Archive for ‘Trade Deadline’

Tuesday: 08.2.2011

Fantasy Impact of NL Players Moving to AL

Fantasy Impact of NL to AL Guys

I’m going to take a look at the guys moved all around during the deadline, but only from the fantasy angle.  So it is less about judging the team’s front office on the returns whether short or long term, but rather about how these players can have fantasy impact for you in the next two months and beyond (for prospects).

Ubaldo Jimenez (COL to CLE) – There is a lot of talk about much Jimenez has struggled this year which is expected because comparing his 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP from 2010 to his 4.46 and 1.37 marks this year tells us he has been significantly worse.  But has he really?  The one significant cause for concern is the drop in fastball velocity from 96 MPH to 93 MPH.  Velocity drops are often an indicator of trouble, but beyond that there isn’t a great deal of difference in Jimenez’s profile.

He has a 2.3 K/BB rate for the third straight with virtually identical components to last year’s: 8.69 K/9 & 3.74 BB/9 in 2010; 8.63 K/9 & 3.73 BB/9 in 2011.  I don’t usually go two places after the decimal point, but I wanted to show just how close it has been.  His xFIP and SIERA are remarkable steady over the last three years with xFIPs of 3.59, 3.60, and 3.56 this year while his SIERAs are 3.77, 3.68 and 3.56 this year.

I realize most leagues don’t use xFIP or SIERA but the point is that he is pitching better than his ERA suggests.  The big differences are a career-high .312 BABIP (.280 and .271 the last two years) and severe struggles with men on base leading to a career-worst LOB% of 67% (74% and 77% the last two years; league-average is around 72%).

Another concern for many is his moving from the NL to AL as it is a league generally tougher on pitchers due in large part to replacing the pitcher batting with a designated hitter.  I would theorize that the change in park factors from Coors Field to Jacobs Field (shut up, Flo from the insurance company) would mitigate the league difference.  Coors Field significantly plays up 1B, 2B, 3B and HR while Jacobs Field plays essentially neutral or pitcher-heavy to all eight (each category for righties and lefties) except left-hander home runs (107 park factor, which is still an improvement from Coors’ 113).

This is the prize of the trade deadline for AL-only leaguers and if you need an arm then you need to take your chances on Jimenez.  He leaves a massively under-performing and disappointing team in Colorado for a pennant race in Cleveland which can only help.  At the very least, I think it would be a neutral factor.  His K/9 when slotted into the AL leaderboard is 6th-best so he is even better in 5×5 leagues.  The velocity drop may in fact be problematic, but his profile says there isn’t a reason for grave concern.  He could be a game-changer down the stretch for any team capable of real traction in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP.  Wins are always a crapshoot, but there is no denying that the Indians have been sticking around for four months and this kind of big time trade could spark the whole team.  Or not.  Don’t chase wins.

Colby Rasmus (StL to TOR) – The Blue Jays earned raved reviews for plucking Rasmus from the Cardinals for what amounts to a pile of parts since Edwin Jackson wasn’t really a Jay except in passing.  I do think it was a nice pickup for the long term especially in light of what they gave up, but for the rest of 2011 it might not make that much of a fantasy impact.  Since the potential is there, I understand putting a significant portion of FAAB on him and even encourage it, but you have to be prepared for it to not work out.

The simple fact is he is regressing by the month.  After an .867 OPS in April, he has fallen to .777 then .684 and then most recently .544 in August.  A player of his caliber is unlikely to show up on the wire throughout the remainder of the season so take a chance on the upside if an offensive spark is what you’re missing.  Last year he ended the season on a very high note with a .318/.403/.514 line and four home runs, 12 RBIs, 19 runs scored and two stolen bases in 107 at-bats in September.  Let’s hope this fresh start rejuvenates him and gets back to the Rasmus we saw in 2010 and the first month of 2011.

Mike Adams (SD to TEX) – His move in home ballpark is just about the opposite of Jimenez’s, but as a short reliever there is less chance that it will greatly impact his rock solid skills profile.  He strikes out more than a batter per inning (9.2 K/9), doesn’t walk anybody (1.7 BB/9) and induces a decent amount of groundballs (46%) so I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to excel despite the move to a hitter’s park in the more hitter-friendly league.

As a reliever, it’s not like he was facing pitchers in the 7th and 8th innings anyway.  He is worth a few bucks as the last man on your pitching staff and might be worth even a few extra bucks if you’re in dire need of saves and don’t mind speculating.  Rangers manager Ron Washington has publicly soured on Neftali Feliz a bit and while that might just be his way of motivating him, he might also be looking for a reason to make a change (even though it’s his fault Feliz is there in the first place when he should be in the rotation).

Kosuke Fukudome (CHC to CLE) – Those in OBP leagues take note, Fukudome has gotten on base at a 36% or better clip all four years in the majors and 37% or better in each of the last three years.  That’s really ALL he does, though.  He has three home runs and two stolen bases on the season.  I understand that leadoff is hardly a run-producing spot in the lineup, but despite more than 300 plate appearances there, Fukudome has 12 RBIs.  The next worst is Austin Jackson with 24.  Of course a lot of that goes on the Cubs and their anemic offense, but he has never had more than 60 RBIs in a season.  He should be looked at as a 4th or 5th outfielder at best.

Brandon Allen (ARI to OAK) – This feels like a pretty typical Oakland pickup, doesn’t it?  Allen has thwarted AAA quite handily alas he is headed back there for now, but many suspect the A’s will give him a legitimate shot to see if they finally have a first basemen who is fantasy relevant (sorry, Daric Barton).  Allen has only gotten 65 games spread out across the last three years and while his line is a meager .213/.325/.404, he does have eight home runs and 27 RBIs, numbers that pace out to 27 and 91 in 600 at-bats.  A dollar reserve player in leagues where reserves are applicable, otherwise keep an eye out for his return to the majors which should happen at some point this year.

Sunday: 07.31.2011

Fantasy Impact of AL Players Moving to NL

I’m going to take a look at the guys moved all around during the deadline, but only from the fantasy angle.  So it is less about judging the team’s front office on the returns whether short or long term, but rather about how these players can have fantasy impact for you in the next two months and beyond (for prospects).  You’ll see what I mean right away with this first guy…

Edwin Jackson, SP (CHW to TOR to StL) – Jackson is pretty easily the best player who switched from the AL to the NL and for teams in dire need of starting pitching, he will be the perfect jumpstart to their rotation and comes for “free”.  Free in that he simply costs FAAB and your worst pitcher as opposed to going out and trading for a starter which can be costly.  Judging Jackson by his 3.92 ERA at the time of trade is foolish at best and horribly misguided at worst.  Anyone paying attention sees how well he’s been pitching since a rough April (5.86 in 35 IP) having posted a 2.99 ERA in 93 innings including his first start with the Cards.

His second-level numbers are even better with a 3.21 FIP, 3.49 xFIP and 3.69 SIERA.  The WHIP is a bit hefty for the year at 1.41, but again that is inflated by April’s 1.71 mark.  His 1.31 WHIP in the subsequent three months still isn’t great, but it is quite a bit more palpable.  Keep in mind also that WHIP is especially tough to move this late into the season for better or worse.  Over the final two months, Jackson at a 1.31 WHIP might move a team up 0.01 in WHIP and that depends entirely on how the rest of the team’s staff pitches around him.  So don’t overrate that aspect of his game.

Jackson’s 7.1 K/9 rate ranks 27th among qualified starters in the National League and could stand to tick up facing non-DH lineups the rest of the way.  Combine that with his already favorable rates and a better home park and all of a sudden you have an “all-in” type of player when it comes to FAAB if pitching is your biggest need down the stretch. 

