John Halpin examines and evaluates the 2013 MLB offseason transactions.
By John Halpin FoxSports
Originally published on 1/18/2013
As always, there have been quite a few transactions during the 2012-13 offseason, and here’s our attempt to make sense of the fantasy impact of the major movement. There was a lot of ground to cover here, and if you have more questions about these moves or any that aren’t mentioned, hit me on Facebook or Twitter. Transactions are listed in order of fantasy importance.
Please note that not all players (especially non-elite prospects) are mentioned in each trade. Yes, the Blue Jays got Josh Thole in the R.A. Dickey deal, but nobody cares about Josh Thole, so we left him out. Also, some lower-tier players (e.g., Ben Revere) are only mentioned in other players’ entries. We apologize to the players and their fanboys that are offended by these assessments. Finally, some transactions are lumped together into a single entry, and almost all include information on the teams that certain players left behind.
One more thing: It’s very difficult to project how the addition of one player to a lineup will affect the players surrounding him, so we’re going to leave that part of the analysis alone. If you think that Josh Hamilton’s presence will help Albert Pujols’ RBI numbers, more power to you.
Marlins trade SS Jose Reyes, SPs Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, C John Buck and UT Emilio Bonifacio to Blue Jays for SS Yunel Escobar and a package of prospects. (Later, Escobar went to the Rays in a deal that included SS Adeiny Hechavarria)
The fantasy impact of this deal isn’t very big unless you’re greeting all the new Jays into your AL-only league. Reyes is the same guy, and Johnson and Buehrle might have their ERAs and WHIPs hurt by the league change, but not by a lot. Bonifacio may lose the starting second-base gig to Maicer Izturis, but even as a utilityman, he could steal 40 bases. He qualifies only in the outfield for most of you, but that should change as the season progresses. AL-only owners should keep Bonifacio on their radar.
As for the Marlins, Hechavarria won’t hit enough to help most fantasy owners, and their pitching staff is a fantasy wasteland that currently has Jacob Turner listed as its second starter. Yikes!
Angels sign OF Josh Hamilton
After adding Hamilton while subtracting Torii Hunter and Kendrys Morales, the Halos have a Hamilton/Mike Trout/Peter Bourjos outfield, with Mark Trumbo at DH and Vernon Wells apparently on the bench. In 2010 (split between Triple A and the majors) and 2011, Bourjos averaged 15 home runs and 29 stolen bases. If they let him play – the Angels apparently love his glove – he’ll be a solid OF4 in mixed leagues.
Hamilton’s departure from Texas leaves steady David Murphy with the everyday left-field job, and a looming Spring Training center field battle between Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin. Martin is pretty clearly the better hitter and fantasy player, but the Rangers might go with Gentry’s defense. Damn real life for getting in the way of our fantasy plans.
Soriano opted out of his Yankee contract, and recently signed with the Nats, where he’ll bump Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard out of the closing picture. Remember that Soriano has a checkered injury history, making Storen or Clippard (I’d bet on Storen) an interesting late-round grab if your league is deep enough to value non-closing relievers.
Haren joins a loaded – LOADED! – Nats’ rotation as the fourth starter behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. The league switch should help Haren, but the back issues that limited him to a career-low 176 2/3 innings in 2012 are cause for worry. He’s no more than an SP3/4 in mixed leagues at this point.
Napoli’s power should play well in Boston, but Arlington was no pitcher’s haven to begin with. He’ll play mostly first base for the Red Sox. A.J. Pierzynski will take Napoli’s role in Texas, but even with a hitter-friendly park, if you think he’s going to hit 27 home runs again, you’re crazy. Plan for 15, and be happy if he hits more.
Dempster will likely strike out a good number of batters and make 30-plus starts, but he’s a 4.33 career ERA guy moving to Fenway Park. He’s a mixed-league SP5.
Victorino will bring his decent power, good speed, solid BA and general fantasy underratedness to Boston. Did you know he was tied for fifth in the majors in steals last season? The Flyin’ Hawaiian’s departure from Philly leaves speedy new arrival Ben Revere in center field, Domonic Brown in right, and some combo of John Mayberry Jr./Laynce Nix/Darin Ruf in left. The 25-year-old Brown has been a big-time prospect and some are excited that he finally seems to be getting a chance, but he hasn’t done much in a few years.
The powerful Gomes sounds tempting in Fenway, but he’ll almost certainly platoon because of his lefty-mashing ways (.894 career OPS vs. LHP, .731 vs RHP). Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish are the candidates to share left field with Gomes.
Hanrahan comes to Beantown to close, so Andrew Bailey keeper league owners will need to find saves elsewhere. Jason Grilli is currently projected to fill Hanrahan’s closer role in Pittsburgh, and even though the 36-year-old’s strikeout rate has taken a mind-boggling jump over the last couple of seasons, possession is nine-tenths of the law when it comes to closer roles. If Grilli has the job, he should rank among the second dozen closers on draft day.
