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December 20, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Fallout from Recent Moves

by Derek Carty

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R.A. Dickey | Mets to Blue Jays | SP
I debated an up arrow here, but it’s the rare pitcher moving to the American League that actually deserves one. Dickey, however, won’t be affected by the league change as severely as other pitchers will. As I’ve shown before, knuckleballs eliminate a lot of the differences in hitter quality, so the quality of the American League (and the AL East, in particular) won’t hurt him as much. It will hurt him, though, and the Rogers Centre is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball (though the knuckleball may become more effective in a domed environment). The Blue Jays offer a lot in terms of a supporting cast—they may have one of the best offenses in baseball at this point, and their defense could be above average—but that doesn’t offset the league and park change, even if both effects will be lessened because of his weapon of choice.

Josh Thole | Mets to Blue Jays | C
Thole moves on from a starting gig to a part-time situation, at best. He’ll follow Dickey to Toronto and will surely catch all of the knuckleballer’s games, but he might only get one additional start per week with J.P. Arencibia the incumbent. While the Rogers Centre is generally favorable for hitters, Thole doesn’t hit his flies particularly far, so he probably won’t be able to muster more than a couple extra home runs.

John Buck | Blue Jays to Mets | C
It seemed inevitable that Toronto would clear their backstop glut, and I’d mentioned before that Buck could wind up with quite a bit of value should things break right, but he unfortunately got the short end of the stick. He’ll move to a much less friendly park in New York and figures to either back up d’Arnaud or, at best, keep the plate warm for him for a couple months. He’s merely an endgame NL-only pick now. Fiddle sticks.

J.P. Arencibia | Blue Jays | C
The biggest winner in this trade may actually be a player that wasn’t even involved in it. From the dust of this blockbuster emerges Arencibia, losing both Buck and d’Arnaud as competition and now only having Thole to deal with. He remains a cost-effective power option, especially in AL-only formats.

Travis d’Arnaud | Blue Jays to Mets | C
d’Arnaud is the other winner in this deal, moving out of a crowded catching situation in Toronto and into one where he’s the undisputed catcher of the future. That future could come as soon as April, if he impresses team brass in spring training. If not, we’re still very likely to see him starting, albeit in a pitcher’s park and a below-average lineup, by midseason.

Shin-Soo Choo | Indians to Reds | OF
Choo may see a small drop-off in the speed department in moving from Manny Acta to Dusty Baker, but new Indians skipper Terry Francona’s tendencies are pretty similar to Baker’s, so that seemed inevitable even if he stayed in Cleveland. The biggest impact will come with his power. Choo moves into one of the best parks in baseball for lefty power and should finally find his way back over 20 home runs again, maybe even approaching 25. A .280-20-15 line would have quite a bit of value, especially with Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Bruce, and Ludwick to drive him in.

Drew Stubbs | Reds to Indians | OF
For the reasons Choo is better off in Cincinnati, Stubbs is worse off in Cleveland. It’s mostly a lateral move speed-wise but a big drop-off in power, especially because Progressive Field is even tougher on righties than it is lefties—among the absolute worst in baseball, actually. For a low-average guy whose value is derived almost entirely from power and speed, losing some of that power will really hurt him.

Didi Gregorius | Reds to Diamondbacks | SS
Gregorius goes from being completely blocked by Zack Cozart in Cincy to having much lesser competition in Cliff Pennington, Willie Bloomquist, and John McDonald. Still, BP prospect team member Mark Anderson doesn’t believe Gregorius has the bat to start long-term (or only in the bottom third of the order), and he may not reach the majors at all until midseason or 2014. His above-average defensive skills will help keep him in the lineup if he does manage to secure regular at-bats, but unless he impresses in spring training, he’s an NL-only bench flier.

Yunel Escobar | Jays to Marlins to Rays | SS
It didn’t take long for the Marlins to spin Escobar off, and he winds up back in the same league and division that he started in. Unfortunately, he goes from the division’s best power park to its worst. At least he’ll remain in the top third of a very good lineup, and he may get a small boost from moving to the second spot after batting leadoff for Toronto.

Collin Cowgill | A’s to Mets | OF
Cowgill moves from one crowded outfield situation to another in this under-the-radar trade, but the two crowds couldn’t be more different. Cowgill was buried in Oakland behind Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Chris Young, Seth Smith, and Michael Taylor, and now he’ll be among fellow riff-raff in Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, et al. He’ll certainly have a chance to prove himself in March, and at worst he’s looking like a fourth outfielder with upside; he has solid hitting skills and above-average power and speed to go with good instincts. While New York isn’t a great environment for power or speed (Terry Collins is the least-aggressive manager in baseball), regular at-bats would give him enough NL-only value that you’d regret ignoring him.

Wil Myers | Royals to Rays | OF
Jeff Francouer was blocking Myers in Kansas City (yes, I know), but he’s all but assured of starting at some point in 2013 for the Rays. Despite common belief that Myers will start in Tampa on Opening Day, DRaysBay doesn’t think that he will be up until after the Super Two date. Once he does get the call, though, he’ll be a double-digit AL-only player immediately. Myers’ skills have been covered in-depth by our prospect team, so I’ll point you in that direction for more than the SparkNotes version, which reads: not without risk, but a potential impact hitter with contact and power skills. Ned Yost might have helped him grab a handful of steals, but there’s still some chance of non-negligible stolen-base value with Joe Maddon calling the shots. Tropicana Field, while a pitcher’s park, will be much better than Kauffman Stadium, which is one of the absolute worst in baseball for righties. He’ll also have a better lineup for runs and RBI, so overall, Myers looks like an intriguing fantasy option.

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