July 2005

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Team By Team - Chicago Cubs

Brian Giles to the Cardinals rumors swirl about, but at the moment The Roto Authority will uncover some second half sleepers from the Cubs. 

Jeromy Burnitz is exceeding expectations and Sammy Sosa with a .275-17-54 line so far.  Burnitz has another ten homers left in him as a Cub, so pick him up if you need a fill-in outfielder.

Nomar Garciaparra is due back on Friday.  Don't be surprised if you get 10 HR and 30 RBI from Nomar in August and September.  We might see a bit of a Frank Thomas/Chipper Jones syndrome, where the batting average suffers a bit and the homers increase.  Garciaparra is a nice gamble if he's been dropped in your league and you're relying on the likes of Juan Uribe.

Jerome Williams and Rich Hill are a couple of starting pitcher sleepers if you need someone in the back of your rotation.  Both should give you an ERA around 4, but Hill is riskier.  Along with that risk comes a strikeout per inning.  Choose based on your needs.  Also consider that Williams's spot is more secure, and Hill might be traded by the end of the day. 

Right now, Kerry Wood has more value to the Cubs than to your fantasy baseball team.  With the success of Ryan Dempster, Wood looks to be no more than a setup man.  Without saves and with few innings, Wood is not someone you want to trade for.  However, if you're out of the race and can give up a non-keeper (like a Todd Jones) then deal for Wood.  There's a decent chance he closes full-time in 2006 and could be lights out.  Just don't retain Wood or any closer at a high price.  Contrary to popular belief, Kerry Wood still would have plenty of fantasy value as a starter, as outlined in a previous article.

For further reading, Baseball Prospectus's John Erhardt has an excellent take on the Cubs' new-look bullpen after the additions of Wood and Scott Williamson.



Post-Trade Opportunities

The fantasy baseball side effect of the trading deadline is very significant and should not be overlooked.  Sure, a few dozen players will change teams, including a couple players of notoriety.  But the important players being traded are typically already owned, and they don't present much of an opportunity for you to move up in the standings.

That's why The Roto Authority is presenting a series called Post-Trade Opportunities.  Here, we'll dive into players who aren't traded but suddenly find themselves with new jobs and opportunities after a teammate is dealt.

Felix Hernandez is the #1 pitching prospect in baseball, and he might finally join Seattle's rotation next week.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has surmised that an Eddie Guardado trade could open up a spot for Hernandez.  A demotion of Joel Pineiro or Aaron Sele would also open up a spot.  There might be a few factors preventing Hernandez's debut from being at the Doc Gooden level.  First, he's coming off shoulder bursitis and might be broken in in the bullpen.  Second, he is being treated with kid gloves and will have a very conservative pitch count.  Despite that, his numbers will be solid this year and you can't afford to miss the boat on him for 2006 and 2007.

Speaking of Seattle, J.J. Putz figures to move into the closer's role if Guardado is dealt.  Putz has been good enough this year and makes a better closer option than anybody on the Reds, Rockies, or Giants.

Mike Gonzalez has been out for over a month with a sprained knee ligament, and his minor-league rehab should start next week.  The injury is just another thing keeping Gonzalez under the radar.  Jose Mesa is a near-lock to be traded on Sunday, and Gonzalez should slide right into the closer's role.  He should put up excellent numbers across the board.  The only caveat is that Salomon Torres will fill in in the interim, and there's a slight chance he holds onto the closer job even when Gonzalez returns.

There are reports that Colorado will spin Larry Bigbie off to Boston for Kelly Stoppach.  Stoppach is currently hitting .260-21-63 in AAA.  Stoppach is just an OK fantasy baseball prospect, but a move to Coors plus a full-time job makes his stock rise considerably in the always-weak catching market.

Ryan Madson just needs a chance to start to be a solid #4 fantasy starter.  If he's dealt to the Devil Rays for Danys Baez, or to any noncontender, Madson will start.  You can rely on him for an ERA below 4 and a decent WHIP.  He'll also supply a fair amount of Ks, so he makes a nice sleeper if he gets an opportunity.

Go here to get to the main page of The Roto Authority, where you'll find articles about 2006 fantasy baseball sleepers and future free agents.         



Team By Team - Washington Nationals

At the moment The Roto Authority will take a break from the constant trade rumors and identify some decent second half sleepers from the Washington Nationals.  This team has been a huge surprise in 2005, and even as they fall back down to Earth you may be able to pick out a few gems to help your fantasy baseball team.  Check out Capitol Punishment for good Nationals blogging.

