intention is to reward the owners that are continually high in the standings over a three-year period. Leagues that charge dues can set aside a small portion each season as a prize. How much to set aside would depend on how much would motivate teams to battle for every homerun or stolen base. At the end of three seasons, simply combine the total stats from each season and rank the teams accordingly. Reward at least the top three teams with a prize and you will have teams that would have dumped previously battling to finish as high as possible every season. This increased competition is the very best drag on dumping.
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