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Who’s Hot: Trade deadline edition

Posted on 29 August 2012 by Chris Caylor

For this week’s edition of Who’s Hot, Who’s Not, we journey back in time…about a month. The Dodgers-Red Sox mega-deal got me thinking: first, about that whole “let’s move the trade deadline back” media movement I addressed a few weeks ago. The blockbuster trade proves that the trade deadlines are just fine where they are, just like I wrote. Second, I was reminded about the deals made before the July 31st deadline. Which players have given their new teams a boost? Which players have fallen flat? There are some of each. Before we dive in, let’s just acknowledge that any stats from July 31 to now constitute a small sample size and should be regarded as such. At the same time, though, this time of year, those SSS (small sample size) numbers may make the difference between October baseball and October tee times.

Who’s Hot

Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers – There must be something about guys named Ramirez being traded to LA. This year, it’s the enigmatic HanRam, a frequent loafer while with the Marlins. Since joining the Dodgers, Ramirez has been worth 0.7 WAR in just 32 games (thru Tuesday), whereas he was worth 0.5 WAR in 93 games with Miami. Fantasy owners may never again see the days where Ramirez hits over .300 or steals 20+ bases, but they have to be much happier with his stats in LA than the end of his tenure in South Florida. With Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier batting around him and the allure of a pennant race, Ramirez should be a top performer for the Dodgers and fantasy owners.

Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves – There are low-profile acquisitions every season, whether by trade, free agency or minor league recall, that give teams an unexpectedly pleasant shot in the arm. Maholm has been guy for the Braves. In his 8th season, finally in a pennant race, he is enjoying his finest season. Since being traded to Atlanta, Maholm has responded by averaging over 7 innings per start and spinning a 0.98 WHIP. His H/9 and K/9 ratios are career bests as well. Atlanta has struggled with injuries to its rotation all season, but Maholm and Kris Medlen are helping to steady the ship.

Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants – Here is another example of an under-the-radar trade that has paid big dividends for the buyers. Scutaro was scuffling through a hum-drum season in Colorado before Christmas came early in the form of a trade to San Francisco. After putting together a .271/.324/.361 line for the Rockies, a revitalized Scutaro has posted a much more respectable .331/.359/.430 line. As a Scutaro owner, I had been considering dropping him altogether, even though he was playing half his games at Coors Field. Now that he is playing every day for the Giants (and hitting well), he is a decent middle-infield option for NL-only leagues and deep mixed leagues.

Lukewarm

Francisco Liriano, Chicago White Sox – With the exception of one clunker of a start against Oakland on August 11, the former Twin has pitched pretty well for the Pale Hosers. While with Minnesota, Liriano compiled a 77 ERA+ in 22 games. Since being dealt to Chicago, he has pitched to an ERA+ of 102, or just a tad above average. Accordingly, his ownership percentage in roto leagues has increased since the trade. He was forced to leave last Monday’s start against the Orioles due to leg cramps, so he should be fine for his next start.

Shane Victorino, Los Angeles Dodgers – The Flyin’ Hawaiian was already having a down season with the Phillies, and he hasn’t taken off since arriving in L.A. His batting average and OPS numbers would be the worst of his career if the season ended today, while his WAR numbers would be the worst since becoming an everyday player for Philadelphia in 2006. He is capable of a hot streak in the season’s final month, and he continues to be an excellent source of steals. With Ramirez, Kemp, Gonzalez and Either to drive him in, all Victorino needs to do is get back to career-average numbers and he will return to elite status.

Wandy Rodriguez/Travis Snider/Gaby Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates – After the Derrek Lee/Ryan Ludwick trades failed to boost the Pirates to the postseason in 2011, Pirates GM Neal Huntington went in the opposite direction this year, trading for players whom the Pirates will control beyond 2012. The three players acquired in July all fall into the lukewarm category:

