December 4, 2013
The Day the Hot Stove Exploded
After one of the craziest transaction days in recent memory, the fantasy team (literally, it took nearly the entire team given the short notice) went through all 10 transactions with fantasy implications to see who gained and lost value in the last 24 hours. A longer introduction than that is not necessary—let’s get straight to what you came here to read.
Yankees sign Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million deal
It turns out that there is a type of left-handed batter who can sign with the Yankees and not have the “he’s going to hit 40 bombs” crowd come out of the woodwork immediately. Sometimes lazy analysis is lazy analysis for a reason, and in this case, Ellsbury is certainly likely to hit more homers as a member of the Yankees. In the last three seasons, he’s hit 45 of them and only two have been over the left half of the fence. But the more pressing fantasy question is what effect his new team will have on his stolen bases. After all, this is why you own Ellsbury. Managerial tendencies suggest that he’ll steal fewer bases in the Bronx than in Boston due to Joe Girardi being more conservative on the base paths, but it’s likely not going to be a big enough of a decline to be too concerning. In the end, the bump in power should justify the potential trade-off in steals, and with the odds of Ellsbury ending up in a prime lineup spot (no. 2 or no. 3) higher in New York, he could pick up a little value in RBI as well.
There have been whispers that the Yankees have been souring on Williams, once considered to be their center fielder of the future, but locking up Ellsbury for at least seven years speaks louder than those whispers. With their two best positional prospects now blocked by free agent signings this off-season (Gary Sanchez being the other), the Yankees could look to make a big splash on the trade market. —Bret Sayre
Red Sox sign A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year, $8.5 million deal
Pierzynski leaves a favorable home ballpark and one of baseball’s better offenses to join one of baseball’s better offenses in a favorable home ballpark. Sorry if that’s a bit simplistic, but aside from a slight dip in homers thanks to Fenway’s left-handed homer-suppressing features, I don’t expect much to change here. Pierzynski finished as fantasy’s 12th-most productive backstop in 2013, and I’d pencil him in for somewhere in the 10-16 range again in non-OBP leagues. He’s not sexy, but he’s really quite consistent.
I guess you could argue that Ross' value decreases thanks to the Pierzynski transaction, but I have a hard time believing the Red Sox were ever seriously considering playing him behind the plate everyday given his age and history. Ross remains a good MLB backup catcher with a moderately intriguing amount of power, but he's not relevant for fantasy players who frequent mixed leagues. Great beard, though.
This is pretty simple: the Red Sox could’ve chosen to block their two catching prospects by resigning Salty or splurging for Brian McCann. Instead, they really gave both players a significant vote of confidence by opting for a stopgap like AJP. Vazquez will be ready first but won’t be much of a fantasy factor, while Swihart might not pop up until 2015 but has top-10 backstop upside. Either way, dynasty owners should be smiling. —Ben Carsley
Tigers sign Joe Nathan to a two-year, $20 million deal
There’s really very little to say here from a fantasy perspective. He’s old, but still good and he was always going to end up in a closer role on a good team. With the Tigers, he has a slightly more advantageous climate in which to work, but Nathan should still comfortably slide in the 6-10 range at closer in drafts this year. —Bret Sayre
As you might figure, returning from whence he came won’t change Wilson’s fantasy stock much from 2013, but it does reduce his expected stock as he remains Robin to Kenley Jansen’s Batman—making him a solid handcuff, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s been reported that he’s willing to handle the set up duties, so don’t expect Jansen to vacate the closer’s role for Wilson. If you’re in a holds league Wilson is a nice target, as Mattingly didn’t use him in a fireman’s role so much as an “8th inning with the lead” type role. He also shouldn’t be overused given his history of injuries, though one can never put anything past Donnie Baseball. —Craig Goldstein
It shouldn’t been shocking that Heath Bell started giving up homers at a somewhat alarming rate when he finally ended up in a hitters’ park. Fortunately, in Tampa, he won’t have to worry about that. The Rays have made closers out of significantly less dough than what the former Padres’ closer brings to the table, and despite all of the immediate “Bell is going to have a 2.00 ERA and 45 saves because Rays” jokes, he’s going to be the one to draft out of that bullpen until future notice.
It barely took Oviedo a day to be replaced in Tampa Bay as the “former closer lurking in contention to return to the role”. He’s still got a chance (then again, who doesn’t in the Tampa bullpen), but it’s certainly gotten dimmer with the Bell acquisition.
The trade off here is that Hanigan is moving to a much worse park in the more difficult league, but is likely facing more playing time than if he were still playing second fiddle to Devin Mesoraco in Cincinnati. Fortunately, unless you’re playing in a deep AL-only league, it’s not going to matter a whole lot either way.