Corey Patterson, OF (TOR to StL) – It is Jon Jay who will benefit most from the trade of Colby Rasmus, but Patterson becomes the backup at all three outfield positions so he will get some at-bats on the Cardinals.  A .251/.284/.375 line in 347 plate appearances this year should tell you all you need to know about Patterson and his fantasy prospects.  He does have six home runs with 13 stolen bases so he has a tick of power-speed potential, but at what cost to your batting average?  If you have a dead spot at UTIL or your OF5 and you want to start getting some ABs that could result in something then Patterson warrants a few bucks of FAAB.  Otherwise, pass, because he isn’t an impact player even if he were somehow guaranteed regular playing time.

Derrek Lee, 1B (BAL to PIT) – My thoughts on Lee to Pittsburgh can be found here in greater detail, but from a fantasy perspective his value is similar to what it was in the AL with the Orioles which is to say minimal at best.  He is the 30th rated first baseman according to ESPN’s Player Rater.  In fairness, he has been 14th over the last month so if he stays warmish (.250/.294/.510 w/6 HR, 19 RBI) then he could be a low-level corner infield/utility option.  Then again, I say warmish because most of that 14 ranking is RBI driven which has little to do with actual skill.  He hasn’t been much of a power source in a friendly home like Camden Yards, so don’t expect a sudden uptick in PNC Park.

Marc Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-chin-skee), RP (TOR to StL) – Dynasty NL-only leaguers might want to file The Chin away for a buck or two looking forward to the future because this 25-year old could move back to the rotation eventually.  He started 23 of his 25 appearances in 2009-2010 before shifting to the bullpen full-time this year.  After two years of a 51% groundball rate in the rotation, he has upped that mark to an eye-popping 65% in 41 relief innings.

All the while his 8+ strikeout rate has maintained (8.1 K/9 the last two years, 8.8 in 2009) suggesting some legitimate promise going forward.  His major hurdle will be figuring out righties more consistently as his strikeout to walk ratio against them is 1.7 while he posts a much healthier 3.2 mark against lefties.  Similarly his OPS allowed goes up 200 points from .578 to .778 when facing righties.

Brad Ziegler, RP (OAK to ARI) – If Jackson’s WHIP in 60+ innings the rest of the way isn’t really going to hurt you then Ziegler’s (1.35 this year and last, 1.50 in 2009) in far fewer innings (maybe 20 or so) will barely register.  Ziegler is a solid real-life reliever, but he doesn’t strikeout enough batters (career best 6.9 K/9 this year, career total of 6.0) to even have much NL-only value as your ninth pitcher on the staff.

Octavio Dotel, RP (TOR to STL) – Dotel does have the strikeouts that Ziegler doesn’t (9.2 K/9 this year, 10.9 career), but his ERA is always around the mid-3.00s and you can definitely find a high strikeout, low ERA guy who would better fit that middle reliever last spot on your staff.

Orlando Cabrera, SS (CLE to SF) – When bringing in a guy with a  .268 wOBA improves you at a position, there is trouble at that position on your team.  Cabrera, owner of the aforementioned .268 wOBA, is marginally better than Miguel Tejada (.260) and Brandon Crawford (.239), but he has been abysmal defensively at second base so why would the Giants think he could be better at shortstop?  He has zero fantasy value so don’t let the name recognition fool you into a bad move.

The only way I could see justifying so much as a dollar of your FAAB on him is if you have a dead spot at shortstop and your standings are tight in runs scored and driven in and you want to get something out of the roster spot.  And even then, you better not have a tenuous hold on your batting average spot because his .244 isn’t doing you any favors.  Perhaps he gets back to the .263 level he showed in the NL a year ago and hurts less.

There will be several pieces like this including:

  • NL players moving to AL
  • NL players changing teams in NL
  • AL players changing teams in AL
  • AL prospects moving to NL
  • NL prospects moving to AL
  • NL prospects changing orgs in NL
  • AL prospects changing orgs in AL

I think this is easier for fantasy purposes that analyzing every single trade one-by-one.  I’ll have them all out as soon as possible, but it might not be finished until Tuesday.  In the meantime, if you want my opinion on a traded player for your FAAB or waiver pickups that happen sooner, mention something in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter (@sporer) and I’ll get to you there.

Thursday: 07.28.2011

Trade Deadline Analysis: Rasmus, E.Jackson

For those looking for my analysis on the Colby Rasmus-Edwin Jackson moves yesterday, I did write ups at RotoHardball and there is no need to re-hash the exact same stuff here.  I like both players quite a bit so if you are FAAB’ing in your AL or NL Only they are both “all-in” types who should command just about all of your budget assuming their skills (power potential for Rasmus, strikeouts & quality rates for Jackson) are the missing piece or one of the missing pieces on your team.  As the dust settles on Sunday afternoon, other pieces may jump above them, but if your league runs those two through the FAAB machine first, don’t wait and hope something better comes over because there is a good chance you will end up with nothing.

Colby Rasmus Analysis

Edwin Jackson Analysis

I am working some of pieces for this site that will be up soon, but with the trade deadline action fast & furious, my attention is focused on RotoHardball for the moves that are done and PittPlank for the moves the Pirates *might* do as the Sunday deadline approaches.

 

Wednesday: 06.22.2011

Second Base Addendum

After I posted the Keeper League Building Blocks for second base a reader mentioned a couple of names to me on Twitter that were to surprise exclusions for the reader: Dustin Ackley & Jemile Weeks.  The freshly called up prospects without 20 games between the two of them (17, 14 of which are Weeks’) weren’t included on purpose.  Anyone who has been reading this site for any amount of time since last year knows I am fan of both, so what gives?

A large portion of it has to do with their scant track records as we haven’t really seen how they will handle the majors leagues.  While I am bullish on both, I would certainly like to see more before recommending them as building blocks for a team.  Building block is the key phrase.  The point of this exercise is to identify the strongest and best players for your 2012 title run.  After all, you are trading your best 2011 pieces to your opponents so you need to get the best return possible.

Additionally, the fantasy profiles of each also contributes to their exclusion from a list that focuses so much on key contributors.  Ackley is supposed to be an on-base percentage monster (alas he’s yet to walk in his four games… so much for that, amirite???), but if you don’t play in an OBP league that hardly helps especially since he can have a great OBP based on walks with a batting average of .275 or below.

Let’s assume he does get on base at or near the 40% clip we’ve seen from him in his minor league career, who is going to drive him in?  They are less awful than last year’s historic futility, but they are still awful.  Beyond that, in the short-term he doesn’t profile to excel in any category whether as a pure hitter (batting average), a power producer (HR, RBI) or as a speedster (though he did get a 65 speed grade from Baseball America in their ’11 Handbook).  I think he can eventually become a .300+ hitter, but I don’t see it happening right away.

I really like Weeks, but like his brother Rickie he needs to show he can stay healthy which is something he has yet to do for a full season as a professional.  Initially he profiles as a speedster who could pile up SBs and use that speed for some extra hits en route to a good enough batting average (.260-.270).  Long-term his peak profile is a Ray Durham, but Durham didn’t start offering meaningful power or top .275 until his fourth year in the league.

The progression of youngsters isn’t linear so as hard as it is to project any player, it is even harder to project where Ackley & Weeks will go in 2012 and ultimately that is why I decided not to recommend them as essential building blocks for teams currently selling off their best players for foundational pieces.  If you have a deal lined up to get a building block, try to get one of these two thrown in, but don’t make them the centerpiece focus of a deal where you are trading your ace or $35 power bat.

Thursday: 05.26.2011

Fixing the Contenders – National League

Continuing onto the National League, let’s take a look at some moves the contenders could reasonably entertain in the coming months to patch holes and solidify their team to assert themselves for the entire year.

