As a friendly reminder, the Free Agent Watch article, which appears every Friday, will cover any midweek transactions that might impact your interest in available players in -only leagues. With all that said, here’s what we have to pique our collective free-agent interests thus far in week 22.
I have profiled Orlando in the past in this weekly piece, but based on his recent spike in playing time, he has reemerged as a player who can have fantasy relevance in the short term in deep AL-only formats. The Brazilian-born outfielder has gotten starts for the Royals in the past five games and smacked his fifth home run of the season last Thursday. The Royals have the AL Central pretty much wrapped up, so it is possible Ned Yost could give players like Orlando more playing time down the stretch to rest regulars like Alex Gordon, Alex Rios (who will sit out two weeks with chicken pox), and Lorenzo Cain so they are fresh for the postseason. Orlando has racked up over 200 career steals in the minors, including 34 stolen bases for Triple-A Omaha last season, and has a little pop as well. Orlando is also a plus defender, which can only help his playing time, making him a potentially valuable fill-in if you have a hole in your outfield.
Other AL-Only FAAB hitting options: Jonny Gomes, OF, Kansas City Royals; Jerry Sands, OF, Cleveland Indians; Sam Fuld, OF, Oakland A’s; J.R. Murphy, C, New York Yankees; Paul Janish, IF, Baltimore Orioles
I wrote about Hembree last week, but the Red Sox closing situation has only become muddier since then. After Junichi Tazawa’s struggles in August, including four blown saves last month, Torey Luvullo said this weekend that Jean Machi has taken over as the Red Sox closer. However, Machi has been nowhere near as effective this year as he was the previous two seasons with the Giants. Machi has saved four games for Boston in his 14 appearances but has been very hittable, shown by his 5.68 ERA. On Monday night, Machi escaped with a save despite walking three batters and allowing a run in the ninth inning, before finally getting Didi Gregorius to fly out to the warning track in right field with the bases loaded to end the game.
Because of all that, Hembree’s name could be in the mix for saves to see what he can do in the closer role. Hembree’s star has faded since he saved 38 games between A- and Double-A ball in 2011 ,and 31 more in 2013 at Triple-A, but the righty reliever has a track record of the success in the minors while toeing the rubber in high-leverage situations, and he has 115 career minor-league saves to prove it. He’s certainly worth a flier for the rest of the season if you need saves.
Olmos was picked by the Marlins in the third round of the 2008 draft as an 18-year-old starting pitcher. After several unsuccessful seasons as a starter in the lower minors, the Marlins moved him to the bullpen in hopes the 6-foot-4 lefty from California could prove to be a viable commodity out of their bullpen. Following a couple more uneventful seasons, the Mariners claimed Olmos off waivers from the Marlins during the offseason. While the starter-turned-reliever pitched mostly in relief in Triple-A for Seattle this season, he did get two starts and showed enough in those starts for the Mariners to call him up to go on Sunday against the White Sox. While the southpaw was not overly impressive in his major-league debut, he did struggle with his command, flashing a mid-90s fastball and overall solid stuff. Olmos sported a 9.3 K/9 in Triple-A this season and is scheduled to get another start this week against the A’s, so monitor that outing and bid accordingly if you need a potential wins play.
Other AL-Only FAAB pitching options: Nate Jones, RP, Chicago White Sox; Chasen Shreve, RP, New York Yankees; Zach Putnam, RP, Chicago White Sox; Mychal Givens, RP, Baltimore Orioles; Trevor Gott, RP, Los Angeles Angels; Vincent Velasquez, RP/SP, Houston Astros
The Cubs acquired Jackson and cash considerations from the Mariners in exchange for a player to be named later and international slot no. 98 on Monday, to the delight of NL-only owners who need a steal source. With Jorge Soler still out with an oblique injury, the speedy outfielder could see regular time in the Cubs outfield over the last month of the season. While Jackson is not exciting, he is extremely consistent from a fantasy earnings perspective, having earned at least $16 in standard AL-only 5×5 formats in each of his first five seasons and being on pace to do that again in 2015. The veteran outfielder is hitting .318 with four home runs, 17 RBI, and four stolen bases since July 26th, so he is riding a hot hand as he heads to his new venue. Jackson seems like a waiver-wire gift this late in the season for those NL-only contenders sitting on a surplus of FAAB and in need of an offensive player to provide value across 3-4 categories. Jackson had earned $15 in standard AL-only formats this season with the Mariners, so make some healthy FAAB bids.
The veteran minor-leaguer played an integral role in the Nationals lineup when Ryan Zimmerman was on the DL earlier in the season, and is coming off a weekend where he hit home runs in back-to-back games against the Marlins. Robinson’s playing time will be sporadic, but he is slashing .268/.359/.432 with seven home runs in 220 AB and Matt Williams could look for a spark in his lineup down the stretch. Robinson’s situation needs to be monitored this week; if the production continues, he could be a decent short-term option in deep mono formats.
The Giants picked up the veteran outfielder from the Red Sox right before the waiver trading deadline on Monday night. After a dreadful start to the season in Baltimore, De Aza was shipped to the Red Sox in June and produced during his stay in Boston, posting a 292/.347/.484 line over 178 PA. With Hunter Pence and Gregor Blanco both dealing with injuries, De Aza should see semi-regular playing time in the Giants outfield in the near term. De Aza has not run as much this season as he has in the past (only eight SB attempts on the year), but he will help with the counting stats, making him decent FAAB option this week in NL-only formats.
Quintin Berry, OF, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs purchased Berry’s contract from Tripl-A on Tuesday to provide bench depth. The only reason why I am including Berry in these profiles is because he is a perfect 30-for-30 in SB attempts in his big-league career (including the postseason). Berry’s role will most likely be as a pinch-running specialist for Joe Maddon, but if you are contending and can pick up valuable points in the SB category, this MLB role player can make a difference in deep NL-only formats over the last month of the season. I am showing my age referencing Herb Washington was stealing 29 bases for the A’s during their 1974 World Series championship when I was just a youngster, but I also still remember watching Matt Alexander for the A’s and Pirates in the late 1970s, stealing several bases in this role during pennant races. Both of these specialists would have been viable fantasy options in these formats back then, so I say Berry is worth a $1 bid for a steals play based on the same premise.
Jairo Diaz, RP, Colorado Rockies
I wrote about Diaz last week after he was called up on Sunday by the Rockies, and since he is still floating around the waiver wire in expert NL-only leagues, he gets top billing again this week. Diaz has yet to give up a run in his five appearances with the Rockies since his call-up, which could lead to appearances in higher-leverage situations. Diaz has closer potential so he is absolutely a player to target in deep formats. His Triple-A numbers have not been impressive, but at 24 years old and with the Rockies murky ninth-inning pictue, he continues to be a sneaky FAAB play short term and long term.