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October 17, 2011

Resident Fantasy Genius

Fantasy Rumor Mill for 10/17/11

by Derek Carty

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One of the most exciting parts of the fantasy offseason is the rumor mill, hearing about who could be headed where and trying to figure out the ramifications of the rumored moves. For those in keeper leagues who are trying to sort out who deserves a spot on their roster for next season, speculating on what will happen to players and how different scenarios could play out can be a valuable exercise, especially in leagues where keeper decisions are due before spring training begins.

To that end, inspired by reader sgtvane's comment on Michael Street's article on Friday, I thought I'd make a habit of examining various rumors each week and what they would mean for the fantasy value of the player in question, as well as for the players who would be indirectly impacted. While I won't be able to tackle every rumor that makes its way onto our radar, if there's a particular one you're interested in that I haven't taken note of, feel free to let me know. I'm always open to suggestions.

The format for each rumor will be: Player | Team | Position | Status | Rumor, followed by a quote detailing the rumor, my take on the situation, and a quick summation of who would be effected and to what extent.

C.J. Wilson | Texas Rangers | SP | Free Agent | Leaving Texas?

One Rangers person predicted that if C.J. Wilson leaves as a free agent, Feliz would join Ogando in next year's rotation. Wilson could well leave, because the Rangers don't plan to pull out all stops to keep him, as they did (unsuccessfully) when Cliff Lee was a free agent last winter.

"He wants $100 million, and he's not getting that from us," the Rangers person said.

If Wilson leaves Texas, which it's sounding like he might, his value is likely to fall a bit. Unless he signs with the Yankees, he’ll be hard-pressed to find an offense as good as the Rangers to provide him with run support, and that will lead to fewer wins. In terms of ballpark, though, he’ll have a much easier time finding a better situation than he was in with Texas since the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington inflates homers by 15 percent or so. While Yankee Stadium would be much worse in terms of home runs, if he doesn’t land in New York (there’s been nothing serious connecting him there, so there’s a greater chance of him going someone else), there are plenty of other landing spots that would be more favorable than Arlington.

The corresponding change in Texas would be Neftali Feliz moving to the rotation to fill Wilson's spot. Feliz had a bit of a down year after a dominating rookie season as the team's closer, struggling with his control and lacking his once-elite strikeout rate. His stuff was still good, however, so unless his control continues to be a problem, I wouldn’t be too worried. Feliz is primarily a two-pitch pitcher now (fastball-slider), but both pitches are excellent, and he is capable of throwing a changeup and toyed with a cutter this season, so he should have enough options to get hitters out as a starting pitcher. Still, it’d be imprudent to say he’ll be an elite starter right off the bat, so I’d have a hard time seeing him posting more value in the rotation than he would as one of the AL’s best closers.

The trickledown effect would continue onto Mike Adams, who after years of being one of the best set-up men in baseball would finally have a chance to close. He’d be susceptible to an early-season job loss if he struggles or gets unlucky in April since Koji Uehara would be his setup man, but Adams would still likely be one of the better closer bargains on draft day. If he managed to keep the job all year, he would easily be a top-five closer in the AL and possibly in all of baseball.
Potential Value Change: Small Loss for C.J. Wilson; Small Loss for Neftali Feliz; Huge Gain for Mike Adams; Small Gain for Koji Uehara

Eric Wedge | Seattle Mariners | Manager | Under Contract | Boston’s New Manager?

Eric Wedge, manager, Mariners - Very interesting name that could be involved in Boston’s managerial search. The problem is getting him out of his deal in Seattle, where he has a lot of personnel power.

With Terry Francona on the outs in Boston, fantasy players who own Carl Crawford have been eager to see who will replace him if/when he’s eventually let go. My study earlier this year showed there to be a large difference in stolen-base tendencies between Crawford’s old manager in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon, and Francona. Unfortunately for Crawford owners, if Wedge does end up as Boston’s new skipper, things could actually be a little worse. The manager wasn’t solely to blame for Crawford’s struggles this year, but it certainly doesn’t help to have a manager who’s more cautious about running; that wouldn't change with Wedge at the helm.
Potential Value Change: Small Loss for Carl Crawford and Red Sox basestealers

Houston Astros | Team | Being Sold | Astros to the AL?