Fixing the Contenders – AL

A note from the AL piece: I forgot to point out that Hiroki Kuroda has a full no trade clause that could muddy things up if the Dodgers were looking to trade him this summer.  Thanks to Ray Guilfoyle from FakeTeams.com for letting me know that and also suggesting that Ryan Dempster could be an option for the Yankees.  I agree with Ray that he would be a nice fit as well.  Hell, maybe they will go for both.  They have enough minor league pieces to acquire both without decimating their system.

San Francisco Giants (27-22)

Team Needs: C, SS, bats in general

Had I not had plans last night to see The Hangover 2 (which was very funny, not as good as 1, but no one should expect it to be), this section would have looked a whole lot different because star catcher Buster Posey was lost for the season during a 12-inning battle against the Florida Marlins.  His leg was destroyed while blocking the plate against Scott Cousins and their anemic offense has now lost its best player.  Posey wasn’t hitting like he did last year, but the bar to be the best Giants hitter hasn’t been terribly high in 2011.  Posey had a .284/.368/.389(!) line with four home runs and 21 RBIs, not bad, but not quite the .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs stud we saw a year ago, either.

This is a devastating blow to a team that desperately needed hitting before the injury.  The Giants could dial up the Cincinnati Reds and inquire about some of the amazing depth at catcher that the NL Central reigning champs have both on their team and in their system.  Or is that a fit?  Because Posey is a franchise player who will be back next year, the Giants don’t need to go big and trade for Devin Mesoraco, the 23-year old prospect who is following up a breakout 2010 with a big 2011 at AAA.

The Reds are currently top five in the majors in catcher production between Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan.  With Mesoraco waiting in the wings, they could afford to move one of them to address one of their needs at the same time.  Hernandez (.327/.375/.558)  is a 35-year old backstop in the last year of his contract while Hanigan (.253/.349/.347) is 30 and just starting a very team-friendly 3 year/$4-million dollar deal so I think the Reds would be more likely to deal Hernandez even though he is hitting better right now.

The Reds have the 2nd-worst team ERA from their starters (4.95) despite coming into the season with what seemed like a surplus of starters.  For either catcher, the Reds aren’t going to draw one of San Francisco’s top four arms (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner).  Ryan Vogelsong has been such a revelation and the 33-year old journeyman is pitching out of his mind with some pretty strong skills to back up his pint-sized ERA and WHIP (1.77/1.06).  Given that Barry Zito would be too expensive to trade, whether for the Giants (who might be forced to pay a bulk of the cash) or the receiving team (who would have that albatross contract on their books), Vogelsong might be the one to move.

Of course they can’t give up two of their top five arms and there is another move that is being rumored that would fit much better in the short and long term meaning they need to either to go with Eli Whiteside (the current backup), search within their system, hit the scrap heap of the free agent pool (Bengie Molina anyone?) or make a smaller trade with someone.

TRADE: Prospect Ryan Verdugo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ryan Doumit – The Pirates farm system is getting better, but they need to keep stockpiling arms as their lineup is starting to come together and a lot of their pitching prospects are years away.  Verdugo is a solid lefty who shifted back to the rotation after three years of relieving as a pro and he is having a strong season with 44 strikeouts in his 41 innings of work.

Doumit, meanwhile, has seemingly been on the block for several years now as his star has dimmed since a breakout 2008 season that portended big things on the way that never ended up coming to fruition.  He’s an adequate bat that would be a significant upgrade over staying in house with Whiteside.

So this overwhelming devastation may heighten San Francisco’s focus on filling their shortstop void that they inexplicably thought was filled with the Miguel Tejada acquisition this offseason.  Pablo Sandoval’s injury mercifully pulled Tejada from the most important defensive spot on the field, but it left Mike Fontenot there.

Overshadowed in today’s Posey news is that Fontenot is now on the disabled list, too, leaving them with Emmanuel Burris and rookie Brandon Crawford at the position.  From awful to equally awful to the most awfulest everz at a very important position.  Two key positions obliterated in one fateful night.

Focusing efforts on a certain star shortstop who is available, the Giants should make a blockbuster deal to fill this massive void now and in the future.

TRADE: Bumgarner, Crawford, Clayton Tanner and Darren Ford to the New York Mets for Jose Reyes – That feels like it should be enough, but it also feels like it could be too much.  I’m just not 100% sure where Reyes’ value is at this point.  The Mets’ farm is garbage right now so a big time major league arm and some solid pieces to stock the high minors for a piece like Reyes seems viable on their end, too.

Obviously to give up a huge arm like Bumgarner, a top 10 prospect from their org. and two other pieces, the Giants would have to gain some sort of assurance for themselves that Reyes isn’t just a rental.  You don’t take that kind of hit to your rotation for a few months of an electric table-setter.  It’s not like he can go on a Manny Ramirez run circa 2008.

If Reyes were just a rental then I think you lop off Bumgarner immediately and then perhaps that trio is enough.  Or maybe they replace Crawford with Ehire Adrianza, who is also a shortstop prospect that checks out a bit higher and is just 22 years old.

If a move for Reyes can realistically be done without devastating their current 25 to the point where there is no net gain, then they really should entertain it.  Crawford being instantly successful would be a huge upset considering he was a 24-year old in High-A who had reached AA in 2009 and 2010 yet performed terribly both times and has yet to hit AAA.

He was definitely raking (.322/.412/.593), but he was a 24-year old in the Cal League, so he should have been hitting well.  The Giants are rolling the dice with him because they have limited options at this point.

Moves:

  1. C – Trade Verdugo for Doumit
  2. SS – Trade Bumgarner, Crawford, Tanner & Ford for Reyes

Atlanta Braves (28-23)

Team Need: OF

When was the last time the Braves had three viable outfielders play a majority of their games in left, center and right?  It has been quite some time, but it looks like 2003 when they had Chipper Jones in left, Andruw Jones in center and Gary Sheffield in right.  All three posted .851 or better OPS marks while Chipper and Sheff were at .920 and 1.023, respectively.  Since then, they have pieced things together at one and sometimes two of the spots and injuries have put them right back there again in 2011.

They needed outfield help before Jason Heyward went out, but then he and Nate McLouth hit the disabled list together leaving Martin Prado as the last man standing out there.  Lucky for them they have a stupid amount of pitching both at the major league level and throughout their minor leagues which should allow them make a move with ease.

The problem is there is one major and a couple strong bats out there, but they are all corner outfielders.  With Prado in left and Heyward out, but expected back and in right, centerfield is their biggest need and there just aren’t a ton of options out there.  And I can’t see them trading with their hated rivals, the New York Mets, to get Carlos Beltran.  Plus Beltran probably works best in a corner to conserve his health.

That really limits their options unless something opens up from now until July.  As such, I could see them biding their time with fill-ins and then making a move for a guy who is also currently injured and scheduled to return in about a month, at the earliest.

TRADE: Prospect Erik Cordier to the Chicago Cubs for Marlon Byrd – Look, McLouth is terrible.  His return doesn’t help the Braves at all.  And there aren’t any significant outfield prospects on the way up for the Braves so getting Byrd not only helps this year but also in ’12 when he costs just $6.5 mil.  He isn’t a middle of the lineup impact bat, but he can definitely help the top of their lineup by getting on base early 35% of the time.

Cordier barely registers for the Braves, not because he’s a poor prospect, but because they have such a disgusting depth of arms.  Seven of their top 10 prospects this year are starting pitchers and a handful more within their top 25.  Not to mention the fact that they have a deep rotation at the major league level, too.

If he could realistically play CF, the Braves could inquire about and possibly acquire Andre Ethier from the Dodgers, but I just don’t see that.

