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When to Veto A Trade
Written by Keith Stover

In the ten years I have been playing roto-ball, the single-most controversial topic that has reared its ugly head at least once each season has been the issue of trade vetoes. To paraphrase Shakespeare (who undoubtedly would have been a Cubs fan):
“To veto or not to veto…that is the question.”

It’s not as simple an issue as many trade owners think. I know that I personally have had to defend a good half-dozen trades in the last five years to keep them from being vetoed. Most often, owners make the mistaken assumption that all deals are supposed to be made on the grounds of “equal value.” I would say this is true in 80% of the trades that I propose, but the other 20% involve me trying to fill a specific need that I have been unable to fill either from the waiver wire or from other trades. If you’re keeping score at home, kids, that’s one in every five deals.

So it’s important.

Typical examples of this would be saves and speed. The two specialty categories that often get overlooked in 5X5 Rotisserie leagues are saves and steals. Why? Because saves and who will get them are never an entirely established, 100% guaranteed fact. Team circumstances (injuries, match-ups, road/home considerations) and individual players change frequently. Roles change.

In the case of stolen bases, this is perhaps the single-most elusive stat to draft for. Most team owners are rightly concerned with filling their everyday position players and their pitching rotations. Seldom are players drafted just for steals. This is why your four and five-tool players are so valuable. A Jeter or a Pedroia or an Abreu can help you win your league by contributing in all offensive categories, rather than just two or three.

So…let’s say I can’t find an outfielder who can hit for high enough power and average AND provide the occasional steal. If this is the case, this outfielder I’m looking for becomes a hot commodity, to me or anyone else seeking the same statistical skill set. Let’s also say I have an abundance of pitching, maybe an extra starter that would put me over my “number of starts” quota or a reliever who only gets a save situation once a week, but will post 20 saves on the season. I might well be willing to trade a player who has more “equitable” value in order to fill my specific need.

Before you cry “foul!” consider this: in the real world “fair market value” is literally whatever anyone at anytime is willing to pay you for your product or service. (I’m sure Scott Boras could explain this better than I, but he’s too busy single-handedly killing baseball by issuing unrealistic demands on behalf of spoiled millionaires to be reached for comment.) So…my point is this: if you see a trade in your league where the “real” “equitable” or “head-to-head” value is not balanced, do you veto it?

Not necessarily.

Ask yourself these two questions:
1. Do you want to be able to fill certain “niche” needs of your ball club?
2. Do you think there will be times when you are willing to give a little more in value to get something you badly need and can’t get anywhere else?

If the answer to these two questions is  “Yes,” then you need to agree with your fellow owners on a policy that reflects this. In other words, instead of just literal, “equitable” value, there is a second form, which mirrors the real-life concept of “fair-market value”: this is “Relative” value. Sometimes winning your league championship requires the use of creative strategies, and the use and understanding of “Relative” value this is one of them. Kind of like playing online slots.

First of all, if you are in a league which has a commissioner, I would suggest you have him clarify his understanding and interpretation of what constitutes the proper use of a trade veto and post that policy somewhere on the league page at the beginning of the year. If the commissioner sees potential differences between team members, he or she should make the effort to form a consensus, just to clarify expectations. I am nearly allows the commissioner in my league in ESPN  (this year that’s Red Sox Nation ’09, check it out), and I always interpret the trade veto rule as a punitive, make-whole, prescriptive option ONLY EXERCISED WHEN I THINK OTHERS ARE CHEATING OR COLLUDING.

Whatever two owners agree on is their business, unless they’re cheating, and then it’s everyone’s business. Half the fun of the game is to see who comes out ahead in these trades anyway. We need to remind ourselves occasionally of this: Men are not statistical machines, but people like you and I (okay…so they’re richer and more athletic and some date supermodels). As for “equitable” value, remember this adage: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This applies to fantasy ballplayers, as well.

Let's go play some online slots.