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TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Acquired INF-S Andrew Velazquez and OF-L Justin Williams from the Diamondbacks in exchange for RHP Jeremy Hellickson. [11/14]

Williams brings the more impressive pedigree of the duo acquired by the Rays, having been a second round pick in 2013. He has hit well early in his career, surprising those who viewed him as an extremely raw player. Williams is raw, but he has gained polish quickly and demonstrated an ability to adjust to his level of competition. Williams has a strong, mature frame that bodes well for his in-game power down the line. Scouts see true plus raw power in his bat during batting practice and workouts, but it could take several more seasons before that type of pop plays in game situations. Williams is still learning to recognize pitches and manage the strike zone, but he has made strides more quickly than most expected.

Defensively, Williams will be limited to left field, putting even more pressure on the development of his bat. He is a below-average runner who is still developing instincts in the outfield after being converted from the infield post-draft. His throwing is a work in progress and while some scouts believe he could develop enough strength and carry to fit in right field, most observers believe his speed and lack of arm strength will keep him in left. Williams has the potential to be an impact, middle-of-the order power hitter if everything comes together, but he carries considerable risk as he moves through his developmental arc.

Popped in the seventh round in 2012, Velazquez made impressive progress on the field in his second tour through the Midwest League in 2014. Though undersized (5-8, 175), Velazquez is an exciting player with 60-grade speed that can play up at times because of his natural instincts and reads on the bases. Though he has the wheels and fast-twitch athleticism for the left side of the infield, Velazquez’s actions and footwork fit better at second base. He has enough arm for shortstop, and that arm strength works well at second base as well, particularly when working up the middle or on the pivot. In the end, his ability to handle both positions will likely carry him to the big leagues as a utility player and quality bench option.

At the plate, Velazquez won’t be a black hole despite his likely reserve status. He owns an innate ability to get the barrel to the ball, using the entire field to get the most out of his solid line drives. Velazquez will never have much more than fringe gap power, but he has enough bat speed and strength to keep from having the bat knocked out of his hands by big-league pitchers, and his plus speed and efficient routes on the basepaths should help him rack up extra-base hits when he does find the gaps or outfield corners. It could still take 2-3 years for Velazquez to polish his game and arrive in the majors, but the Rays should be able to count on him as a future contributor. —Mark Anderson

Fantasy impact

Rays 5th Starter Options

For the moment, this is actually a bump up for one of Nathan Karns, Alex Colome, Enny Romero, Mike Montgomery or anyone else who might vie for the fifth starter spot in Tampa, at least until Matt Moore gets healthy. That said, Tampa Bay will almost certainly bring in a veteran starter (a la Erik Bedard or Roberto Hernandez) to compete for a spot, if not win it outright. Even if one of the above-mentioned gets the gig, there’s no way of knowing who it will be this far out, and thus none of them gains a significant benefit from this deal. —Craig Goldstein

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Acquired RHP Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays in exchange for INF-S Andrew Velazquez and OF-L Justin Williams. [11/14]

There is a tendency to examine players whose advanced metrics indicate they've overachieved with an overly critical eye. Such is the case for Hellickson, who can no longer tie his shoes without someone barking about regression.

The truth is Hellickson has plenty of other negatives to harp on. His stuff is far from overpowering and the best pitch in his arsenal, an above-average changeup, isn't a James Shields-like sequence killer. As such Hellickson is often inefficient to the point where he can't work deep into games; hence, he hasn't averaged more than six innings per start since his Rookie of the Year-winning 2011. Add in that his frame is small and his elbow has a scar from a recent operation, and there's no reason to envision him becoming a Roy Oswalt-esque workhorse. (It doesn't help Hellickson's fan relations that he works slowly and emotes as wildly and often as a pet rock, either.)

Yet focusing on Hellickson's FIP or his other blemishes misses that he has his value as a well-rounded no. 4 type. His stuff might fall short, but he goes about his craft intelligently—he knows how to pace a batter's hand speed with a changeup, or alter his eye level with a curve. There's room for expansion with his arsenal, too—he's toyed with a cutter before, which would give him another pitch to inch away from barrels; the difference between success and failure in his world. Hellickson fields his position well and tends to keep basestealers in check. He's not Greg Maddux, but he has been a capable big-league starter before and the Diamondbacks seem to think he can be again.