Jose Guillen is leading Washington's offense, with a .302-19-58 line so far.  Guillen and Vinny Castilla have been skeptical about RFK Stadium's posted measurements, and with good reason.  Guillen might be looking at a 35-40 HR season in a more neutral ballpark.  Keep an eye on any stadium adjustments made - it's very possible that the team pulls in the fences.  If you act quickly, you might be able to snag Guillen for a career year 2006.

Nick Johnson looked to be having a breakout season, with a .443 OBP so far.  But with a .387 career OBP, Johnson has always been a patient hitter.  However, without steals, and with only moderate power and a long injury history, fantasy baseball owners have to avoid Johnson.  He's simply much more valuable in real baseball than in fantasy baseball.

Ryan Church is having a nice rookie season, but his injury history coupled with his lack of upside makes him a weak candidate for your outfield.  Take a flier on him as your fifth OF, but don't expect the world.  Remember, Church is a 26 year-old rookie.

John Patterson is having a monster year, but only has four wins to show for it.  If you can point to his supposed inability to win and steal him in a trade, do it immediately.  Don't be afraid to give up a Jim Edmonds type or more, as Patterson is a top 5 NL pitcher right now.

Esteban Loaiza isn't a hot commodity in most fantasy baseball leagues, but his 3.54 RFK-aided ERA goes a long way at the bottom of your rotation.  He won't let you down in the K department, either - expect a Doug Davis-like 175 Ks.   



MLB Trade Rumors: Manny Ramirez

The latest trade rumor whipping the baseball world into a frenzy involves Manny Ramirez.  The Roto Authority thinks it's simply a case of huge trade withdrawal.  When the biggest name on the market is A.J. Burnett, a #2 starter at best, there is a craving for a Manny blockbuster.  But that's half the fun, and the Red Sox truly are exploring a Manny Ramirez trade, so let's have a look at the possibilities.

We all know that Ramirez is a bona fide superstar, well on his way to 600 home runs in his career.  He's a lock for 40 HR, 120 RBI, and a .300 average every year.  The Red Sox paid dearly for the production, and Ramirez is due $57 million for 2006-2008.  Manny is at .275-28-92 this year, numbers that would make a pretty good entire season for most players.  There are two months left in the season for Manny to wreak havoc. 

So, what team could possibly afford Manny's $57 million and has a gaping left field vacancy?  The Chicago Cubs, of course.  The Cubs also have the young talent to draw him in - Rich Hill, Felix Pie, Matt Murton, and Corey Patterson could all be part of a package.  Theo Epstein certainly wouldn't mind getting Murton back after Hendry swiped him.  Imagine a 3-4-5 combo of Derrek Lee, Manny Ramirez, and Aramis Ramirez.  Not that the Cubs need power, but still.  History is on the Cubs' side, as Hendry and Epstein worked out the Nomar Garciaparra blockbuster right before the deadline in 2004. 

The problem with this dream scenario for Cubs fans?  Manny wants out of Boston because he wants more privacy.  Clearly he won't get that in Chicago.  Other possible destinations, like New York, offer the same obstacle.   



MLB Trade Rumors: Thoughts From Around the Web

One of The Roto Authority's most respected baseball websites is Baseball Prospectus.  Now you can try BP free for a week - but the $40 yearly subscription fee is money well spent.  Among their many gifted authors we are especially partial to Joe Sheehan and Will Carroll.  Today, Sheehan has some interesting commentary on the plausibility of the various A.J. Burnett trades being bandied about. 

His dismay at trading Bronson Arroyo is similar to our feelings here at The Roto Authority.  These two pitchers are very comparable and Arroyo has several years before free agency.  Sheehan also had this to say, which I thought was worth quoting:

In general, A.J. Burnett has come to be quite overrated on the trade market this summer. He's a good starter, a #2 in many rotations, but he's not a difference-maker or a star, and he's being priced as such. He's the pitcher on the market most likely to be part of a trade that we're still talking about 20 years from now. 

This is an excellent point - trading the farm for an injury-prone #2 starter to give your team a barely noticeable lift can have devastating long-term effects.  It will be interesting to revisit this year's trades in five years and see which superstar was once traded for a Mark Redman or a Danys Baez

In addition, here's an interesting conceptual trade quote from Matthew Cerrone over at MetsBlog:

...teams get more value on positional players in the off-season when a larger market can be created.

