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July 21, 2006

Fantasy Focus

Trade Fallout

by Jeff Erickson

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The trade deadline is a fun time for anyone who spends so much time following the game. It's natural to want to analyze/argue about who made the better trade, whether a deal makes sense and how those players traded will see their fantasy value change. Less time is usually dedicated to the impact of deals on the players remaining on each team after the swap. It's important to consider all the ramifications of a deal, however, to gain that extra edge in your fantasy leagues. Let's take a look at the trades already made the last couple of weeks, as well as a couple of putative trades to see if we can find a few fantasy nuggets.

  • Aubrey Huff to the Astros. The fallout for the Devil Rays could be pretty interesting here. After the trade, they announced that they were moving B.J. Upton from shortstop to third base, and would be calling him up in two weeks after he got used to the position. Upton hadn't been making much progress defensively at shortstop at Triple-A Durham, but his bat has been ready for the majors for a while. While we don't know how the position switch is going to affect his hitting, it at least gives him a spot to play in the majors to accumulate experience at the major-league level. Don't look for too much power from Upton initially, but he's going to get plenty of stolen bases (40 so far at Durham in 96 games). Ty Wigginton has been playing third base almost exclusively since Huff was dealt, but that obviously will change once Upton is called up. Look for Wigginton to get most of his playing time across the diamond at first base, bouncing Travis Lee from the lineup.

    On the Astros' side of the equation, Morgan Ensberg went on the DL in conjunction with this trade, and Jason Lane was sent down to Triple-A Round Rock. Ensberg is due back soon, but he's not guaranteed everyday playing time when he comes back. Huff will face some righties while playing third base, and perhaps play some first base as well. There are some rumors that the Astros have soured on Ensberg, and could possibly trade Ensberg to the Padres now that they've dumped Vinny Castilla. This could be a case of wish-casting by a San Diego columnist, but if not, it's somewhat baffling to see the Astros sour so much on Ensberg.

  • Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Nationals. The interesting ramifications are mostly on the Reds' side. The trade of Kearns opens up a spot in right field, so Ryan Freel finally has a spot to play every day, or at least most every day once his shoulder heals. Freel is a good bet to hit for average, get on base at a good clip, score a lot of runs and steal a lot of bases. The Reds also recalled Chris Denorfia in the wake of the deal, and Denorfia will pick up a few starts in right as well, whenever Freel is elsewhere in the lineup. Denorfia had nothing left to prove in the minors, after hitting .347/.409/.454 at Triple-A Louisville this year. He's not going to hit for power, but he does have some speed (14 stolen bases). He should pick up 100-150 at-bats down the stretch.

    Royce Clayton has started all but one game at shortstop over Juan Castro since the trade, which is probably a good estimate of how the playing time breakdown will be for the rest of the year. Clayton looks good only in comparison to Castro at the plate. He'll get a few stolen bases (and perhaps more than he got with the Nats, given how the Reds run more under Jerry Narron than the Nats do under Frank Robinson), but other than an empty .275 average, he doesn't offer much.

  • Bob Wickman to the Braves. Fausto Carmona has been named the Indians' closer in the wake of the trade of Wickman to the Braves. Carmona has been the Indians' most effective reliever in a fairly ineffective bullpen. As a reliever he's averaging nearly a strikeout per inning and has done a pretty good job of keeping the ball in the park. Carmona hasn't closed before, so we'll have to wait and see if he grabs hold of the job by starting off well. If for whatever reason Carmona fails, the most likely alternative is Rafael Betancourt, but don't forget about Fernando Cabrera. Cabrera got off to a terrible start and still has awful overall numbers, but he's showing some signs of turning it around lately and is still averaging over a strikeout per inning.

Future Trades

  • If the Phillies trade an outfielder, either Bobby Abreu or Pat Burrell, the beneficiary could be Shane Victorino. Victorino, twice selected in the Rule 5 draft, filled in admirably when Aaron Rowand was hurt. Depending on who the Phillies might get back, Victorino has the potential to offer both a little power and a little speed.

  • Julio Lugo might not get traded by the Devil Rays after all, now that their future solution at shortstop has been moved to third base in Upton. If the Rays do end up trading Lugo, it now appears they may have to address their future needs at shortstop rather than acquiring another pitcher. Prospect Reid Brignac is not likely to make thej majors as a shortstop any more than Upton is.

  • The Cubs haven't acknowledged yet that they're sellers in this trade market, but even with the other National League contenders being so mediocre, it seems extremely unlikely that they'll be in contention. Juan Pierre should remain trade bait for the Cubs to make room for Felix Pie, and they'd also like find room for Angel Guzman in their rotation.

Related Content:  Trade,  Impact Trade

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