Fantasy Baseball Impact of All the Latest MLB Offseason Signings, Trades
Hey, just because it's the holiday season doesn't mean we should ignore the fantasy baseball season.
While Robinson Cano's massive 10-year, $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners a couple weeks ago was the last major trade or signing, there have been loads of mini-moves in the past several days.
Those, of course, count for fantasy purposes, too. Players changing jerseys don't need to have big names on the backs of their new unis to have a big impact from a fantasy perspective—even if it's for other players who get to take on a new role in the wake of an acquisition or departure.
Here's a look at a batch of fantasy-relevant players whose values were most impacted one way or the other—up or down—by the transaction action from Friday, Dec. 13 through Friday, Dec. 20 (at noon).
Value Up: Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks
There isn't a huge change to Martin Prado's value for 2014, but the fact that he will be Arizona's everyday third baseman with the trade of prospect Matt Davidson to the White Sox (and the previous acquisition of Mark Trumbo to play left field) means Prado will retain that eligibility in 2015.
For keeper leagues, Prado at the hot corner is simply a better value than Prado as an outfielder. Plus, the 30-year-old still might sneak in enough action in left or at second base to maintain that useful multi-eligibility.
Value Up: Addison Reed, RHP, Diamondbacks
It's not that closers on bad teams can't have great fantasy value or earn plenty of saves to help in that category, but it certainly should help that Addison Reed, who had 40 saves last year, goes from a White Sox club that won 63 games to a Diamondbacks one that won 81.
Value Down: Evan Gattis, C/OF, Braves
Evan Gattis, who had the second-most homers among rookies in 2013 with 21, is still in line to play catcher while also picking up some time as a backup corner outfielder and first baseman, but Ryan Doumit's arrival eats into the defensively challenged Gattis' role some.
Expecting another 20-homer season might be pushing it, meaning Gattis' ability to be a top-10 fantasy catcher is probably shot. He'll be worth owning in mixed leagues when he's hot, but he's more of an NL-only play.
Value Up: Jose Veras, RHP, Cubs
A quality reliever for the past few years, Jose Veras has been on that setup man-closer fence, having worked as both just last season, which he split between the Astros and Tigers. But by joining the still-rebuilding Cubs, Veras is in line for another season (or half-season, if traded again) of save opportunities.
In fantasy, that's a good thing.
Value Up: John Axford, RHP, Indians
Like Veras, John Axford was lucky enough to have found one of the teams that needed a closer. So even after a pair of inconsistent, disappointing seasons, Axford could be the guy in the ninth for Cleveland.
That alone makes Axford worth drafting in all leagues, but whether you can trust him is another issue entirely.
Value Up: Nate Jones, RHP, White Sox
Some of you might not be all that familiar with Nate Jones. If that's the case, you should get acquainted quickly. The 27-year-old has the power fastball of a closer-in-waiting (see video for evidence), and he may just wind up as Reed's replacement in Chicago.
Don't let last year's 4.15 ERA fool you, Jones had a 2.64 FIP, per FanGraphs, on the strength of an 89-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 78 innings. Should Jones snag the ninth-inning gig, he could be a potential top-10 closer.
Value Up: Raul Ibanez, OF/DH, Angels
He may be 41, but Raul Ibanez continues to laugh in Father Time's face by hitting 29 homers in 2013—only 14 players had more!—while playing half his games in Safeco. Now that he's essentially helping replace the departed Mark Trumbo in L.A. and hitting in the middle of a better lineup, there's a chance for Ibanez's runs and RBI totals get a bump, even if his homer tally drops.
Value Up: Matt Davidson, 3B, White Sox
Third base has been a black hole for the White Sox since, like, Joe Crede in the mid-2000s, so it's nice to see the club bring aboard a solid prospect who is big league ready and has the ability to cover the position for the next several seasons.
