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August 2, 2007

Fantasy Focus

Trade Deadline Impact

by Jeff Erickson

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The trade deadline periods the last three to four years have been largely disappointing for fantasy owners in AL- or NL-only leagues, due to a dearth of big names changing leagues. This year wasn't much different, particularly for those in AL-only leagues--most of the big-name talent flowed from the AL to the NL. Let's take a look at the deals that have gone down in the last week, in chronological order, and how they affect your fantasy teams. I'll be focusing on the current fantasy ramifications--the analysis on the prospects has been done better elsewhere.

  • MIL gets Scott Linebrink; SD gets Joe Thatcher, Will Inman and Steve Garrison.

    Linebrink was one of the more popular closers-in-waiting on draft day, both on his merits and in his situation. He was pitching in Petco Park, setting up for a closer in Trevor Hoffman who needed time off last year to rest a sore shoulder, and was mentioned in trade rumors to possibly go to Boston before the Red Sox moved Jon Papelbon back into the closer's role. Now he becomes just one of the Brewers' set-up men, although it's worth noting Francisco Cordero's recent road struggles.

    There are reasons to be wary of Linebrink. His strikeout rate has collapsed, dropping from 8.09 per nine innings last year to 5.17 K/9 this year, to go along with a spike in homers allowed. Derrick Turnbow's value decreases slightly in leagues that use holds and as a closer-in-waiting investment. Meanwhile, Heath Bell had already earned the primary set-up role for the Padres, but this trade further secures that role. The Padres getting Thatcher as a lefty specialist (and later Wil Ledezma) makes Bell's handedness a non-issue.

  • CLE gets Kenny Lofton; TEX gets Max Ramirez.

    Lofton's value isn't hurt that much by the trade. Power isn't a huge component of his game, so the change in ballparks shouldn't hurt too much. Platooning him actually might increase his value--he's hitting .217/.300/.261 with no stolen bases in 69 at-bats against lefties. The Indians' other corner outfielders get hurt by this deal, with the loss of playing time most directly hurting Franklin Gutierrez and Trot Nixon.

    On the other side of the coin, Nelson Cruz is by far the biggest beneficiary. He got called up after the deal and it looks like he'll play every day in right field, something he should have been doing a month ago once it was clear the Rangers weren't contenders. Often times the ancillary effects of a trade have a bigger fantasy impact than the trade itself--this is the case here. Marlon Byrd now gets all of his time in center rather right, but he had been playing regularly already.

  • PHI gets Tadahito Iguchi; CHI-A gets Mike Dubee.

    Iguchi has been a pretty mediocre player for most of the season, but if he reverts to previous form, he's a nice addition for a NL team looking to improve at one of the middle-infield spots. He offers a little bit of speed and power, and previously he's been able to hit for at least a fantasy-replacement-level batting average. He's moving from one hitters' ballpark to another, and moving towards the top of the Phillies' lineup, which is a pretty nice place to be. He's no Chase Utley, but he'll be a more-than-adequate replacement. Abraham Nunez and Greg Dobbs lose out on their chance for regular playing time, as if anyone was counting on them to provide that.

    The ancillary effect is that Danny Richar got the call for the White Sox and will play on a regular basis. He has some speed and was tearing the cover off the ball since getting traded to the White Sox organization about six weeks ago. The comp has been that he's a younger-and-cheaper version of Iguchi, but he really doesn't have the same sort of power.

  • HOU gets Ty Wigginton; TB gets Dan Wheeler; SD subsequently gets Morgan Ensberg for a PTBNL.

