Grand Theft Roto: Impact of trade deadline
Most of us who play fantasy baseball started out as real baseball fans first. So with that in mind, before I put my fantasy hat on, I have to sound off on the deadline deal that impacted my real-life fandom like no other this year, and that was the deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, Jason Bay to the Red Sox, and Adam LaRoche and prospects to the Pirates.
As a Sox fan, I'm thrilled. Not because Bay is going to beat Manny's production the rest of the way, because I don't think he will (more on this later). But I do believe Bay will outperform the Manny we would've seen for the next two months if he had been in Boston, miserable and moaning. We're talking about a guy who was sparring with teammates, manhandling traveling secretaries, and telling ESPNdeportes.com that the Red Sox "don't deserve a player like me." You can't put a price on getting that attitude out of your clubhouse.
While fantasy owners never have to deal with issues of chemistry, that isn't to say that such events don't affect those who live in the Fantasphere. They do. Thus, this week, I'm sticking with reality and looking at how we can turn real-life trades into fantasy steals.
When a player is traded, it doesn't affect only him. It affects entire teams. That's why fantasy analysis of a MLB trade's impact can't just begin and end with the player dealt. There are three aspects I look at, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. They are:
- The traded player: Will his role change? Will he end up in a better lineup or rotation? Is he switching leagues, and could that be a good thing as it has been for both Rich Harden and CC Sabathia? How about his new park and manager? All of these factors can suggest a trend for the last two months of the season.
- The replacement and the displaced: Every time a player is moved, one or more players has to take over his role. If they have skills, they could thrive. If they have flaws, they may be exposed. Grabbing the right player whose playing time and value are about to balloon like Johnny Cueto's ERA can change your season. Likewise, if a team cares enough to trade for a full-time player, that means someone on its roster is heading to the bench or the minors and it's not always the person it would seem to be right away.
- The team concept: This is the area where the speculator can turn subtle changes into big production. When a team deals away a bunch of veterans and "gives up" for the year, that can be a boon to young players who now know they'll be given plenty of leeway to learn on the job. But it can also take the wind out of the sails of the remaining vets and stars who feel forsaken. Conversely, a team that makes a big acquisition may respond with renewed vigor, boosting everyone's stats, or the players may feel extra pressure to win. Middle-of-the-rotation pitchers may suddenly be forced into the ace role and former leadoff men may end up batting ninth. Look beyond the at-bats and innings and try to get a sense of what the team's temperature is going to be, and which players will thrive in that climate.
When you start with the initial impact of a trade and then follow the ripples out, you'll find all sorts of players who suddenly look excellent or expendable.
Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers: As much as I've soured on Manny, I can't deny the fact that he's glad to be out of Boston, is all but assured that he'll get a new multiyear deal in two months and will be very motivated. Happy Manny equals productive Manny. Granted, Ramirez hasn't had many at-bats against the NL West in the past three years, but he does have a .300 batting average or better against all four other teams in his new division in that span. The Dodgers did not deal for him to make him part of the outfield rotation, so whenever he wants to play, he'll play, and I'm betting he'll want to play often and get his dollars up, especially now that his agent, Scott Boras, is just down the road.
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: The "it" boy of late May has become the "who" dude with dismal numbers over the past two months. With the trade of Ken Griffey Jr., however, Bruce has to feel both relieved and energized by the notion that he's on a team that is ready to rebuild around him and a core of youngsters that includes Edinson Volquez and Joey Votto. He still plays in a homer park and I simply don't believe the slump will last for a guy who hit 36 homers in his past 700 minor league at-bats while hitting better than .300 at every level in that span. He may be one of the final "buy-low" candidates of the season.
Kyle Farnsworth, RP, Tigers: Three things Kyle Farnsworth was never going to do in New York: perform on Broadway, run for mayor and close games. Now he heads to Detroit where Todd Jones has been removed from the closer's role and placed on the DL. Fernando Rodney is the new ninth-inning guy, but his ERA is actually worse than Jones'. Sure, there's Joel Zumaya around, but Zoom has walked 17 batters in 19 1/3 innings since coming off the DL. It all makes Farnsy a save-speculator's dream, especially with the Detroit Free Press reporting he may get a few chances to close games.
Nate McLouth, OF, Pirates: A week ago, the Pirates had three players with 300 at-bats or more who each had an OPS of .890 or better, and they traded two of them in Xavier Nady and Bay. Now McLouth, who has led off in two-thirds of his games, has to count on Ryan Doumit and the brothers LaRoche to protect him. I don't see McLouth's numbers falling off the table completely because he walks almost as often as he strikes out and the month of June -- five walks and two homers -- taught him that patience and power are tied to each other. But if the rest of the lineup can't make pitchers pay for pitching around him, his fantasy value will dip.
Juan Pierre, OF, Dodgers: In the week before the deadline, only two players on the Dodgers had more at-bats than Pierre, who has played almost exclusively in left field this year. Now Manny's in town and unless the National League institutes the DH overnight, he can only play left. Pierre, Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones will all watch their playing time decrease, but Pierre is the one owned in better than 99 percent of ESPN leagues as of Thursday night. Maybe that $8 million salary will make it so he clears waivers and can still be dealt, but until then, he's going to be a part-timer. Deal him to the most steal-starved owner in your league.
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Yankees: I'll admit, when I first started writing this week's column, I was pro-Pudge. I had memories of him stepping up his game when he was on contending teams, like the Tigers of 2006 and the Marlins of 2003. But when I went back and looked at the numbers, other than a slight spike in batting average in 2006, those years still fit into the pattern of general power and production erosion we've seen since he turned 30. And as my Tigers-loving league mate, Sean, pointed out, Pudge's batting average and OPS both rose in June and July, once he started platooning with Brandon Inge. If the Yankees try to use him as a five-game-per-week catcher, I'd expect a decline. If they platoon him, well then he'll have fewer RBIs and runs. Either way, sell while he's sexy.
Again, no space for trade tales. But that's OK. Make a few of your own, and then send them in to me, as there are only seven days left until the ESPN.com trade deadline.
It's official. You have one week left to steal your leagues.
Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball, football and golf analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him your own grand theft rotos by clicking here.
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