- Shawn Peters
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Occasionally "deep" is a bad thing. Watching your pitcher get taken deep is sad, and unless you're Phil Collins, you're not going to do well getting "in too deep."
But with those notable exceptions, I'm a fan of "deep."
Deep dish pizza (along with Second City) was almost enough to get me to go to college in Chicago.
"Deep in the Heart of Texas" is a catchy tune, especially when sung with a deep voice in the Deep South.
Then there's the 1977 movie, "The Deep" which featured Jacqueline Bisset, who inspired deep feelings in many young men of that generation.
But what I really enjoy is deep leagues, where the waiver wire isn't full of league leaders and the only reliable way to get new talent on your team is by making deals.
Most of these columns focus on guys who are owned in the vast majority of ESPN.com standard leagues. But I know there are plenty whose tastes run deeper, and the fact is, today's trade bait in 12-team AL- or NL-only leagues could be mixed-league must-haves in a few weeks by the time the trade deadline comes along.
Casing the Joint
What are the main reasons a player who has shown signs of being productive in the past might be on his owner's trading block? Look at the double-D's -- "disappointment" and "disbelief."
When a highly touted player fails to deliver right away, his owner is naturally going to feel a little disappointed. Hence, all the "wish-I-could-take-that-back" trades of David Ortiz and Roy Oswalt. It also exists with preseason "sleepers." Think about Jordan Zimmermann. Touted prospect, great April and then came the cursed Boeing ERA in May -- 7.27 -- which led to him being abandoned in shallow leagues and benched in mixed leagues. But then he bounced back with a June ERA of 1.90. That's not a typo. However, he did have a 4.57 ERA in July before landing on the DL, although his current break appears to be as much about limiting his innings as any injury. I'd kick the tires and see how cheap he'll come since I bet his owner no longer trusts him, which leads us to our second "D."
Disbelief is that blind, gut instinct that tells you that a player cannot possibly keep up what he has done so far. Even when there's evidence that said player has been consistent and reliable, there are some players whose pedigree and past keep their owners from letting them into the "circle of trust." Just ask Casey McGehee's owners, or even the Brewers, who see his production as a nice ride, that at some point will end. More on him later.
In deeper formats, where the top talent is even more at a premium, finding players who are done disappointing and quietly starting to build belief in their skills is a much more affordable way to get deals done.
Now, in the spirit of this week's column, all the players I'm stealing and dealing are owned in 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues or less. For those of you in deeper leagues, they'll probably all be owned, and for those of you playing in the shallower waters, they're still names to note.
Three I'm Stealing
Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves: Owned in just more than half of ESPN.com leagues and, I'd imagine, almost every 12-team league or larger, Escobar has been remarkably consistent in 2009. On a steady 15-18 homer pace all season, he has batted at least .274 in every month, but July has been his coming-out party. Could it be a fluke? I suppose, but it's easy to forget that Escobar had official "next big thing" status when he batted .326 as a 24-year-old in 2007. He's a rock-solid option at shortstop.
Pat Burrell, OF, Rays: When a guy in his early 30s has hit at least 29 homers for four straight seasons, you're expecting more than six dingers through the first three months of the season. But Burrell had a nasty neck injury that he tried to play through all year, and only now is there evidence of him starting to get back to being his old self. If you need average, you're barking up the wrong Ray, but with three homers this month, he's back to a power pace he's had for his entire career. I expect another dozen homers between now and the end of September, and I bet they can be had cheap.
Randy Wolf, SP, Dodgers: Wolf is a poster boy for the "disbelief" part of this article. For much of his 11-year major league career, Wolf has been a solid pitcher, but very rarely anything resembling spectacular. So now, when he's sporting a 3.45 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP -- the latter number ranks seventh among qualified NL starters -- it's like no one notices. But here's the reason I believe, despite both marks being much better than his career averages. After four years of averaging only 16.5 starts per season from 2004-2007, he's healthy, and his numbers are all right in line with the pitcher he was before the injuries. Wolf strikes out almost seven batters per nine innings, so this is no soft-tossing innings eater. Bet his owner doesn't love him the way he should.
Three I'm Dealing
Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays: Electric in April, moribund in May. Brilliant in June, slightly worse than average in July. Romero's overall stats paint him as a burgeoning ace, but I don't think that train is arriving this season. Month over month, his success has completely correlated with his ability to limit his walk totals, and he has walked 10 men in 9 2/3 innings since the All-Star break. He's a work in progress who still has a lot of trade value because of his record and his strikeouts. I'd take a steadier option in trade and get an upgrade elsewhere in the process.
Casey McGehee, 2B, Brewers: A few times a year, a player with solid, yet unspectacular minor league stats comes up to the majors and ends up producing all season long at a level above his past performance. But it's almost never the guy who turns a part-time utility gig into a Pujols-ian run of 59 games, the way McLovin' has. Let's face it. This is a player who has never posted a minor league OPS higher than .776, and he's at .896 right now in the bigs. Between Felipe Lopez, J.J. Hardy, Craig Counsell and the slew of stud prospects Milwaukee has waiting in the wings, McGehee would have to keep up his current pace to play often, so trade him now for what you need.
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox: The fact Lowell is 8-for-21 since coming off the DL is great for those looking to sell, because it's become clear Lowell won't be even close to a true full-time player. First, there was talk of trying to rest him at least once a week. Then the Red Sox traded for Adam LaRoche specifically to get him in the lineup against tough right-handers, which means Kevin Youkilis will move across the diamond while Lowell sits. I believe this rest will help Lowell be more productive when he does play, but I think the days of him starting more than four games in a week are officially over for this year.
Pulling the Job
I did make one move this past week in one of my anonymous public leagues, sending the scuffling Rich Harden straight up for burgeoning star Colby Rasmus. But my deal was downright immature compared to the moves made by The S.T.E.A.L.'s youngest GM, Danny "Wrong Braun" Heifetz. First, young master Heifetz sent Johan Santana to Alex Byrnes' "Laura Linney" team for Ichiro Suzuki. Just a few days later, Wrong Braun parted with Derek Holland, Jake Fox and Mike Cameron, getting Javier Vazquez and Gerardo Parra from Matthew "Matty Meatballs" Cederholm.
The net result for Danny was that he dealt away Johan, Cameron, Fox and Holland, two of whom he picked off the wire recently, for Vazquez, Parra and Ichiro. In my mind, he got two legit stars for one and helped his team.
There are less than three weeks until the trade deadline, so if you're planning on stealing your league, now is the time.
Shawn Peters is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him your own grand theft rotos by clicking here.
23mBy Dan Graziano