 Snider – The most intriguing player of the three, Snider has taken the opportunity and run with it. His improved plate discipline (lower strikeout rate, higher walk rate) has led to better pitches to hit, especially with men on base (1.117 OPS). Clearly, he is enjoying batting ahead of Andrew McCutchen in the Buccos’ lineup. The power isn’t showing up yet, but he is still just 24. Count me as a Snider fan. He is most definitely worth a roster spot in NL-only roto leagues and even as a matchup play against lefties.
 Rodriguez – I list Wandy here in the lukewarm category after watching him deal six shutout innings in a critical game Wednesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. That had to be more like what Pittsburgh had in mind when they dealt three prospects for the former Astros southpaw. Prior to that start, Rodriguez hurled career-worst numbers in H/9, BB/9 and K/9. I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve already dropped him from your fantasy team (if you even had him in the first place). Keep an eye on him for the next start or two, though, and see if he can build on his gem against the Cards.
 Sanchez – He fell out of favor very quickly in Miami, despite hitting 19 home runs each of the past two seasons. Sanchez has been a part-time player in Pittsburgh. While he hasn’t exactly proven the Marlins wrong yet, he has improved, raising his batting line from an embarrassing .202/.250/.306 to merely a below average .250/.291/.365, which is no worse than the Pirates were getting from the now-departed Casey McGehee. Either way, Sanchez has no business being on your fantasy roster unless you’re in the deepest of fantasy leagues.

Who’s Not

Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Angels – Greinke might be the biggest bust of the entire trade season. The Angels were expecting the ace worthy of a 2.4 WAR with the Brewers; instead, Greinke has depreciated in every critical pitching category. A -0.1 WAR was definitely not what the Angels had in mind. He isn’t just on a run of bad luck; his pitches are getting hammered for major damage. The worst thing for fantasy players is that benching or cutting Greinke is not really an option. He is capable of an 8-inning, 1 ER, 10K gem at any point. Like the Angels, you’re stuck waiting for it to happen.

Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants – Someone show Pence the way to San Francisco. The always-entertaining outfielder energized the Phillies lineup in 2011 with an OPS+ of 157 after being acquired from Houston, but it hasn’t happened for the Giants. Pence is slugging a puny .324 and whiffed in nearly one-third of his at-bats since the trade. To me, Pence has always been a bit overrated by most fantasy owners (similar to Nick Markakis in the American League); as such, he probably cost a either a mid-to-high draft pick or auction price tag. If you own Pence, you probably can’t just dump Pence unless you’re in a ridiculously shallow league. If that’s the case, you need to find a more challenging league.

Ryan Dempster/Geovany Soto, Texas Rangers – The Rangers swooped in at the last minute and poached Dempster from the Los Angeles Dodgers, but you have to wonder if they would like a do-over. Dempster has not adjusted well to the junior circuit (83 ERA+, 1.47 WHIP). His struggles are less surprising considering that he had crafted a career-best ERA+ and WHIP at age 35, but the Rangers had to be expecting better. He’s not undroppable like Greinke, but he should be a matchup play in head-to-head leagues. Keep him active if you’re desperate for wins in a roto league, but only if you can stand the hit in the other pitching categories. Soto replaced Mike Napoli, but has not done much better than Yorvit Torrealba, who was cut loose to make room for Soto. He looks like a shell of the player who won the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year award.

As we jump back to the present, this is what we see: Ramirez has worked out well for the Dodgers, but the other high-profile acquisitions have not made the desired impact for their new teams. It’s the lower-profile deals that have worked out best: Maholm, Scutaro, even Edward Mujica has been a demonstrable upgrade to the Cardinals bullpen. Meanwhile, the Angels have lost ground in the playoff hunt since Greinke joined the team (not that it’s solely his fault by any stretch; he’s had plenty of help). The Giants are in first place, but Scutaro has been a bigger contributor to their recent success than Pence. Nate Schierholtz has been as productive (read: not very) as Pence, and the Giants wouldn’t have had to surrender any talent. Dempster was 98% on his way to Atlanta; how different would the Braves rotation look if Dempster ended up there and pitched the same way he has in Texas? What would the Rangers have done to upgrade their rotation?

This isn’t to say that making deals at the trade deadline doesn’t work. Just last year, the St. Louis Cardinals made a huge trade – sacrificing a talented young center fielder – which fortified the starting rotation and bullpen and led to an exhilarating World Series championship. In 2010, the San Francisco Giants picked up Cody Ross as a spare part and he helped lead them to their first title in 56 years. Making a trade – especially a blockbuster – is a calculated roll of the dice. We won’t know the true impact of the trades until after the season at the earliest. These are just first impressions of the deals made a month ago. The storylines are still being written.

Hit me with any feedback (well, unless you’re a Red Sox fan). Follow me on Twitter @chriscaylor.

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Deadline Deals: Pittsburgh Pirates Edition

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Chris Caylor

For the second straight year, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in the thick of the NL Central race. In 2011, the acquisitions of Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick turned out to be rentals that did nothing to help their disastrous second half. Pirates GM Neal Huntington has been busy again this past week, making four different trades. How did he fare this time around?