Moves:

  1. OF – Trade Cordier for Byrd

Cincinnati Reds (26-25)

Team Needs: RP, SP

I discussed separately and in the AL portion of a move the Reds could do with the A’s to improve their bullpen while merely scratching the surface of their insanely deep stock of hitters in the minor leagues.

Their first two months of their 2011 season are a shining example of the adage: “you can never have too much starting pitching.”  It’s impossible.  It such a volatile position and so prone to injury that there really is no such thing as “too much”.  They came into the season with Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Edinson Volquez and Travis Wood ready to go as well as Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney for depth.

Arroyo has flailed (5.28 ERA, 1.44 WHIP), Bailey started the season hurt and looked great in his first five starts before getting hurt again; his status is up in the air, Cueto also got a late start to the season, but has been great in his four starts (2.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP), Leake has been terrible and likes to steal cheap shirts, Volquez has imploded to the point where he has been sent back to the minors and Wood’s ERA (5.11) looks a lot worse than his skills would normally suggest (3.63 FIP).

That leaves them with a reliable arm in Cueto, a second who should improve with Wood and four question marks.  LeCure has been great as a swingman with four starts in his 12 appearances with great skills in both roles, but a significantly better ERA in the bullpen (0.68 vs. 4.79).  Maloney has been nothing special in AAA.

As I mentioned, they have remarkable hitting depth and that would allow them to make a move for a legitimate starter.  Of course, there aren’t a ton of legitimate starters set to be available, but I think the Dodgers would be a good trade partner with a putrid offense that needs help now and going forward.

TRADE: Prospects Chris Valaika and Neftali Soto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ted Lilly – Lilly also has a full no trade clause (why the hell do the Dodgers keep giving out full NTCs????) so a move would again be contingent upon the player, but I’m not sure why he wouldn’t want to go to a surefire contender like the Reds.  The Dodgers need a lot on the diamond, but infield is the real issue.

James Loney isn’t a good first baseman.  He simply doesn’t hit enough.  A lot of people believe he will at some point because of what he showed as a 23-year old (.919 OPS, 15 HR in 96 games), but at 27 after three straight years of sub-.800 OPS (and a .573 so far this year), I think it’s time to stop thinking something great is on the way.  Soto has some nice power potential that would fit really nicely at first base for the Dodgers with the added bonus that the Reds tried him out at catcher last year and it wasn’t a complete failure.

He would be an asset to the Dodgers at either position as both are barren for them (assuming they leave Jerry Sands in left).  His plate patience could use some work and he needs to shorten his swing or he could get eaten up in the high minors and then the majors, but his power has been on full display early on in his first stint at AA (.680 SLG).

Meanwhile Valaika probably works best at second base, but could maybe stick at short or third base depending on need.  Lucky for him, the Dodgers need all three positions.  With 237 games at AAA where he has had mixed success (struggled initially, but solid this year and last), it is time to give him a real shot at the big leagues and see what the 25-year old is made of and whether or not he can stick at the majors as an everyday player.

The Reds could reasonably do this move and the one I’ve proposed with the A’s to get Andrew Bailey for Yonder Alonso without seriously damaging their minor league system.  It would be a dent that’s for sure, but Alonso and Soto are blocked by Joey Votto and Valaika is blocked by Brandon Phillips at second and Scott Rolen now and likely Juan Francisco in the future at third so they are trading from surplus to improve their team and give them the best shot to win in 2011.

Moves:

  1. RP – Trade Alonso for Bailey
  2. SP – Trade Soto, Valaika for Lilly

These are obviously just some ideas for the seven teams across both leagues who I see as contenders.  Perhaps none of them come close to happening, but I think they are reasonable possibilities for how these teams could improve their team for 2011.

Among the NL contenders not listed, I didn’t see natural fits for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers.  Whether it’s a thin minor league system or not enough major league depth to trade from or the lack of legitimate opening to trade for, these four teams are contenders in my eyes, but as it stands in late May, I don’t see a major move for them right now.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these two pieces.  When it comes to trades with prospects included, I am making my best educated guesses, so we could see a team trade for a major leaguer I predicted, but give something totally different in return.  I look forward to seeing how things play out in June and July leading up to the trade deadline.

Tuesday: 05.24.2011

Fixing the Contenders – American League

As we near Memorial Day (less than a week away) and turn the calendar to June, we usually see the MLB standings start to stratify a bit with the contenders separating themselves from the rest of the pack.  That may not happen in the 2011 season, at least not for a while.  Right now there are just three teams who are 10+ games out two of which are the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, a pair of teams many still refuse to bury given the uncertainty of the Cleveland Indians and the expectations on those two teams coming into the season.

The other is the Houston Astros who were out of it before the season started.  Only three other teams are more than five games away from .500 (Padres, Dodgers and Cubs) so there could be a dearth of sellers as trading season in the MLB heats up.  Nobody really thought Seattle was going to be much of anything this year, but alas their rotation is running five deep headlined by two aces (Felix Hernandez & Michael Pineda; Erik Bedard, Jason Vargas & Doug Fister round out an impressive rotation) meanwhile Jamey Wright, David Pauley and Aaron Laffey have been nails out of the pen masking the fact that they still have a completely horrible offense.  The pitching has them just one game below .500 and a game and a half out of the division lead.

Similarly, expected bottom-feeders Arizona (23-23), Pittsburgh (22-24), Kansas City (22-24) and Baltimore (21-24) continue to linger.  While the league lacks a truly great team, there are still a group of contenders to be found within the 30, teams that should be focusing their attention on 2011 and doing what they can, whether internally or through trade, to get those October playoff tickets printed as soon as possible.

Today, I will go through the contenders who are ripe for a trade and identify the potential move(s) they could make.  I have seven teams on the list.  There are eight other contenders who I didn’t feel needed to make a significant trade because they are either getting some significant pieces back from injury and/or have the available talent in their minor leagues to fill their holes.  Or, at least in one case, I simply didn’t see a move to be made.  That doesn’t mean that it is a perfect team, just that their path to improvement is either a minor trade or sticking with what they have already.

Cleveland Indians (30-15)

Team Needs: 3B, SP, RP

Let’s start with the league’s best team record-wise.  Wow, that reads weird when in reference to the 2011 Cleveland Indians, but you can’t deny the fact that they have the best record in the baseball after 45 games.  If this team stays as is, I can’t see them holding on for 162.  I just don’t buy in the pitching outside of Justin Masterson, and he isn’t without his flaws (lefties still destroy him).  I think Masterson can be a solid pitcher, but their “best” pitcher to date, Josh Tomlin, will not hold up at all, in my opinion.  The 1.2 HR/9 will soon bite back in a big way and the 4.5 K/9 is just too low for this kind of success.

Jack Hannahan’s hot start (hitting .284 w/.837 OPS on May 3rd) has bought Lonnie Chisenhall some time to try and iron out his issues against southpaws (.208 in 48 AB), but now Hannahan has returned to Hannahandom (.238, .691) and it is time to give Chisenhall a shot.  It actually works out where they wouldn’t have to throw him in the fire right away against lefties as Hannahan is actually crushing them with a .387 average and 1.135 OPS in 31 at-bats.  They could run a straight platoon and improve their lineup.  Currently rated 4th or better in runs, average, on-base and slugging, the Indians lineup is performing beautifully to date, but you can never have too much offense.

To fix their starting pitching, I think they need to focus on someone who can miss some bats. With Alex White and his team-best 7.8 K/9 headed to the disabled list for up to three months with a finger injury, Masterson is the leader with a 6.7 K/9.  That is barely above the AL average of 6.5 among starters, so they should call up the Astros and inquire about a trade for an arm.

