• Jason Varitek: $4 Nando Di Fino
• Fausto Carmona: $2 Ron Shandler
FAAB (free agent acquisition budget) with the devil: Ron's pact with Satan back in 1992 (Ron gets the formula for xERA [expected ERA] and can pick flame-throwing starters off the waiver wire, in exchange for fantasy tips to Mephistopheles at any time of day through the year 3038) allows him to pick up a pitcher with a 3.31 ERA and 1.28 WHIP for $2. Even in a league this shallow, Carmona should have been on a roster.
• Dustin Pedroia: $1 David Young
• Ted Lilly: $1 Young
Take it... take it...: Dave Young freely admits that this FAAB acquisition was spurred on solely by his love for Lily Potter. Whether or not Ted Lilly can keep a sub-3.50 ERA, when he hasn't finishes with anything below a 4.06 since he split 2002 between the Yankees and the A's, is entirely out of our hands. Experts keep waiting for him to revert to his old self, but it's August now, and Lilly has shown no sign of slowing down. Bonus fact: Lilly's full name is Theodore Roosevelt Lilly.
• A.J. Pierzynski: $1 Shandler
• Matt Cain: $1 Tristan H. Cockcroft
Rosebud: Cain has struggled mightily lately, seeing his ERA rise from 3.15 on June 16th to 4.02 last week. Pay no attention to those 12 losses behind the curtain; they're more representative of the circus of a team he is playing for than his performance to date. On, say, the Mariners, Cain would probably be 9-6. On the Devil Rays, he'd be 7-12. But for whatever reason, on the Giants, he is 3-12, with eight of those twelve losses coming in his last ten starts. Tristan H. may be playing with fire here, but he is last in wins in ESPNX (fourth in the standings overall), and Cain is bound to go on some kind of win streak to balance out his numbers. This may turn out to be an incredibly prescient bid.
Mixed Tout Wars
Adler: "From my side, this trade was mostly due to my ability to gain points. I'm pretty much locked in position for saves, as I've got ten less than the guy in front of me, and ten more than the guy behind me. At most, I'll lose one point over the rest of the season. On the other hand, I can gain points in all five offensive categories."
"Jones has finally begun to show a pulse lately, plus his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is still quite low. In a similar vein, Putz has an insanely-low BABIP and a very high strand rate; he's due for some ERA correction over the rest of the year.
"It's tough to give up a closer who's pitching as well as Putz, but I have to concentrate on boosting my offense over the rest of the season.
Di Fino: "True story. Johnnie Walker is giving Alex Rodriguez a huge bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue when he hits his 500th home run. Want the definition of an unfair world? Even the little bottles of Blue are out of my price range, yet a player making $25 million per year gets a free magnum of it. I hate him for this, so I shipped him to Team Gonos. As for Beckett? He is on the Red Sox, and with the Yankees playing this well, I can't cheer for him. But, on the other hand, I can't just give him away. I got back Braun and Gallardo, who -- if you take a close look at their numbers -- are actually doing just as well as Rodriguez and Beckett. Granted, they're rookies and will most likely collapse, but I'm in a perfect storm right now (in seventh place and time is running out on the season), so the day has officially come to gamble and play with reckless abandon in hopes of everything falling in to place, and making a run at Larry Schechter's Sandlot Shrink squad. "
Gonos: "At first glance, this looks like a no-brainer for me, but it's really tough to give up on the best hitting rookie in the majors and a pitcher anticipated by many to be the best rookie pitcher from here on out. But they're still rookies. The one consistent thing I can rely on is that they are going to be inconsistent. With Alex Rodriguez, I'm picking up the best hitter this season (although he's stumbled a bit in the second half) and in Beckett, I'm getting a reliable staff ace. This was too good of a package to pass on for Braun (a player I drafted and held onto in the reserve round) and Gallardo (a $2 pitcher awarded to me after his call-up).
• Josh Fields: $6 Craig Leshen of AskRotoman.com ($5)
Rashaun Konerko: Five years ago, Josh Fields was firing passes to Rashaun Woods in the Cotton Bowl as the quarterback of Oklahoma State. Now, he is hitting a home run every 20 at-bats, has performed admirably as Joe Crede's replacement at third for the White Sox, and was called up to Chicago just three days before a pitcher named "Joshua Fields" was selected in the second round of the draft by the Braves. In short, he's got a lot going on. All you should be concerned about, though, is that he has managed to keep a steady average, is playing in a hitter's ballpark, and could get 5-to-10 steals the rest of the way out.
