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January 17, 2013

Resident Fantasy Genius

The Losers Club

by Derek Carty

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While just one notable name was moved in yesterday’s three-team trade—despite the usual flashy nature of these kinds of trades, this one can hardly be called a blockbuster—the trade has created a ripple effect to alter the values of several household names (at least in households that play in deep fantasy leagues).

Mike Morse | Seattle Mariners | OF
It’s well-documented that I like Morse—he was one of my most expensive buys in Tour Wars last year, and I was quick to call his initial breakout in 2011 legitimate—but I’m not sure how much this trade will impact my ability to pick him up in leagues this season.

While Nationals Park and Safeco Field are both pitcher’s stadiums, Washington’s home field is more hitter-friendly, almost neutral. Additionally, Nationals Park is friendlier towards righties than it is lefties; Safeco runs the opposite way, and to a more extreme degree (and the fences moving in don’t figure to have too large of an impact). That’s not the best news for Morse, although he does have some unique skills that will help mitigate this park shift. First, he has great raw power, which makes park factors less important. Second, he has power to all fields, helping to combat the asymmetry of Safeco. And finally, strangely enough, the majority of his home runs in 2012 actually went to the opposite field, which in Safeco plays moderately close to neutral. Of course, it’s the first time he’s done anything that drastic, so expecting it to continue to such a large degree might not be prudent.

This leaves me guessing as to the perceived value shift. People could see him moving to a new league and a notorious pitcher’s park, throw in the injuries concerns, and be scared to bid him up. Or, they could see it like I do and realize that this isn’t as big a value loss as it looks on the surface. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’ll bat in the middle of a moderately-beefed-up Seattle lineup that includes Kendrys Morales and Jesus Montero. Speaking of Montero…

Seattle Mariners Pitchers
The loss of John Jaso may not seem like much—I mean, it’s John Jaso—but take a quick glance over Seattle’s roster right now, specifically the “Catcher” section. On the current 40-man roster, the only catcher Seattle now possesses is Jesus Montero. Montero is one of the game’s worst defensive backstops, and if he is to spend most of 2013 behind the plate, it could definitely hurt Seattle pitchers. That’s really a shame, since it was just Monday that I was saying how they could be undervalued.

Raul Ibanez | Mariners | OF
With Morse penciled into a corner outfield spot, that leaves just one corner and the DH spot up in the air… with lots of competition. Though there’s been talk of Ibanez playing some occasional first base, it’s possible this move seals his fate as a platoon player for Seattle, and it will make it a lot easier for him to play himself out of a job completely. Even while Safeco isn’t quite death on lefties, Ibanez is aging and was able to thrive last year thanks to Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch.

Jason Bay, Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, Franklin Gutierrez, Mike Carp, Eric Thames | Mariners | OF
Here’s the rest of Seattle’s motley crew of outfielders. All have the skills to be at least low-level AL-only outfielders with playing time, but with so many names in the hat, it’s hard to tell how anything is going to play out. The Mariners could trade from this depth to address other needs before Opening Day rolls around, but adding an impact bat like Morse to the lineup cuts into the ability of each of these guys to carve out playing time. This trade makes it more likely that Bay won’t make the cut out of spring training, which would only leave Seattle on the hook for $500,000. Even if he does make it, I don’t see how he’s more than a role player with his slowing bat. The guys affected least are the two capable of manning center, Gutierrez and Saunders, especially since this trade all but rules out a Michael Bourn signing. For the rest, it may come down to who’s healthy and who’s hot. There is a situation that will bear very close watching in March.

John Jaso | Mariners to A’s | C
Jaso’s playing time should stay about the same in this move—maybe a slight uptick without someone with the bat of Montero on the roster—but Oakland’s O.co Coliseum is not a good park for power, especially for lefties (relative to Safeco). It’s also possible that Jaso’s handful of steals disappear, going from a slightly passive manager in Eric Wedge to Bob Melvin, the second-most passive manager in baseball.

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