Last Week's Question
As I indicated in last
week's column, I was overwhelmed by the feedback I received
to my simple question about whether transaction fees are good or
bad for fantasy football. In that column, I included the responses
of those who wrote in to support transaction fees and to explain
how they were used in their leagues. In this follow-up column, I
will survey a few more responses in that vein as well as a number
of responses that concerned some problems caused by transaction
feesand how to address those problems.
Again, I want to offer my apologies at the outset to those whose
answers I simply cannot include and especially to those who wrote
in with long and detailed replies that I have had to edit dramatically
in order to give readers something that they can digest.
I'll start with what Chad had to say, since he is in an ideal position
to compare leagues with fees to those without:
I am the commissioner of two fantasy football leagues. One charges
fees for transactions and the other doesn't. Personally, I like
charging fees for transactions because there are plenty of owners
who pick up player after player just because they are available
with no intention of playing them, sometimes dropping the same player
after a week or two. In a 10- or 12-team league, some positions
are thin the way it is, and allowing people free transactions doesn't
deter them from adding players to their roster. In my "free
transaction" league, we did put a cap on the number of free
agents owners can pick up each week to help reduce the problem.
Charging fees, however, makes owners ask a couple of questions -
Do I really need this player? Is he worth the couple of bucks I
have to spend to get him? I think it evens the playing field a little
I see Chad's point, but it sounds to me as if putting a cap on the
number of waiver wire transactions a team can make would have much
the same effect as transaction fees, and since not all pockets are
equally deep, the cap actually sounds to me like it would level
the playing field even more effectively than the fees do. As Dave
I'm all for transaction fees as long as they're in line with the
financial situations of everyone in the league. We've had them from
the start. $1 back when we were all in college and $5 now that we're
all a bit more stable financially. It's a keeper league, so there's
still an incentive to make moves throughout most of the season.
Nate's experience was just the opposite of Dave's:
[In our league,] once you pick someone up, they have to remain on
your roster for a week anyways, so you can't do the multiple add/drops
of the same player in a single week. So even when I had to keep
track of the league by hand, the transaction fees were never there
to keep people from making so many moves. They're just a great way
to get the pot bigger. Each time we increase the fee, I see a bit
of a drop in the number of transactions at first, but then everyone
gets used to it and it's not even a consideration. For instance,
in the first 4 weeks of this season we had 65 transactions ($330
into the pot). It took us until Week 12 to reach that level last
year. Some of that is due to the number of injuries this year, but
a lot of it can be attributed to owners being more comfortable with
But like I said at the beginning, obviously the most important thing
is for everyone to be comfortable with the fees. I wouldn't want
to price anyone out of the league and give an advantage to owners
with deep pockets.
Since we pay to play in our league, we also pay for waiver wire
or trade transactions. The whole point of the fees is to increase
the spoils, not to dissuade managers from making transactions. In
the beginning we only allowed waiver wire transactions at Week 5
and Week 10 when we would all gather at a local establishment to
watch MNF and talk football. Each transaction cost $5. Now that
our league uses an online provider, we have a weekly waiver wire
period from Thursday night to the first kickoff of the week. Waiver
priority is per your standings in overall points with the lowest-ranked
team having first priority. This allows the cellar dwellers a chance
to rebound from a poor draft or injuries. Rumblings within the league,
primarily after Kurt Warner was had off the waiver wire for $5 and
led my team to the Points title, called for an increase in the transaction
fee based on the premise that "Kurt Warner was worth more than
$5." So, we doubled the fee to $10. What we found is that rather
than increasing the pot, this decreased waiver activity.
Like most who wrote in, Nate mentions waiver wire priority as going
to teams that are struggling. Some leagues assign priority on the
basis of points, others on the basis of head-to-head records, and
others simply handle transactions of a first-come, first-served
basis. But Joel wrote in to explain how priority is established
in his league:
We charge $1 per transaction because I have to do them.
We are not content with a "first come, first served"
or simple "worst record" approach. This need for a more
complex system is based on the recognition that different managers
have differing degrees of internet access-due to work, family
schedules and sometimes their computer skills. One of our members
is 73 years old and can barely turn on a computer, but he is a
life-long friend, enjoys FF immensely and went to the SB last
year and lost to his son. Is ANY system that puts him at a disadvantage
acceptable? ABSOLUTLELY NOT!
