August 1, 2013
Free Agent Watch
Welcome to a very special episode of Baseball Prospectus Free Agent Watch. We have decided to don our tuxedos and tails and present a trade deadline edition for your general amusement and edification. So sit back, enjoy this brief montage of classic bloopers and exciting plays, and then join us on the other side as we take a look at the players traded at the deadline and the fantasy impact these trades will have on your league.
Oh, and arrows. Lots of arrows!
Chicago White trade RHP Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Francellis Montas, SS Cleuluis Rondon, and RHP Jeffrey Wendelken. Detroit Tigers trade OF Avisail Garcia and RHP Brayan Villarreal to the Boston Red Sox for SS Jose Iglesias. Boston Red trade Garcia to the Chicago White Sox to complete the three-team trade.
Peavy gets a bit of a park boost moving from the Cell to Fenway Park, but some might be overstating the boost. Most of the benefit will come against left-handers on fly balls; the Cell’s cozy right-field dimensions get swapped out for Peavy on home starts only. Furthermore, at least some of this advantage is negated by the move from the AL Central to the stronger AL East. The Red Sox schedule is relatively soft in the first half of April, but with a significant number of intra-division contests down the stretch, it would be easy to overstate the park differences. Peavy will probably continue to offer the same ERA around 4.00 with a solid WHIP and nearly a strikeout an inning for the Red Sox that he did for the White Sox.
Workman might get the call if the Red Sox need a spot starter or if a rainout forces a doubleheader, but for now he is the obvious odd man out. Feel free to drop him in all non-AL-only, non-keeper formats.
With the departure of Jose Iglesias, the Red Sox need a third baseman unless they want a lot of balls to roll through the left side of the infield. Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder appear to be the short-term solutions for Boston. Unless you are in an OBP league, Holt projects as a fantasy zero. With the exception of a handful of steals, he will not offer much. Snyder is slightly more interesting due to the power potential, but his perpetually high whiff rate doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. Snyder also is far from a sure thing defensively at third base.
Many believe that the Red Sox will call up Middlebrooks or Bogaerts at some point in August (with Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reporting that Middlebrooks or Bogaerts will get called up very soon). Middlebrooks has performed fairly well at Triple-A despite a low on-base percentage. Bogaerts continues to tear it up at Triple-A after a mid-year promotion. Both hitters would have upside if promoted, but it is difficult to predict who would get the call. The club might want Bogaerts to get more seasoning, particularly at third, but they also might go the route the Orioles went with Manny Machado and simply bring Bogaerts up now. The third possibility is a waiver trade in August to acquire a third baseman. This would leave both Middlebrooks and Bogaerts on the outside looking in.
Jake Peavy’s departure from the White Sox clears a spot for the Brazilian right-hander who made his major-league debut this past Tuesday. And what a great debut it was, allowing just eight base runners and no earned runs in seven innings. Rienzo was the White Sox’ no. 6 prospect coming into the season here at BP, and there’s really nothing he’s done this year to drastically change his outlook. In the long-term, he’s likely to be a reliever, though he has the potential to be a very good one. But in the short-term, the Pale Hose will trot him out there every fifth day to see if he has what it takes to stick in the rotation.
So while clearly his value increases just due to getting the call and grabbing a rotation spot, there are reasons not to get too excited about him in mixed leagues, despite the debut. First of all, Rienzo doesn’t keep the ball on the ground nearly as well as you’d like a pitcher who’s going to be pitching at U.S. Cellular Field to—and though it hasn’t materialized into home-run issues in the minors, major-league hitters are much more capable of making pitchers with good stuff pay for their mistakes. And Rienzo will make mistakes, as his command and control are both still works in progress. Finally, at 120 innings pitched, the right-hander has already eclipsed his career high; so don’t be surprised if the Sox shut him down during the first half of September.
Look, we’ve had a lot of fun with his crazy BABIP-fueled success earlier this year, but his value is unchanged going from Boston to Detroit even though he has a better chance at playing time. The reason is simple; you just don’t want to own him for fantasy purposes. You want to watch him play shortstop, but if he’s in your lineup, you’re either in a Jose-only league or you’re letting his glove move you to do things you shouldn’t do.