TRADE: Prospects Joe Gardner and Zack Putnam to the Houston Astros for Wandy Rodriguez – A pair of upper minors arms who ranked 9th and 17th in the org. list from Baseball America for the 32-year old lefty.  With two years left on his contract plus a 2014 option, Wandy won’t come cheap, but given his age the Astros should be open to trading him as he won’t be a part of their next great team.  Their minor league system is disgustingly low on talent so it’s time to start replenishing in earnest via trade.

They might still need to shore up the bullpen a little bit, too.  But that may be handled internally with the recent call up of Josh Judy, who struck out 20 in 17 innings at AAA prior to his call up.  Elsewhere, Nick Hagadone, their #10 prospect, has recently hit AAA after striking out 24 in 23 innings at AA and he could be there to shore up the relief corps early in the summer.

Moves:

  1. 3B – Promote Chisenhall up to platoon w/Hannahan
  2. SP – Trade Gardner & Putnam for Rodriguez, W
  3. RP – Judy recently called up; Hagadone en route

New York Yankees (25-21)

Team Need: SP

The Yankees are having the exact issue that everyone thought they would back in Spring Training with C.C. Sabathia as their top starter and a giant question mark after that.  Bartolo Colon has been a godsend with a strong ERA (3.77) and WHIP (1.20) and great skills (8.8 K/9, 3.7 K/BB) backing the rates up, but how long will it last for the 37 year old?  A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova have been up and down while Freddy Garcia, filling in for Phil Hughes, has been better (3.12 ERA) than his skills suggest as a 34-year old journeyman.

There is nothing at the AAA level that stands to be any better than what they have and Manny Banuelos in AA has gone more than five innings just once in his eight starts so he isn’t the savior that fans want him to be after seeing him excel in Spring Training.  That leaves the trade markets.  And while delusional fans might think Felix Hernandez is available, he’s not.  But they should venture out for a trade.

TRADE: Prospect Adam Warren to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Hiroki Kuroda – The 36-year old veteran is a free agent after this year so despite how well he has pitched since coming over to the States in 2008, he won’t net the Dodgers an overwhelming return of prospects.  That said, Warren was just outside of the top 10 on org. lists and the Yankees system is a deep one so that’s not chopped liver.  He has struggled with his control at AAA (27 K, 24 BB in 45 IP), but he is still just 23 years old and the Yankees have moved him aggressively (just 54 IP in AA).

The Dodgers system has a crap-ton of pitching and while you can never have too much, they might opt for a bat instead and I could see a toolsy, raw bat like Melky Mesa being dealt for Kuroda.  Mesa has 16 extra-base hits out of just 30 (.204 avg in 147 AB), seven stolen bases but also caught seven times and 16 walks aiding a solid 83-point AVG-OBP split, but also 50 strikeouts (34% K rate).  The 24-year old has been much better lately (.290/.372/.507 in May) after a horrid April (.129/.209/.256) which may elevate his trade stock a bit, though front offices focus more on pure talent & projectability than stats when it comes to prospects.

The Yankees might need more than one starting pitcher so they could also be in for someone like Jon Garland, Livan Hernandez, Aaron Harang or Francisco Liriano, too.  Again, they have a remarkably deep system so trading for a second level arm like one of the above (can you believe Liriano is now regarded as a second level arm?!) as well as a bigger impact arm would be doable.

Moves:

  1. SP – Trade Warren or Mesa for Kuroda
  2. SP2 – Trade David Adams for Harang

Detroit Tigers (24-23)

Team Need: RP

Relief pitching was supposed to be a strength of the 2011 Tigers after signing super-setup man Joaquin Benoit and pairing him with Jose Valverde at the back end of the bullpen.  The constant stream of power arms drafted and traded for recently was supposed to fill any gaps from starter to Benoit with guys like Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth, specifically.   Al Alburquerque has been a pleasant surprise with a 15.3 K/9 in his 15 innings, but walks have been a problem (11) for the rookie.

Chance Ruffin is doing well in his debut season as a pro, but he is just 22 and in AA, so the chances of him as a savior are slim.  Plus, the bullpen is young enough already.  Charlie Furbush was just called up from AAA and thrown right into the fire on Monday night after a Phil Coke injury in the fourth inning left the Tigers scrambling.  He responded admirably with 3.7 shutout innings striking out three and walking one.

He has been huge strikeout guy as a starter in the minors (9.5 K/9 career, over 10 the last two years) and he has a legitimate shot to keep those kind of rates in short stints out of the pen.  But with no reliever toting a sub-3.00 ERA, the Tigers will need more than one arm to cure those bullpen woes.

Thankfully for the Tigers, relief pitching is usually one of the most plentiful items in the trade market year in and year out.  And oftentimes, it is the cheapest commodity to acquire, too.  The Padres seem like a great trade partner as I count five arms that could (and should) be up for trade ranging from ace closer Heath Bell to the reborn Pat Neshek.

TRADE: Bruce Rondon and a throw in C-rated (or lower) prospect to the San Diego Padres for Mike Adams – Rondon is a 20-year old flamethrowing reliever (14.6 K/9), but control is a big time issue right now (8.6 BB/9).  He is allowing next to nothing when it comes to hits (1.6 H/9), though, so he has a 1.62 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  Adams is 32 years old and a free agent after this year.  Plus he comes with loads of injury risk having never put together back-to-back full seasons.

As such, I’m not sure the Padres could really ask for too much from a prospective trade partner even given how great he is when he does pitch, especially this year with his otherworldly 10.5 K/BB in 22 innings.  His 8.7 K/9 is pretty good, but it’s the disgusting 0.8 BB/9 that is powering his insane season.

Luke Gregerson is five years younger, but also a free agent after the season.  He might draw a little more in return than Adams, but he hasn’t been the Gregerson from 2009 and 2010 so far this year.  His strikeout rate has seen a precipitous drop from 10.2 to 6.0 and he has become a lot more hittable allowing 10.3 H/9 (after 5.4 last year).

I can’t see the Tigers trading for Bell as the cost would be too much and Valverde isn’t going anywhere while Neshek would be too much of an injury risk having pitched just 34 innings since 2008 including his 12 this year.

Moves:

  1. RP1 – Promoted Furbush
  2. RP2 – Trade Rondon + PTBNL for Adams, M

 

Oakland A’s (22-25)

Team Need: Bats… about nine of them.

I covered the A’s a good bit last week specifically tied to them addressing their need of a bat (or several!) so I won’t do an entire re-hash.  Internally, I think Jemile Weeks should be called up soon because he is healthy for once and hitting really well in AAA while Mark Ellis is not.  Ellis had a stretch where he had multi-hit games in three out of six (10-for-24) and it moved his average up to a blistering .208.  That wouldn’t cut in 1968 much less now (OK, it might cut it in ’68… but it really doesn’t in ’11 even with the down hitting).

If they don’t want to try Weeks out just yet, then they should look to Adrian Cardenas, who continues to hit well having raised his batting average yearly since 2007 up to .357 this year while finally adding some pop, too, with a career high slugging percentage of .478.  He has shown a strong eye at the plate throughout his career as well, especially at the high minors with 136 walks to 150 strikeouts in 306 games at AA and AAA.  One of the two prospects deserves a look to jumpstart their anemic offense if they want to realistically contend this year.  I also think a trade is in order as they match up really well with another team in contention.

TRADE: Andrew Bailey to the Cincinnati Reds for Yonder Alonso – I covered this in great detail in this piece about Bailey a week ago.  Assuming he comes up back healthy and as good as we’ve seen him, this is a great fit for both teams involved.  Alonso doesn’t really have a future in Cincinnati being blocked by Joey Votto, Chris Heisey and Jonny Gomes and the Oakland bullpen is stocked.  Alonso can move directly into Daric Barton’s spot at first or into the outfield which would allow Josh Willingham to take Barton’s place.  Either way, Barton’s vomit-inducing .280 SLG has to get out of the everyday lineup.  They just can’t expect to win with that lack of production at a power position.  Hell, you can’t really take it on at any position, but especially first base.