• Jamie Walker: $1 Alex Cushing of MLB.com
Makoto Miyagi: Semi-little-known fact. Jamie Walker is not a member of the MLBPA (major league baseball players association). He was a prospective replacement player in 1994, which means that every player in baseball pretty much hates him for no reason other than they feel obligated to. Because of this, he cannot be in video games licensed by the MLBPA, like MVP Baseball 2004, where the programmers re-named him "Makoto Miyagi." Miyagi now has two saves in the absence of Chris Ray ("Henry LaRusso" in the game), and it will come down to either him or Danys Baez ("Danys Baez") for the Baltimore saves. Cushing, who has FAABed every other possible closer this season (he's the fantasy baseball equivalent of the cat who knows when people are about to die) seems to be as good a barometer as any to follow, so the smart money here would be on Walker.
Search for "F": Leshen obviously stopped his search for free agents on the "F" page of third basemen this week, as he picks up Feliz to complement Fields. One thing you can say about Feliz is that he is consistent; his numbers in 2007 are on pace to meet his 2005 and 2006 numbers (.250-ish batting average, 20-ish home runs, 85-ish RBI, 72-ish runs, ½-ish steals). One thing you cannot say is that he has 4,000 positions listed after his name, as he did in 2006. However, for those in leagues where a player gets eligibility after one game played, Feliz is probably one of the five-best catchers in the National League, as he played there in early June after both of the San Francisco catchers were hurt.
• Mark Ellis: $1 Leshen
• Yusmeiro Petit: Leshen
"It's the Leshen Show!": In fourth place, it appears Leshen has decided to go for it and make a run for the top with four bids this week, including three position players and a starting pitcher. Petit has been excellent his past two starts, and with Randy Johnson now out for the season, expect Petit's ownership percentage in most leagues to soar, as managers no longer have that trepidation of the youngster losing his spot when Johnson returns. The best part of this whole Petit situation for Arizona fans? They received him in exchange for Jorge Julio, who now pitches in Colorado.
• Jim Edmonds: $1 Larry Schechter of SandlotShrink.com
• Jason Jennings: $1 Schechter
Bit of advice: If Jim Edmonds and Jason Jennings, two players with otherwise-pedestrian sets of numbers, are on your free agent wire, I would go get them now. Larry Schechter has won Tout Wars the last two years and is currently in first place, 10.5 points ahead of Mike Salfino in the standings.
• Joe Saunders: $1 Adler
AL-only Tout Wars
Walker: "It's make-or-break time for the Street Walkers (2005 AL Champs). Sure, Buehrle threw a no-hitter, but some steals, homers and runs are going to help me more than Buehrle's low ERA and WHIP, especially with Curt Schilling and Phil Hughes set to return to my staff in the next two weeks. Pedroia was a nice surprise, but Vazquez could flex a bit more power, and it looks like Blalock still has a long way to go in his recovery. I made Grey throw Dukes in there just because I like his name."
• Shelley Duncan: $9 Matt Berry ($8, $4, $3)
Buzz kill: With Jason Giambi's shadow looming over that DH spot, creating a squeeze for at-bats, Duncan needs to keep hitting home runs at a Maas-ian rate in order to avoid losing playing time. He's a good short-term pick-up, but don't expect to see him starting every day in September.
• Mike Hessman: $8 Berry ($7, $3)
Matthew strikes again, obviously chasing power potential as he goes after Hessman -- leading the International League with 27 home runs -- and Duncan, who had 25. If I wrote this sentence:
"Both are at a prime age to contribute, with a power swing that will produce a fair number of home runs, coupled with a ton of strikeouts," ... you wouldn't know which of the two I was talking about. Hessman has the better chance to stick, as he can play third base, first base, and the outfield, while Duncan is a DH who is a liability at first base or in the outfield.
• Dallas Braden: $3 Ron Shandler of BaseballHQ ($2)
• Curtis Thigpen: $1 Berry
• Jeff Mathis: $0 Walker
The Praying Mathis: The former "catcher of the future" for the Angels, Mathis was one Jose Molina non-trade away from being sent back to the PCL. Instead, the Yankees decided they could do better than Wil Nieves, and Molina was sent packing. A day later, Mike Napoli went on the DL, and this suddenly looks like a great acquisition for Walker.