Forget for a second about the ridiculous .380 average that Garcia has in the minor leagues this year, as he’s certainly not going to carry forward his .455 Triple-A BABIP to the South Side. At his core, Garcia is a toolsy outfielder that has the potential to be a strong fantasy contributor down the road. Unfortunately, that potential also comes with more risk than you’d generally expect from a prospect that is just about major league ready.
On the bright side, a switch from Comerica Park to U.S. Cellular will do wonders for his power potential—which Jason Parks graded as a potential 60 tool this pre-season. In fact, Comerica’s factor for right-handed home runs is 94 versus 135 at U.S. Cellular (100 is league average). If it all plays out according to plan, Garcia could probably hit .280 or so with around 25 homers per season in his prime, while swiping a few bases to boot. And now he is in an organization where he should be unblocked, based on his talent.
There should be no two players happier about the Jose Iglesias pickup than the two Tigers’ pitchers who rank second and third in all of baseball in ground ball percentage. While fielding metrics actually rate Peralta above average (he measures out at 4.6 FRAA), I have my doubts that there’s even a single scout who would prefer Peralta to Iglesias defensively. Of course, this is all a moot point if Peralta appeals his suspension, but even then it’s just a 2013 issue. Peralta is a free agent after this season, likely leaving Iglesias as the shortstop of the future in Detroit.
For reference, the league-wide BABIP on ground balls is .238 so far in 2013. This season, the Tigers are allowing a .269 BABIP on ground balls. If you regress their rate back to league average and expand it out to 162 games, that’s nearly 62 additional base hits that the Tigers infield allows. Of course, I’m not making the argument that Iglesias will get to 62 more balls than Peralta would have, but every one makes a difference—especially when you’re talking about pitchers who keep the ball on the ground more than 56 percent of the time.
The arrow up for the Tigers’ top prospect is addition by subtraction. While it was unlikely that Avisail Garcia would get the call over Castellanos if/when the Tigers tired of the Andy Dirks Show, the possibility was still there. Now, if the Tigers want to add a bat down the stretch, it’s essentially Castellanos or bust. As a constant near the top of the Stash List despite being in a pretty large July slump, he has the talent to hit right away if given the opportunity. And that opportunity just got slightly more realistic. In the long-term, there’s no change to Castellanos’ value, as he’s still a potential .300 hitter capable of hitting 20+ homers.
Kennedy has undoubtedly been a significant disappointment this year, but even if he merely stands still moving to Petco will be a boost for his value. Entering last night’s action, Padres pitchers have a 3.52 ERA at home versus a 4.85 ERA on the road. Kennedy still strikes out a good amount of batters and could provide value as a mid-tier starter in NL-only and a back-end guy in deeper mixed. In standard mixed he is a streaming play at home, but given that he had “DO NOT PLAY” stamped on his forehead in big letters prior to the trade, this is a win for Kennedy from a fantasy perspective.
Brandon McCarthy was already slated to return this week to fill Tyler Skaggs’ rotation spot. Trevor Cahill is currently on a rehab assignment and should be back shortly as well. Tyler Skaggs might return for another go-round, but Zeke Spruill—and not Skaggs—will get the spot start today.
O’Sullivan left the Padres on Tuesday for paternity leave and might not have a rotation spot waiting for him when he comes back. O’Sullivan was a non-start even in NL-only, so this news isn’t fantasy relevant.
Norris moves to a tougher division and to even more of a hitters’ park. His whiff rate is down significantly this year. If he were moving to a more favorable situation, it might be a good time to pounce. Norris has a 2.92 ERA away from Houston this year. Had he been traded to an NL team he might be one of those stealthy, post–deadline acquisitions. As it stands, the run support boost is going to be offset by the park. Jason Hammel goes to the DL, clearing a roster spot for Norris.
Hoes isn’t a terrific play—either in real life or fantasy—but given the Astros subpar outfield and the opportunity for playing time, Hoes is a must add in AL-only. His main asset from a fantasy standpoint is speed. Hoes might hit 5-7 home runs at best given a regular opportunity, but the value add with Hoes would be 20-25 steals. This assumes full time play; the reality is Hoes probably will be more of a part timer and a fifth outfielder in AL-only.
The Houston Astros’ closer becomes the Detroit Tigers’ setup man and his fantasy value goes from strong to nonexistent in all but the deepest of leagues. Jim Leyland has said that Veras will pitch in the seventh inning, but it seems more likely that Veras will get the odd save opportunity here and there if Joaquin Benoit needs a breather.