The A’s could make another move closer to the deadline, but it would hinge on Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross coming back from their recent injuries to pitch like they were before getting hurt and recently returned Josh Outman to pick up where he left off in 2009 (which he showed he might do on Monday night with 7 strong innings).  That would give them some rotation depth which they could flip for another bat.

TRADE: McCarthy to the Detroit Tigers for Brennan Boesch – Starting pitching isn’t a primary need for the Tigers, but you really can’t have too much and the back end is tenuous with Phil Coke (who left his last start injured) and Brad Penny, meanwhile their outfield has developed some depth with Casper Wells and Andy Dirks joining the club.  Plus Magglio Ordonez will be back at some point which would give them six outfielders plus Don Kelly for three spots (DH is locked up by Victor Martinez most days).  This one would really be contingent on McCarthy’s health, of course.

Boesch isn’t tearing the cover off of the ball or anything, but David DeJesus has been awful and Boesch has at least shown the capability for some power in his time as a major leaguer.  McCarthy was a million dollar flier for the A’s and netting a 26-year old outfielder with some potential would probably be much more than they truly expected when they took the gamble on the former top prospect pitcher.

Moves:

  1. Bat1 – Trade Bailey for Alonso
  2. Bat2 – Trade McCarthy for Boesch

That covers the American League contenders.   I left out the Rays, Red Sox, Rangers and Angels, all of whom are contenders in my eyes, but don’t have an obvious trade scenario for a high-impact move.  The Rays, Red Sox and Rangers have pretty deep systems to attack needs or can be expected to play better once their current set of 25 begins to meet expectations (Evan Longoria, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford; Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz returning from injury).

Meanwhile the Angels don’t have a glaring flaw they can attack via the market.  There aren’t any major first basemen available that would be a huge upgrade over Mark Trumbo.  If Vernon Wells performs anything like expected upon his return from the DL, he will help their power woes and they could shore up their pen via trade, but Scott Downs, Rich Thompson and Jordan Walden give them a solid trio and they can probably manufacture one more reliable arm without having to make a move.

Next up, the National League contenders.

Tuesday: 05.17.2011

On Andrew Bailey

 catbird seat

–noun (Informal)

an advantageous situation or condition:

His appointment as acting dean put him in the catbird seat.

A team that is just a game over .500, one game out of first place and in third place in their division isn’t often said to be in the catbird seat, but you could make a case that the Oakland A’s are in fact there.  The A’s have the best pitching in all of baseball when measured by ERA (2.75) and the best in the AL when measured by FIP (3.19) and xFIP (3.49).  Their bullpen ranks very well, too, checking in third and fifth in baseball by ERA and FIP and tied for 14th in xFIP.  The best part about their pitching is that they have the 2nd-most innings pitched in baseball, but their bullpen has the second fewest (by a third of an inning to Philly).

Their advantageous situation comes in the fact that they are succeeding this much despite their ace closer, Andrew Bailey, not having logged a single inning this year.  In fact the fill-in closer, Brian Fuentes, has been one of their worst relievers to date (4.19 ERA, modest 7.0 K/9).  Their bullpen is in for significant improvement when Bailey returns which is expected at the end of May.  He slots in at closer and everyone else moves down a peg (or out in Craig Breslow‘s case as he is the worst reliever to date statistically speaking).

But what if he doesn’t return?  Bailey has hardly been the bastion of health during his three year career and while the results when in have been excellent, he has three different DL stints for three different parts of his body (back, right elbow, right forearm) making him a constant risk.  The prospect of using Fuentes as their closer for the whole season is probably unsettling for the Athletics’ brass.  He has a history of home run issues which is about the worst thing for a closer.

He has avoided them this year with a 0.5 HR/9, but that’s thanks to a 3.3% HR/FB rate which is highly unlikely to stick considering he has a 55% flyball rate.  The home ballpark definitely masks some of it, but I doubt the park will cover him ALL year.  He has already notched three losses, a blown save-win and an ugly save where he allowed two hits and a run (a Dirty Fuentes if you will–full credit to Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz of ESPN).  And that is with just the one home run on his record.  As that HR/FB rate regresses to the mean, it could get really dirty.

Enter the catbird seat.  Their AAA closer in Sacramento is a name you might be familiar with, Joey Devine.  He makes Bailey look like Cal Ripken Jr. with an injury track record longer than Paris Hilton’s STD test results.  But he is healthy right now and mowing down the competition with 12 shutout innings during which he has struck out 17, walked one and allowed just four hits notching three saves and three wins.

If you will recall, the last time he pitched in the majors was 2008 for the A’s and he was excellent in 45.7 innings.  He had a miniscule 0.59 ERA, microscopic 0.83 WHIP and elite-level 3.3 K/BB rate powered by his 9.7 K/9.  He is a major talent who could definitely wrest the closer’s role away from Fuentes should Bailey miss more time than expected.  Or his & Bailey’s health and performance could facilitate a trade for the A’s to shore up their woeful lineup.

It is unlikely that they could flip Devine for a game-changing piece, but a healthy Bailey (who is only signed through 2011 according to Cots combined with the fact that the Billy Beane brass has never been tied singling out a closer and making him the unquestioned guy in the role) could probably net a useful bat especially as several wannabe contenders have a hole (or five) in their bullpen (Reds, Angels, Cardinals, Rockies, Brewers, both Sox, Rangers, Dodgers and Tigers all rate 16th or worse in bullpen ERA).  And six of those teams (Cardinals, Reds, Yankees, Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox) are among the top 10 in runs scored adding to the potential for a trade fit.

The Reds look like a strong fit because they have an aging (36) closer in Francisco Cordero whose strikeout rate is dwindling rapidly (12.2 K/9 in 2007 down every year to 6.1 this year) and their heir apparent, Aroldis Chapman, would walk Vladimir Guerrero… repeatedly.  Couple that with their abundance of bats with no place to play, namely Chris Heisey, and trading seems to fit.

In addition to Heisey, the Reds also have Fred Lewis and Jonny Gomes (though he is a platoon player on the short end as righties kill him) at the major league level.  But if they wanted to keep Heisey and the A’s had no interest in Lewis or Gomes (which would be smart), their AAA team has two strong candidates the A’s would be wise to covet: Yonder Alonso and Juan Francisco.

Alonso is a first baseman they are trying at left field simply because he is blocked by the reigning MVP Joey Votto, but their best deployment of him is probably in a trade.  He is carrying a .331 average .916 OPS in 130 at-bats for AAA-Louisville and for his career he has nearly 600 plate appearances of .848 OPS at AAA suggesting he is ready for .

I appreciate Daric Barton’s ability to take a walk as much as the next guy, but a team can’t compete with a  .293 SLG out of their first baseman.  That’s so disgustingly bad that I’m sure 64% of you will go check his stats just to make sure it’s not a misprint.  The A’s could keep Alonso in the outfield, but that would put him in Josh Willingham’s spot or require moving Willingham to rightfield.  You can’t take his bat out of the lineup, though, because his .405 SLG actually qualifies as a power bat in the Oakland lineup.  I guess they could put Alonso in left and then Willingham in for Barton (Willingham has played 3 games at 1B.  Letting him learn on the fly would still be better than having to suffer Barton’s bat even though Barton is a plus defender), but that would only be an option if they decided that Alonso was a major value-add in left.  I can’t speak to his defense in the outfield at all.

Francisco is primarily a third baseman which just so happens to be another power position from which the A’s are getting ZERO power.  Kevin Kouzmanoff has an OPS (.591) that you would like to see as a SLG from one of (if not more) of your power positions of 1B, 3B, LF and RF.  His .351 SLG would make a nice OBP for crying out loud.  Francisco is a 24-year old top 10 prospect in their organization from whom big things are expected, but even the .295/.356/.400 production from his 59-game sample in the majors the last three years would be better than anything Kouz can deliver at this point.

