- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Talk radio across America is abuzz with Roy Halladay talk. In Boston and New York, fans call up and offer their organizations' rags in exchange for the Toronto ace. In Philly and L.A., prospect-greedy fans say there's no way their teams should give away the farm. In Milwaukee and Texas, fans dream.
If J.P. Ricciardi does deal Halladay, it'll presumably be for a boatful of prospects aimed at making the Blue Jays better in a season when, if things go according to form, Ricciardi will no longer actually be the team's GM. After all, while Ricciardi has an impressive record of developing guile-filled No. 4 starters, he's been pretty shaky in his nearly eight years in the job. Some of his dud moves include: signing Vernon Wells for seven years and $126 million, releasing Chris Carpenter, trading Raul Mondesi for Scott Wiggins, trading Felipe Lopez for Jason Arnold, trading Jayson Werth for Jason Frasor, trading Chad Gaudin for Dustin Majewski, spending a first-round pick on Russ Adams, spending a first-round pick on David Purcey, spending a second-round pick on Curtis Thigpen and signing B.J. Ryan for five years and $47 million. Yes, he did draft Adam Lind in the third round. Bully for him.
Yet here Ricciardi is, taking bids on Doc. How can a Jays fan not think this is going to get screwed up? Philadelphia could supposedly get a deal done right away if they'd include pitching prospect Kyle Drabek. They won't. Or else they will, and Drabek will refuse to report to Canada. Or the Jays will accidentally trade for Kyle's dad, Doug Drabek, who will still throw harder than two-fifths of the Toronto rotation.
Things could get interesting, fantasywise, if the White Sox get involved. The package that Chicago and San Diego agreed to for Jake Peavy would've included Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda, two arms that currently reside in the majors but aren't doing much fantasy damage (Richard has a 5.42 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP in 73 big league innings; Poreda came to the bigs June 12 but is pitching out of the bullpen). But one rumored deal for Halladay would involve Alexei Ramirez in place of one of those pitching prospects, which could conceivably move Gordon Beckham to short and Josh Fields back into the lineup. A deal with the Dodgers couldn't involve Clayton Kershaw, but James McDonald looks just about ready for the majors. The Angels are way too in love with their prospects, but maybe Brandon Wood finally gets dealt.
Of course, the last time we went through this, last summer when the Tribe sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers, the much-heralded prospect was Matt LaPorta, and we're still waiting for him to be a fantasy factor. Not that he won't be one eventually, but there was talk (and I contributed to it) that LaPorta would be an interesting fantasy player in September of '08. I think most objective observers would admit that Ricciardi made a mistake not dealing Halladay and A.J. Burnett at last year's trade deadline; if he'd done so, he'd have gotten more than he's about to get for Halladay and more than a couple compensation picks for Burnett, and the players he would have traded for would be much closer to being big league factors than anything he's likely to get this July.
Bottom line: Don't mortgage your fantasy future or give up your top waiver priority spot for whoever gets dealt for Halladay (if such a deal happens). From a fantasy perspective in '09, this will probably be a one-way deal. And if you're in an NL-only league? Get ready to bid all your FAAB money on Doc.
• J.A. Happ, Phillies: The scary thing about Happ has always been his control problems. He walked 62 in 118 1/3 Triple-A innings in '07, and during a big league cameo in '08 he walked 14 in 31 2/3 innings. Even during his incredible run this year, he has allowed 33 free passes in 94 innings, which isn't disastrous, but isn't optimal. His batting average allowed on balls in play is .242 and his strand rate is 87 percent, which suggests he's been lucky. Yet despite all these things, the fact remains: His ERA is 2.68 and his WHIP is 1.15. Over the past month, he's tied for 11th in fantasy value among starting pitchers, according to ESPN's Player Rater. No, I don't think that kind of excellence will last, which is why I don't have Happ ranked anywhere near 11th. But ignoring him is starting to look silly. He's owned in only 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues. There's no reason not to keep riding him while he's hot.
• Manny Parra, Brewers: Like Ricky Nolasco before him, Parra seems to have figured something out during a minor league banishment and has returned to the majors with a flurry. In two starts since he's been back, Parra has allowed one run, eight hits and four walks in 13 innings, while striking out 13. The walks are most important: Parra had 41 in 64 2/3 before getting sent down. He's always had the arm to be a big league star, but he's just had a tough time figuring out where the ball was going to go. I can't guarantee he's back for good, or that there won't be bumps in the road. For the pitching-needy, Parra makes an interesting investment. He's owned in only 18 percent of ESPN leagues.
• Brett Anderson, A's: I hyped Anderson as a mixed-league-worthy sleeper back in April. Whoops. Turns out he wasn't ready for prime time: Through 13 starts, his ERA and WHIP were 5.74 and 1.48, respectively. In his past four outings, though, Anderson has allowed one run, 11 hits and seven walks in 26 1/3 innings while striking out 25. As I said four months ago, Anderson has a tremendous pedigree (his dad is a longtime college pitching coach and now head coach at Oklahoma State) and was a centerpiece (along with Carlos Gonzalez) of the trade that sent Dan Haren to Arizona. Plus he's left-handed, which doesn't hurt. He's a rookie, so the ups and downs likely will keep coming, and he's never going to boast elite velocity. But his control is his calling card -- he's walked just 25 in 95 1/3 innings this year -- and his slider is turning into a big league out pitch. The pitching-needy should consider him.
