Are You For Real? Gagne, Castillo, Davies
There weren't many big names changing addresses at this year's trade deadline, but there was plenty of activity. From a fantasy perspective, Mark Teixeira was by far the biggest star to relocate, with Ty Wigginton and Kenny Lofton among the next most prominent players. It's not always the biggest names who end up making the biggest fantasy impact, however. Remember Jeff Weaver last year? As we did in the first part of our trade-deadline coverage last week, "Are You For Real" examines a few trades that could have murkier fantasy ramifications.
An elite closer before injuries limited him to 15 innings the last two years, Gagne is only 31 and still has top-flight skills. The move to Boston obviously curtails his save opportunities for the remainder of this season, but will he still have value? More importantly for keeper leaguers, will he ever close again?
Will: For Real. While it is true that Gagne is unlikely to see many save opportunities in Boston, don't underestimate his potential for wins. He'll be pitching in critical situations for baseball's best team. It's also worth noting that since the beginning of 2005, when Jonathan Papelbon was named the team's closer, other Red Sox pitchers have saved 18 games. The club's cautious use of Papelbon could lead to extra opportunities for Gagne. Health problems have really hurt Gagne's stock, but he still has strong skills and he will be a free agent after this season. His days as a closer are probably not over, and he likely has several more years of effective pitching left.
Adam: Unreal. The main problem I have with Gagne compared with other similar middle relievers you could use on your fantasy team is a simple one: innings. In Texas, Gagne never pitched more than one inning and was used in a strict "one-inning closer" role. The Red Sox have the best bullpen in the majors, and they have no need to use Gagne more than one inning, both to save his health and in preparation for the playoffs. Compare Papelbon's workload this year to last year, for example; the difference is huge. Gagne's peripherals have noticeably declined this year, too, and his expected ERA based on his peripherals is about a run higher.
A string of consistent seasons has left a clear picture of what Castillo is and is not. The questions are whether his value changes with the trade to the Mets and whether at age 31 he can be expected to continue to produce at his established level; or is there evidence of an imminent increase or decline in his peripheral stats?
Will: Unreal. One of the best "slap hitters" in the game, Castillo has for years been a high-average contact hitter with solid plate discipline. He has good speed but is not a particularly successful base stealer. There's no power here, but his exceptional defense will keep him in demand. During his prime years, he's been an asset in runs, batting average and (to varying degrees) stolen bases. The Mets are perceived as a team that scores a lot of runs, but they've scored only eight more than the Twins all year, good for seventh place in the National League (compared with eighth place in the American League for the Twins). The difference in leagues does matter, and of course there are 16 teams in the NL as opposed to 14 in the AL, but the point is that although Castillo will still be batting near the top of the order, the difference in his teammates' ability to drive him in is not that much greater than it was in Minnesota. The Mets are also seen as a team that runs a lot, but if you exclude madman Jose Reyes' 52 steals, the Twins have stolen more bases than the Mets. Nothing in Castillo's peripherals suggests a great change in his surface stats in the next couple of years, so expect him to display similar skills. Since the impact of going to the Mets is probably overrated by many observers, Castillo earns an "unreal" as a potential impact player. His numbers with the Mets should not be any better than what we're accustomed to seeing.
Adam: Unreal. Will is correct in asserting that Castillo really isn't going to a better team situation, as the lineup of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer is actually better than an order of Carlos Beltran (who's currently hurt), David Wright, Carlos Delgado and Moises Alou. Castillo was acquired for his glove and his plus on-base percentage, but the Mets have other options, too, in Ruben Gotay and Damion Easley, who are more-than-capable backups. Castillo has battled leg problems for years to the point that his high-volume speed days are gone. What you see is what you get.
Davies has a strong minor league track record, but he put up a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in three years and 237 innings with the Braves. Is Davies likely to be more valuable with the Royals, a team that seemingly always has openings in the rotation?
Will: Unreal. The Royals do indeed have constant rotation openings, leading to plenty of opportunity for their young starters, and Davies will get a shot right away, replacing Leo Nunez. However, Kansas City hasn't exactly built a reputation as a place where pitchers go to get straightened out. You never know, of course, how young players will respond to different environments, philosophies and coaches, but it's unlikely that Davies will pitch well enough to help the team anytime soon. He strikes out major league hitters at a (barely) respectable level but walks too many, and he gives up too many home runs, as well. I will qualify the "unreal" rating by clarifying that it's really a short-term tag only. Davies' minor league record, while not exceptional, definitely paints a picture of a pitcher with the skills to crack a major league rotation. In five minor league seasons (and a small part of two others), Davies has compiled a 2.94 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He's struck out exactly one batter per inning while walking 3.3 hitters per nine. Most impressively, he's allowed only .57 home runs per nine innings. Remember the adage that minor league stats turn into major league stats; it just takes time. While not always true, of course, I expect that to be the case here. Davies' skills say eventual No. 3 starter, but it may take him a few years to get there. Pitching for the Royals is unlikely to expedite that process.
Adam: Unreal. Royals general manager Dayton Moore got a good return on Octavio Dotel, acquiring a live arm with potential who has showed some minor league success, but Davies is the definition of a project. Davies has had a lot of success in the low minors, but he never exactly dominated the upper minors yet continually got starts in the majors. Learning on the job obviously hasn't helped Davies much; he has showed minimal progress in the majors and obviously the Braves, an organization known for its astute eye for pitching that is currently desperate for league-average starters, didn't believe in him either. These are the gambles that fantasy managers luckily don't have to take.
Will Harris and Adam Madison are fantasy baseball analysts for TalentedMrRoto.com. Will can be contacted at WillHarris@TalentedMrRoto.com and Adam at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com