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May 31, 2009

Prospectus Idol Entry

Fantasy Focus: Trade Market

by Jeff Euston

Baseball's rumor mill got an early kick-start last week when the San Diego Padres reached an agreement to trade ace right-hander Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox.

The news was not welcome for Peavy's fantasy owners. The 2007 Cy Young award winner had thrived at San Diego's Petco Park, baseball's best environment for pitchers. Now Peavy was apparently headed to US Cellular Field, a notorious hitters' park. Owners in National League-only fantasy leagues faced the prospect of losing Peavy's services altogether in the event he moved to American League.

That worry, it turned out, was for naught. Peavy chose not to waive his no-trade clause, preferring to remain in San Diego. Meanwhile, Peavy's fantasy owners began to breathe more easily. For now.

Speculation about possible trades has only just begun. In the weeks before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the rumor mill will grind on with whispers about deals that could affect both the post-season race and a player's fantasy value. Each trade has the potential to be a fantasy boom or bust as the player moves on to a league or park with an environment that enhances or reduces his production.

Buyers or sellers?

With nearly a third of the season in the books, each club faces the question: Buy or sell? The Padres, for example, begin play this weekend only three games out of the NL wild card race. But, in the wake of significant payroll cuts and an ownership change, no one expects the Padres to be a buyer.

In a 2006 study calculating the Marginal Economic Value of one additional win, analyst Nate Silver identified a "sweet spot" that exists between 86 and 93 wins because each victory in that range dramatically increases a club's chances of reaching the playoffs. A post-season appearance, Silver found, could be worth an additional $25 million to a franchise.

According to Clay Davenport's ELO-adjusted Playoff Odds Report, 14 clubs project to finish within five wins of the 86-93 range: the Phillies, Mets, Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs and Reds in the National League and the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Tigers, Twins, Rangers and Angels in the American League.

That leaves 16 clubs in the role of sellers. For these clubs, trade chips usually come in three varieties, depending on a player's age and contract status: 1) rentals, or players who will be free agents after the 2009 season, 2) high salaries, or players with expensive contracts which their current clubs would like to move off the books, and 3) controllable players, or those players who are still one or more years away from free agency.

So what names are candidates for a trade?

Starting pitchers

The Indians' Cliff Lee has rebounded after two rough outings to begin the season. But Cleveland might not be willing to sell anytime soon, given that the AL Central race appears wide open. Houston's Roy Oswalt might be an attractive target, but, like Peavy, he holds a full no-trade clause.

  • Erik Bedard, Seattle, age 30. 2009 salary: $7.75 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Matt Cain, San Francisco. 2009 salary: $2.65 million. Due $4.25 million in 2010, with a 2011 club option which may become guaranteed based on performance.

  • Doug Davis, Arizona. 2009 salary: $8.75 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Jon Garland, Arizona. 2009 salary: $6.25 million, with a mutual option for 2010. A club trading for Garland may not offer him arbitration when his contract expires.

  • Lee, Cleveland, age 30. 2009 salary: $5.75 million. The Indians hold an $8 million club option for 2010.

  • Roy Oswalt, Houston, age 31. 2009 salary: $14 million. Due $33 million for 2010-11. Full no-trade clause.

  • Peavy, San Diego, age 28. 2009 salary: $11 million. Due $52 million for 2010-12. Full no-trade clause for 2009-10, with a limited no-trade 2011-12.

  • Brad Penny, Boston, age 31. 2009 salary: $5 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Jarrod Washburn, Seattle, age 34. 2009 salary: $10.35 million. Free agent after 2009.

Relievers

Huston Street, averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings for the Rockies, is the clear top target for a club looking for a closer.

  • Octavio Dotel, Chicago White Sox, age 35. 2009 salary: $6 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Ron Mahay, Kansas City, age 38. 2009 salary: $4 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Street, Colorado, age 25. 2009 salary: $4.5 million. Free agent after 2010.

  • Matt Thornton, Chicago White Sox, age 32. 2009 salary: $1.325 million, with 2010-11 club options.

  • Jose Valverde, Houston, age 29. 2009 salary: $8 million. Free agent after 2009.