• Chad Billingsley, Dodgers: What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on with Billingsley? He's winless since June 14, and in his past six starts is 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA. Nobody in L.A. seems to think that Billingsley's hurt, but much has been made of Joe Torre's decision not to give his ace an extra day off because of the All-Star break. Perhaps Billingsley is just tired: His 2,131 pitches thrown so far in '09 are third-most in baseball, behind only Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright. Either way, he's been a fantasy killer lately. He gets the Reds at home on Wednesday, a .249-hitting lineup he should be able to dominate. If he doesn't, it may be time to start thinking about sitting him until he gets right.
• Joe Saunders, Angels: Well, we've all been saying this was coming. For, like, a year and a half. I'd say Saunders has done a pretty great job of bucking the odds, but over his past four starts, he's got a 9.90 ERA and a 2.20 WHIP while fanning all of nine hitters in 20 innings. The funny thing is that Saunders' overall strand rate and BAABIP numbers look very similar to last year's (when he won 17 games), and he's actually striking out (slightly) more batters in '09 than he did in '08. But his walks-per-nine is up (from 2.41 to 3.42), and he's not a dominant enough guy to get away with filling the bases regularly. He's probably been a bit unlucky in terms of homers-per-fly-ball (he's consistently been around 8 percent the past three seasons, and suddenly is at 14.3 percent this year), but this may simply be a long-awaited correction. Regardless, while I think he can come back, you probably can't start him until he rights the ship.
• Jose Contreras, White Sox: One bad start and I'm ever-so-close to abandoning ship. You see, this is the way Contreras treats his fantasy owners. He dominates for a few weeks, making you finally believe he's got it figured out, and then it just leaves him. After striking out nine Indians in his final start before the All-Star break, Contreras was able to fan exactly one Oriole this weekend, while allowing five hits, four walks and four runs in 4 1/3 excruciating innings. His command, which he'd startlingly found over his previous six starts, was gone again. And I'm not going to be shocked if it's gone for the foreseeable future. We'll know more Friday against the Tigers, at which point I'll either apologize and hike Contreras back up the ranks a bit, or drop him like a hot potato.
Comings And Goings
• Ted Lilly missed his scheduled start Saturday because of a knee injury, and instead pitched Monday against the Phillies. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, Lilly got absolutely bashed, allowing eight hits, two walks and nine runs in four-plus innings. He'd been red-hot before this outing, and you have to wonder if we're going to hear more about his knee in the coming days.
• Scott Kazmir had to come out of his start Saturday night because of a sore forearm, but he told reporters afterward that it was a cramp, and that he expects to be able to take his next turn through the rotation, Thursday against the White Sox.
• Gil Meche went on the DL because of his injured back, but did tell the Kansas City Star that he hopes to come off the day he's eligible, which would be July 27. However, Meche also said his back is still bothering him, so that's definitely not a sure thing. Sidney Ponson is taking Meche's place in Kansas City's rotation.
• The Tigers announced this weekend that Rick Porcello will make 15 starts the rest of the season. He'll next pitch Wednesday against the Mariners, and he'll have something to prove, considering he wasn't very good in either of his final two games before the All-Star break.
• Clay Buchholz made his '09 big league debut Friday against the Blue Jays and overall looked pretty good: 5 2/3 innings, one run, four hits, three walks and three strikeouts. The Red Sox sent Buchholz back down to Triple-A Pawtucket right after the game, as they'd planned. You have to believe that at some point this season, though, Buchholz will be back.
• Fernando Nieve, one of the guys who have (barely) helped keep the Mets afloat, went on the 15-day DL Monday because of a torn muscle in his right quad. He was carted off the field Sunday after injuring himself while running the bases, and it didn't look good; supposedly, Nieve will miss up to six weeks. It sounds as though Jon Niese is the likeliest candidate to replace Nieve in New York's rotation.
• The Padres called up 21-year-old Mat Latos to make his big league debut Sunday, and he pitched well: two runs, three hits, one walk and four strikeouts in four innings. Latos has good stuff (he threw his fastball 95 or so through much of this weekend's outing) but has very questionable makeup, and based on the fact that San Diego let him throw only 75 pitches, it doesn't seem like he'll go very deep into games. But in NL-only leagues, he might be worth a look.
• The Phillies signed Pedro Martinez to a big league contract, then immediately put him on the 15-day DL so he could build up his arm strength in the minors. You shouldn't be expecting fantasy miracles, though several reports indicate that Martinez has thrown harder the past few weeks than he did last season with the Mets. I'll believe it when I see it.
• Sergio Mitre will be called up Tuesday by the Yankees to face the Orioles and take the injured Chien-Ming Wang's place in the rotation. Wang wasn't even able to complete a game of catch Monday without a recurrence of his biceps soreness, so the idea that he'll be back in just a few weeks doesn't seem believable any longer. If he's passable, Mitre could have some AL-only value through July and well into August.
• Jason Schmidt came off the DL to start for the Dodgers on Monday night against the Reds. He missed two years because of shoulder issues and showed some rust in the first inning, allowing three runs. But he settled down after that, not allowing a run after that. He stuck around for five innings and got the win, giving up five hits and three walks but fanning only two.
• The Nationals' Scott Olsen is done for the season as he'll need surgery to repair a small tear in his left labrum. Olsen hopes he'll be ready for spring training in 2010. Washington called up J.D. Martin from Triple-A Syracuse to make his big league debut against the Mets on Monday night, and Martin allowed eight hits and five runs in four innings. You don't want any part of him.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can e-mail him here.
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