    I'll spare you my righteous indignation about this trade and how Houston runs their organization. My more eloquent friends have more than adequately slagged them already for this trade. From a fantasy perspective, Wigginton is either the second- or third-most valuable roto commodity coming over to the NL, depending on how much you value Iguchi. He'll qualify at first, second and third in most leagues, in the outfield in others, and should hit for a modicum of power. There's three second base-eligible players to bid on for NLers; Wigginton is the best pure power option, Iguchi has a combination of some speed and some power, and Luis Castillo is the best pure speed play. Ensberg initially was the big loser in this equation, but he'll now get a new lease on his professional life with the Padres, most likely displacing Kevin Kouzmanoff. Mike Lamb and Mark Loretta will almost certainly lose playing time.

    For the Devil Rays, Wheeler perfectly fits what the team needs. He's basically had one bad month over the last two years; barring an injury we don't know about, I'm willing to concede that his horrific June was a fluke. Al Reyes didn't get dealt, so Wheeler won't close immediately, but given Reyes' injury history, there's a pretty good likelihood that Wheeler will get a few chances to pitch in the ninth inning. Brendan Harris slides over to replace Wigginton at second base, while Josh Wilson and Ben Zobrist are splitting the duties at shortstop. Both are temporary options. The Rays likely will have Evan Longoria and maybe Reid Brignac up by September, and in the fallout Akinori Iwamura could get moved over to second base.

  • CIN gets Jorge Cantu and Shaun Cumberland; TB gets Brian Shackelford and Calvin Medlock.

    The Cincinnati media has compared Cantu's acquisition to that of Brandon Phillips last year, but it's really an inapt comparison. Yes, Cantu has hit for power before and could do so again. However, his plate discipline and his defense are just atrocious, eliminating the likelihood he could reasonably fill in at second base and move Phillips to shortstop. That's really not reasonable anyhow, with Alex Gonzalez signed for two more years. The Reds have Joey Votto ready to go at first base, so Cantu really doesn't have a spot there either. There's really not much to invest in here.

  • PHI gets Kyle Lohse; CIN gets Matt Maloney.

    Lohse switches home ballparks, which doesn't do him any favors, but in a weird statistical anomaly this year, he had an extremely positive home/road split, thriving in the Great American Ballpark. He'll now have the benefit of a better defense up the middle, at least at shortstop and center field, and if Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn can get healthy, better defense all across the outfield. He's a slight upgrade here. For the Reds, Elizardo Ramirez replaces Lohse in the rotation. Before Ramirez hurt his shoulder following (or during) a particularly bad weekend in Philadelphia last year, he quietly was pretty effective for the Reds. He might yet turn into a reliable third or fourth starter.

  • NY-N gets Luis Castillo; MIN gets Dustin Martin and Drew Butera.

    Castillo will give you plenty of stolen bases when he's healthy, and if he sticks in the second spot in the order, he'll score plenty of runs. Ruben Gotay had played pretty well for the Mets in the wake of Jose Valentin's latest injury, but he'll now get shunted to the bench. For the Twins, Alexi Casilla should get the lion's share of playing time at second base, although occasionally Nick Punto might still start there. Casilla is a younger, cheaper and defensively challenged version of Castillo; if you need stolen bases, he's a nice target.

  • STL gets Joel Pineiro; BOS gets a PTBNL.

    The Cardinals don't have much to lose here, assuming they don't give up a prospect of any sort of ilk. The Mike Maroth experiment is going as swimmingly as the Kip Wells experiment did. Hopefully this doesn't wreck Dave Duncan's rep as a miracle worker with struggling veterans. Pineiro likely will get the Tomo Ohka treatment at Triple-A Memphis--if he can fare at all better than Ohka did, then his reward will be a spot in the Cards' rotation. Watch this one clinically, from afar.

  • ATL gets Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay; TEX gets Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Perez and Beau Jones.

    Teixeira inspires little analysis--if you have the most FAAB dollars or the highest waiver priority, go get him. In keeper leagues where you have to keep your free-agent pickups, bid up to $40 (on a $260 scale) on him. Mahay fills a need for the Braves but shouldn't do much for you, even in simulation leagues. On the Texas side, only Saltalamacchia will get any sort of action this year. The question is where will he play? The Rangers aren't likely to completely give up on Gerald Laird, so at least some of Salty's time will have to be at first base or DH. Look for him to play about five times a week. Adam Melhuse probably will get aced out of all but the barest of playing time behind the plate. Brad Wilkerson should also get some action at first base.