Possibly the biggest winner in this deal is Hanigan’s former backup, who despite a strong prospect track record, was simply biding his time until he got a full chance to prove himself at the major league level. Now he’s got that chance, and he becomes a viable chance to take in deeper mixed leagues—despite a shaky track record thus far. He still has a shot to hit .260 or so with 20 homers in a full season’s worth of plate appearances, but expecting him to turn that potential on in lockstep with the opportunity is asking for trouble.
As a fly-ball pitcher who is prone to the long ball, trading Chase Field for Great American Ball Park is not an upgrade. However, Cincinnati does not have nearly the depth that Arizona has in the rotation. With Bronson Arroyo likely on the move, Holmberg may sneak his way into the sixth starter role for the Reds if he starts strong—of course, that’s until he’s replaced by fireballer Robert Stephenson. —Bret Sayre
Fowler looked poised for a breakout season to start 2013 with eight home runs and four stolen bases in the first month, but he had just 4 HR/15 SB the rest of the way as his road work continued on a three-year downslide (.678 OPS) and his work in Coors couldn’t prop it up enough (.874). Any hitter leaving Coors Field is going to take a hit on some level, but a guy like Fowler who seems to generate the bulk of his quality work at home stands to suffer severely.
Virtually everyone plays better at home, so expecting him to be the .678 OPS guy in 81 games at Minute Maid is silly, but a once-promising outlook now compounds the 2013 disappointment with a move out of Coors. If there is one positive, it is that the Astros attempted the fourth-most steals in 2013 (171), and so we can expect more of the 2013 production (19) than the 2010-2012 (average of 12) rates. He has a great approach so he will be getting on base regularly, but he’s trading Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez for Jason Castro and Chris Carter as the guys to knock him in, so even his runs-scored count stands to take a dip.
There is a scenario where this move hampers his stock so much that he becomes something of a value, but he is something of a name guy who a lot of fantasy managers have been waiting on for years so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of his loyal supporters keep his draft position and thus make him a bit overrated across all formats.
Hey, at least he is a ground-ball guy. There isn’t much to say about Lyles, who wasn’t really a fantasy target with the Astros and now becomes even less of one with the Rockies. His strikeout and walk rates have gone the wrong way yearly bottoming out at 14.5 and 7.6 percent, respectively, last year. Ignore the temptation to roster him as your last arm in an NL-only league because he has a rotation spot. Instead, go for a quality middle reliever even if he isn’t on the cusp of a closer role.
Barnes had a better shot at playing time in Houston due to a lack of obvious options, but even there he was likely going to be relegated to a short-side platoon role thanks to a .542 career OPS against righties. He will benefit from moving to Coors and his 8 HR/11 SB totals in just 445 PA aren’t too bad, but the latter will dry up if he doesn’t improve his wretched 50 percent success rate on the bases. He’s little more than NL-only injury fill-in.
Smith is a platoon player, plain and simple. Any attempt to make him a full-time player will leave him exposed in no time as he has no chance against lefties. That said, he’s on the long side of the platoon as he mashes righties and while he moves to another pitcher’s park, this one actually plays near-neutral for lefties. In fact, it is a big boost in the home-run park factor, going from 70 to 94, and that is a three-year rolling average, so it only has one year of the moved-in fences at Petco. Smith didn’t log a ton of time in Petco when he was with the Rockies, but his .291/.356/.456 line in 87 PA isn’t too bad.
Despite the improved home ballpark, it isn’t immediately evident how he will be deployed in terms of playing time so let’s say his value stays about the same overall. Of course we are operating under the assumption that Carlos Quentin will stay healthy and be a full-time player, a hilarious notion in its own right. Will Venable can play center and open up a corner for Smith, though his outlook would be better in the AL where he could DH often as he did last year.
He has the lowest homer output of any full-ish season in his career last year, but look for him to get back into the 14-17 range we were accustomed to from 2009-2012. He’s a late-round NL-only guy as your last outfielder or a utility player, even better if you can make him a top reserve in that same format.
Gregerson was finally dealt after approximately 13 years of being on the trade block and after all of the hypothetical landing spots, his value ends up virtually the same. He goes from one great park to another and he remains one of the most skilled setup men in the game. He has backed up some strong closers in his day going from Heath Bell (try to remember how good he used to be) to Huston Street over his five years in the majors. While Jim Johnson is likely the weakest of the trio, Gregerson also joins a bullpen richer in options. He is a low-dollar, late-round option as one the last guys for your pitching staff in an AL-only league.