Cerrone is echoing something preached by the Brewers, and it's a concept I never really considered before.  Pitching is the hot commodity at the deadline, and teams have been extracting tons of value through the years for mediocre starting pitchers on July 31st.  The Zambrano-Kazmir deal is everyone's favorite example. 

But it is a valid point that the Reds should shy away from trading Adam Dunn until the offseason, when some team decides they must have a power-hitting outfielder.  Apparently the Brewers subscribe to this strategy and seem to have applied it when they swiped Carlos Lee from the speed-coveting White Sox for the far less valuable Scott Podsednik.



Nomo to the Yankees? Is This a Joke?

With their starting rotation in dire straits, the New York Yankees have signed Hideo Nomo and will be sending him to AAA in hopes of getting him ready to make some starts.  With Al Leiter and Hideo Nomo, it seems that the team is starting a collection of the worst starting pitchers in baseball.  Consider their combined stats this season:

Aldeo Leitmo
Record:  9-16
194 IP
6.82 ERA
1.77 WHIP

Based on these acquisitions, The Roto Authority expects to see trading deadline deals for Eric Milton (former Yankee), Jose Lima, and Sidney Ponson.  Needless to say, The Roto Authority recommends against adding these players to your starting rotation.

For more Yankee rotation dissing, David Pinto's thoughts on Al Leiter over at Baseball Musings. 



2006 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Catchers

It's never too early to think about 2006, especially when a sly pickup now can have a big impact on your fantasy baseball team come next spring.  With that in mind, The Roto Authority has hand-picked two quality sleepers at the catcher position, both coming from San Diego. 

While a case could be made for Robert Fick as a decent second fantasy catcher, this post concerns Ramon Hernandez and Phil Nevin

The Padres are trying to win now, and their offense needs all the help it can get.  That's why they traded for Joe Randa, and that's why they're trying to prevent Ramon Hernandez from having season-ending wrist surgery.  Late word is that surgery would keep Hernandez out six weeks instead, but either way it would hurt the team's offense. 

Hernandez's agent is very much in favor of the surgery, knowing that a demonstrably healthy Hernandez can cash a free-agent deal similar to Jason Varitek's this winter.   The Padres are unlikely to cough up a four-year, $40 million deal in any case.  Had Hernandez been healthy this season, he most certainly would have been on the trading block right now. 

If Hernandez has the surgery during the season, his numbers won't improve much from the .273-7-38 line he's put up so far.  Even something as simple as the commonality of his name has kept him underrated as a fantasy catcher for years.  This offseason, expect Hernandez to move to a stable, more hitter-friendly environment and post a .280-25-80 line.  If you're out of the race in your league, trade some scraps for him now.  Failing that, try to acquire him before he signs a free-agent contract and enters a more well-known market like New York. 

Fallout from the Ramon Hernandez injury is that Phil Nevin will be used occasionally behind the plate.  Nevin hasn't played there in years, but his defense is the least of a fantasy owner's concerns.  As a catcher, Nevin's stock has gone through the roof, especially for 2006.   A line of .275-30-100 is average for a fantasy baseball first baseman, and first base is where Nevin might play in 2006.  However, he'll likely be with another team (most likely on the West Coast) and he probably won't be catching.  That means he'll fall under the delicious loophole of qualifying at catcher but not playing there in 2006.

You won't have to be quite as active with Nevin, as his numbers this year are causing his stock to drop.  He should come back to his career norms next year with a more stable setting.  Try to pick him up in a trade before your auction or draft, because at that point everyone will have read the roto magazines touting his eligibility.   



Second Half Sleepers - Philadelphia Phillies

Before we discuss Phillies sleepers, a brief aside on trade rumors involving the Mets.  The Mets have been rumored to be after a myriad of players, but speculation always runs rampant in New York. 

Among the names tossed out include Alfonso Soriano, Jose Mesa, Danys Baez, Jeff Kent, and Adam Dunn.  None of these players would be worth trading both Yusmeiro Petit and Lastings Milledge.  Those two are the Mets #1 pitching and position prospects, respectively.  Only for Adam Dunn should the Mets consider trading one of them.

On to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Are there any hidden gems on this squad?

Jimmy Rollins has a bit of a Corey Patterson complex, fancying himself a power hitter and never taking a walk.  Rollins was just rewarded with a huge contract that the Phils will regret within a few years.  In fantasy baseball, however, Rollins is a hot commodity.  He might steal 50 bags one of these years along with 20 HRs.  Jimmy's .277-8-28-23 line this year doesn't impress much to an owner who paid big bucks before the season to acquire Rollins.  Deal for him if you're making a push towards fantasy gold this year.