  • NY-A gets Wilson Betemit; LAD gets Scott Proctor.

    I like the Yankees' acquisition of Betemit in terms of pure talent, but just how much is he going to play? It's not that Shelley Duncan and Andy Phillips are clearly superior or even equivalent options, but that Jason Giambi is due back from the DL soon. Betemit is more likely to benefit from the trade in the long term, but for now he might be limited to as little as two or three starts per week. The Dodgers might eventually recall a red-hot Andy LaRoche, but frankly I don't see that happening now, because that would entail the Dodgers benching Nomar Garciaparra, which just isn't going to happen. Proctor improves ballparks and presumably Grady Little's touch will be lighter than Joe Torre's, but at best he's the seventh-inning guy for the Dodgers.

  • ATL gets Octavio Dotel; KC gets Kyle Davies.

    Again, the ancillary effect is probably going to create a bigger fantasy opportunity, with Joakim Soria probably taking over the closing duties for the Royals. Zack Greinke and maybe even David Riske could contribute a little in the ninth as well. Dotel loses his closer's role for now, although among the closers he could be setting up, Bob Wickman is one of the shakier ones. Dotel still will be valuable in a set-up capacity, maybe not as much as in his vintage Houston days, but approaching that. Davies has some significant command issues to overcome before he'll be recommended as an AL play, particularly in Kauffman Stadium.

  • BOS gets Eric Gagne; TEX gets Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre.

    If you're a Gagne owner, don't despair. He's going to get plenty of late-inning opportunities for the Red Sox. He'll vulture a few wins, and remember that the Red Sox will want to protect Jonathan Papelbon's shoulder and keep from throwing in too many back-to-back games. Yes, he'll have fewer saves than if he would have stayed in Texas, but he won't be shut out either.

    For the Rangers, beware of Gabbard for this year. His strikeout rate at Triple-A Pawtucket improved, but he's not going to blow away too many hitters this year, and balls in play in his new ballpark, with that defense behind him are deadly. I'm not buying the Jimmy Key comparisons I heard after the trade, at least not for now.

    The more interesting fantasy issue here is who closes for the Rangers with Gagne gone and Akinori Otsuka on the DL. C.J. Wilson got the save on Tuesday night, but his situation is similar to that of Jamie Walker's in Baltimore. He'll get the chances when the opposing team's key upcoming hitters are left-handed, as the Indians had with Grady Sizemore, Kenny Lofton and Travis Hafner on Tuesday. Joaquin Benoit and Frank Francisco are also a part of this mix. Benoit is the one with the skills that I'd like to invest in, if I had to choose one.

  • PIT gets Matt Morris; SF gets Rajai Davis.

    Leave it to the Pirates to find a way to add salary and get older at the trade deadline. Really, what possible good can come from this? Maybe one could argue that Morris offers veteran leadership and tips to the younger members of the Bucs' pitching staff, but isn't that what pitching coaches are for? Are they really that set against giving Bryan Bullington a shot? At least this means we'll see less of Tony Armas starting.

    For the Giants, Rajai Davis isn't much, but it's about the best the Giants could probably get for Morris, given his contract. He'll make for a decent speed play if the Giants deal Dave Roberts and/or Randy Winn in a post-deadline trade. Even that upside is limited by his own inability to get on base when he does play. The Giants might now move Jonathan Sanchez back into the rotation with Morris gone.

--

Jeff Erickson is the Senior Editor at RotoWire, and the host of XM Radio's "Fantasy Focus." He can be reached here.

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Premium Article Prospectus Today: Dead... (08/01)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Dumping (08/08)
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