Cockcroft: Trade deadline recap
What's been going on around the National League in the past week? Tristan H. Cockcroft takes a quick-hitting look at the news and notes for each of the 16 NL teams:
Atlanta Braves: For those of you NL-only owners who hoarded your FAAB dollars or No. 1 waiver positions all year, get ready to spend them on Mark Teixeira. The Braves acquired the two-time Silver Slugger and two-time Gold Glove winner, along with left-handed specialist Ron Mahay, from the Texas Rangers on Monday, but they paid a steep price in young talent to do so, sending catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Class A shortstop Elvis Andrus, rookie-ball right-hander Neftali Feliz, Double-A left-hander Matt Harrison and Class A left-hander Beau Jones Texas' way. None of those losses should hurt the Braves this season, and perhaps not next, either, exception for the fact that Brayan Pena is a downgrade from Saltalamacchia as Brian McCann's backup. Long term, though, it could be a painful deal for the Braves, who parted with their Nos. 1 (Saltalamacchia), 2 (Andrus) and 3 (Harrison) prospects as judged by Baseball America in the preseason. Teixeira should immediately slide in as the Braves' No. 3 or 4 hitter, and a man with his talent shouldn't experience much of a drop off in performance. Still, asking a two-month performance at the production level of his .301-43-144 career season of 2005, or his .291-24-61 second half in 2006, is a bit much. After all, Teixeira was a .302 hitter with a .378 on-base percentage and .576 slugging percentage in his career at Rangers Ballpark, compared to .264/.358/.489 rates on the road. In addition, he had .265/.341/.568 numbers in 74 career interleague contests, meaning a .275-.280 batting average, 12-15 home runs and 35-40 RBIs would probably be a more realistic expectation from him the rest of the season. Beyond Mahay, the Braves also strengthened their bullpen by acquiring Octavio Dotel from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for right-hander Kyle Davies, who had recently been demoted to Triple-A Richmond. Dotel won't close in Atlanta as he did in Kansas City, but he'll serve as competition with Rafael Soriano for the Braves' top right-handed setup man and a handcuff for Bob Wickman's fantasy owners. Remember that Dotel had back-to-back-to-back years with a sub-three ERA and at least 97 strikeouts as a setup man for the Astros from 2001 to 2003, so there's NL-only ERA/WHIP and handcuff value in him.
Florida Marlins: Much rumor had been spread -- as it has been for more than a year -- that Dontrelle Willis might be traded on or before July 31, but the deadline came and went with him remaining a Marlin. That's not a bad thing, because the left-hander has always seemed comfortable in South Florida. But one has to wonder if a change in scenery would have given him a chance to reverse his recent 11-start string since June 1, during which time he's 0-7 with a 5.09 ERA, 1.82 WHIP and .324 BAA. Willis has slipped into risky fantasy territory, and wins might be tough to come by for him the rest of the season.
New York Mets: The Mets finally appear to have their ideal No. 2 hitter, as well as their everyday second baseman, after acquiring Luis Castillo from the Minnesota Twins on Monday in exchange for Class A outfielder Dustin Martin and Double-A catcher Drew Butera. While the 12-year veteran is no longer the speedster he was in his days with the Marlins, swiping only nine bases this season and managing no better than 25 since 2002, Castillo remains a capable batsman, an on-base specialist and a quality defender, traits that should suit his new team well. His .356 OBP is actually his worst number since 1998, when he was a part-timer, but taking into account his career .368 rate, his .304 batting average this season and his 66 walks per year from 1999-2006, Castillo should be a reliable source of batting average and runs scored with the Mets, with a handful of steals to boot. He's one of the more underrated players to switch teams at the deadline, potentially capable of a .300 batting average, 35-40 runs scored and six to eight steals.
Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley will miss four to six weeks after suffering a broken right hand when he was hit by a pitch from the Nationals' John Lannan Thursday. That could prove a devastating loss to the Phillies, still in the thick of the pennant race, though the team did move quickly to replace the slugger, acquiring Tadahito Iguchi from the Chicago White Sox a day later in exchange for Class A reliever Michael Dubee. Iguchi was in the midst of a dreadful season in Chicago, with .251/.340/.382 numbers in 90 games, a far cry from Utley's .336/.414/.581 stat line, but at least that's better than a drop off to Abraham Nunez's mediocre rates (.249/.308/.303). The shift to the National League, where he'll face a whole new set of pitchers, might challenge Iguchi, but at least Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park is no less of a hitters' park than Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field. Utley's fantasy owners now have to deal with the sting of losing the No. 1 player at the position, No. 14 overall (through Monday), but those in NL-only leagues could probably do worse than Iguchi. He is, after all, a .274 lifetime hitter who has averaged six home runs and six stolen bases per 58 games played for his career, which is the number of games the Phillies have remaining. The Phillies also acquired right-hander Kyle Lohse from the Reds on Monday in exchange for minor league left-hander Matt Maloney, who was 9-7 with a 3.94 ERA and 1.29 WHIP at Double-A Reading. Lohse brings needed experience to the Philadelphia rotation, but he's no better a bet to succeed there than he was in Cincinnati, trading in one homer-friendly ballpark (Great American Ball Park) for another (Citizens Bank Park). A fly ball pitcher -- he has a 0.84-1 ground ball-fly ball ratio this season -- Lohse probably won't help fantasy owners much more with the Phillies than he did with the Reds, and he was a matchups option only there.
Washington Nationals: You could officially cross Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young off the list of trade candidates before Tuesday's deadline, after each signed a contract extension with the Nationals in the past week. Belliard inked a two-year, $3.5 million extension through 2009, a deal that should lock him in nicely as a utilityman during that time, or perhaps a starter at times depending on the Nationals' other deals. He's hardly keeper worthy, but such a development should lock him in as the everyday second baseman the rest of this year, and NL-only owners need take note that he's a .321 hitter (36-for-112) with four homers and 15 RBIs in 30 games since emerging as a regular on June 24. Young, meanwhile, agreed to a two-year, $10 million extension through 2009, probably guaranteeing him regular at-bats (when healthy) through that season. With Nick Johnson's recovery from a broken leg progressing at a painfully slow pace, Young should remain the team's everyday first baseman the rest of this season, at respectable production levels. It's after this season that should worry fantasy owners, because Young might need a shift to a corner outfield spot once Johnson heals. That'd make him more susceptible to a long-term injury, so don't be surprised if Young winds up one of 2008's more notable busts.
Chicago Cubs: Don't count on Felix Pie being a significant part of the Cubs' outfield the next two months, not with the Cubs in contention for a playoff spot and the team failing to clear room in its outfield at the trade deadline. Pie himself was rumored headed to the Texas Rangers for relief help, but now his fantasy owners will need to wait until 2008 before considering him again. Matt Murton was recalled from Triple-A Iowa Friday, though it appears he'll merely join the team's stable of platoon mates in center and right field. It's a group that includes Cliff Floyd, Jacque Jones and Angel Pagan, a nightmarish situation for fantasy. NL-only owners in daily leagues can feel free to pick and choose based on the matchup, but none of the quartet is a standout on his own.
Cincinnati Reds: Lohse's departure clears room for either Phil Dumatrait or Elizardo Ramirez to join the big league rotation, making either one possible NL-only matchup types in the season's final two months, but beyond that, the Reds didn't have the fire sale so many predicted this summer. They took a chance on Jorge Cantu, acquiring him and Double-A outfielder Shaun Cumberland from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday in exchange for Triple-A relievers Brian Shackelford and Calvin Medlock. Unfortunately, with third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, left fielder Adam Dunn and right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. remaining in Cincinnati past the deadline, and Brandon Phillips firmly entrenched at second base, Cantu is no better a bet to play in Cincinnati than he was in Tampa Bay. He could be converted into an outfielder in Triple-A, but that wouldn't make him fantasy-worthy until at least 2008. Most troubling about the Reds' lack of deadline deals: With first-base platoon men Scott Hatteberg and Jeff Conine still around, top prospect Joey Votto might not get a chance to play at the big league level until next season. Votto's .305/.400/.469 numbers at Triple-A Louisville suggest he's ready to make an impact, but the Reds would probably need to slip their two veterans through waivers and trade them in August if the rookie is to make an impact this year.
