With the trade deadline approaching, big names are starting to move. We’ll react to the deals that matter in Fantasy Baseball, so you’ll know how to respond in your league.
Moose tracks in Milwaukee
Mike Moustakas isn’t having his best year, but he’s been a plus offensive player for four seasons and his lefty power will play nicely in Miller Park. And while this Milwaukee offense won’t make anyone forget Harvey’s Wallbangers (the Brewers are 17th in runs), Kansas City is the lowest-scoring team in the majors. Have some fun, Moose. You’re back in a pennant race, and surrounded by some decent bats again.
The Brewers traded two prospects who had stagnated somewhat, especially RP Jorge Lopez — if you can’t trust your 25-year-old arm in the playoff hunt right now, why wait around? OF Brett Phillips is the more interesting piece, and might get a look before the season is out.
Moustakas’s arrival pushes Travis Shaw to second base, a spot he’s never played as a pro. That could be a comedy of errors, perhaps; you’re supposed to move left on the defensive spectrum, not right. From the pro side, the Brewers can point to their offensive sinkhole at second base and their fly ball-heavy pitching staff. Maybe the defensive resolution has become an overrated thing. Perhaps fading it is the play.
Brewers GM David Stearns has been mostly a plus since he took over. I like that he’s not afraid to get creative, be unconventional. Whit Merrifield would have fit Milwaukee much better, but apparently the Royals have rebuffed Merrifield offers from several teams. Merrifield isn’t even arbitration eligible yet, which is part of his appeal. Moose is into a walk year, with a $15 million mutual option unlikely to be activated.
Now back to the Alcides Escobar third base show in Kansas City, already in progress.
Can NL life rejuvenate Hamels?
For just the second time in his carer, Cole Hamels is a below-average pitcher (if only by a shade). His ERA+ stands at 99, essentially league average. But it’s hard for any pitcher to look good in the hellish heat of Arlington, where softball games routinely break out. Hamels has a 6.41 ERA at home this year, a 2.93 ERA on the road.
He’s also 34, and the Cubs are just getting a support arm, not an ace. But the price was right — Eddie Butler, Rollie Lacy, a player to be named, cash. The Rangers can’t slot cash into the rotation, can they? I had no fantasy interest in Hamels, the Ranger — but he’s now mixed-league worthy as a Cub, somewhere in the 40-50 list among starting pitchers. Make sure he wasn’t dropped in your league.
Hand loses appeal in Cleveland
Brad Hand was a dominant fantasy closer in San Diego. But after Thursday’s deal to Cleveland, he’s not just a piece of a crowded, complicated bullpen. With Cody Allen and (eventually) Andrew Miller around, it’s doubtful Hand will maintain full value. Kirby Yates looks like the closer to add in San Diego, but will he be traded, too?
Hand turns into a wait-and-see fantasy commodity. Yates is the must-grab-now guy for save chasers, even with his unavoidable trade risk. Craig Stammen is the long-shot Padres reliever to grab, if you expect Yates to be traded, too.
Machado headed to Dodgers
As for Manny Machado owners, Wednesday it was a case of “you win some, you lose some.” Machado will appreciate his new LA teammates — the Dodgers are ninth in the majors in scoring, while Baltimore is buried in 29th. But the ballpark switch won’t do Machado any favors.
Consider Camden Yards versus Dodger Stadium over the last three years, from 2015-17 (using the indispensable Bill James Handbook). Baltimore’s park boosted scoring by six percent and home runs by 18 percent. Right-handed average was essentially neutral, and right-handed homers jumped 21 percent.
Chavez Ravine? It’s been a 10-percent drag on runs, a neutral home-run park, a four-percent tax on right-handed average, and a 10-percent hit on right-handed home runs.
