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August 2, 2008

Fantasy Focus

Fantasy Fallout from the Deadline Deals

by Jeff Erickson

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Though we had fewer trades this week than we've had in recent years, we did have more big-ticket trades, beginning with the CC Sabathia-to-Milwaukee deal, and culminating in the Manny Ramirez blockbuster trade to the Dodgers. This was overall a fairly satisfying trade period, even if there were more fizzles than trades on deadline day Thursday. When evaluating these deals from a fantasy perspective, often it's the ancillary effects that are the most interesting. After all, there's not much to analyze in terms of what Ramirez, Mark Teixeira, Jason Bay, or even Casey Kotchman might do. We'll instead train the vast majority of our focus on how the rest of the dominoes fall, starting with the two major deals on Saturday.

(trades listed in chronological order)

New York Yankees get Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte;
Pittsburgh Pirates get Jose Tabata, Jeffrey Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, and Russ Ohlendorf.

  • Direct Changes: Nady's value shouldn't vary much, assuming he faces both lefties and righties. The knee-jerk assumption is that he should benefit in counting stats categories with a better lineup around him, but that's not necessarily true-believe it or not, the Pirates have scored more runs than the Yankees so far in the same number of games. Marte is now the Yankees' leading set-up man, so he'll pick up holds (a growing number of leagues use them as a category), strikeouts, and maybe a few vulture wins, but he'll no longer be closing. Meanwhile, the Pirates will turn to Karstens to step immediately into their rotation, beginning with Friday's start against the Cubs. The change from the AL to the NL should help, even if it isn't realized in his first outing.

  • Ancillary Changes: Brett Gardner was sent back down to Triple-A Scranton after the trade, making him worthless to those who were looking for a short-term boost in speed. It's a lot more interesting from the Pirates' side of the equation. Tyler Yates picked up the first save opportunity for the team since the trade, pitching a perfect inning against the Rockies. His overall 38/34 K/BB over 53 1/3 innings isn't great, but he's been better in the past month. Matt Capps is still due back in late August, so Yates' role there will be temporary. The Pirates called up Steven Pearce to replace Nady in the outfield. Pearce had a disappointing campaign in Triple-A Indianapolis, after rocketing through their farm system last year. In his defense, he was learning a new position, but he's also 25 and has Andrew McCutchen, and now Tabata and Brandon Moss, pushing him for playing time. The time for him to produce is now.

Los Angeles Dodgers get Casey Blake;
Cleveland Indians get Jonathan Meloan and Carlos Santana.

  • Direct Changes: Again, the value of the principal in the deal shouldn't change much. Blake will switch from playing every day for the Indians to playing every day for the Dodgers. Factoring in the Manny Ramirez trade, the Dodgers' lineup around Blake should be much improved. Meloan has already been converted back to relief work at Triple-A Buffalo, and could be a factor in the closing picture for 2009. Look for him to get a September call-up.

  • Ancillary Changes: The Dodgers sent Blake DeWitt down after the deal, and decided that Andy LaRoche was expendable (see below). Blake is a free agent after this season, so it's conceivable that DeWitt could take back the position next year. The Indians had already started to play Andy Marte more frequently-he's now playing every day-giving them an extended look to see if he's finally going to be part of their future. The early returns haven't been great, but he's still had just 122 at-bats this year. If you're in a rebuilding mode in a keeper league, or need to take a few chances to contend this year, he's a worthy gamble. Ryan Garko is the other beneficiary; he had been losing some time at first base to Blake whenever Marte was starting at third.

Los Angeles Angels get Mark Teixeira;
Atlanta Braves get Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek.

  • Direct Changes: There's no change at all in Teixeira's short-term value, and very little in Kotchman's. The Braves currently are without Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, but once they return that lineup should be just as potent as the one surrounding Teixeira in Anaheim. The Braves have more potential openings on their pitching staff than the Angels, so once Marek is ready he might get a quicker callup.

  • Ancillary Changes: If the Angels can't re-sign Teixeira after the season, Kendry Morales may finally get a shot at winning the first base job. As long as Kotchman was there, Morales was blocked for the foreseeable future.

New York Yankees get Ivan Rodriguez;
Detroit Tigers get Kyle Farnsworth.

  • Direct Changes: Pudge moves from one productive lineup to another, and one pitcher's ballpark to another. His value doesn't change much, if at all. Farnsworth might not have liked the trade, but his value goes up here. The back end of the Tigers' bullpen is a mess-it's not too hard to envision him closing for them in the wake of Fernando Rodney's shaky outings on Sunday and Tuesday and blown save on Wednesday.

  • Ancillary Changes: Jose Molina gets to make fewer outs for the Yankees, and Chad Moeller gets to earn less service time. For the Tigers, Rodney has much less job security-those that spent a good portion of their FAAB dollars on him after Sunday's announcement that he'd close are crossing their fingers. Brandon Inge goes back to catching full-time, not just this year but also in 2009, with Dane Sardinha getting a handful of starts behind the plate as the backup. Ramon Santiago now might get a token start or two at third base.

Houston Astros get LaTroy Hawkins;
New York Yankees get Matt Cusick.

