Waiting for their moment
Maybin, Milledge, Bumgarner could make splash if right pieces fall into place
Guess what? Cliff Lee is pretty good. So is Matt Holliday. Oh, sure, getting dealt from stinky teams to good ones helps the fantasy fortunes of these two former AL stars, but each was already pretty much owned in every mixed league on the planet. Other than folks in NL-only leagues, who have to decide how much of their FAAB money to throw at guys like this, such movement is -- for all its hype -- relatively fantasy-unsexy. The same will hold true if Roy Halladay, Victor Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez or any number of other fantasy studs get dealt today. In fact, the most interesting aspect of the Lee-to-Philadelphia deal may be the fact that Ben Francisco also went to the City of Brotherly Love, opening up the Indians' left field spot. Of course, then the Indians called up Trevor Crowe instead of Matt LaPorta, and pretty much shot fantasy owners in the foot.
Yes, opportunity is a major part of fantasy value. So on Trade Deadline Friday, let's look at players who could be helped by a potential trade (either now or in August, when players have to clear waivers before getting dealt) and actually could make a difference in fantasy leagues. Many of these players are mostly unowned right now, but the savvy player might scoop them off the waiver wire and actually make progress in neglected statistical categories if and when the opportunity does arise.
• Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins: It's time for the Marlins to give Maybin another try. The team is six games back of the Phillies but only two behind the Giants for the wild card, and Maybin has his OPS at Triple-A New Orleans up to .882. He's also cut his strikeout rate to the lowest of his professional career: He has 45 whiffs in 266 plate appearances. He could relieve Chris Coghlan at the top of the Florida lineup and once again embark on what should be a pretty nifty multi-category fantasy career. However, Jeremy Hermida (and his .594 OPS against lefties) is still in the way, but that might be rectified soon. While Hermida is under the Marlins' control for the next two years, he also may wind up being too expensive to stay long-term. He is making $2.5 million this year.
• Madison Bumgarner, P, Giants: While Jonathan Sanchez has a no-hitter under his belt and still has an intriguing arm, I don't think his control can be trusted in the heat of a playoff push. If he goes (and his name has been in trade rumors for most of the season), that could open the door for the Giants' top pitching prospect to reach the majors. The 20-year-old lefty (his birthday is Saturday) throws 97 with excellent control; he has 75 strikeouts and 24 walks in 95 1/3 minor league innings split between Class A San Jose and Double-A Connecticut this year. Sure, it's very early in the development of a 2007 high school draftee to think about the majors, but this kid is that good. With Sanchez potentially out of the picture, and it looking like Randy Johnson won't be back this season, why not try to catch lightning in a bottle?
• Mike Adams/Luke Gregerson, P, Padres: Heath Bell could go the way of George Sherrill and be dealt to a contender to be a set-up man instead of a closer. So while Bell's value would drop if he's no longer getting regular saves, someone would have to close games in San Diego. Edward Mujica had been the Padres' main set-up man, but he was just inserted into the team's starting rotation. Mike Adams could be an option, as he has had 20 strikeouts and three walks in 18 innings since coming back from shoulder surgery. But Luke Gregerson could be a dark horse: he missed a month with a sore shoulder, but since his return has whiffed 17 in 10 1/3 innings and hasn't allowed an earned run since July 6.
• Jon Rauch, P, Diamondbacks: Speaking of closers who could be on the move, Chad Qualls' name has come up in discussions, and he may suffer the same fate as Sherrill (or potentially Bell): moving to a contender to be a set-up man with far fewer save chances. In this case, the next-in-line option is clearer. It likely would be Rauch, who was awful in April and passable in May, but who's looked like the '08 version of himself in June and July.
• Lastings Milledge, OF, Pirates: Now that the fire sale has really taken hold in Pittsburgh, with Freddy Sanchez joining Jack Wilson, Adam LaRoche and Ian Snell on the road out of town, there's no reason the Pirates shouldn't be looking at Milledge, whom they acquired from the Nationals last month. After his demotion in early April, Milledge broke a finger and needed surgery which cost him nearly two months, but in 56 at-bats with Triple-A Indianapolis since the trade, he's hitting .339 with an .870 OPS. Remember, this is a guy who stole 24 bases with the Nats last year. He'd be a nice answer in left field, next to Andrew McCutchen, and would be a good add for speed-needy fantasy teams right away. The question would be whether the Pirates would need to trade off other parts (say, the surprising Delwyn Young) or just shuffle players around the lineup to make room for Milledge.
• Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals: Milledge's former teammate in Washington is biding his time for another call-up to the big leagues. In 69 plate appearances since his demotion to Triple-A Syracuse on July 1, Dukes has fanned only seven times, reversing a terrible big league trend that had seen him fan 47 times in 211 plate appearances this year, and 79 times in 334 plate appearances last year. A call-up could happen if the Nationals move Josh Willingham, who is hitting .322 this month and whose name has been churning in the rumor mill.
• It'd also be nice to see If the Royals could find a taker for Mike Jacobs and his .703 OPS to free up space for Kila Ka'aihue, who's lifted his average to .262 with a .404 on-base percentage at Triple-A Omaha. If the Mariners decide they're cooked (Wednesday's Jack Wilson trade notwithstanding), maybe they move Russell Branyan near the utter peak of his value (granted, that probably would have been a month ago) to give Mike Carp a legitimate shot at some big league playing time. If the A's would deal Adam Kennedy to be a bench bat someplace so we could see if newly acquired Brett Wallace has a chance to play at third base next year. (It wouldn't be bad if he'd just go ahead and rack up some eligibility there for next year anyway.). If Victor Martinez does get dealt today, maybe Carlos Santana gets a two-month preview on the '10 season behind the dish for the Tribe.
Christopher Harris is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can e-mail him here.