The Jim Johnson trade from yesterday already pushed these two down a notch, but adding another strong middle relief option muddles the picture even further and dents their value a little more. Cook is still the odds-on favorite to be Johnson’s backup, but with a plethora of realistic options, leashes are tightened all around. Resist the urge to go higher than even $2 on either of these arms as your last pitcher in an AL-only league. —Paul Sporer
Rockies sign Justin Morneau to a two-year, $13 million deal
Coors Field? Yes, please. Morneau may be in the decline portion of his career, but his raw stats can take a nice trip through the time machine by playing half his games in the thin air of Colorado. After his August trade to Pittsburgh, Morneau exhibited the plate discipline of his prime, but with the slugging ability of Elvis Andrus—his .051 isolated power for the Pirates was atrocious. However, it seems fluky after hitting 17 homers for Minnesota before coming over. He’s certainly no one’s starting first baseman anymore in mixed leagues, but he makes for a nice pickup at the corner.
With Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez now occupying the three spots he can even potentially play in the field, Parker looks to be a far less interesting deep sleeper for 2014. He’ll likely start the season in Colorado Springs, but could surface as a platoon partner for Morneau if their latest free agent acquisition’s severe struggles against left-handed pitching continue (.569 OPS in 2012, .525 OPS in 2013). —Bret Sayre
Marlins sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year, $21 million deal
Salty was always unlikely to reproduce his stellar 2013 campaign thanks to an unsustainable .372 OBP, but at least a return to the Red Sox would’ve meant a favorable home environment and a good lineup. Instead, Saltalamacchia wound up in perhaps the worst situation imaginable for his fantasy value. He’s now a power-first catcher in a power-suppressing ballpark and he might be the third-best hitter in the lineup despite not being very good. Salty finished as fantasy’s tenth best backstop last season, but I think he’s only a top-20 option now, and there’s a reasonable argument to be made that he won’t even reach that level.
Brantly might’ve permanently killed his chances at starting with his abysmal 2013 campaign, and he’s fallen from fantasy sleeper to afterthought over the past eight months. Saltalamacchia has been durable throughout his career and there’s little reason to think Brantly sees more than 200 PA next season. He’s no longer even worthy of monitoring in NL Only leagues. Jeff Mathis sees a drop in value, too, for those of you scoring at home. —Ben Carsley
Going from the cavernous O.co Coliseum to the hitter’s haven that is the Ballpark at Arlington will help anyone’s stock. What helps more though, is leaving behind Oakland’s crowded outfield picture and entering Texas’ barren one. It’s possible Texas makes another free agent move that will leave Choice in Triple-A for the time being, but for now he projects as a starter in one of the corner outfield spots. Choice has a solid approach that should play well in OPS leagues, while there’s a solid chance he’s at least a small drag in leagues that use batting average. Speed is not an element to his game, and a likely spot down in the order means he won’t do a ton of run scoring. He’s a three category guy at best, so don’t go reaching for him, but as a fourth or fifth outfielder, he’s a solid option.
If you’re not in a dynasty league feel free to skip this section. Bostick is only relevant in deep dynasty leagues (checking in at no. 8 on the BP Top Ten for Oakland), and while he doesn’t change as a player as a result of this deal, he does go to a very crowded middle infield situation. He’s further down the organizational depth chart than he was in Oakland, but the upside is that he’s in an org that does well to develop their middle infielders. If I had to guess, Bostick debuts in the majors for a team that isn’t Texas, but all of that is a long way off. He should join High-A Hickory to begin 2014.
Gentry goes from a chance at solid playing time to yet another crowded outfield (the Texas outfield was crowded at some point). He’s going to be filling the Chris Young role in Oakland, which was good enough for 375 plate appearances last season. That’s more than the 287 Gentry received in Texas, and while that’s a boon to his value, he’s not much more than a fourth outfielder talent wise, so any increase in playing time could be countered by a decrease in effectiveness thanks to overexposure (he’s more effective against RHPs). Gentry can be ignored outside of deeper leagues and even there he’s more of a band-aid guy to use when starters are injured. He’ll rarely help in anything outside of stolen bases, and his playing time isn’t consistent enough to know when those are coming. The upside is that he won’t hurt you anywhere either.
The situation improves for Lindblom, going from the hitter friendly environment in Texas to the pitcher friendly one in Oakland, though the reality is that he shouldn’t be on your fantasy radar. Texas was transitioning Lindblom back to being a starter (a transition he’s made multiple times in his career, dating back to college), and Oakland is going to continue that effort. He’s the type of pitcher that the Coliseum would help (lots of flyballs), so whether he’s starting or relieving this is a good thing. If he ever sees consistent starts, Lindblom could be a nice spot starter in fantasy leagues, but until that happens let someone else worry about him. —Craig Goldstein