  • Direct and Ancillary Changes: Move along, nothing to see here. Hawkins might eventually be entrusted to pitch the seventh or eighth inning and collect some holds, but there are countless pitchers with his profile on your league's waiver wire.

Florida Marlins get Arthur Rhodes;
Seattle Mariners get Gaby Hernandez.

  • Direct Changes: Rhodes gets his holds in a different league, and Hernandez escapes the specter of Albuquerque. Hernandez will report to Double-A West Tennessee, and it's not likely he'll get a September call-up.

  • Ancillary Changes: Rookie Cesar Jimenez may pitch in a handful of high-leverage situations to replace Rhodes. For the Marlins, Reynel Pinto offers some help as a situational lefty. As a result of this trade, and barring an injury to someone else, Taylor Tankersley probably won't be back until September.

Chicago White Sox get Ken Griffey Jr.;
Cincinnati Reds get Nick Masset and Danny Richar.

  • Direct Changes: Griffey is apparently going to play center field for the White Sox. Will that tax his legs any more than playing right field did? He moves from one hitters' park to another one in Chicago. Masset might eventually get a chance to start with the Reds the next time they tire of the Homer Bailey experience, or decide that Josh Fogg is not part of their future. Richar will remain in Triple-A for now.

  • Ancillary Changes: The White Sox have a log jam among corner outfielders/first base/DH types. Between Griffey, Carlos Quentin, Jermaine Dye, Nick Swisher, Jim Thome, and Paul Konerko, something has to give. Look for Konerko's playing time to suffer the most, though this might be a situation where manager Ozzie Guillen can employ a rotation to give everyone an occasional rest. For the Reds, Jerry Hairston Jr. will come off of the DL on Friday and play virtually every day in center field. Prior to Hairston's injury and the trade, the Reds had a similar situation as the White Sox, with six players (Hairston, Jeff Keppinger, Edwin Encarnacion, Griffey, Jay Bruce, and Adam Dunn) vying for five spots. Now Bruce will simply slide over to right field and replace Griffey, presumably for good.

Washington Nationals get Alberto Gonzalez;
New York Yankees get Jhonny Nunez.

  • Direct Changes: Gonzalez now becomes the Nats' backup shortstop and should play this weekend while Cristian Guzman deals with a sore thumb. He has more chances to play in Washington than he did with the Yankees.

  • Ancillary Changes: This was just the first volley in the Nationals' overhaul. They released Paul Lo Duca and Felipe Lopez after Thursday's game, and are calling up Emilio Bonifacio, presumably to play regularly at second base. Everything that they do from here on out will be with 2009 and beyond in mind. This might ultimately hurt Ronnie Belliard and Willie Harris, who has been playing well lately. With Nick Johnson, Dmitri Young, and Aaron Boone all out, someone still has to man first base, so Belliard and Harris may join Kory Casto in covering those starts.

Los Angeles Dodgers get Manny Ramirez;
Boston Red Sox get Jason Bay;
Pittsburgh Pirates get Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Craig Hansen, and Brandon Moss.

  • Direct Changes: The biggest trade comes last. For both Ramirez and Bay, the analysis is straightforward, though Manny may suffer in terms of RBI and runs from the change in ballparks and the lineup around him. Nonetheless, if you have first waiver priority in an NL league, you're clearly using it on him. The comparison between Teixeira and Bay is pretty close-in a vacuum, I'd take Teixeira if I had an AL waiver priority, but it might just come down to which position you need. I'd rank the four major AL crossovers as Teixeira, Bay, Nady, and then Griffey.

    LaRoche, Moss, and Hansen all get an immediate bump in value going to the Pirates. All three were immediately added to the major league roster, and the Pirates have already said that LaRoche will play, although they're still figuring out where. His brother Adam is on the DL, creating an opening at first base whenever they don't want to start Doug Mientkiewicz, but most of LaRoche's time should come at third base, ahead of Jose Bautista. Moss is no longer irretrievably blocked in Boston-he should step right in for Bay. Hansen will go directly to the Pirates' bullpen, and he might close someday, though it doesn't appear that he'll get that chance in the short-term.

  • Ancillary Changes: The big fallout occurs in Los Angeles. Andre Ethier was once rumored to be a part of this deal, and frankly, including him would have made sense. As it stands, he could end up losing a lot of playing time as a result-Ramirez is going to play every day, and Matt Kemp also has been too productive to bench. That leaves one spot between Ethier, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones. Ethier already had started to lose some time once Pierre returned, and this can't help. Jones also should find his playing time to be sparse. For the longer term, Blake DeWitt benefits with LaRoche no longer in the organization.

    In Pittsburgh, Jose Bautista might get a short-term look at first base until Adam LaRoche gets back, but he's no longer the third baseman of the present, nor is Neil Walker the third baseman of the future down at Triple-A Indianapolis. With Moss in the deal, there's no urgency to call up Andrew McCutchen to fill in one of the outfield spots, but there's still a very good chance he'll be up by September, if not sooner. Once the Pirates deem McCutchen ready, Steven Pearce will need to take advantage of his small window of opportunity to ultimately win a spot over Moss. Nyjer Morgan remains in the same logjam in the outfield-only the names have changed, and Chris Duffy was designated for assignment.

---

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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