First basemen / Designated hitters

San Diego is unlikely to deal All Star Adrian Gonzalez, but with an affordable contract and a batting line of .285/.385/.622, he could bring the Padres a package of premium prospects. The Nationals are likely to find a match for Nick Johnson, who has been healthy and productive.

  • Russell Branyan, Seattle, age 33. 2009 salary: $1.4 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Jorge Cantu, Florida, age 27. 2009 salary: $3.5 million. Free agent after 2010.

  • Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego, age 27. 2009 salary: $3 million. Due $4.75 million in 2010, with a $5.5 million club option for 2011.

  • Todd Helton, Colorado, age 35. 2009 salary: $16.6 million. Due $40.1 million for 2010-11.

  • Aubrey Huff, Baltimore, age 32. 2009 salary: $8 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Nick Johnson, Washington, age 30. 2009 salary: $5.5 million. Free agent after 2010.

  • Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox, age 33. 2009 salary: $12 million. Due $12 million in 2010. Free agent after 2010. Konerko may block any trade as player with 10 years in majors, five with the same club.

Second basemen

Florida's Dan Uggla has been to arbitration just once, but he already has become expensive for the small-payroll Marlins. Felipe Lopez' affordable salary and line of .323/.380/.485 could be attractive for a team looking for help up the middle.

  • Lopez, Arizona, age 29. 2009 salary: $3.5 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Freddy Sanchez, Pittsburgh, age 31. 2009 salary: $6.25 million. Club option for 2010 worth $8 million. The option may vest based on performance.

  • Uggla, Florida, age 29. 2009 salary: $5.35 million. Free agent after 2011.

Shortstops

Oakland holds two middle infield chips in Orlando Cabrera and the suddenly versatile Bobby Crosby.

  • Cabrera, Oakland, age 34. 2009 salary: $4 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Crosby, Oakland, age 29. 2009 salary: $5.25 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Miguel Tejada, Houston, age 35. 2009 salary: $13 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Jack Wilson, Pittsburgh, age 31. 2009 salary: $7.25 million. $8.4 million club option for 2010.

Third basemen

Cleveland's Mark DeRosa has been linked to the Yankees, Braves and seemingly every club in between. Like the other Indians, his availability hinges on Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro deciding to join the ranks of sellers.

  • Garrett Atkins, Colorado, age 29. 2009 salary: $7.05 million. Free agent after 2010.

  • Adrian Beltre, Seattle, age 30. 2009 salary: $12 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • DeRosa, Cleveland, age 34. 2009 salary: $5.5 million. Free agent after 2009.

  • Kevin Kouzmanoff, San Diego, age 27. 2009 salary: $432,000. Free agent after 2012.

Outfielders

The premium bat on the market is Oakland's Matt Holliday, though GM Billy Beane has suggested he is willing to keep Holliday and collect two draft picks as compensation when he leaves as a free agent.

  • Jermaine Dye, Chicago White Sox, age 35. 2009 salary: $11.5 million. Mutual option for 2010. A limited no-trade clause allows Dye to block deals to six clubs.

  • Jeff Francouer, Atlanta, age 25. 2009 salary: $3.375 million. Free agent after 2011.

  • Brad Hawpe, Colorado, age 30. 2009 salary: $5.5 million. Due $7.5 million in 2010, with 2011 club option which Hawpe may void if he is traded.

  • Matt Holliday, Oakland, age 29. 2009 salary: $13.5 million. Free agent after 2009

  • Austin Kearns, Washington, age 29. 2009 salary: $8 million. Club option for 2010.

  • Carlos Lee, Houston, age 33. 2009 salary: $18.5 million. Due $55.5 million for 2010-12. Full no-trade clause.

  • Josh Willingham, Washington, age 30. 2009 salary: $2.95 million. Free agent after 2011.

Catchers

Victor Martinez is healthy again, ranking second in the American League with a .438 on-base percentage.

  • Martinez, Cleveland, age 30. 2009 salary: $5.7 million. $7 million club option for 2010.

  • A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox, age 32. 2009 salary: $6.25 million. Due $6.25 million in 2010. Free agent after 2010.

Jeff Euston is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jeff's other articles. You can contact Jeff by clicking here

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