After today, we should be all caught up on players moving teams this offseason. In case I missed anyone, just let me know in the comments and I’ll circle back to give my thoughts.
Torii Hunter | Signed with Tigers | OF
Very small up arrow for Hunter, whose move from Los Angeles is largely a lateral one. He remains in a pitcher’s park that should keep his power output the same, and he’ll likely bat second in front of some serious (and slightly better) power threats in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Former manager Mike Scioscia and new manager Jim Leyland are both slightly less aggressive than a league-average manager on the basepaths, so the only steal-related decline Hunter should experience will be from his legs aging.
Lance Berkman | Signed with Rangers | DH
Berkman couldn’t have found a more favorable situation than Texas. He’ll DH for as many days as he’s healthy and rather than being given a day off to stay so, and he’ll be playing in one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball with one of the best lineups in baseball. It looks like he may slot into the fifth spot in the order, behind Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz and in front of David Murphy and A.J. Pierzynski. He may be too old, risky, or boring for some fantasy players, and if that’s the case, he could come at a discount on draft day.
Mike Olt | Rangers | 1B/3B
Before the Berkman signing, Olt was penciled in for the DH spot for Texas. Now, the top prospect will again have to wait his turn or hope for a trade. There’s a chance he’ll supplant Mitch Moreland at first base at some point this year (or platoon with him, as he did down the stretch last year), but there’s no way I’m betting against my man Moreland. He deserves a starting job, even if the Rangers seem to be souring on him.
Drew Smyly | Tigers | SP
With the Tigers’ re-signing Anibal Sanchez, Smyly becomes the odd man out, which is a shame given his impressive numbers in 2011: 8.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 3.97 xFIP. He may have a chance to edge out Rick Porcello for the final spot if he has an impressive spring, but more likely he’ll begin the year at Triple-A. This is assuming, of course, that Porcello or Smyly himself isn’t traded, as has been rumored. If neither is moved, Smyly still makes a worthwhile AL-only option; a team’s sixth starter often generates double-digit starts.
Nate Schierholtz | Signed with Cubs | OF
Keep quiet, but early guessing indicates Schierholtz will be an NL-only favorite of mine this year. I drafted him in Tout Wars last year, but Bruce Bochy was out to get me, so Schierholtz was benched in favor of Gregor Blanco by May, but Schierholtz is the kind of solid-at-everything-but-great-at-nothing player that often gets undervalued in fantasy leagues. He’ll have to keep youngsters like Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt, Tony Campana, and Matt Szczur at bay, especially by midseason, but an Alfonso Soriano trade could clear an extra spot as well. At least in the early goings, Schierholtz figures to bat second in the lineup of MLB’s most aggressive base-stealing manager, Dale Sveum. It’ll be the worth the gamble for a few bucks to hope he can establish himself early and start all year in such a favorable situation.
Hiroyuki Nakajima | Signed with A’s | SS
I haven’t spoken to scouts about Nakajima since last offseason, but back then, when the Yankees won his posting fee and let him return to Japan, word was that he’d probably be a utility infielder. I’ll try to get an updated view, but I’m not holding out much hope for Nakajima in anything but AL-only leagues where at-bats, even relatively empty ones, have value.
Adeiny Hechavarria | Blue Jays to Marlins | SS
Hechavarria was one of the biggest winners in the blockbuster deal between Toronto and Miami early in the offseason. He’s a glove-first player who will still be nothing more than an NL-only option, but he figures to receive everyday playing time, and that has value.
Jeff Keppinger | Signed with White Sox | 1B/2B/3B
For many players, this would be a perfect situation. Unfortunately, Keppinger doesn’t really have the raw power to take advantage of U.S. Cellular’s friendly confines (though it’s not impossible he inches into double-digit homers) nor the speed to take advantage of having run-happy Robin Ventura as his manager. Both his homers and steals will certainly be better off than they would be in most other situations, but don’t expect anything crazy. He also figures to play every day and bat second in a decent lineup, so as an AL-only player, you could do a lot worse, especially if you’re like me and wake up midway through an auction to find several high-power, low-average hitters on your team.
Mike Aviles | Red Sox to Blue Jays to Indians | SS/3B
Aviles’ 2012 will likely be prettier than his 2013, but it’s tough to lament the move too much since Boston was beginning to faze him out in September, letting Jose Iglesias start most games, and was cool trading him for a manager. In Cleveland, he’ll deal with a pitcher’s park and a league-average manager in terms of running, and that will only come into play should he manage to secure regular or semi-regular playing time. The infield is pretty full unless someone like Lonnie Chisenhall struggles or gets injured again or Asdrubal Cabrera is traded. If the season started today, Aviles might be the DH by default, but it seems likely the Tribe signs someone to fill that hole before Opening Day, relegating Aviles to bench duty, at least to begin the year.
Nick Swisher | Signed with Indians | OF
Worse park, worse lineup, lateral manager move. It pretty much goes without saying that re-upping with the Yankees would have been a much better move for Swisher’s fantasy value. The only plus is that he’ll secure a few more at-bats and possibly a few more runs and RBI (presumably) batting cleanup for Cleveland. Moving on…
Jason Grilli | Pirates | CL
As I speculated when Pittsburgh re-signed Grilli, they did indeed trade their incumbent stopper, opening things up for Grilli to close and potentially dominate. He might be a good late-round closer value, depending on how hyped he becomes this spring.
Andrew Bailey | Red Sox | RP
Sorry Bailey owners, but your guy is in trouble. Hanrahan may have shown some signs of decline last year, but he’s the undisputed closer in Boston to start the year, and that carries a lot of weight. Odds are against Bailey approaching double-digit saves.