NL-only Tout Wars
Becker: "The whole deal was Hertz' idea, and I dare say he read the situation perfectly. He wasn't going to be a factor next week in the always-fun post-deadline FAAB action, and thanks to winning most of my guys for the minimum so far this year, I was holding the third-biggest purse, a scant 10 bucks off the lead that would put me first in the pecking order. I didn't want to give up Salty, but I need a big bat to make up some ground in runs and RBIs, categories in which I could easily claim 10 points in the next two months. Saenz serves as a place-holder at corner infield."
"It's a gamble, but I'm pretty sure I can replace Salty's production, at a minimum, and I'd been wanting to either trade Doumit or move him from corner to catcher ever since he reclaimed his eligibility there. Of course, the fact that Kreutzer reclaimed 30 bucks in FAAB due to Chris Carpenter's season coming to an end means that I have only the second-most FAAB left, but I still leap-frogged over two other guys, and that might just be enough to land me a stud next week... should a stud come over.
Hertz: "I was 12th out of 13 in the FAAB standings, so I realized I would not be getting any of the "premier" additions to the NL. On the other hand, I had enough FAAB to make a difference for those near the top of the FAAB standings. I approached a couple of the owners near the top indicating I was looking for a corner, a starter or a catcher who was an upgrade over the seldom-used Damian Miller. When Pete offered Salatalamacchia, it didn't take long for us to reach an agreement."
• Tahadito Iguchi: $1 Cory Schwartz of MLB.com (bid of $22)
Nine minutes: Per Tout Wars rules, all bids must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Friday, and they must be based on players who are in the league by 5 p.m. Iguchi's trade to Philadelphia was announced at 4:51 p.m., and Cory Schwartz was the only NL Tout Warrior to place a bid. Had this trade been announced at 5:03, next weeks' bidding would have probably been much higher and more spirited (I would reckon at least eight of the thirteen teams would have bid). Alas, that was not the case, and Cory shrewdly gets Iguchi for the same price as Rob Leibowitz got Joel Hanrahan. For the sake of reference, Cory put a $22 bid in (which was dropped to $1 by the Vickrey method), but I kept it posted for readers to use in their upcoming free agent pick-ups.
Just to review: Cory Schwartz gets Iguchi for $1; Alex Rodriguez gets a free magnum of Johnnie Walker Blue; and Chris Klein apparently went from dating Katie Holmes to the girl who plays Margene on Big Love.
• J.D. Durbin: $4 Peter Kreutzer of AskRotoman.com ($3, $2)
"I'll take 'Things that completely baffle me' for $400, Alex": Look, I don't know what is going on with J.D. Durbin. I will be the first to admit that. He claims to have fixed all of his pitching woes by taking advice from Jamie Moyer. And he wasn't horrible in the minor leagues. With the exception of a rough run in a Rochester rotation a few years ago, Durbin has put up some decent minor league stats, and is capable of striking out a batter per inning. The Red Sox, Twins, and Diamondbacks have all passed off the rights to him since March, so it's a lovely story if it pans out, and a lot of us -- especially Kreutzer -- are hoping that it does. It would not behoove any fantasy player outside the top three at this point to adopt a wait-and-see approach; if you want to aim for first place, Durbin may be the guy you look back on in October as the shrewd pick-up that helped you mount a furious comeback and win the championship.
It worked for Tim Redding!: And Jason Simontacchi. And Jason Bergmann. And Micah Bowie. Try it at home! Gather some friends, put on a Nationals uniform, throw a pitch, and the ball magically falls into your fielders' gloves. Hanrahan is the latest in a line of starters for Washington trying to reclaim some past glory. He was a second-round pick of the Dodgers in 2000, fell on some hard times after shoulder surgery, was released, and then scooped up by Nationals GM Jim Bowden.
• Rudy Seanez: $0 Scott Wilderman of RotoTimes.com
• Joe Thatcher: $0 Trace Wood of LongGandhi.com
"Rod Barajas (on my roster) has been an unmitigated disaster to date, with a less-than-robust .212 average and a grand total of nine RBIs. Even considering his anemic production in Oakland, Jason Kendall has been twice as productive. The field of potential catchers coming into the league wasn't overly exciting either. Taking a chance on a guy with a career .297 average who has never stolen fewer than eight bases in a full season seemed like an acceptable risk."
• Kevin Cameron: $0 Mike Lombardo of Wise Guy Baseball
Nando Di Fino is a fantasy analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at Nando@TalentedMrRoto.com