Mets trade SP R.A. Dickey to Blue Jays in a package for C Travis d’Arnaud
Remember last year, when the Jays couldn’t get anyone out? Dickey fronts a rotation that includes Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. Would anyone like to give me Morrow and take the other four?
Dickey leaves behind a Mets’ rotation that features Johan Santana, the underrated Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and promising Matt Harvey. Prospect Zack Wheeler is expected to start the season at Triple A.
Look for d’Arnaud to start the season in the minors, with John Buck handling the catching duties in Queens until he’s ready. It shouldn’t take long.
Hunter will play right field for the Tigers, with Victor Martinez at DH and either Andy Dirks or Avisail Garcia in left field. Hunter is 37 years old, his career high 2012 batting average was fueled by a ridiculous .389 BABIP, and his power is declining. He’ll likely be drafted before you should be willing to take him.
Dirks was hurt last year and is no superstar, but he hit 14 homers and stole 17 bases between Triple A and the majors in 2011. He might slip under the radar in your AL-only league.
Upton is the same guy he’s always been – solid power, good speed, bad BA. Upton replaces the still-unsigned Michael Bourn in center field for the Braves, so there are no cascading effects from this move in Atlanta.
With Upton out of Tampa, the Rays’ website reports that Desmond Jennings is likely to move to center field, with Matt Joyce in left field and Ben Zobrist in right, but soon enough (if not by Opening Day) we should see the promising Myers in one of the corners and Zobrist getting plenty of time at second base. Myers hit 37 home runs between Double A and Triple A last season, and is regarded as one of baseball’s top five prospects. Keeper leaguers should beg, borrow and steal to get him.
Dodgers sign SP Zack Greinke
Greinke slots in at No. 2 behind Kershaw, and ahead of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chad Billingsley (if healthy) and Josh Beckett. The main fantasy effect of the Dodgers’ moving and shaking may be to box Chris Capuano out of the rotation, but Billingsley’s elbow issues could solve that problem.
In a three-way deal, Nationals trade 1B/OF Mike Morse to Mariners, and Mariners trade C John Jaso to A’s
Morse goes from jobless in D.C. to an everyday left-field OR first-base job in Seattle. Left field appears open, but Justin Smoak should probably start the season well if he wants to keep his job. With Jaso gone, prospect Mike Zunino has a much better chance to open the season as the M’s catcher, but he has only 57 plate appearances above A ball, so don’t write his name in ink on the lineup card just yet. Jesus Montero will probably get time behind the plate, too.
Angels sign RP Ryan Madson, trade RP Jordan Walden to Braves for SP Tommy Hanson, and trade DH Kendrys Morales to Seattle for SP Jason Vargas
Madson missed the 2012 season because of Tommy John surgery, but is now the Angels’ closer. Here’s a good post at FanGraphs about how Madson’s recovery might encounter some early bumps in the road. Deep leaguers looking for cheap, early-season saves might want to think about Ernesto Frieri in case Madson falters.
Hanson and Vargas essentially replace Dan Haren and Ervin Santana in the Angels’ rotation. Hanson’s shoulder issues and poor 2012 make him a question mark who should be taken only as a late flier in mixed leagues. Vargas’ numbers figure to look worse outside of the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field, and he should be avoided in standard mixed formats.
Morales hit 22 homers in 484 at bats last season, and now he’ll play home games at Safeco. Bad, right? Maybe not. Fourteen of those homers came in the second half. Perhaps he was rusty after missing most of 2010 and 2011? I’m intrigued by Morales as a late-round pick – he’s going 19th among first basemen at Mock Draft Central.
Choo and Stubbs swap spots, so their respective fantasy values stay pretty much the same. Bauer has a chance to break camp as the Tribe’s fifth starter, and while he’s a big-time talent, expect bumps in the road.
Swisher will join Choo and Michael Brantley in the Indians’ outfield, and his fantasy value should be pretty much what it always is (~OF4 for mixed leaguers). Swisher’s departure from New York leaves the Yankees with a “Bronx Burners” outfield of Curtis Granderson flanked by Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. Who needs power?
(What, you don’t remember the Bronx Burners headlines when the Yankees signed speedy outfielders Dave Collins and Ken Griffey Sr. before the 1982 season, and hired Olympic sprinter Harrison Dillard to help with baserunning? You think I’m kidding. Read this for some background. Yes, I know I sound old.)
Yankees sign 3B Kevin Youkilis
Youkilis will turn 34 in March, and his power numbers have declined over the last two seasons while his strikeout rate has gone up. Also, his nagging health issues are a worry. A 20-80 season is probably the most we should hope for.
Martin will be a workhorse for the Pirates, trying to hit 20 homers again while improving his fantasy-killing .211 batting average. Early projections have his BA in the .240 range, which is a little better.
Pennington will compete for the D-backs’ shortstop job with Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald and rookie Didi Gregorius. None of them can hit, so you don’t have to worry about who wins unless you’re desperate at the end of an NL-only draft.