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August 27, 2012

Fantasy Beat

Fantasy Perspective on the Big Trade

by Jason Collette

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The trade that was made between Boston and Los Angeles over the weekend is one we rarely, if ever, see at this point in the season. Sure, there have been trades involving big names players this late in the season, but this trade had both the names and the volume of players. More importantly, it was a crossover trade, meaning there is a new influx of talent involved in both leagues (though the redistribution of talent is rather uneven).

If you are in an AL-only league, you get the short end of the stick; the only useful player for the remainder of the 2012 season is James Loney. Even then, that is a rather liberal use of the term “useful.” Last September, I wrote a piece reviewing how well Loney was doing toward the end of 2011 and that there may be some life in his dwindling career in 2012. Maybe it was that alcohol-related incident in the off-season that knocked him off-course, but all of the gains he made late last season have disappeared this season. He has a career-low True Average of just .222 this season and has been below replacement level in terms of value. In a season which first basemen were tough to find in NL-only leagues to begin with, owners were simply stuck with this terribly unproductive player.

Now he moves to Fenway Park and could see extended time in the lineup, especially with David Oritz expected to return to the disabled list today with a sore Achilles tendon that is still not feeling any better, according to the latest reports out of Boston. The best way to polish up a rather dull Loney is to say he is moving from a pitcher’s park to one that plays more neutral.

Obviously, the park favors right-handed power hitters (such as Cody Ross) who can loft the ball over the wall, but the park also plays well for all doubles hitters. Loney can hit doubles from time to time, but a change in environment is not going to help his home run total much; he simply has not hit the ball that far in 2012, and Fenway’s right field fences are actually a bit deeper than Dodger Stadium’s.

NL-only leaguers have some much more appealing options to consider.

Adrian Gonzalez has had 195 career plate appearances in Dodger Stadium and has a career slash line of just .212/.309/.376 with 16 extra base hits. Of course, 195 plate appearances is not enough of a sample size to form any kind of conclusion about his abilities to hit in the park. Still, at least he no longer has to face the Dodgers’ pitching staff while pitching in that park, as he did when with the Padres. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley have combined to strike Gonzalez out 22 times in just 71 plate appearances, and most of the success Gonzalez had against the Dodgers came against Hiroki Kuroda. Simply put, hitters hit. Gonzalez will help you down the stretch and should be a top five first baseman the rest of the way in single-league formats.

Josh Beckett also comes over to the NL in the deal, getting out of the mess that he was a part of both on and off the field in Boston. Beckett has not pitched in the National League full time since the 2005 season, so the numbers he posted there can be safely ignored; today’s Beckett is not the same guy that pitched for the Florida Marlins. That said, Beckett should enjoy moving into a friendlier environment that places him away from the Yankees and away from the designated hitter.  Beckett’s one redeeming skill this season has been his ability to shut down right-handed hitters. May and June were good months for him, allowing just 13 extra base hits in eight games, but August has been an outright disaster, allowing seven home runs in just three starts. There should be some bump in success for Beckett in this move based on environment and pitchers hitting, but expectations should be tempered.

Carl Crawford is obviously not a factor for 2012 since he will miss the remainder of the year following elbow surgery, but the trade to the National League does impact his 2013 fantasy value. Had he stayed with Boston, there would have been no need to rush him back onto the field. He could have served as a DH (Ortiz is not under contract for 2013) until the team was comfortable with his throwing arm. Now, if Crawford is not ready in the next seven months, the Dodgers will have to keep him off the roster until he is ready to take the field. Recovery from this sort of surgery can take anywhere from six-to-nine months; six months has him ready for action in the Cactus League while nine months pushes him past Memorial Day. In Tout Wars AL, Crawford went for $23 this past March with the injury concerns he had coming into the season. Paying that price for him again in 2013 would be an extreme risk.

For dynasty league players, please read the review  Kevin Goldstein and R.J. Anderson posted about the prospects involved in this trade over the weekend. Allen Webster deserves your attention in any AL league while Rubby De La Rosa should be of interest in deeper formats.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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Fantasy Article Value Picks: Second, S... (08/27)
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