- James Quintong, Fantasy
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We have preached patience when it comes to slow-starting stars, but with Memorial Day approaching, it's hard to call it "early" anymore. So is it time to jump ship, either by working out a trade or cutting them outright?
When it comes to trading slow starters, you might have no choice but to trade on name recognition alone, because their performance so far means you likely wouldn't get what you think is full value. But maybe getting anything, even if you're buying high on someone, might be best for you if you can't stand seeing that .230 line on your roster. Meanwhile, if you decide to just cut bait on someone, especially someone highly regarded at the start of the season, you'd better have decent options on the waiver wire.
So let's go around the diamond and take a look at guys owned in close to 100 percent of ESPN standard leagues who just aren't getting it done and what you might want to do with them, especially if you need to shake up your lineup.
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Tigers: Kenji Johjima probably belongs here, but his ownership already has dropped below 50 percent, behind even Dioner Navarro's. Pudge is usually good for about 10 to 12 homers, but he has just one so far, and his average has dipped to .264; both stats are well off his career numbers. The good news is that he is only two walks away from matching last year's total; the bad news is that he had nine walks total in 2007. With the Tigers' offense still stalled, it seems unlikely Pudge will have a lot of upside going forward. However, the catcher pool is pretty weak, so he's still not a bad choice given the circumstances.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Many of their owners have ditched Carlos Delgado, Ryan Garko and Adam LaRoche, but surprisingly, Konerko is still owned in 100 percent of leagues. He has gotten off to a slow start and has looked awful this month, but this has happened in seasons past, too, and he rebounded after the All-Star break. The good news is that his walk rate is a little higher than in recent years, so there's hope he'll get his bat in order at some point.
Jeff Kent, 2B, Dodgers: While Robinson Cano's numbers are still way low, he seems to be working his way back up to respectability. Meanwhile, Kent seems to be stuck in mediocrity. Is age finally catching up with him? It could be the reason why he's not owned in 100 percent of leagues. The lack of power, which was on the decline even last year, is a major concern. He should eventually get his batting average back up, but the lack of homers is going to make him an average option, at best, in standard leagues the rest of the way.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays: He didn't set the world afire right away as some hoped when he was called up, and there's a good chance he could be a lot like Alex Gordon in that his numbers won't match the rookie hype. Averaging a strikeout per game isn't going to help things. If you can keep Longoria on the bench, do so. Otherwise, there are a number of interesting third basemen with lower ownership rates than Longoria (such as Scott Rolen, Jorge Cantu and Blake DeWitt) that merit watching if you really want to make a change.
Edgar Renteria, SS, Tigers: After a solid April, Renteria's numbers have fallen off ridiculously in May. Right now, he's not in any danger of losing playing time, but he definitely deserves to be on your bench because you're not going to get a lot for him via trade. Outside of last year's resurgence in Atlanta, his June numbers pale in comparison to his monthly average. Consider him a buy-low candidate for sometime around the All-Star break.
Eric Byrnes, OF, Diamondbacks: Last year's 50 steals were definitely an anomaly, but it seems like he's crashed back to earth after two great seasons in Arizona. It's especially disconcerting given all the success around him this year. Over the past two seasons in Arizona, though, he has stolen 48 of his 75 bases after the All-Star break, but his average takes a big dip at the same time. The average and the steals obviously need help, but given the way it has gone for Byrnes, are you sure you can get both?
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves: It's hard to figure out what type of player Francoeur is supposed to be. He's still driving in runs and scoring his share of runs, thanks in part to Chipper Jones' great start. But the homers are tailing off even more (although the doubles are staying constant), and while he's not striking out as much as he used to, he's still not drawing many walks, which could be a reason his average is, well, average. He's definitely worth a spot on your roster, but it's hard to figure out what his trade value is right now.
Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Reds: It's been a slow trek to his 600th homer, and it doesn't help that he's hitting below .250 when he's not adding a whole lot anywhere else. The good news is that he has stayed healthy. The bad news is that we're still expecting a little more. Griffey has dropped below the 100 percent ownership mark, which shouldn't be too surprising. I still think Griffey has another streak in him soon, though, especially with 600 homers tantalizingly close. When that streak will come is another question.
Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: While many people have already bailed on Sheffield (owned in about 50 percent of leagues), Hafner is still held in high regard despite yet another disappointing campaign thus far. There are some noticeable differences in his swing compared to his 2006 campaign, and it seems like that's when he reached his peak. Persuading someone that he's the same player he was in 2006 and that he's just off to a slow start is about the only way you're going to get good value in trade. Otherwise, he might be worth dropping in standard leagues if you're loaded elsewhere.
Roy Oswalt, SP, Astros: The groin injury might have made the decision easier to at least bench him for the upcoming week, but Oswalt has been an enigma all season long. His K/9 and K/BB rates have improved slightly from last year, but he has been far more hittable than in years past. It doesn't help that he's second in the league (to Brett Myers, another disappointment) with 14 homers allowed. He's been a lot more hittable in recent years, and he seems to have taken another step back there, but he also has been pitching deeper into games in recent weeks, so those innings could eventually offset some of the runs he's giving up.
Justin Verlander, P, Tigers: A very popular Cy Young pick entering this season, Verlander has been one of the biggest pitching disappointments, period. He did have a tough-luck loss last week to drop him to 1-7, but that 6.05 ERA is very disconcerting. However, he's not giving up an inordinate number of homers or hits like Oswalt. In fact, his opponents' OPS is actually lower this year compared to 2006, when he went 17-9. The red flag is the major drop in his K/9 and K/BB rates. If he can't turn that around, then it could be a long season. But it's hard to believe he won't bounce back a bit, given some of his other numbers. He'd be an interesting test to see how low you can buy him. What's somewhat surprising is that he's owned in 100 percent of leagues, meaning that many are willing to ride out his struggles, albeit on the bench perhaps, partly because of the high draft pick invested in him. Meanwhile, other highly regarded (but lower drafted) starting pitchers such as Myers, Ian Snell, Brad Penny and Ted Lilly are available in some leagues.
James Quintong is an editor for ESPN Fantasy.