Of course, lamenting too much about those cons also causes forgetfulness. Take the idea that Hellickson, a fly-ball pitcher, is doomed in Chase Field by that virtue and that virtue alone. How soon we forget the successes Ian Kennedy, Josh Collmenter, and Chase Anderson enjoyed on the same mound—and that's just in the past five years. Hellickson might stumble, he might fail, and he might look like the stupid acquisition he's been made out to be. But what if he doesn't? What if Hellickson is simply what he is? That won't be enough to push the D'backs into contention, but it should be enough to earn him a reprieve. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy impact

Jeremy Hellickson

This is less about Hellickson than it is the negative change in his environment. Not only is he a fly-ball pitcher, but he induces a ton of contact, and moving that guy from Tropicana to Chase Field isn’t going to help matters. Throw in the change from Tampa Bay’s defense to Arizona’s—home of the world-famous Everyday Right Fielder Mark Trumbo—and that’s another negative. There is some positive: Hellickson getting to face the pitcher in the National League, which should help him rack up a few more strikeouts, something he’s struggled with in the past. Already a “better in real life” fourth starter, the move from Tampa Bay to Arizona likely takes Hellickson from rosterable to streaming option in most any league outside of ones that roster every pitcher. If you need pitching help… keep looking.

Trevor Cahill/Chase Anderson/Josh Collmenter

One of these three is seemingly bumped from the rotation with Hellickson’s acquisition and the impending return of Patrick Corbin. Who it is at this point is difficult to say; Collmenter’s best role is probably long reliever, as teams adjust to his deceptive delivery as he gets deeper into games; Cahill was bad in almost any spot last year, but his 5.61 ERA belied a 3.89 FIP, and it’s fair to suggest that Arizona would like to try to get some starts for its $12 million investment. This leaves Anderson, who was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last season, logging a 4.01 ERA in 21 starts. He doesn’t have a great profile for the environment, as his straight fastball begets numerous fly balls, but if he can limit the baserunners he’ll be viable in the back of the rotation. Still, as someone with multiple player options, he might be the odd man out depending on what the Diamondbacks want to do with their bullpen.

Fantasy leaguers should be rooting for Collmenter to head back to the ‘pen, and I personally prefer Anderson to Cahill going forward, but their value is probably a bit of a tossup in the meantime. —Craig Goldstein

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Signed LHP Elvis Araujo to a big-league deal. [11/13]

An armoire-sized southpaw, Araujo offers what all general managers covet around this time: the ability to hang Christmas lights without using a ladder. Additionally, Araujo features a fastball that can touch the upper 90s and a promising slider from the left side. Why then, you might wonder, is he available as a minor-league free-agent—especially when enough teams were interested to merit a big-league deal? Because injuries and wildness marred his time spent in the Indians system, causing him to lag developmentally; he didn't reach Double-A until last season, following a move to the bullpen. The Phillies now have three option years to see if Araujo can locate enough to contribute in the majors. If not, oh well. The upside makes it worth the try. —R.J. Anderson

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Signed RHP A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal worth $8.5 million. [11/14]

Would you trade $4.25 million to pitch for a contender? Burnett did, declining his player option with the Phillies to stroll across Pennsylvania and rejoin the Pirates, thereby putting all the negative feelings from his original departure— the Game Five snub, the dislike of the shifts, and so on—under the Clemente Bridge.

In an amusing twist, Burnett is now in line to succeed Edinson Volquez (and/or Francisco Liriano, depending on Pittsburgh's other offseason plans) a year after Volquez helped replace Burnett. In an even more amusing twist, Burnett might be the less reliable of the two. After all, he's a 38-year-old coming off a miserable season in which he dealt with injury and control issues. There's something to be said about Burnett starting 30 games for the sixth consecutive season, but it might be that his unwillingness to rest made his numbers look worse than they should be.

Perhaps that's partially why Neal Huntington said, “There are some indicators that (make) us think there's still a good pitcher here who can still win big games and eat innings.” What might some of those other indicators be? Burnett still generated groundballs, missed bats, and tempted batters to expand the zone about as often as he did during his Pittsburgh days—he even threw about as many pitches in the zone. (That last point is notable because Burnett's wildness is part of the reason to be concerned.)

Then there's also the best indicator of all: that Ray Searage (presumably) signed off on adding Burnett. Given the price, the Pirates don't need Burnett to be a top-of-the-rotation starter to justify the signing. He just has to fill in one of the vacant spots in the middle and give them some reliable innings. Seeing as how all indications are Burnett will retire after the year, let's see just how good of a farewell tour he's able to author. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy impact

A.J. Burnett

The seemingly easy answer to this proposition is he'll be better. We know the park will be a net positive. We know the defense behind him will be as well. We know that the walking deity known as Ray Searage will be back in his ear and at his bullpen sessions. However, the biggest difference between A.J. Burnett, constant fantasy tease, and A.J. Burnett, reliable fantasy performer in Pittsburgh, was the walk rate, and no amount of outfield defense or friendly stadium dimensions will help him if he can't throw more strikes. Even at his best, Burnett is still a WHIP risk and an SP3 at best–and it's very risky to assume that the soon-to-be 38-year-old will be at his best, despite potentially being at his most comfortable. But, hey, at least he's out of Philadelphia.—Bret Sayre

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