• Rafael Soriano: $1 Tristan Cockcroft
"You're the man now, dog": With the somewhat surprising release of Bob Wickman, closing duties for Atlanta will fall squarely on the (surgically repaired) shoulder of Rafael Soriano, who was absolutely electric at all levels before undergoing Tommy John surgery and pitching just 26 innings between 2004 and 2005. Octavio Dotel might return from the disabled list and bully his way into a save or two, but Soriano seems to have discovered his old swagger as of late and is the best bet in Atlanta to retain the job both this season and possibly into the 2010s.
The Italians will one day rule the earth: Saltalamacchia has both catcher and first-base eligibility, which makes him infinitely more valuable in any format. His coming-out party in Texas occurred during the 30-3 thrashing of the Orioles, when he homered twice and raised his average from .250 to .262 (it now sits at a pretty .271). If he isn't already gone in your league, now would be the time to scoop him up and ride him into the sunset.
AL TOUT WARS
TRADE (Now 100 percent Erickson-free!)
Grey needs saves, while Sheehan could use strikeouts and wins to make a late push in the AL Tout Wars standings. And it's a shining example of why fantasy is such a paradox: maddeningly unpredictable, yet beautiful in its surprising nature. On March 31, telling someone that Al Reyes would fetch Gil Meche and Leo Nunez in a trade would have been met with shrugged shoulders and a possible "meh" from the stranger you had accosted with reports from the future. But if you had told him Meche would be sporting a 3.85 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, while Reyes would have 22 saves, and this trade would occur on Aug. 31, the person would have been astonished #&133 and then would have shrugged his shoulders and uttered "meh." Still, this trade features three of the biggest surprises of the season, and tidily wraps up all trading in the expert leagues for 2007.
• Aaron Laffey: $2 Dean Peterson, STATS, Inc. ($1)
Laffey the Lefty: The 22-year-old Cleveland lefty has been flirting with the major leagues all season, getting the call to Cleveland on Aug. 4, then being sent down and up. He should stick this time, especially with rosters expanding, and should be grouped in a "possibly good" class of rookie starter options with guys like Andrew Miller and Andrew Sonnanstine. What will really make Laffey successful, however, is the defensive play of Jhonny Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera, because his ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio is ridiculously high, at 6.71 in four starts. That's almost seven ground balls for every fly ball. So apply the age-old saying that our grandmothers used to tell us when we were kids: "As goes Asdrubal and Jhonny, so goes Laffey."
The Silent Killer: Guerrier isn't the most exciting player in the major leagues, but he is having one of the most effective seasons of any middle-relief pitcher this year. His ERA sits at 2.16, while his WHIP is an astonishingly low 0.97. And this is after 75 innings pitched in the major leagues. Guerrier has been floating around many waiver wires for the entire year, while similar relievers have gotten the call to help lower ERA and WHIP. At this point, his numbers aren't going to make a huge dent in the rotisserie standings, but they could help a team in a head-to-head league that is losing the ERA and WHIP battles by a few percentage points.
• Ramon Santiago: $1 Matthew Berry
• Radhames Liz: $1 Jason Grey
7.00, 1.56: Liz is one of those quirky pitchers who show up around Sept. 1 to get a look in the majors, before being tagged with "competing for a role in the rotation," "could make the team as a long reliever," or "might start the season in Triple-A." His minor league numbers have been hard to read; Liz strikes out a ton of batters but will walk his fair share of people as well. His ERA and WHIP constantly rotate between "high" (5.36 ERA in Double-A last season) and "low" (2.82 ERA in Class A before the promotion last year), meaning that if you dare to acquire Liz, you need to have nothing to gain -- or lose -- in the ratio categories.
• Timo Perez: $1 Sam Walker, author of "Fantasyland"
NL Tout Wars
• Esteban Loaiza: $40 Brian Walton, CREATiVESPORTS.com ($39, $20, $11, $10, $4)
Esteban! Welcome back! Now go to the Dodgers: Just as the A's had welcomed Jeff DaVanon to their team a week after Arizona cut him upon his return from injury, so they scuttled Loaiza, who was in pretty much the same boat, off to Los Angeles. He sparkled in his last start for Oakland, throwing seven innings against the Blue Jays while allowing just one earned run, so naturally, the A's decided to trade him. In an extreme pitchers' park like Dodger Stadium, Loaiza should see success, especially considering his arm is fresh and has seen only 42 2/3 innings so far this season. If your team is chasing wins down the stretch, Loaiza might be your best bet, and you probably can steal him from the waiver wire, considering his stats won't have him showing up on the first few pages of any search your leaguemates might try.
I am looking for a man with six fingers: Trachsel joins the Cubs in a six-man rotation, having been shipped from Baltimore to Chciago in the midst of a pennant race. Trachsel will not get your team a ton of strikeouts or a low ERA and WHIP, but he seems to get more wins than he should. Last season with the Mets, he had 15 wins, despite a 4.97 ERA. If your leaguemates already have read the Loaiza blurb and grabbed him, Trachsel should make for a decent consolation prize. So, yes, loyal reader Ian O'Connor of Quinnipiac College, there still actually are a couple pitchers out there whom you can grab to get you wins, without having to resort to Luis Vizcaino and other middle relievers who have fallen on random W's throughout the season. Loiaza and Tracsel won't produce exciting strikout numbers (like Radhames Liz!) but they both are on teams in a pennant race and will get more wins than the average bear.
• Troy Patton: $1 Phil Hertz, Baseball HQ
Mixed Tout Wars
• Micah Owings: $34 John Hoyos ($33, $0)
Pay no attention to that ERA behind the curtain!: Owings has been on a hot streak lately, allowing just eight runs in his past 26 2/3 innings while striking out 23 batters. His 4.51 ERA was as high as 5.13 at the end of July (it seems so long ago #&133) but is dropping sharply. For those of you searching for a serviceable spot starter, keep Owings in mind when browsing the waiver wire.
Tensla: We have seen Volquez before, and it has not been pretty. A 14.21 ERA in 2005, and 7.29 in 2006. Granted, those were short stints in the majors, but Volquez still should be held accountable. He has been excellent in the minors so far this year, but something seems to happen when he leaves Toontown and joins the real world. Have some trepidation before you click "add," and consider yourself warned.
• Zack Greinke: $0 Hoyos
Nando Di Fino is a fantasy analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at Nando@TalentedMrRoto.com.