The Astros are indicating that they will go with a bullpen by committee, but Major League managers typically abhor this type of arrangement. Cisnero is the favorite for the saves that the Astros will get. However, between the committee and the weakened bullpen with Veras’ departure, the limited save opportunities will dwindle a little bit more.
Houston Astros rotation
Astros starting pitching was already a losing proposition prior to the Veras trade, but I’d worry even more about wins and—perhaps more importantly—inherited runners coming home to score. This is now an even worse place to stream starting pitchers in daily or deeper mixed leagues. With Bud Norris off to Baltimore (see below), the pickings are even slimmer anyway, and make nearly all of these guys questionable at best.
The Athletics came into the season expecting a competition between Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore at the keystone. Of course, they’ve gotten a combined six at bats between those two and have turned to the player who looks the least like a baseball player of anyone on an active roster. What Callaspo gives the Athletics is even more positional flexibility, alongside other similarly flexible players like Jed Lowrie and Eric Sogard.
The issue with Callaspo is that he’s just not very good from a fantasy perspective, and while he may have been an underrated AL-only play prior to the trade, that value is mostly in the fact that he was on pace to eclipse 100 combined runs and RBI. With Sogard unlikely to sit versus right-handers, he’s been just about league average against them with a 99 OPS+, Callaspo will take the role of utility guy and southpaw lineup stalwart. For his career, he is a .301 hitter against port-siders. And it’s a good thing this blurb is ending as I’m running out of ways to describe pitchers who throw left-handed.
Well, speak of the devil. I spoke of him above, but Sogard gets a slight arrow down just because there’s now more competition for at bats. It’s probably a good thing for his overall value that he doesn’t play versus southpaws, as his career .543 OPS against them suggests. Realistically, there are probably very few of you who are relying on Sogard, as even in AL-only formats, he’s just not a guy you’re thrilled to be rolling out there.
It’s not every day that you have a former first round pick who hits .306/.354/.469 in the minor leagues (all while playing up the middle) get five games in to prove his worth before being shipped off to a division rival. Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story and Green certainly could have used at least one hit in his five games, but he is on the move nonetheless. The only problem is that Howie Kendrick is still entrenched at second base for the Angels, meaning Green is either going to be playing out of position the rest of the season or back in the Pacific Coast League.
In the long-term, Green still has enough in his bat to be a reasonably valuable middle infielder in mixed leagues 12 teams and deeper. However, if he gets his playing time at the hot corner the rest of this season (where he’s not a great fit for anyway), he could run into eligibility troubles next year. With most leagues using somewhere between 10 and 20 games for eligibility from the previous season, Green’s going to need five more between now and the end of the season. And he’s a much less attractive play in mixed leagues with a 3B next to his name, rather than a 2B.
There were hopes of a really cheap 20-20 season from Maxwell coming into the year, as he did hit 18 homers and stole nine bases in just 315 at-bats in 2012. Unfortunately, it’s been a tough year for the now 29-year-old former prospect, as he’s only played in 40 games largely due to a broken left hand and a concussion. But in moving from Houston to Kansas City, he will likely see a reduction in playing time by around 50 percent—leaving him droppable in nearly all mixed leagues. The exception to that would be daily leagues where you want to try a cheap platoon, as Maxwell (even in a down year) is still hitting .333/.378/.548 in games where the opposing starter is left-handed.
[Yes, when we divvied up the trades, Mike had the Bud Norris trade, which Hoes was actually in, and Bret had the Justin Maxwell trade which affects Hoes’ value. So you, the reader, get two Hoes for the price of one. Sorry, couldn’t help it.]
I know it’s impossible to mention the new Houston outfielder without talking about area codes, but let’s try for a paragraph here. But when you take away the fun with his name, there’s just not a whole lot of upside to Hoes from a fantasy perspective. His value is in his immediacy and playing time, which makes him a target in AL-only and very deep mixed formats. What you’re hoping for out of Hoes is Michael Brantley-like performance, where he can hit around .280 and get you close to 20 combined homers and steals. As an added bonus, with plate discipline being one of his strengths, he could be a sneaky points league play in the near future.
For detailed analysis on the trades and/or players below, please read today’s Bullpen Report:
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @MikeGianella