1) Wandy Rodriguez for three minor leaguers – It might seem like a big price for a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but Houston kicked in a fair amount of cash in order to obtain better quality prospects. The Pirates are waist-deep in pitching prospects. While you can make a case that the Pirates did not need Rodriguez, they didn’t surrender any of those top prospects to get him. As a bonus, acquiring Rodriguez means that other pitching-needy teams (Braves, Cardinals, D-Backs) don’t get him either. The Pirates’ rotation may not be overpowering, but it’s plenty sturdy.
2) Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln – It might seem like Snider has been around for 10 years, but he’s only 24, and two seasons removed from hitting 14 home runs in about a half-season worth of at-bats for the Toronto Blue Jays. He has consistently mashed in the minors, including in Triple-A this season: 13 HR, 56 RBI, 1.021 OPS for Las Vegas. With Edgar Encarnacion and Adam Lind in place, Snider is left without a regular place to play. The Pirates are a perfect landing spot for him. While it may be asking too much to jump right in and offer lineup protection for Andrew McCutchen, Snider has solid run-producer potential. The fact that Snider isn’t just a two-month rental shows that GM Neal Huntington has his eye on the future as well as 2012. In Lincoln, the Pirates are losing a useful bullpen arm who has seen huge jumps in his K/9 and K/BB ratios. Lincoln, 27, could be enjoying a breakout season, but it also seems reasonable to expect a correction in his numbers moving to the AL East.
3) Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska for Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance draft pick – In 2010-11, Sanchez compiled 38 HR, 163 RBI and 144 runs scored. Not spectacular numbers, but certainly useful. In 2012, Sanchez bottomed out, tallying an awful .556 OPS before being sent down. At age 28, Sanchez obviously no longer qualifies as a prospect, but if he can regain his prior form, he will provide an upgrade at first. At worst, he should be a decent part-timer (.298/.390./.488 against lefties). The Marlins get the Pirates’ competitive-balance draft pick, which will be the 33rd overall next year, per Jim Callis of Baseball America. Hernandez and Kaminska are thrown-ins, essentially.
4) Chad Qualls for Casey McGehee – Qualls, a veteran of several pennant races, presumably replaces Lincoln in the Bucco bullpen. McGehee had been a part-time player – and not a very productive one at that (88 OPS+) – before the Snider/Sanchez deals, so he was entirely expendable. Compared to Lincoln, Qualls is a downgrade, but the Pirates are hoping to get Juan Cruz back in August to help take up the slack from Lincoln’s trade.

After the deals, let’s take a peek at the Pirates’ lineup and rotation:

C – Rod Barajas
1B – Gaby Sanchez/Garrett Jones
2B – Neil Walker
SS – Clint Barmes
3B – Pedro Alvarez
LF – Starling Marte/Travis Snider
CF – Andrew McCutchen
RF – Travis Snider/Garrett Jones

Rotation – James McDonald, A.J. Burnett, Erik Bedard, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Karstens

The only thing Huntington has not yet addressed is the gaping black hole at shortstop. How Clint Barmes still has an every day job in the majors defies reason. Stephen Drew or Marco Scutaro would have been perfect fits, both offensively and defensively (then again, Jose Lind might represent an improvement over Barmes at the plate).

In all, though, the Buccos’ dealings should prove more productive, not only the rest of this season but into 2013 and beyond. Whether it’s enough to catch the Reds and continue to hold off the Cardinals remains to be seen; however, it seems clear that the Pirates are on the verge of snapping their 20-year run of sub-.500 finishes.

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National League pitching planner: April 16 – April 22

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National League pitching planner: April 16 – April 22

Posted on 14 April 2012 by Mark Sherrard

Week 2 is winding down and its time to starting planning for week 3.  Here are the two start pitchers and those with favorable matchups for week 3:

Two Start Pitchers

No brainers

Roy Halladay: 4/16 @ SF; 4/21 @ SD

Stephen Strasburg: 4/16 vs Hou; 4/21 vs Mia

Josh Johnson: 4/17 vs ChC; 4/22 @ Was

Tim Lincecum: 4/16 vs Phi; 4/22 @NYM

Johnny Cueto: 4/17 vs Stl; 4/22 @ChC

All 5 of these guys are aces and should never leave your starting lineup, especially when they have two starts in a week.

