KEEPERS: The Changing 2017 rules landscape, part 1

In previous years we've launched this pre-season series with a focus on how off-season dynamicsincluding winter league performances, trades, injuries, the Rule 5 draft, and even the advent of the latest top prospect listsmight affect immediate playing time outlooks and opportunities. But now in 2017, we've had four-plus months to reconsider some rules changes and ideas that have been percolating in this space for a while. While not all of these thoughts will be applicable to your leagues in what is largely a one-size-does-not-fit-all dynasty genre, they should at least keep you thinking about some oldand new issues at hand that your league has yet to address.


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We'll start this week with MLB's new DL rule change, something that obviously hasn't been fueled organically. Most observers and players agree that the new 10-day disabled list rulereplacing the previous long-standing 15-day DLis both an improvement and long overdue. It means that position players with nagging and perhaps minor injuries need no longer keep a day-to-day roster status that leaves their teams in short-handed limbo. It means that pitchers headed to the DL might only miss one or two starts (depending on off-days), instead of two or three. Yet 10 days is long enough to keep MLB teams from gaming the system with short-term rostering maneuvers. While there could be unintended consequences (in the real game) that we can't yet put into focus, the initial reaction points to an all-around win for MLB players and teams trying to survive a grueling season.

But more frequent DL moves, combined with shorter stints on the shelf, should give pause to most keeper leagues, particularly in those with a fixed number of DL slots. Certainly, formats that require an official fantasy site permission or MLB roster move before allowing player activations will be affected. These leagues may want to add to their DL availability, or simply go with unlimited DL space. And if it hasn't been done already, your commissioner (and fantasy site) should consider more flexibility in adding injured and minor league players to game-time rosters.

Again, not all leagues are the same, but most will have different long-standing rules to consider tossing/adjusting, and unique issues to address. For example, one deep 20-team (24-player active roster, 10 reserves) league that yours truly has played in for 20 years (and am now co-commish) isn't wrestling with the aforementioned problems. We've used daily lineup changes and an unlimited DL forever, and allowed owners to activate players based on credible team or media announcements.

But we've had to deal with other issues, perhaps somewhat due to inertia and our long-standing effort to mimic MLB. This league has long required active MLB players to be in active lineup spots. Owners had previously been given 10 days following an announced MLB DL or minor league demotion to "legalize" the position, either by taking advantage of our twice-weekly free agent waivers or moving a qualified MLB player in off of reserve. Obviously this time-frame would create problems under the new MLB rule, and increase the attention demands on what is already an active format to begin with. Since our commissioner site has never provided any commissioner or owner control on monitoring this 10-day periodat the end of which, non-compliant owners were fined a $5 "bonehead fee" (our term)it had been administered irregularly. Between this problem and the administration time demanded of the commissioners, MLB's change has given us an opportunity to streamline some things.

Our call: We're going to eliminate any time-limit on when owners must DL or demote players who are no longer MLB-active. This offers the added benefit of allowing owners to use their waiver position (determined by prior free agent add sequence) more efficiently, i.e., to select players/positions they want instead of being forced into a claim that sends them to the back of the queue. It also (mercifully) ends our commissioner (and owner) monitoring of these rules infractions, and the not-insignificant attention this consumed. In our deep format, this change has the added benefit of helping rebuilders not actively involved in or completely focused on fighting for a championship or a money finish (top seven teams) rebuild more frugally and efficiently, by not having to pay a $3 free agent (FA) fee for a player they may not want, and keep prospects that, in the past, they may have had to cut.

Obviously in what is a moderate "money league" ($70 entry fee, top seven money spots; no one gets rich but we stay interested), detaching MLB status from active fantasy rosters has the potential to reduce transaction dollars and the winners' poolas well as top-to-bottom league and nightly waiver competition. But some safeguards and mitigating league rules are in already in place, and others will get some reinforcement. For example, given that the first round of our supplemental draft runs #8 through #20 before snaking back to the seven money winners, rebuilders are still forced to balance their long-term objectives with other short-term benefits. To avoid excessive minor-leaguer stashing, we'll require that active-roster players have either earned current-year fantasy stats for their owners, or have exhausted rookie status.

To address the possibility of a reduced winners' kitty that could result from fewer FA pickups, the reduced competition that might be created by non-earning active roster spotsnot to mention increased end-of-season disinterest from owners who are out of the racewe'll attempt to use a stick as well as a carrot. Owners will still get 10 days to remove DL'd players from their unlimited DL list once the player has become activated again (or officially demoted to the minors). Non-compliance will mean both loss of player and a $10 bonehead fee that graduates for repeat offenders. We'll also initiate year-end fees charged to the last-place finisher and owners who are chronic bottom-three/five finishersparticularly those whose FA fees lag their fellow owners. More on this next week.

We realize that this is an experiment, the results and unintended consequences of which won't be fully understood until we've gone through a full season. But we're already discussing obvious loopholes, some of which we hope to address with easily manageable fixes. The most obvious example is the catcher spotcurrently an MLB black hole that yielded a .243/.310/.393 slash line across the board in 2016, with big drop-offs beyond the better performers. In a two-catcher format, it's certainly likely that some owners (certainly rebuilders) might punt this position altogether with dead active spots. To avoid excesses in this regard, a year-end 500 plate appearance minimum is under consideration, along with financial and/or draft pick penalties. For reference, all MLB teams generated 600+ PA from their catcher spot except for the Cubs (593), suggesting that we're on the right track.

Obviously this article won't be applicable to some of your league formats. But our intent here is to fuel some feedback and info-sharing for keeper/dynasty league owners as to how you are handling this now, and what if anything you're considering given the MLB rule change. Hopefully the discussion begins below, and thanks for listening!


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.