Pat Burrell's resurgence was unexpected by most, and his patience at the plate implies more of the same.  Burrell is only 28, so take a gamble on the injuries and acquire him for a Dontrelle Willis type. 

Jim Thome is finished, so pick up Ryan Howard if it's not too late.  For a waiver wire pickup, Howard will give you decent production.  He'll hit around .270 and can hit 25-30 HRs in a full season.  Don't overpay for him in next year's auction, though - his numbers may not be above average for a first baseman.

Ugueth Urbina is a somewhat shaky reliever at this point in his career, but be alert in the event of a Billy Wagner deal.  Urbina is the only possible replacement for Wagner as Philly closer.

Robinson Tejeda's 2.90 ERA looks mighty fine right about now, but he's a sell-high candidate if you own him.  His WHIP is 1.39 as he's been walking people like crazy.  His ERA won't stay under 3 or even 4 if it keeps up. 

If Vicente Padilla is dumped in a trade, keep an eye on Ryan Madson.  If Madson is thrown into the rotation he's a nice sleeper.  Plenty of Ks and otherwise solid peripherals.

Speaking of Ks, Brett Myers is for real.  If a fellow owner thinks it's a fluke or doesn't appreciate the strikeouts, pluck Myers from the ingrate.  Myers is primed for an excellent run for several years.



Likely Trade Targets: 2006 Free Agents

Trade rumors continue to swirl about with less than a week to go until the deadline.  A wealth of names have already been discussed in recent posts here at The Roto Authority, including Adam Dunn, A.J. Burnett, and Alfonso Soriano.  But there are always a few deals no one saw coming, so let's dig into the bag of 2006 free agents to consider a few long shot trade candidates.  This article's list was used as a source.

Matt Morris will be looking for Kris Benson/Jon Lieber/Odalis Perez money this offseason, and the Cardinals may be slightly wary about paying it.  They should be, considering Morris's health woes of late.  The Cardinals should also be a bit wary about Morris's beard.

Morris

Anthony Reyes was been excellent for AAA Memphis this season, and shipping off Morris for a major power bat would be a smooth move by Walt Jocketty.  With the injuries the Cardinals are dealing with currently, dealing Morris to the Reds for Adam Dunn or to the D-Rays for Aubrey Huff is a viable option.

Jarrod Washburn will be expensive after this year, and he'll surely want a three-year package.  However, the Angels are actually in the market to acquire more starting pitching given the injury to Kelvim Escobar.  Escobar did play catch last week, but unless he makes a rapid return the Angels will have to retain Washburn.

Trevor Hoffman is certainly expendable given Scott Linebrink's dominance over the last two years.  But with the Padres struggling to stay in first place in a weak division, they may decide to ride out Hoffman's contract.  Plus, Linebrink has battled some health issues this year.

A move to the AL would make a lot of sense for Mike Piazza.  He could fit quite nicely into a DH role in Los Angeles or Oakland, for example.  As recently as 2004, Piazza managed to post a .362 OBP.  He could fit into the Moneyball mold and give the A's a nice push toward the playoffs.  Billy Beane could swindle Omar Minaya with any number of players, including Joe Kennedy or Juan Cruz.  Beane would likely be content to rent Piazza for the rest of the year as he's done in the past.      

Rafael Furcal isn't having the contract year he'd hoped for, but he is stealing more bags to help boost his value.  But Braves minor league shortstop Luis Hernandez isn't exactly knocking at the door of Turner Field, so Atlanta would need to acquire a replacement shortstop.

Johnny Damon is very popular in Boston, and we've seen Theo Epstein overpay to keep a solid fan favorite in Jason Varitek.  Still, he was able to let Nomar Garciaparra go without getting much in return.  Given Damon's excellent numbers this year and the strong need for centerfielders, Epstein may poke around a bit just in case there's a deal he can't refuse.  Hanley Ramirez could probably take over in center field, although the Boston press would have a field day with it.

Check out all the Roto Authority MLB Free Agents 2006 articles.  You'll find speculation and rumors concerning Rafael Furcal, Trevor Hoffman, Brian Giles, B.J. Ryan, and more.   



Who To Target In Dump Trades

Please check out the Roto Authority's latest entry in the Ahead In The Count series over at Addict Fantasy Sports.  The topic is players to target in dump trades if you're out of the running in your fantasy baseball league. 


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