Not too shabby

Erik Bedard: 4/16 @ Ari; 4/22 vs Stl

Chad Billingsley: 4/17 @ Mil; 4/22 @ Hou

Joe Blanton: 4/17 @ SF; 4/22 @ SD

Randall Delgado: 4/17 vs NYM; 4/22 @ Ari

Ryan Dempster: 4/17 @ Mia; 4/22 vs Cin

Yovani Gallardo: 4/17 vs LAD; 4/22 vs Col

Gio Gonzalez: 4/17 vs Hou; 4/22 vs Mia

Tommy Hanson: 4/16 vs NYM; 4/21 @ Ari

Ian Kennedy: 4/17 vs Pit; 4/22 vs Atl

Kyle Lohse: 4/17 vs Cin; 4/22 @ Pit

Cory Luebke: 4/16 @ Col; 4/21 vs Phi

Wandy Rodriguez: 4/17 @ Was; 4/22 vs LAD

These are quality pitchers with at least one out of their two starts favorable.  They should definitely help your team this week.

Risky at best

Dillon Gee: 4/16 @ Atl; 4/22 vs SF

Jeremy Guthrie: 4/16 vs SD; 4/22 @ Mil

Joe Saunders: 4/16 vs Pit; 4/21 vs Atl

Kyle Weiland: 4/16 @ Was; 4/21 vs LAD

These are inconsistent or unproven starters.  They could help you this week, but the risk outweighs the potential reward.

Other Favorable Matchups

Johan Santana: 4/17 @ Atl

Santana appears to be fully recovered from his shoulder issues and has a career 2.14 ERA against the Braves.

Cliff Lee: 4/18 @ SF

Lee is 4-0 with a minuscule 0.82 ERA against the Giants in his career.

Ricky Nolasco: 4/19 vs ChC

He has a career ERA of 2.57 against his former team, gets to pitch in his spacious home park and the Cubs are rebuilding.  He’s in my lineup.

Cole Hamels: 4/20 @ SD

Hamels is 6-2 with a 2.28 ERA in his career against the Padres and gets the added benefit of pitching in Petco.

Clayton Kershaw: 4/21 @ Hou

Kershaw may not have the best career ERA against (3.19) of this group, but Houston is not much more than a AAA team this year.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the AL pitching matchups.

 

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The Roster Report – February 29, 2012

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The Roster Report – February 29, 2012

Posted on 29 February 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans. Welcome to another edition of the Roster Report. With most of the off-season roster movement finished, it’s time to take a long look at a few recent decisions (and an injury) that will affect roster composition for a few squads. If you’re the fan of the Athletics, the Astros, or the Yankees, you may want to keep reading.

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The Houston Astros name SP/RP Brett Myers closer.

Rather unexpectedly, the Astros announced yesterday that Brett Myers will be moving back to the bullpen, and should open the 2012 season as the closer for the Astros. This adjusts expectations both for the bullpen and the rotation, as Myers had been a fixture in the Houston starting rotation since coming over from the Phillies in 2010. Myers hasn’t been particularly good recently, posting a 4.46/4.26/3.75 ERA/FIP/xFIP triple-slash line. Myers has always performed worse than his xFIP has indicated, but in 2011 he was especially snakebitten by runners on base. Myers has a tough time striking out hitters, so it seems his main strength lies in his ability to throw 200 innings a year. That doesn’t exactly help him in the ‘pen.

Now, instead of Myers holding down a role in the rotation, spots will go to Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, and Jordan Lyles. The fifth spot could perhaps go to newly-acquired young pitchers Kyle Weiland and Brett Olberholtzer. Instead, initial reports say that it is more likely that a veteran, either Livan Hernandez or Zach Duke, will fill the fifth starter role. To me, this is a huge mistake. The Astros need to find young talent where they can, and there’s little to no chance that Hernandez or Duke will be a tradeable asset or a valuable piece of the team going forward. This move could likely do nothing to either improve the rotation today or develop young talent, which would be a mistake.

I had previously expected hard-throwing righty David Carpenter to win the closing job in Houston for the coming season, but swapping Myers into that role probably won’t affect the won-loss record of the team. Moving Myers to the closer spot may make him more attractive as a trade candidate, but teams haven’t been falling all over themselves to acquire Myers and his  But if the ‘Stros could pass off David Carpenter as a real closer, he’d have some real trade value himself. Pitchers like former Astro Mark Melancon (and Andrew Bailey…and Sergio Santos…and Sean Marshall) have brought back good young pieces in trade. These are things that If Myers becomes a closer, then he obviously comes up to fantasy baseball relevance as a low-tier closer.