Perhaps none of this will matter to Machado. He’s an elite talent, someone on a possible Hall of Fame trajectory. Maybe being put back into meaningful games and a pennant race will spark his production. Obviously he’s auditioning for his next contract (which could be spun as a positive, a negative, or a non-factor; do your own Psychology Today work there). The Dodgers lineup is a significant upgrade, no one can dispute that.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) July 19, 2018
The rest of the LA lineup has moving parts to negotiate. Justin Turner will be the third baseman, though he’s been dealing with a sore hip. Chris Taylor could be a super-utility player, as could Enrique Hernandez. Max Muncy is likely to keep a gig, probably at second for now. Sometimes Muncy will slide to first, pushing Cody Bellinger to the outfield.
Yasiel Puig is currently on the DL, cleaning up the gridlock a little. But you know how Southern California is, inevitably the soul-crushing gridlock returns.
Baltimore gained five prospects in the Machado deal, with Yusniel Diaz the headliner. Diaz, a 21-year-old Cuban outfielder, is having a snappy season at Double-A (.314/.428/.477). Baseball Prospectus ranked him No. 73 on their prospect list before the year, and all three prospect clipboards figure to rank him next year. The other four prospects are a significant drop from Diaz — third baseman Rylan Bannon, infielder Breyic Valera, RP Zach Pop and SP Dean Kremer.
Familia to Oakland, Gsellman possible beneficiary
The Mets should be sellers, given their road-to-nowhere season; thus, the move of Jeurys Familia to Oakland made sense. New York didn’t get much back, however — two modest prospects (pitcher Bobby Wahl, third baseman William Toffey) and some international slot money.
Familia has already been told his Oakland role — setup man for All-Star closer Blake Treinen. Perhaps Familia will pick up some closing scraps when Treinen needs a break (Familia was slated to close Sunday if needed), but he’s not the baton-holder here.
The Mets will probably give Robert Gsellman a shot at their ninth inning. He posted a two-inning, 44-pitch save on the weekend, a white-knuckler against the Yankees. Gsellman has a mediocre 4.08 ERA on the year (with ERA estimates in the same area), and his K/BB rate is an uninspiring 2.30. But if he’s used in a more traditional closing role, he might have enough stuff to make it work.
Britton to Yanks, Brach back to ninth
The Yankees already had the best bullpen in the majors. A healthy Zach Britton will try to widen that gap and sink that ERA.
Britton is not remotely close to the same pitcher he was two years ago, when he forced his way into the Cy Young conversation (0.54 ERA, 0.84 WHIP). Injuries have mostly tweaked his value. But his two-seamer is still sinking, and he’s worked eight consecutive appearances this month. His 3.06 ERA from the beginning of 2017 is a testament to ground balls — his FIP is 3.70 over that period, and he’s walked 28 men against 42 strikeouts.
Obviously Britton’s role changes in New York; they already have Aroldis Chapman closing. If you own Britton, you’re hoping for an occasional relief win and maybe the odd save chance when Chapman might be unavailable.
The Orioles are baseball’s worst team, a sorry 29-73 — and they’re dismantling all the time (miss you, Manny). But they need a new closer designee with Britton gone, and it’s likely that Brad Brach will return to the fray.
Brach rattled off 11 saves earlier this year, most of them coming in April and May, but he’s had trouble getting anyone out over the last seven weeks (18 IP, 27 H, 15 R, 13 ER, 8 BB, 13 K). With a struggling reliever on a team this lousy, it comes down to that timeless question, “how badly do you need the saves?” He’ll probably hurt your ratios, if not torch them.
Dillon Tate was the biggest name the Orioles scored for Britton, a former first-round pick (fourth overall) who has fallen off the prospect radar. Baltimore will be his third organization; he was initially drafted by the Rangers.
Tate wasn’t ranked in anyone’s Top 100 into the last two seasons, and he’s having an unremarkable season at Double-A (3.38 ERA, 1.11 WHIP); remember, he’s already 24. The Yankees don’t seem concerned that Tate will haunt them for years to come, given they traded him in the division. LHP Josh Rogers (3.95 ERA at Triple-A) and RHP Cody Carroll (a solid year as a 25-year-old Triple-A reliever) also head to Baltimore. Zach Britton was obviously priced to move.