Like Chad, Jake has looked at the transaction fee from the perspective
of two different league structures, but he reaches a different conclusion:
Our system states that injury related transactions take precedence
over straight waiver wire transactions (equity-based rule). Then
we go to worst record, worst division record, then fewest points
scored. The $1 fee also discourages changing your #5 wide-out twice
I play in an ultra-competitive 16-team league with an auction re-draft
every year. For the first five years of the league we had a transaction
fee, but for the last five years we have done without. I feel that
doing away with the fee has increased the competition of the league
(always a positive). Some owners are always leary of spending extra
money, even to improve their team, and there was also the problem
of collecting money due at end of the season. We tried incorporating
a pre-paid, refundable fee for a couple of years before deciding
to just increase the entry fee and do away with all transaction
fees. We have seen an increase in free-agent signings. That means
more owners are staying with their teams and trying to improve them.
It has also cut down on the administrative work by the commish.
Transaction fees are bad for competition.
Here Jake seems to be making much the same point that I raised in
my original question: the possibility that transaction fees actually
prevent teams that are out of the post-season hunt from making the
moves they need to make in order to remain reasonably competitive
at the end of the season. But if that strikes you as a problem,
you might be interested in Matthew's clever solution:
I like the fact that transaction fees fatten the pot. The problem
with them is exactly how you described it: Later in the season,
teams out of the running will be discouraged to take transactions
in an effort to get back in the running. The answer is simply to
have a graded fee schedule. Example: Week 1-10 = $2, Week 11-13
$1, and no fees from Week 14-17. Of course, this is an example and
commishes could change it to fit their league preferences.
Brandon's concerns are similar to Jake's but a bit more general:
The two leagues I am involved in both started with transaction fees
in place. It was a buck per transaction. All trades cost a dollar
and waiver wire moves would cost 2 bucks (one for the add, one for
the drop). The biggest challenges with transaction fees were (A)
collecting the additional fees at the end of the season and (B)
the lack of trading and waiver wire movement due to the extra cost.
Both Jake and Brandon touch on a problem that crops up in many leagues
with transaction fees: the chore of collecting extra money from
participants at the end of the season. Many of us know first hand
the disappointment of winning a league and not being able to collect
the purse right away because the commissioner is still trying to
get the other owners to pony up for their transaction fees. Jim's
league has added what he calls an "annual maintenance fee,"
but apparently this doesn't cover transactions:
As the Commisioner of the one league, I found that trying to collect
the extra money at the end of the year was a major pain and delayed
prize payouts (since not all owners live in our town).
In the one league, we did away with the transaction fees completely
and movement in both trading and waiver wire increased. Owners were
no longer worried about accruing large amounts of extra fees on
top of the two hundred that was already bucked up at the beginning
of the season just so they could try and keep their team competitive
throughout the year.
We have started two other leagues in the last couple of seasons
and both went without transaction fees and the involvement of trade
offers and waiver activity is fantastic. With the websites for fantasy
football that are now available, the work on the commisioner is
so minimal and no longer a burden. I don't think I would even consider
joining a league at this point with transaction fees as they are
no longer necesarry.
To keep the pot size fairly consistent, but reduce the hassle of
adding to the pot and collecting from owners, we instituted an Annual
Maintenance Fee of $20 that each team must pay at the beginning
of the year. This was a pretty close average of what every team
was paying anyway, and kept the prizes from dwindling, and pays
for our stat software, web space, and domain. But we did NOT eliminate
the other Transaction fees. If you choose to improve your team you
must pay (just like the NFL). We've tweaked it by dropping IDP FA's
to $3, promoting more movement and acknowledging the fact that they
don't score as high, in our league.
Billy's league has found another way of filling bye weeks without
having to resort to the waiver wire. He calls it the "carryover"
We get away with it due to a very low league fee, extremely flexible
lineups (rules allow for a minimum lineup and then 3 offensive players,
plus 2 IDP, of owner's choice) , and large rosters (22 players).
It makes submitting a competitive roster each week a lot easier,
without resorting to the waiver wire to fill bye weeks.
If you wan to "limit" transactions for whatever
reason, one thing I have instituted is a little thing called carryovers,
so you don't have to start a backup to cover a bye. For instance,
I carried over Edge's 26 points from week 5 to week 6, so I can
start Edge (and his 26 points) in week 6. Now, this doesn't always
work out as perfectly as you would imagine. Another owner carried
over Marvin's 5 points, and he's not too pleased about that.
Flaky or not, the use of carryovers certainly has to simplify the
collection of fees at the end of the season (if only because carryovers
would appear to produce fewer transactions). As Alexis puts it,
Think carryovers are flaky? Think of it this way: How many times
did you see the Colts trot on the field and then Dungy go over to
Peyton and tell him to sit out this game? In the NFL, teams have
byes, not players. So why should I have to dig into my bench and
start Jake Delhomme on the Colts' bye?
Transaction fees are good, but are also a pain. I have been in the
same league for over 10 years now, and we have done it with and
without transaction fees. The easiest method is to have everyone
leave a "Transaction Fee Deposit," say $10, the day of
the draft. This way, you don't have to hunt people down to pay up.