If the move opens up space for a young pitcher in the rotation, then this is probably a solid move for a team looking to develop young talent. And if this move convinces another franchise that it’s worth it to trade for Brett Myers, well that’s probably a good deal in and of itself. But if they’re moving on from Myers to fit Hernandez or Duke in the rotation, then they’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

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Oakland Athletics 3B Scott Sizemore is out for the 2012 season with a torn ACL.

You know, the Oakland Athletics need another position battle. Unfortunately, incumbent third baseman Scott Sizemore suffered an ACL injury that will keep him out for the entire upcoming season. This injury makes something completely obvious: the Athletics have precious little infield depth. Either Eric Sogard or Adam Rosales could step in and fill in at third, but neither player has skills that really profile at the hot corner. Both players have even less bat than Sizemore (who’s a good, but not-yet-great with the stick), so it would behoove them to find someone who is not currently on the 25-man roster as a replacement.

Initial word out of Oakland is that catcher Josh Donaldson will get first crack at the starting gig with Sizemore out. Donaldson probably isn’t a good enough hitter to be a major league catcher (95 wRC+ in Triple-A), so I’d be surprised if he will stick at third. In all honesty, the A’s probably need to go out and add another player. Trade candidates are out there that include players like Juan Francisco, Daniel Murphy, or Alberto Callaspo. I’d expect the Athletics to target low-cost, high-control players who could stick with the team for several seasons in trade. There’s been no rumor to the effect, but I wonder if there’s any chance the A’s would look into moving former SS and current CF prospect Grant Green to the hot corner. But as it stands now, the Athletics have a huge hole that needs to be filled pronto.

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The New York Yankees sign RP David Aardsma to a one-year, $500K deal.

David Aardsma may be most famous for being the MLB player who is listed first alphabetically by last name. But now, he’s going to be a late-inning pitcher for the Bronx Bombers once he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Aardsma was quite effective as a closer for the Mariners in 2009 and 2010, saving 69 games over those two seasons. The journeyman reliever sports a career 4.20 ERA and 4.24 FIP, but he has outperformed both these numbers over the last two seasons, showing that the could still be in his pitching prime. The only open question is whether or not he will be able to recover from his TJ surgery and perform at the level which he is accustomed.

If he comes back strong at the end of this year, expect the Yankees to pick up an option for 2013 at $500K. Could Aardsma then be the next man up if Mariano Rivera were to retire at the end of the season? Probably not…that’s probably David Robertson‘s slot to lose. I also don’t imagine Aardsma will have much of a fantasy impact this season…though he could have a little value in holds leagues as a late waiver pickup. But first, we’ve got to see that he’s able to recover from his injury.

Quick Hits

  • Word is coming out from Mets camp that former Cy Young-winner Johan Santana may actually be ready to pitch by Opening Day. Santana would solidify a Met rotation without top-end talent, and would probably be the #1 starter by default. If he is able to go, expect the Met rotation to shake out with some combination of Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, and Dillon Gee. If Santana can’t step into the rotation right away, expect journeyman-poet Miguel Batista to hold down the last spot in the rotation until he’s ready.
  • The Angels have been talking all winter about shoring up their bullpen (or even bringing in a closer to displace Jordan Walden), but now they’ve added another arm to their ‘pen in Jason Isringhausen. Izzy, formerly of the Mets, Athletics, Cardinals, and Rays, picked up a few saves (including his 300th) in Flushing last season, but he’s probably not a guy to rely on in the ninth. Instead, he’ll provide veteran presence and a few strikeouts (8.43 K/9 in 2011) as a setup arm in Anaheim – at least as long as his right arm holds up.
  • A wave of catchers retired over the last week or so. Three very solid veterans of different stripes called it quits: Jorge Posada, Jason Varitek, and Bengie Molina all are officially calling it quits for 2012. Posada is probably headed for the Hall of Fame as one of the most potent offensive catchers of the last thirty years. Jason Varitek will never have to buy a beer in Boston, and should see his number retired, but doesn’t have the offensive chops to find a home in Cooperstown. And Molina, despite being an effective backstop for a decade, never had a transcendent season but was a long-time starter. All three of these players might be joined by another great catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, if he doesn’t hook on soon.

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