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June 11, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Speculating on Mid-Season League Switches

by Derek Carty

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Of all the leagues I play in, one of my favorite rule quirks is in the Draft Day AL-only league (formerly CardRunners).  In Draft Day, owners are allowed to pick up any player in any baseball universe.  If the player winds up playing in the American League, you get his stats.  This applies not only to more common fair-game pickups like minor leaguers but also to National League players, allowing owners to speculate on potential mid-season trade candidates.  Presently, there are seven National Leaguers owned in the league, so I wanted to take a look at each and see why.

Carlos Quentin | San Diego Padres | OF
In just nine games since coming off the disabled list, Quentin has already blasted five home runs for the Pads while triple-slashing .484/.543/1.097.  The Friars aren’t going anywhere this season, currently sitting in the basement of the NL West, 19 games out of first.  PECOTA has written them off entirely at this point, giving them a 0.0 percent chance of making the playoffs.  Quentin is a free agent at the end of the year, and rumors are already circulating about potential trades with the Blue Jays mentioned as a specific possibility.  The Padres are also talking about extending him, although that could just be to keep his value high.

Cole Hamels | Philadelphia Phillies | SP
I have a bit of a hard time seeing the Phillies dealing Hamels this summer, although it’s certainly on the table.  The Phillies are eight games out of first right now and five and a half games out of the Wild Card, so there’s no guarantee they’ll be sellers at the deadline.  Additionally, while Hamels’ current deal expires at the end of the year, extending him would give the team at least another couple of years to make a strong push to compete before their aging core of veterans gets too old and their window of opportunity closes completely.

Shane Victorino | Philadelphia Phillies | OF
Victorino is in a similar boat to Hamels: a Phillie with an expiring deal this winter.  He’s expressed his interest in staying in Philadelphia and that he’d like to begin extension talks after the All-Star Break, but if talks break down or don’t happen, he’d be a prime trade candidate if the Phillies fall further out of the race, especially since he’s said that his uncertain contract situation is affecting his play a bit.

Wandy Rodriguez | Houston Astros | SP
It’s no secret that the Astros aren’t competing anytime soon, and their impending move to the American League won’t expedite the process.  Wandy is getting older (he’s 33 this season), although he is under contract through 2013 with a club option for 2014, so there’s no rush for the Astros to deal him.  Of course, he’s not really doing the team any good now, so if they can get better value now than they can next season, it might make sense to deal him.

Matt Garza | Chicago Cubs | SP
Garza’s name has come up frequently in trade talks, but he is in a similar situation to Wandy.  He’s arbitration eligible for the last time in 2013, so despite some really poor play by the Cubs (they’re 13.5 games out of the Wild Card, just a half-game up on Quentin’s hapless Padres), they aren’t in a deal-him-for-something-or-risk-getting-nothing kind of situation.  Still, the Cubs will certainly listen on him, and three AL teams (Toronto, Baltimore, and Detroit) have already been rumored by Ken Rosenthal as being interested.

Ryan Dempster | Chicago Cubs | SP
Garza’s teammate, Ryan Dempster, is a free agent at the end of the year and is the midst of a fantastic season.  While fantasy owners are cursing the run support gods for Dempster’s uneven luck this season, resulting in Dempster acquiring his second win of the season just yesterday, they’d be thrilled to have him pitch for just about anyone else in the second half.  He seems a pretty likely candidate to get moved given his age, his contract status, and the Cubs’ 0.0 percent PECOTA-prophesized playoff odds.

Bryan LaHair | Chicago Cubs | 1B
There are no contractual reasons the Cubs would need to deal LaHair, but with prospect Anthony Rizzo tearing it up at Triple-A, the Cubs will either need to deal LaHair or find a way to fit them both into the lineup soon rather than later.  It seems likely, given LaHair affordability and the way he’s hitting, that they explore all possible options before trading him, starting with a stint in the outfield.

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