In Matt Davidson, Chicago has itself a 22-year-old righty bat with the power to hit 20-plus home runs as soon as 2014. The former first-rounder's batting average might hover around the .250-ish mark, but he's an intriguing corner infielder in AL-only leagues with a chance to be mixed league-relevant if he adjusts to the majors quickly.
Value Down: Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals
Rookie Kolten Wong, a former first-round pick who hits from the left side, actually may benefit from being paired with righty-swinging Mark Ellis in a platoon next year as the 23-year-old transitions to the big leagues. For example, his rate stats—including batting average, for fantasy purposes—might be better if he doesn't have to worry about facing too many southpaws.
Ultimately, though, his counting numbers—including homers, RBI and especially runs and steals—will take a hit simply from having to share PT. Eventually, Wong projects to be a potential top-10 fantasy second baseman, but for 2014, he's best drafted as a middle infielder in NL-onlies.
Value Down: Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
If the 25-year-old Mike Moustakas continues to devolve, he's likely to lose time to the recently obtained Danny Valencia at third base. Frankly, given that they hit from opposite sides of the dish—Moose is a lefty, Valencia a righty—this could wind up being a platoon, anyway.
Value Up: Josmil Pinto, C, Twins
There was some good and bad for Josmil Pinto over the past week. First, the Twins traded away backup catcher Ryan Doumit (more on him in a bit) to the Braves, which seemed to guarantee Pinto would have the starting job behind the plate. (Remember, Joe Mauer is moving to first base.)
Except, Minnesota then went and agreed to a one-year deal for vet Kurt Suzuki, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Still, Suzuki, who hasn't hit north of .250 since 2009, is considered to play mentor to the 24-year-old Pinto, who is clearly the Twins' catcher of the future—and present—after hitting .342/.398/.566 in 21 games as a September call-up.
Value Down: Cody Allen, RHP, Indians
Cody Allen was the likeliest candidate to take over the closer role after incumbent Chris Perez was non-tendered. After all, the 25-year-old proved to be a dynamite late-inning arm as a rookie in 2013 when he posted a 2.43 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 11.3 K/9.
The off-the-scrap-heap signing of Axford, however, makes the ninth a less likely destination for Allen—a better reliever than Axford albeit one without closer experience—but he's still worth rostering for when Axford struggles. In mixed leagues, he'll have to settle for being a late-round pick in drafts or a cheap $1 in auctions, but there's upside here.
Value Down: Joaquin Benoit, RHP, Padres
At the beginning of the offseason, Joaquin Benoit had the chance to sign with a team that would have allowed him to continue in the closer's role he adopted last year in Detroit for the first time in his 12-year career. And then Benoit, 36, signed with the Padres, where veteran Huston Street will remain in the ninth inning.
Benoit will remain a roster-worthy third or fourth reliever in single-league play for his good ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate, but unless Street is traded, that's about all he'll be.
Value Down: Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon, OFs, Rockies
Before the Rockies traded for Drew Stubbs, fellow outfielders Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon were in line to split one of the corner outfield spots, alongside Carlos Gonzaelz and Michael Cuddyer. Stubbs, who hits from the opposite side of the dish as these two lefty-swingers, will complicate matters some, and probably end up reducing the potential fantasy value of all three simultaneously.
In other words, three players who could have been semi-useful fourth or fifth outfielders in single-league formats are now little more than reserve options.
Value Down: Ryan Doumit, C/OF, Braves
Doumit, as mentioned earlier, joins the Braves, which means he goes from a semi-regular role in Minnesota, where he primarily split time between catcher and designated hitter, to a situation where he has no clear path to PT. Especially since there's no DH in the NL, as you might've heard.
In case Doumit's arrival into fantasy irrelevance wasn't clear to you before, it's official now.
Value Down: Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz, RHPs, Diamondbacks
With Reed in town to help solve the constant problem that was the Diamondbacks bullpen last year, Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz, each of whom held the closer role for a period of time in 2013, are now locked into setup roles. They can be ignored in all but very deep NL leagues.
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