Houston Astros: The Astros apparently have a new everyday third baseman after acquiring Ty Wigginton from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday in exchange for Dan Wheeler. Wigginton, whose rights are under the team's control through 2009, played third base and batted fifth against a right-hander in his Astros debut Sunday, and that, combined with the fact that Morgan Ensberg was designated for assignment before the game, demonstrates the team's stock in him in those roles. While Wigginton (in terms of 2007 statistics) might seem an instant upgrade from Ensberg, overall he's not that much better a player. Since re-emerging as a full-timer to start last season, he's only a .267/.314/.458 hitter against right-handers, compared to .300/.372/.536 against left-handers, marking him as only a little more valuable than a platoon player, which is what Ensberg had degenerated into this season. Fantasy owners, particularly those in NL-only formats, should find more value in Wigginton than the Astros will. He's first base, second base and third base eligible in most formats, and should be again in most leagues in 2008, and he could rack up a decent RBI total batting behind Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee. Hunter Pence was placed on the DL on July 23, and he'll miss four to six weeks with a chip fracture in his right wrist. Jason Lane has started in center field in each of the team's past six games, batting only .188 (3-for-16) with two RBIs. Don't bother adding Lane, though; he's only a .193 hitter (74-for-383) with 15 homers in 154 games since the start of last season.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers strengthened their bullpen on July 25, acquiring Scott Linebrink from the Padres, though they certainly paid a steep price to do it, sending pitchers William Inman, the minor league leader in strikeouts (140), Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison to the Padres. Linebrink should immediately claim the setup role to Francisco Cordero, especially in light of Derrick Turnbow's disastrous 1/3-inning, four-run meltdown against the Cardinals on Sunday. That's somewhat significant since Cordero in the past month and a half has looked like a closer in need of a handcuff for fantasy; he's 10-for-15 in save chances with a 7.50 ERA, 1.94 WHIP and .363 BAA in his past 19 appearances. Of course, while Linebrink gets a slight bump up in his value as a saves handcuff, leaving Petco takes away some of his appeal in ERA/WHIP. He had a 4.63 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and .262 BAA in 56 road games for the Padres since the start of last season, compared to 2.74/1.11/.222 numbers in 61 home contests during that time.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Though much of the talk on deadline day centered around the Pirates possibly trading Jack Wilson, the team instead became quasi-buyers on Tuesday, acquiring Matt Morris from the Giants in exchange for Rajai Davis and a player to be named later. Morris immediately takes over the rotation spot of John Van Benschoten, demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday, not that it increases Morris' fantasy appeal much. The Pirates are actually worse offensively than the 24th-ranked Giants (4.33 runs per game), placing 29th at 4.04 runs per game, and if Morris couldn't put things together in pitching-friendly AT&T Park, there's little reason to think he will at PNC Park. Perhaps the Pirates saw his 6-0 record and 2.37 ERA in eight career starts at PNC and figured there might be something there, but don't expect that kind of impact from the right-hander in Pittsburgh. He had a 7.94 ERA 1.99 WHIP and .386 BAA in his past eight starts, and probably won't improve upon his full-season 4.35/1.47/.296 numbers.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals are apparently holding out hopes of a run at the postseason, sitting six games behind the Brewers in the NL Central and 6 1/2 behind the Dodgers/Diamondbacks for the wild card entering Tuesday's play. To that end, they bolstered their pitching with the promotion of Anthony Reyes Saturday, and the acquisition of Joel Pineiro from the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. Reyes defeated the Brewers on six innings of two-run, two-hit baseball Saturday, earning a longer look in the rotation. He's well worth stashing on your bench if you have the luxury, though there's no guarantee he'll be any more effective than he was in his past two stints with the team, when he combined for a 6.40 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and .270 BAA in 12 starts. Scouts always felt he had future ace/No. 2 starter upside down the road, though, so keep an eye on him his next couple of turns. Pineiro, meanwhile, could allow the Cardinals to bump both Mike Maroth and Brad Thompson from the rotation or, more likely, he'll deepen the bullpen in the middle innings. Considering Pineiro has only a 4.50 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and .270 BAA in his MLB career, though, and 5.88/1.56/.304 numbers since 2005, he's hardly trustworthy even in the more pitching-oriented NL. Monitor him, but don't expect much.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson's season will come to an end Friday, when he'll undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. He felt he couldn't continue to attempt to pitch through the pain, as he made only 10 starts in the D-backs' 104 contests before his announcement. He intends to return in 2008, perhaps in the hopes he can win the 16 games he needs for 300 in his career, or simply to collect his $10 million paycheck, but at age 44 he won't be any better a bet to stay healthy than he was this season. There's a good chance the Johnson of 2008 will be far more risk than reward. With Scott Hairston traded to the Padres Friday, Carlos Quentin was recalled from Triple-A Tucson, though not to assume Hairston's reserve role. Quentin started in right field in each of the team's three games against the Braves over the weekend, going 2-for-11 (.182), so it's clear the D-backs want to give him another chance to play regularly, if not for themselves than surely to showcase him as a trade chip. He batted .417 (20-for-48) with 12 RBIs in 15 games for Tucson, though he has yet to put it all together at the big league level. NL-only owners are the ones who should take a chance on him.