Houston ownership change expected to go through in mid-November, w/ AL move.

With the Astros sale looking like a safe bet, Houston figures to be the newest member of the AL West, but it won't come until 2013 at the earliest.  Aside from forcing fantasy players to eventually reevaluate the number of teams that should comprise AL and NL-only leagues, the move will have a large effect on Astros players, who will be facing a new set of competitors. Studies I ran a while back show that both hitters and pitchers suffer when they move from the NL to the AL, with pitchers losing nearly 0.50 points of ERA and a half-point of K/9. The declines for hitters are smaller but not insignificant.  Wandy Rodriguez is under contract for 2013 (with a team option for 2014) and Brett Myers has a team option for 2013, but both are candidates to be traded before then. Younger pitchers like Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles, however, both figure to be with the team when they move to the AL, so those in keeper leagues may want to consider trading them this season before the team moves.

Conversely, because the Astros are pretty bad as far as teams go (26th in run scoring this year), the American League will get a little weaker as a whole, giving American League players (especially those in AL West teams) a slight (but nearly imperceptible for practical purposes) boost over their National League counterparts. These changes will be so small, though, that they can be ignored by keeper leaguers until a move actually happens.
Potential Value Change: Whenever the move occurs, Small Loss for Houston hitters; Huge Loss for Houston pitchers; Tiny Gain for American League players

David Ortiz | Boston Red Sox | DH | Free Agent | Papi to Yanks?

"There's too much drama, man," Ortiz told Dominguez in reference to the Red Sox. "There's too much drama. I have been thinking about a lot of things. I don't know if I want to be part of this drama for next year."

"It's great from what I hear," Ortiz said of the Yankees. "It's a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn't want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way?”

After the drama in Boston this season, Ortiz has talked about defecting to the Bronx. More off-hand comment than anything else, Ortiz’s quote doesn’t speak to whether the Yankees would consider signing him, which seems very unlikely at this time.  The team has prospect Jesus Montero penciled in as their designated hitter for 2012, and after passing him over in favor of the failed Jorge Posada experiment this season, the team figures to give him a long look next year. If Ortiz somehow wound up in New York, his value would certainly increase given the slightly improved lineup and the fact that Yankee Stadium is the best park in the majors for lefty homers. Just don’t count on it happening. This seems like tabloid fodder at most.
Potential Value Change: Gain for David Ortiz; Huge Loss for Jesus Montero

Mat Latos | San Diego Padres | SP | Under Contract
| Latos on the Block?

Comment From Guest: I have heard you talk about trading Mat Latos before to bring in a bat. Now I am seeing Jesus Montero's name linked in a possible trade. Could this be realistic?

Bill Center: Latos would have a lot of value on the trade market. At the same time, the Padres control him for another four years. With the pitching prospects at Double-A, I might take a chance on trading Latos if the other team were willing to over-pay. The Yankees might be that team. I'd want at least a major league-ready every day player, a prospect and a pitching prospect in return.

Yes, having the Yankee offense supporting Latos would be an enormous step up from the Padres, but he’d need to swap Petco for Yankee Stadium and the NL for the AL, both of which would lead to extreme changes in his ratio stats—changes even the offensive support of nine Albert Pujolses would be hard-pressed to make up for. It’s likely a moot point, since it seems unlikely the Padres would deal Latos without getting a serious haul in return. I suppose it would be interesting if the Yanks swapped Montero for Latos to shore up their rotation and then brought in Big Papi to DH for a year or two. Quality DHs aren't exactly hard to come by (Luke Scott will be a great choice this offseason), but great 24-year-old starting pitchers are.

If Montero were indeed one of the pieces involved in a Latos acquisition, his value would plummet moving away from Yankee Stadium and the stacked New York lineup and into Petco with the laughable-in-comparison Padre lineup.
Potential Value Change: Huge Loss for Mat Latos; Huge Loss for Jesus Montero

10 comments have been left for this article.

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