This Year's Hot Stove Fantasy Implications

Cole ClaybournCorrespondent IDecember 22, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 02:  Starting pitcher Cliff Lee #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in Game Five of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 2, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 8-6.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The offseason is always filled with numerous trades and free agent signings.

But with each deal that's made, players' fantasy stocks increase, some decrease, and others stay the same with their new team.

This offseason was no different.

In fact, more major moves happened this year than in recent years.

We all know about Seattle's signing of Chone Figgins. The three-team deal involving Curtis Granderson and of course the four-team mega-deal that had Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee changing addresses.

But what do all of these deals mean to fantasy owners who are beginning to prepare for next season?

Figgins' stock stays pretty much the same as it was when he was with the Angels. He'll likely hit first or second in the lineup—either before or after Ichiro—and will still get on base enough to provide his most valuable stat: steals.

He won't have the protection behind him that he had in Los Angeles with Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero, but Figgins' speed is enough of an asset that pitchers won't deliberately put him on base, getting him his fair share of hits and RBIs as well.

Curtis Granderson will see an upgrade in his stock as he moves to a much better lineup in what proved to be a hitter-friendly park last year—especially for left-handed hitters. He'll likely hit second in the powerful Yankee lineup, sandwiched between Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez, depending on which way manager Joe Girardi decides to go with the three hole. His hits, RBI, runs and on base percentage could all see an increase this season.

However, the Yankees did send away a young and talented prospect in outfielder Austin Jackson, who could see some time in the Tigers' outfield this season. Jackson is currently listed on the team's depth chart but will have to compete with Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Ryan Raburn, and Clete Thomas. 

Roy Halladay, the coveted veteran who had been the subject of trade talks virtually all season in 2009, takes a major upgrade in his fantasy stock with his new team. He goes from pitching in the toughest division in baseball on a team with little offensive support, to the best hitting team in the National League in a much easier NL East.

We all noticed what happened to Cliff Lee when he arrived in Philadelphia, so expect the same results, if not better, from Halladay.

A few closers have been on the move this offseason as well. Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, who split time in Atlanta with the closer job for much of last season, now have their own gigs with AL East teams. Soriano and Gonzalez join the Rays and Orioles, respectively, and will have the closing duties all to themselves—at least when the season begins.

Soriano essentially stole the closer spot from Gonzalez in the second half of the season in 2009 after boasting one of the highest WHIP and K/9 ratios in the league. He ended the season with 102 strikeouts in 75.2 innings pitched, a 2.97 ERA, and 27 saves. Both players' stocks will see an upgrade with the fact that they won't have to compete for save opportunities.

Billy Wagner is the newest addition to the Braves bullpen, but his recent injuries and struggles are enough for fantasy owners to be wary of his services when drafting closers. He'll also have to compete with Takashi Saito, who has experience closing ballgames.

J.J. Putz, the closer-turned-setup-man, is now a member of the White Sox, but will likely remain a setup man unless Bobby Jenks loses his job. He'll only be valuable in the deepest of leagues that use true middle relievers/setup men.

A few other pitchers have also been on the move. Brad Penny takes an upgrade with St. Louis, as he joins a potent offense and will now be coached by the best pitching coach in the Major Leagues, Dave Duncan. Duncan has resurrected the careers of several mediocre starters, such as Jeff Weaver, Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, and Braden Looper. 

Cliff Lee, who has now become somewhat of journeyman after being on his third team this year, takes a downgrade with his new team in Seattle. The Mariners, who will likely win the AL West, are not a bad team by any means, but it's no question that their offense lacks the fire power that Lee was supported with in Philadelphia. However, Lee does move to a pitcher-friendly park.

John Lackey, who was an 11-game winner last season with the Angels, will see a slight upgrade with the Red Sox. However, he will still be pitching in the American League and is now in a much tougher division. But Lackey's offense should be enough to provide him with adequate run support to win 11 games again, if not more.

On Tuesday, the Yankees welcomed back Javier Vazquez. He last pitched for the team in 2004, where he won 14 games. Vazquez's stock does take a slight upgrade as he will now be supported by the best lineup in the league, but like Lackey, he is pitching in the American League and in a park that wasn't so friendly to pitchers last season. However, he was a 15-game winner last season and posted a 2.87 ERA with 238 strikeouts—just three below his career high.


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