Colorado Rockies: You won't hear any of Todd Helton's owners complaining after the trade deadline passed with him remaining a member of the Rockies. He continues to capitalize statistically on calling Coors Field his home, managing .309/.448/.481 rates there this season, .364/.464/.664 for his career, compared to .294/.393/.502 numbers in his road career. One could wonder what might have been had he made the move to the Boston Red Sox before the season, because he might have been a high-average, run-scoring machine hitting out of the 2 hole. Now, Helton seems likely to play out the year in Colorado, which isn't a bad thing; the Rockies play 30 of their final 58 games at Coors.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers tried to address their thinning pitching depth at the trade deadline, knowing Randy Wolf is out indefinitely with a sore left shoulder, Derek Lowe missed Tuesday's start with a sore hip and Brad Penny has been battling a mild abdominal strain. Unfortunately, all they came up with was reliever Scott Proctor, acquired from the New York Yankees on Tuesday in exchange for Wilson Betemit. It's a sort of homecoming for Proctor, who began his professional career as a starter in the Dodgers organization. He'll provide bullpen depth, perhaps lowering his 3.62 ERA and 1.30 WHIP since the start of last season now that he's in a more pitching-friendly situation, and might even factor into the team's rotation plans for 2008. NL-only owners shouldn't expect much more than ERA/WHIP help from Proctor the rest of this season, though.
San Diego Padres: Though the Padres didn't make any high-caliber moves at the trade deadline, they picked up a handful of useful parts in the past few days. Scott Hairston, acquired from the Diamondbacks Friday in exchange for Triple-A reliever Leo Rosales, will presumably stick around as a fifth outfielder/pinch hitter, because he's out of options and would have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors. Rob Mackowiak, acquired from the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday in exchange for Class A reliever Jon Link, should step into the role vacated when Russell Branyan was released Saturday. Expect Mackowiak to pick up the occasional start at second base, third base or in the outfield against a right-hander, while also serving as a pinch hitter. Finally, Morgan Ensberg, acquired from the Astros on Tuesday in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations, could steal a handful of at-bats from Kevin Kouzmanoff, who has disappointed both at the plate and in the field as a rookie. Ensberg could be a useful matchup option in daily leagues when facing left-handers, hitting .259/.330/.459 against lefties this season, .285/.407/.528 for his career. It's not unthinkable that Ensberg and Mackowiak could emerge as the Padres' new third-base platoon, though Petco Park would limit their fantasy potential even in that event. None of the three warrants much attention in San Diego, though Ensberg bears a bit of watching with the change of scenery. In more significant news, Chris Young landed on the DL on Saturday, retroactive to July 25, with a strained oblique, which could only cost him two starts. It's not considered a long-term problem at this stage, and Tim Stauffer, rocked for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings of a spot start for Young on Sunday, isn't worth adding even in NL-only formats.
San Francisco Giants: With Matt Morris gone, the Giants could turn over his rotation spot to one of their more promising left-handers, either current reliever Jonathan Sanchez or Triple-A reliever-turned-starter Patrick Misch. Unfortunately, it's more likely that veteran Russ Ortiz, who has allowed two unearned runs in eight innings combined in two rehabilitation starts, will be activated to take that open spot next, on Saturday. Ortiz, who had a 6.44 ERA, 1.74 WHIP and .344 BAA in five starts for the Giants to begin the season, isn't worthy of fantasy consideration, though deep NL-only owners could stash Sanchez or Misch, each of whom could be next in line for the No. 5 starter's role. Misch, incidentally, has 2.25/1.63/.344 numbers in eight innings in two appearances since being returned to Triple-A Fresno and converted back into a starter.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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