How to Maintain Competitive Balance in Your Keeper and Dynasty League
Good on you. Yes, you. You decided to take the step forward and run a keeper league or a dynasty baseball league. It’s fun. It’s challenging. And, it’s a lot of work.
There are a lot of issues that can come up when running a league, and one of the hardest things to do is to get a group of people together who have the same passion as you do — and to get them to stick around for the long run.
I’ve seen — and joined — many startup dynasty leagues that went up in smoke after the first year. It’s what comes with the territory, really, but it sucks for those who took the “prospects only” approach in their draft. But those who went the win-now route with those old, boring veterans were fanning themselves with their winnings.
However, say you have the core group that you need to make your keeper or dynasty league successful and longstanding. What can you do to ensure that there is a semblance of competitive balance year over year? Here are some lessons that I’ve learned from both keeper and dynasty leagues on how to keep it straight down the middle for everyone.
If you are in a keeper league where you keep five or fewer players, the draft pool should be pretty loaded each year. Sure, a team or two may have keepers who would generally be first- or second-round picks, but there’s enough talent for you to draft to make up the ground.
That’s why in straight keeper leagues, I encourage managers to deal draft picks and make the decision if they want to play for this year or the following year. But one thing I do prohibit is the trading of first- or second-round picks. That way, even if a team mortgages its future, they still can compete with the rest of the league by grabbing two of the top-24 players available to the league.
In my home league that I started six years ago, we decided from the jump that we were going to have four keepers each year. The one rule that I wish I added that I didn’t is a keeper limit. That’s where you can keep a player up to a certain length (say three years), and then they go back into the draft pool. It allows teams to cycle through rebuilding and competing so that one team doesn’t hit it super big with, say, Ronald Acuna, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, and Mookie Betts on the same team. How do you compete with that?
Right now, we have it so that you lose a round of value each year with the player, which helps. But if you have, say, Fernando Tatis in the 22nd round, you have him for his whole career. Year limits are better.
Bake in Inflation
If you are in a dynasty league where you have contracts, make the costs go up significantly over time. If you draft Mike Trout for $50 of your $260 budget, by year four, he should be close to a $90 player. This, like the keeper limits, allows the top talent to go back into the draft pool and forces teams to make tough decisions.
To Tank or Not to Tank?
Speaking of tough decisions, don’t make it easy for a team just to give up and trade their assets away in June. Give them some incentive to keep them playing. You’re in a keeper or dynasty league, so take next year into account.
What I like to do is reward the team that wins the consolation bracket. If you win the consolation bracket, you get to pick your spot in the draft for the next year. If a team sells off all of their good assets, they risk their chance at picking where they’d like. Instead, there’s a reason for them to be selective with who they sell off.
Think Ahead Financially
There’s absolutely nothing worse than when a player tanks, commits to playing the following year, and then backs out for whatever reason. Lesson learned, and it won’t happen again.
In a startup dynasty or keeper league, I recommend having every manager pay double the entry fee initially so that it covers the current season and the next season. That way, they are always paying to play for the following year. If they decide to destroy their team and back out, the replacement will get to play for free because the current season is already paid for.
But if you’re already too far along to implement a rule like that, try something on a smaller scale. In the aforementioned home league, we have a rule where if you trade three of your picks between Round 3 and Round 8, you have to pay half of your entry fee for the following year before the trades get processed.
Set yourself and your league up for success in the future.
Keeper and especially dynasty leagues vary in quite a few ways, but the most significant parallel is that teams are going to have so many different approaches and philosophies that you have to let them manage themselves.
I’m against trade vetoes in all leagues, because 9/10 times, the managers will veto because they don’t think a trade is fair or because it may help out a team ahead of them. It’s not up to you or me to decide how other teams value players.
That’s why you should not have vetoes at all in keeper or dynasty leagues — especially when it comes to deeper leagues.
You may see an expiring Mike Trout go to the first-place team, but in return, he gave up MacKenzie Gore, Jasson Dominguez, and Alek Thomas. If the Trout-managed team feels that’s the return he wants and is rebuilding, let him do it. I guarantee that in three years, the team with Gore, Dominguez, and Thomas is going to be pretty, pretty happy with that deal, even if it gave the other manager the 2020 title.