The Reds also have a multi-positional Todd Frazier in the midst of a breakout at age 25 on their AAA team so the options run deep.  With as many holes as they have in their lineup, a singular trade won’t completely turn around Oakland’s offense, but it would be a big step in the right direction.  Plus they are doing pretty well overall despite their scrub lineup so maybe one bat would make a world of difference.  They have also some options on their own AAA team that could boost the lineup.  I’ll cover that at a later date.

Of course before any of this Bailey trade talk can come to fruition, he needs to come back and prove his health as well as show the kind of excellence we have seen from him in the past two years.  If he doesn’t, the A’s won’t have as much leeway to trade bullpen arms for help in their lineup, but with Devine surging and a major league bullpen that has been one of the best in baseball so far, they don’t need Bailey to return to succeed.  They are in a strong position either way, but obviously Bailey returning to greatness is the ideal scenario for them to maximize their time in the catbird seat.

Wednesday: 05.27.2009

Around the Diamond – 5.26.09

Transcript from Tuesday’s show:

Podcast can be found here: http://sporer.podbean.com/
or in iTunes under Baseball by Paul*

* – there are two Baseball by Paul listings because I used to have the podcast at MyPodcast.com, but they blew up so I had to move it and start anew.

Note – I said “best well run” re: the Red Sox organization… sounds weird to hear it now. Not sure it’s proper grammar.

FIRST BASE
First base is well known as a power position in the lineup. Many teams have one of their best hitters manning first base and it isn’t necessarily important that they man it well on the field so long as they swing a sweet stick in the middle of the lineup. The Major League average SLG at 1B is .490 so far this season (it was .463, .464 and .488 the past three seasons), yet 14 teams are below that mark. Worse yet is that 9 teams are below .450 including four below .410. San Francisco is getting a .290 SLG from their 1B—nice work there by Travis Ishikawa and Rich Aurilia. Even Emilio Bonifacio has a .304 SLG.

SECOND BASE
Jayson Nix
banged his 3rd and 4th home runs of the night, but even more notable is that his brother also hit his 4th of the year. Cincinnati’s Laynce upped his average to .287 with a 2-for-4 effort that included that 4th home run. I’m sure the DiMaggios-Joe, Dom and Vince-pulled off the feat a few times in their career. As I’m sure Cal and Billy Ripken did SEVERAL times! OK maybe not. Billy had 20 home runs in 3015 ABs spanning 12 seasons.

SHORTSTOP
Jason Bartlett
is headed to the disabled list along with his double play partner Akinori Iwamura, who will actually miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. The Rays are M*A*S*H unit right now with a quarter of their 25-man roster disabled. Bartlett is probably the most damaging loss at this point. He has been amazing at the dish including a 1.127 OPS in May, which is best among all shortstops and 9th in the majors.

THIRD BASE
Garrett Atkins
was rumored in potential trade talks this offseason, but now it will be next to impossible to get much in return thanks to his awful start to the 2009 season. His disgustingly bad May in which he has a .399 OPS have sunk his season totals to .190/.273/.293. How does such a potent run producer just fall off at age 29, especially playing half of his games in such a favorable home park? His 2B, HR, RBI, BB, AVG, OBP and SLG totals are all in a three-year decline. He’s relatively young so he might not be toast, but a slide like this in this era can only lead to one question: did he have “help” during the 2006-2007 heydays? Who knows, but something is seriously wrong with Garrett Atkins.

CATCHER
Joe Mauer
has the May Triple Crown right now with a .444 batting average, 11 HR and 31 RBIs. He has done so with fewer AB than any of the other HR leaders in the top 10 except ARod (7 in 58 AB). In fact, he’s actually got a Quadruple Crown when you factor in his 25 runs scored. He has been just brilliant. And he’s not the only one. According to Noah Coslov of MLB.com’s Twitter, the Twins have homered in 9 straight games. The last time they accomplished such a feat was a 12-game streak all the way back in July of 2002. During yesterday’s broadcast, Detroit Tigers announcer Dan Dickerson said “The Royals are Detroit’s closest competition in terms of games back, but any Tigers fan knows it’s the Twins you always worry about.”

OUTFIELD

I won’t complain too much because the Detroit Tigers are off to a great start, but remind me again why THEY are paying Gary Sheffield to hit .291 with a .430 OBP and .535 SLG for the Mets? He hit his 5th home run tonight and he appears to be in quite a groove. I realize he was bringing very little to the table in Detroit except for a logjam for ABs and I don’t really object to getting rid of him, just wondering if there wasn’t a better way available to where Detroit doesn’t eat the ENTIRE $14 million while he plays and plays well for another team.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Kansas City Royals might be the top suitor for Jeff Francoeur if the Braves shop him. Question 1: why WOULDN’T the Braves shop him? Question 2: why would the Royals be their top suitor? I know the answer is because Dayton Moore, their GM, is a former Braves guy, but c’mon—Francouer just isn’t that good. And I actually like Frenchie, I’m just being honest. Question 3: Rosenthal mentions that the Red Sox are known to have an eye on Francoeur. The question once again is WHY? I thought the Red Sox liked to acquire good players. They are one of the better run teams so this one perplexes me unless Theo & Co. are seeing something beyond his awful numbers.

PITCHER
Jason Berken
made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles tonight and fared alright. He went five allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three. He picked up the win as his offense supported him well with 3 HR off of Ricky Romero en route to a 7-2 thrashing. Berken is one eight starting pitchers to rate in the top 15 for the Orioles organization according to the Minor League Analyst put out by the guys over at BaseballHQ.com and the second one up to the majors this year. Brad Bergesen was the first and he has been beat up in seven starts so far with a 5.49 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. The three best are still in the minors and they are all off to very strong starts. Chris Tillman is the closest at AAA-Norfolk and he is 5-0 in eight starts with a 2.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 10.4 K/9. Jake Arrieta is at AA-Bowie and he has a 4-2 record in eight starts with a 2.97 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 11.8 K/9. And Brian Matusz (I think it’s pronounced: Muh-twos, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is 3-2 in nine starts with a 2.68 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 10.8 K/9.

If these arms pan out for the O’s, the future will be very bright with three of their lineup centerpieces already established in veteran Brian Roberts and youngsters Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Prospect Nolan Reimold has impressed early on with three home runs, the latest of which came tonight. And their top prospect overall, Matt Wieters, is set to debut Friday. That said, they have no legitimate pitching on their major league roster outside of maybe Jeremy Guthrie, so while it would be unreasonable to expect ALL eight prospects to pan out entirely, they definitely need half of them to be prime contributors to their future especially because they are stuck with the unfortunate curse of playing a division that seems like it will never have a down period.

Friday: 08.1.2008

My Trade Deadline Experience

The All-Star Break Fizzlers will be ready to post today, but in the meantime, here’s a look at my journey through yesterday’s trade deadline in one fantasy league:

After a ridiculously hot start, my team in an NL-Only 11-team 5×5 league has fluctuated between 4th and 6th for a few months. We took the cheap route with pitching as the Corderos were our highest priced arms at $13 (Francisco-kept) & $18 (Chad). Manny Parra & Wandy Rodriguez have been the aces at $7 apiece while Jonathan Sanchez has been a great $1 value even with his current struggles. We bought Mike Gonzalez for $26 when he came back (you can’t draft DL’d guys at the auction and they go up for bid when they come back) since we were short a closer after the other Cordero fizzled. $10 FA pickup Hong-Chi Kuo has really been an All-Star for us so despite this rag-tag group, we are 4th in ERA.