But in recent years we have gone away from the fee as a whole. Our
newest method, which seems to be the best thus far, is as follows.
Everyone gives a large lump sum at the beginning of the year. This
covers the draft and all transactions throughout the year. But,
like you mentioned in your article, we didn't want those without
a playoff chance to simply give up after week 10. So we implemented
a system where the highest point total of the week wins $10, we
also pay out the highest point total of the year and the most wins
of the year ($25 each). This system gives everyone a chance to win
some cash and keeps the league interesting. So far this year, there
have been 4 different winners of the weekly $10 prize. I guess we
are doing something right, so we'll keep going until it hits another
Clearly the formula outlined by Alexis has been embraced by many
leagues, as I received a number of responses to the same effect
(but with different numbers) from all sorts of FFers. However, for
those who want to make transaction fees cost something without forcing
owners to shell out extra money up front or commissioners to track
down payment at the end of the season, I will offer this solution
from Daniel, whose league uses an imaginary currency system to resolve
I play in a deep IDP keeper league based in Sweden and have been
for quite some years now. We've been experimenting with transaction
fees back and forth but have come to the conclusion that it's basically
the managers with cash and/or the ones in deep roster problems that
pay the winner of the league every year. And since it tends to be
pretty much the same managers, we've changed it.
I confess that Daniel's system is a bit too complex for me to grasp
on a single reading, but it does sound like a lot of fun. And of
course the coolest thing about his response is that the single most
complicated fantasy league I have ever had explained to me is based
in, of all places, Sweden.
Instead we have a system where everybody pays an entry fee. We then
convert that fee into league bucks, which we use as currency for
moves, transactions and extra spice in trades. It's a closed currency
system (except for the annual aid dispensation, when the commish
hands out some league bucks to poor teams who humble themselves
in written applications stating how their teams really stink) which
means that by the end of the season some teams are in dire need
of league bucks and willingly trade away their superstars to the
lower ranked teams for some "transaction cash". Now, add
a taxi squad to each team where other managers can claim your players
auction style, two blind-bid windows, on Tuesdays and Thursdays,
and a FREE waiver pick-up window on Sunday afternoon for fill-ins
and bye week punters and stuff and you get a money management system
in a league that is equally fun and fair to everybody.
This Week's Question
This week's question comes from Randy, who writes, "I'd like
to see an article on keeper leagues regarding 1) roster sizes and
2) the ideal number of players to keep from one season to the next."
I asked this question in last week's column, but I would still like
to receive as many replies as possible for Randy. Those of you who
have been in keeper leagues for a few years, please
let me know why your rosters are the size they are and why you
keep however many players you keep from season to season.
Last Man Standing Picks
So Matt missed just one week, and I stepped back in to the old LMS
shoes to make a mess of things with what seemed to be an easy pick
of St. Louis over Miami. Well, gentle readers, you will be relieved
to learn that Matt is back this week, and he did point out a few
weeks ago that the Dolphins defense would sneak up on someone, though
he admits that he didn't think it would be the Rams.
Trap Game(s): Miami at NY Jets:
Okay, so I said that the last Dolphins vs. Jets game was a trap
game. Why shouldn't this game be? The Dolphins knocked off the Rams
and the Jets may not be as good as their record. Still, the Jets
should win this at home on Monday night. With that said, this is
a game that I would avoid unless I absolutely didn't have another
#3: Denver over Atlanta (4-2 This Season):
Atlanta is hurting and Denver has a Mile High advantage. If you
have not used Denver before, this is probably a #1 pick. Michael
Vick is still not comfortable in the West Coast offense and Rueben
Droughns seems to be the next coming of Mike Andersen or Terrell
Davis. The only thing that is a concern is that Atlanta's defense
is one of the better ones in the league and might be able to trip
up the Broncos.
#2: Green Bay over Washington (4-2 This
The Pack is back, even with Favre's hand hurting. I don't like betting
against home "dogs" but the Packers seem to be playing
better than they were in the beginning of the season and the Redskins,
even though Gibbs is back, do not have enough to pull off the victory.
As long as Favre can play and Green does not fumble, take the Pack
and the points.
#1: Chicago over San Francisco (5-1
If you have followed my picks this season, you will know that
I am not thrilled with the 49ers this year. Tim Rattay may be
playing well but the Chicago Bears defense is the better of the
two units on the field in this game. Look for Thomas Jones to
get the ball often in this game and the Bears to win in a very
close game. The reason to pick this game is that the Bears don't
have many games later in the season that you can take them and
hope for a win and you may want to save some of your other teams
for later in the season.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football