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November 26, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Reviewing This Offseason's Moves

by Derek Carty

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Welcome back, everyone! I hoped you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving (if you managed to make it through the weekend without seeing that video, my sincerest apologies for spoiling such a feat). I’m getting a late start on it, but throughout the offseason I’ll be reviewing the various trades and free-agent signings through a fantasy lens. I’ve got a random assortment today with more of the backlog to follow in the coming week or two.

 Heath Bell | Traded from Marlins to Diamondbacks | RP
Bell’s fantasy prospects were looking up at the start of the offseason—or at least as up as they can following a 5.09-ERA season with career-worst peripherals. Given the size of his contract, it seemed likely the Marlins would give him another chance to close, or at least to compete for the job, but all hope of Bell closing again evaporated with a trade to the Diamondbacks. Arizona already has J.J. Putz as its closer and a very capable setup man in David Hernandez. Bell will pitch the middle innings in 2013 and is unlikely to hold much fantasy value outside of very deep NL-only leagues.

 John Buck | Traded from Marlins to Blue Jays | C
That’s a tentative “up” arrow. If the moves made over the rest of the offseason leave Buck with the lion’s share of the playing time in Toronto, he figures to receive a significant value boost based on a vastly superior park and a much-improved supporting cast. The best season of Buck’s career was in 2010 in Toronto, and as a power-first catcher, there are few better destinations for his skill set. Of course, at present, the Blue Jays also have J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud in the catching fold. d’Arnaud is the future of the position, assuming he remains in Toronto, so even if Buck begins the year as the team’s starting backstop, the odds may be against him finishing it in such a role. This is a wait-and-see situation.

 Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle | Traded from Marlins to Blue Jays | SP
Both Johnson and Buehrle take a hit moving from Miami to Toronto. For one, they enter the tougher of MLB’s two leagues. Although Buehrle played his entire career in the AL before signing with Miami last winter, he did post his highest strikeout rate since 2008 and second-highest since 2005. He could have a slightly smaller adjustment coming back to a familiar league, but both figure to see their numbers fall off a bit, especially considering the move from a pitcher’s park to an extreme hitter’s one. The good news is that they should receive quite a bit of offensive support, which should help prevent their win totals from sagging.

 Henderson Alvarez | Traded from Blue Jays to Marlins | SP
Alvarez is a guy I liked coming into this year, though everyone else seemed to be onto him, too, and he didn’t wind up on any of my teams. He failed to deliver on the potential he offered, most notably with a measly 3.8 K/9. He throws hard (94-95 mph) and has good stuff, although his primary fastball is a two-seamer that he throws 50 percent of the time. Even so, you’d expect him to strike out more batters, and the potential is still there for him to do so. Of course, if he doesn’t, he becomes a huge albatross to a fantasy team. The better league and park will certainly help, so Alvarez remains an interesting flier in NL-only leagues.

 David Ross | Signed with Red Sox | C
Ross finds himself in a similar situation to Buck. Were it not for a catching gridlock—in this case, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway—he’d be a terrific AL-only pick in an improved park. He’s long been perhaps the top backup catcher (offensively) in baseball, and it would be terrific to see him take on full-time at-bats. Luckily for him, Salty is a trade candidate and Lavarnway, while good, isn’t nearly the prospect d’Arnaud is (and is himself a trade candidate). Watch how this situation develops; Ross could be a great source of cheap power next season.

 Jonny Gomes | Signed with Red Sox | OF
Gomes may well find himself in a similar situation to the one he was a part of in Oakland last year—lots of mediocre/untested/specialist outfielders all vying for a finite number of at-bats. Jacoby Ellsbury has a spot on lockdown, but Ryan Kalish, Ryan Sweeney, and Jerry Sands will vie for playing time in the corners. The most likely scenario finds the Red Sox signing a lefty bat and platooning Gomes with him in one of the corners. Gomes has hit lefties better historically, but starting just 30 percent of games limits his utility to AL-only leagues where you’re just happy not to have a dead spot and can enjoy the 15 or 20 homers you’ll get out of the deal. Fenway is a better fit than O.co was for Gomes, and the two-year, $10 million contract Boston gave Gomes indicates they like him a fair bit more than other teams do, so he should get his share of at-bats.

 Robert Andino | Signed with Mariners | MI
Andino was one of the absolute worst starters in baseball last year (his TAv ranked second-worst among those with 400-plus PA), yet the Mariners have indicated that they’ll let him compete with Brendan Ryan (whose .225 TAv was only marginally better than Andino’s .218, though he does play significantly better defense) for the starting shortstop job. It’s unlikely Andino would have found such an opportunity anywhere else, so take what you can get. He’s still a low-level AL-only pick, but at least he’s draft-worthy.

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