Trading on up
I wasn't going to read it.
As I skimmed the cover of the July 4 edition of Us Magazine, I looked at the headlines, figuring nothing in the issue appealed to me. "How Khloe lost 10 lbs!" (Uh, I assume it's from not having to eat arena food anymore since her husband, inconsistent Lamar, decided not to show up against the Mavericks, helping my Lakers get swept in the conference semis instead of playing in the NBA Finals despite having the best team in the league, talent-wise, as Kobe got a year older. But I'm totally over it, why do you ask?)
"Bachelorette shocker -- Bentley's Cruel Return" (I have no idea what this means). And "Hef's Heartache -- Dumped at the Altar" (I think Hef's gonna be OK).
Then I see the main headline.
"How Jen Stole Her Man."
Stop it. Seriously? I look again. Yes, seriously.
For those who are behind on their celebrity gossip -- and in fairness, this story has been fairly quiet -- actress Jennifer Aniston has been single for a while. As Kevin O'Leary breathlessly writes, "In the two years since her tortured love affair with John Mayer ended, her dating life had consisted of false starts with everyone from Bradley Cooper to Cougar Town's Josh Hopkins, so who could blame her for jumping in?"
I figured it was obvious, but who knows, maybe I was missing something. So I read on. Here are the details:
The guy in question is named Justin Theroux, a successful screenwriter ("Tropic Thunder," "Iron Man 2") and actor who has done a bunch of TV shows and is one of the stars of the upcoming movie "Wanderlust," which also features, you guessed it, Jennifer Aniston.
The point of contention, it appears, is that according to Us Magazine, Theroux had a girlfriend, Heidi Bivens, whom he had been with for 14 years. Then Theroux meets Aniston, they start canoodling (the kids still say canoodling, right?) and well, Heidi Bivens will head into Year 15 sans boyfriend. Which leads back to the headline: How did Jen steal her man?
I'll tell you how. All you single women out there, come close. I'm about to give you the secret, the intricate plan Jen used to turn her one into a two.
She walked up to him and said, "Hi, I'm Jennifer Aniston."
That's it. That's all it took. No master plan, Us Magazine. No tangled web she weaved. When you're really attractive, insanely rich and world-famous, you pretty much get to choose your partner. You don't have to like the rules, but there they are. Sorry, Heidi Bivens. I'm sure this is a terribly heartbreaking time and I feel badly for you. But that's the way of the world -- always has been, always will be.
I will tell you, Heidi, and all you ladies out there, that if you're not married after being together for 14 years, that's a big hint that things ultimately aren't gonna go your way. On the plus side, Hef's single now. Maybe give him a ring?
I know people want to beat up Theroux for his part in all this, but you know why he did this?
Because he was asked.
Most guys would have done what Justin did. Don't get all high and mighty on me. If you were in your 30s, unmarried and Jennifer Aniston gave you the high sign? You couldn't run fast enough. Justin's one of us.
Look, if he hadn't married Heidi after 14 years, something wasn't there for him. They started dating when he was a struggling writer-actor and she was with him for a long time. So yeah, it looks bad. I'm sure he wishes it went down differently and maybe he feels badly about it. Maybe he doesn't. He might be too busy living "in hog heaven," as a source told Us, exclusively.
(Side note to Us Magazine: He's sleeping with Jennifer Aniston. Not sure you needed a source to report how he feels about it, you know? Couldn't you have just written, "He's in hog heaven, common sense tells us.")
Anyway, Justin saw an opportunity to make his life happier and he took it. I'm sure it wasn't easy to get rid of someone who had been good to him, but ultimately, he traded Heidi for the big-name Jen.
As we start heading for the second half of the fantasy baseball season, we are all Justin Theroux. How can we make our life er, team better?
We do it the same way these two crazy kids did. Like Justin, we forget loyalties to longtime players who had been good for us but whose best days might be behind them. Like Justin, we trade up to improve our lot in life. And like Jen, we make it a no-brainer for the other person.
Here are five trades that I would make right now.
I've loved Lester for almost as long as Justin and Heidi were together, but despite his team and big name, the truth is that Lester hasn't been as dominant this year and, in fact, has been getting a bit lucky, with a left on base percentage (LOB) of 80.2 (per Fangraphs.com). His HR/FB rate is at a career high (14.3 percent, career 9.5) and his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is actually 4.13 this year.
Meanwhile Beachy has been all that and a bag of Anistons. (You're damn right I'm gonna beat this analogy into the ground). Giving up two earned runs or fewer in six of his past seven starts, Beachy's strikeouts-per-9 rate is 10.54. I thought that was a typo, too. Nope, it's 10.54. And the strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.40, which, if he had pitched enough to qualify, would be eighth best in baseball, just behind Cliff Lee's 4.41 and significantly ahead of Lester's 2.70.
Wins are hard to predict, but it's fair to assume Lester will do better in that category the rest of the way. But Beachy already has a better ERA and WHIP, and more strikeouts per nine innings than Lester. I like Lester, I just don't like him as much as Beachy the rest of the way, and honestly, if you were to do this deal, you could probably get Beachy plus someone for Lester.
