Cockcroft: A trade, a signing and a re-signing
What is it with the Diamondbacks and prospects named Chris Carter?
Not four months after they traded a minor-league first baseman named Chris Carter to the Red Sox in a three-team trade also involving the Nationals, the Diamondbacks traded former top prospect Carlos Quentin to the White Sox on Monday in exchange for who else but a minor-league first baseman named Chris Carter?
Perhaps the Diamondbacks had too many extra "Carter" jerseys left over at their high-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels they felt needed to be used, because beyond that, there's little explanation for the deal. Quentin had been rumored on the block for months, with most indicating he'd be swapped for pitching help, so a deal of the 25-year-old for a low-level prospect has to come as a surprise to all.
Ranked 20th among prospects by Baseball America entering the 2006 season, Quentin is considered a future .300-hitting, 25-homer power hitter, and there aren't many parks more conducive to him reaching those levels than Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field, fourth in terms of home runs on the Park Factor page. He'll get a fresh start in a hitting-friendly environment, leaving his health as the primary question regarding a 2008 breakout.
Fresh off the aforementioned operation to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder, Quentin might be limited or sidelined altogether during spring training, making his status something to track once camps open in February. He'd be the favorite to start in left field if healthy, and if he sneaks in a handful of promising spring-training games he would rank among the more interesting sleepers at an AL-only No. 3/4 outfielder's price tag. Note him down, because a lot could change with his value come March.
A side note regarding Quentin: With him looming as the favorite for the left-field duties, it'll be interesting to see how the White Sox wedge him, Josh Fields and Joe Crede into their third base and left field roles. Perhaps this is a precursor to a Crede trade?
Carter, meanwhile, batted .291 and clubbed 25 home runs in 126 games for Class A Kannapolis in 2007, in his age-20 season. What differentiates him from the "other" Chris Carter is that he's nearly four years younger, is a right-handed hitter, a little better defensive player and a more interesting upside play. Fantasy owners, outside of those of you in keeper leagues, won't need to know this name until perhaps 2010, but we could be looking at Conor Jackson's eventual replacement.
Settling on their replacement for retired Hall of Fame hopeful Craig Biggio, the Astros signed Kazuo Matsui to a three-year, $16.5-million contract Sunday. He'll presumably bat second, behind recently-acquired center fielder Michael Bourn, giving the team more speed at the top of the lineup, but also putting them in a precarious position.
That's because with Bourn, Matsui and Lance Berkman likely comprising the top three spots of Houston's 2008 lineup, this team will likely be rather susceptible to poor games against left-handers. All three have weak histories against that side; Bourn is 4-for-27 (.148) for his career, Matsui is a .214 hitter with a .279 on-base percentage and .295 slugging percentage the past two seasons and Berkman has .269/.382/.419 lifetime rates. Assuming the Astros stick with that arrangement, that'll be well worth taking into account for those of you picking opposing pitchers' matchups. In addition, it could easily lead to some underwhelming RBI totals for heart-of-the-order types like Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence.
More likely, it'll force the Astros to mix and match their lineups on any given day, or to slip in platoon candidates ahead of either Bourn or Matsui, limiting their mixed-league appeal. Don't be surprised if Chris Burke plays center field and leads off against left-handers following this move, which limits Bourn's appeal as a breakout stolen-base source. Matsui, meanwhile, should be only a mixed-league middle-infield option and NL-only back-end starting second baseman, and mainly limited to that status because he'd be better off spotted out by his owners when scheduled to face a left-hander.
Not that it was entirely unexpected, but with rumors popping up of late that Andy Pettitte might be considering retirement, the left-hander's announcement Monday that he'd be back with the Yankees in 2008 has to be considered good news for fantasy owners. He'll apparently return on a one-year, $16-million deal, according to the Journal News.
Pettitte, now 35, should have at least one more productive season remaining in his left arm, though at any point he'll be a mild risk to miss time with the elbow troubles that plagued him in 2004. He has always seemed most comfortable pitching in New York, where he has won 15-plus games in seven of 10 seasons, even if his ERA has been on the bad side of four in five of those years. There are better choices for those of you seeking ERA/WHIP specialists, but few pitchers provide more win potential than Pettitte.
Don't rank Pettitte among the top 25 starting pitchers for 2008, but he'll certainly be a top-50 type. A 2008 much like his 2007 seems in order, in what might be his final season.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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