Offensively, we kept Upton ($5), Victorino ($6-extended from $1) CJackson ($10-extended from $5), Tulowitzki ($10-extended from $5), CYoung ($15-extended from $5 2yrs) and AGonzalez ($25). Holliday was our top get at $49 during the auction. We targeted and got several bit players that we thought would be instrumental to a great offense: Snyder $5, Keppinger $8, Sanchez $13, Ethier $13, Fukudome $18 and Encarnacion $24 were all guys that we happily acquired during the auction. Though some haven’t worked out (Sanchez & Keppinger have been underwhelming) and we’ve dealt with a rash of injuries (Bard, Tulow, Kepp, Holliday, Upton and replacement Spilborghs were all out at one point together)—we’ve still managed to rack up the league’s 2nd highest offensive point total.

Sorry for the long backstory, but I thought it worthwhile to the story of my deadline strategy. At any rate, we couldn’t give away Encarnacion & Tulowitzki to clear cap in order to get into the Harden or CC biddings despite how little we were asking (relative to their value). We still wanted to cut cap in order to get involved in any other players that might come back.

Since we owned Blake DeWitt, we wanted to get involved in the Casey Blake bidding. I didn’t know what was going on with the Manny business when this was going down, so we made an aggressive push to cut some cap and get Blake, too. We found a taker for Encarnacion. He wanted Parra and EE for Hermida $5 and Tankersley $1 (a Heilman $10 was tied to him). Since we were actually hurting our main need, pitching, I wanted more assurance on our end in case we didn’t achieve our end goal of finishing in the money and pushing for 1st. Hermida is a free agent at the end of the year, so I asked for Jay Bruce $5 instead. He agreed and the deal was consummated. We put in a $26 bid for Blake and won him (by $11… EEK!!!). Or did we? Trades of multiple players in this league are subject to a comparison of Sagarin ratings and the disparity needs to be within $20. Tankersley does NOT rate well for ol’ Jeff’s rankings and thus the deal was cancelled and thus, so was the Blake bid.

I lobbied the commissioner to let us make a small adjustment to the deal to let it fit Sagarin ratings and there’d be no harm, no foul. Adding Saito, who’s almost certainly out for the year, would balance the disparity and then we’d get Blake. He wouldn’t budge. We spoke on the phone, but he was firm. He made a compelling case, but I appreciated that he at least hashed it out with me. Talk about a blessing in disguise.

We re-did the trade to leave Tank out and insert Saito so now it fits. So Parra/EE for Bruce/Heilman/Saito opens up $16 in cap for us. At this point, we have set our sights on another Casey in lieu of losing Blake. Mr. Kotchman’s arrival has piqued our interest, but we’re still hoping for something to go down on the day of the deadline that’ll really appeal to us. Meanwhile, dealing Parra was slightly counterproductive given how badly we need pitching, but I thought it was a good value deal especially since we got a keepable Bruce over an expiring Hermida.

We looked at the strong pitching teams to try and find a match almost weekly yet nothing materialized. As the Blake thing was going on, we finally found a partner, or so we thought. It looked like this team had the ace we desired along with cap flexibility that would free us up for FAAB bids as well. It turns out that this owner travels a TON for his job and a working dialogue to hammer out a detail stretches the span of a few days.

Initially we offered a deal where the principals were Matt Holliday and Jake Peavy. We’d gain $15 with this move on its own and we hoped to free up even more cap with the supplemental pieces involved so we targeted a $1 Pelfrey among others. After not hearing back for awhile, he finally wrote back saying that while he didn’t mind Peavy-Holliday, the rest wasn’t going to work either because he didn’t want to give the players (Doumit $9) or they were frozen on his roster in accordance with different rules of the league (Church $7). In his email, he also mentioned something about wanting another piece of offense that viable. I suspect this was because he was going to include Pelfrey as well.

I studied and finally came up with the following:

Holliday $49-Fukudome $18-Waechter $10-Petit $10
for
Peavy $35-Broxton $13-Kapler $10-Edmonds $1

I was so excited about the potential of this deal. It gave us a third closer so we could make a dent in the saves category, a bona fide ace so we could maybe start to move up in Ks instead of just running in place. Despite being good in ERA, the WHIP was lacking, but there were 3 or so points sitting right there. And while he can’t touch Holliday in production, this would also give us cap to comfortably acquire Kotchman to supplement the offense loss. It also met the Sagarin ratings with a disparity of just 68 cents. I sent the email with the offer prior to the Manny Ramirez deal.

About three hours later, Manny was a Dodger. Now I was REALLY excited about the prospects of this deal. I really, really wanted to get it done because we could get Manny to replace Holliday PLUS get the pitching help we wanted!!! I sent a follow up email just to ensure that he understood the urgency of the matter for us. Then it hit me, OH CRAP… we have a 12 AM deadline because our free trading deadline is the same as baseball’s. We have a 2 up-2 down deadline until August 31st where you can trade with teams two away from you in either direction in the standings. I didn’t want to mess with that, I wanted to get it done today (Thursday).

I grew impatient and decided to give him a call letting him know my availability to hash out any reservations he may be having. It turns out he was in the air and landed around 8 pm at which point he phoned me and said it looked solid, but he’d confirm in about an hour and a half after he got into his hotel. I was ecstatic. I know I’m totally geeking out over a fantasy baseball trade, but this is why I play the game. Making moves and fighting hard to win is why this game is so damn fun.

The email came in around 10 that he confirmed the deal sending us Peavy, Broxton and spares for Holliday, Fukudome and spares. In the process, we freed up $28 more bucks for the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes that will take place on Tuesday. All told, we have $47 of open cap plus the $10 for Blake DeWitt, who we’ll cut to get him. Our 2-month push roster looks like the following:

C: Bard, Snyder
CI: AGonzalez, CJackson, Ojeda
MI: Sanchez, Tulowitzki, Keppinger
OF: Manny, Victorino, Young, Ethier, Bruce
DH: Edmonds, Kapler

Px10: MGonzalez, FCordero, Broxton, Kuo, JMiller, Lincoln, Heilman (for now), Peavy, JSanchez, Wandy

Standings at a glance with closest on both sides:
1st: 91
2nd: 74.5
3rd: 70
t4th: 64
t4th: 64
6th: 62

AVG (5th): .278 – .277 – .276 – .2692 – .2688 – .267
HR (3rd): 166 – 160 – 157 – 151
R (1st): 724 – 692
RBI (2nd): 679 – 651 – 636 – 632
SB (8th): 87 – 85 – 79 – 64

ERA (4th): 3.78 – 3.83 – 4.06 – 4.15 – 4.18
K (9th): 747 – 723 – 712 – 704 – 687
Sv (9th): 41 – 39 – 34 – 29 – 24
W (8th): 60 – 60 – 59 – 56 – 55 – 52 – 50
WHIP (7th): 1.31 – 1.31 – 1.33 – 1.37 – 1.38 – 1.39

I realize that Manny isn’t the season changer that Harden or CC would’ve been, but my excitement for Manny is because we essentially get Peavy and Broxton without decimating the offense because Manny covers Holliday very nicely. I’m not done making 2 up-2 down moves because we need at least one more starter in order to log enough IP to dent the ERA & WHIP. The Peavy move was our all-in, which is decidedly better than our FAAB acquisitions of Mark Mulder and Steve Trachsel last year that constituted as our last ditch all-in move to get into the money.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday: 07.31.2008

Ramirez to the Dodgers; Bay to the Sox

The biggest chips being discussed today finally moved and presented great FAAB players for both the AL and NL as Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay switched leagues in a 3-way deal between Boston, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

(Posted at 3:58 pm)

How can you not like Ramirez?!?! This was taken at last night’s game:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,351 other followers