Here are the numbers that Kinsler is currently on pace for: 110 runs, 22 home runs, 60 RBIs, 30 steals and a .243 average.
Kinsler hits at the top of the order and Espinosa hits closer to the middle/bottom of the Nats' lineup and their runs and RBIs reflect that. Espinosa is never going to hit for a great average (though he did hit .295 in Triple-A last year before being recalled, so there's some hope), so I don't expect him to consistently hit better than .260. But you can live with that, given what else he is doing.
Power is scarce and speed is plentiful, so I'd rather have Espinosa's numbers than Kinsler's. Obviously your team makeup and needs will dictate this, but in a vacuum, I'll always choose power over speed these days. And more importantly, you don't have the health risk with Espinosa that you do with Kinsler, who is intimately acquainted with the disabled list.
Frankly, because I think you could get Espinosa plus another guy when you offer a big name, the only second basemen I wouldn't trade for Espinosa are Robinson Cano and Rickie Weeks. I'd have no issue dealing anyone else.
I listed Beckett as a sell-high in last week's column and some folks questioned that, along with the inclusion of James Shields on that list. Although I like both pitchers and think both will continue to have value, I also think their values were at the absolute peak last week (and Shields has had a so-so start since then) because their peripherals suggest they've been getting a bit lucky. We discussed Shields on the podcast, so I'll get into Beckett here.
He's not a 2.20 ERA pitcher. His own history tells us that. In a season in which he's pitched at least 100 innings, his lowest ERA has been 3.04. And in the American League, the best mark is 3.27 -- and that was in 2007. His BABIP (currently .212, career .290) and his LOB percentage (unsustainable at 82.4, career 72) scream lucky, as does his HR/FB percentage (currently 5.3, career 10.4 ). His xFIP is 3.78. By the way, here are his career ERAs by month:
Yeah. Enjoy the next two months. Meanwhile, Carpenter has been the opposite of Beckett, getting a bit unlucky. Believe it or not, his K/9, BB/9 and HR/9 are all lower than they were last year. His xFIP is 3.26 and he's given up just two earned runs in his past 16 innings. He's back, the overall numbers just don't reflect it yet.
Lord help me if the White Sox continue to tank in the second half. But here's my argument on this one, starting with Ethier. Currently getting very lucky with the average (BABIP of .376, career .324), he hit .256 over the second half of last season. He's actually hitting ground balls at a higher rate this season than he has in the previous three seasons.
In fact, let's look at his number this year: 40 runs, 7 home runs, 40 RBI, 0 steals, .314 average.
Now, let's look at Rios, who has been all sorts of brutal: 36 runs, 6 home runs, 20 RBI, 5 steals, .218 average.
In a half season in which Rios has been performing way below expectations, he's still a wash with Ethier in two categories (HR, R) and beats him in steals. Now, he obviously gets destroyed like Heidi's heart (thought I was done with that, didn't you?) in both average and RBIs.
I believe their averages will be much closer over the second half. Rios' .227 BABIP is fourth worst in the majors and well below his career average of .310. Meanwhile, you know I think Ethier's average is on borrowed time. That the RBIs will come for Rios, that's a bit of a leap of faith, but if you've read me at all, you know I feel the White Sox, as a team, will perform much better in the second half.
If you're dealing Ethier, you'll get back more than just Rios, and that will be a deal that will work well for you over the second half.
I've made no secret of my belief that Jeter is done. He's still owned in 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues, he still has a big name and someone in your league still believes he's "buying low." That person is wrong.
Look, Jeter isn't this bad. He's actually striking out less this year (11.8 strikeout percentage, lowest of his career) and his .260 BABIP (career .312) suggests that although his average may not dramatically increase, it will improve. But he's got no power anymore and he's a much bigger name than fantasy producer.
Two guys that are the opposite of that are Ramirez and Escobar. I actually like Escobar more. I also mentioned him in my 10 lists of 10 last week. Since changing his batting stance at the start of June, he's hitting .305 with 15 runs, a home run, 8 RBIs and 7 steals in 27 games. He'll hit for a higher average than Jeter, steal more bases and keep pace in RBIs and home runs the rest of the way.
As for Ramirez, over the past three years he is a .331 hitter in July and a .291 hitter in August. He always seems to start slow, but always heats up. He's walking more and striking out less than last year, when he hit 18 homers and stole 13 bases. He'll hit for more power and drive in more runs than Jeter the rest of the way, and the difference between them in those categories will more than make up for the advantage Jeter will have in steals and runs. For the second half, I don't feel Jeter will hit that much better than Ramirez, and in fact, on our Player Rater, Ramirez is among the top 10 shortstops -- Jeter is outside the top 20.
Meanwhile, as I've written this, Heidi is once again too late to the party. Hef is off the market, taking up with Shera Bechard. You see, kids? If you wait too long to make a move, someone beats you to it.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- thinks Pippa wore it best. What? He got sucked into the issue. So sue him. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend