As the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, there's been a flurry of activity in the bigs. Here are some of the most noteworthy moves of the week.
FRIDAY, JULY 23
Brian Roberts activated from the 15-day DL
The Orioles' leadoff hitter and second baseman appeared in just four games at the start of the season before winding up on the DL with a strained abdominal muscle and a herniated disk in his back. Roberts has been a valuable fantasy player for several years now, especially in leagues that track stolen bases. From 2004 to 2009, he averaged 35 stolen bases and 101 runs scored a year, while hitting .290 over that stretch. His injury allowed All-Star utility man Ty Wigginton to get some extra playing time at second base, and also gave Julio Lugo a chance to get into some more games. Wigginton should still receive plenty of playing time at first base now that Garrett Atkins is no longer in the picture, but Lugo will likely see a significant decrease in his usage. Through Thursday, he's hitting .264 with no home runs in 182 at-bats. Fantasy owners should activate Roberts immediately, but should watch to see if his injury affects his base-stealing ability.
Josh Beckett activated from the 15-day DL
It's been anything but your typical season for Josh Beckett this year. The Red Sox' righty earned the opening day starting job after he went a combined 49-23 over the last three seasons with an ERA of 3.71 and an average of 188 strikeouts a season. He did not look sharp on opening day, giving up five earned runs in just 4.2 innings, and his woes continued right up until the time that he landed on the DL on May 19 with a lower back strain. At the time of his DL assignment, he was 1-1 with an ERA of 7.29 through eight starts. Obviously, he's a better pitcher than those numbers would indicate, so a significant improvement should be expected if he is indeed healthy. Boston optioned pitcher Michael Bowden to Pawtucket to free up space on their 25-man roster for Beckett. He appeared in three games, all in relief for the Red Sox. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield now moves back to the bullpen.
Shin-Soo Choo activated from the 15-day DL
The Indians' right fielder missed almost three weeks due to a sprained right thumb, and still managed to hang onto his team lead in every major offensive category. At the time of his return on Friday, Choo was still leading the Tribe in batting average (.286), runs scored (48), home runs (13), RBI (43), and even stolen bases (12). Surprisingly, the Indians held their own without their best offensive player, as they went 9-7 in Choo's absence, including a six-game winning streak. Nevertheless, they're glad to have him back, as his replacement Michael Brantley went just 10 for 60 (.167) with one home run and four RBI in his absence. Aaron Laffey, who had recently been moved into the rotation, was placed on the 15-day DL, which freed up the roster spot for Choo. Brantley has since been optioned back down to Triple-A Columbus.
SATURDAY, JULY 24
Ryan Ludwick activated from the 15-day DL
Ludwick returned to action on Saturday after missing a month with a strained left calf. He returns to a .273 average, eleven home runs and 42 RBI and should continue to be a valuable fantasy option. Jon Jay impressed while filling in for Ludwick, so much so that he should challenge center fielder Colby Rasmus for playing time. Through Friday, Jay is hitting .381 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 42 games, while Rasmus is batting .267. As long as both players are battling for playing time, their fantasy values should be minimal.
SUNDAY, JULY 25
Dan Haren traded to the Los Angeles Angels
The Angels pulled off their second big deal of the week (the first was picking up Alberto Callaspo from Kansas City on Thursday) as they sent lefty Joe Saunders and minor league pitchers Rafael Rodriguez and Patrick Corbin to the D-Backs for Dan Haren. Haren has been a strikeout machine for Arizona, as he struck out more than 200 batters in both 2008 and 2009, and is on pace to do so again this year. After three consecutive seasons with an ERA less than 3.50, his ERA had jumped to 4.60 this year with Arizona as opponents managed to hit .285 against him. He still managed to keep his walks low, so hopefully he'll regain some of his past success and show that his early woes this year were a fluke. Saunders will hope to turn things around in a new city, as he was doing little to help the Angels. After a 4.62 ERA last season, he had a 4.60 this year for the Angels.
Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez to the 15-day DL
With the Tigers in the midst of a three-way battle in the AL Central, these injuries couldn't have come at a worse time. Ordonez fractured his ankle while sliding into home plate on Saturday night and Guillen strained his right calf later that game. Ordonez's bat will be especially difficult to replace, as he was hitting .303 with 12 home runs and 59 RBI in 84 games this year. His injury should keep him out for six to eight weeks. Guillen had finally brought some consistency and stability to the Tigers' second base position, so he will be missed as well. Neither player is a stranger to the disabled list, as they've both had to deal with their fair share of injuries in recent years. They're both getting up there in years (Ordonez is 36 and Guillen is 34), so injuries may become an ever bigger issue as time goes on. To fill the roster spots, Detroit called up corner infielder Jeff Larish and middle infielder Will Rhymes from Triple-A Toledo. Rhymes and outfielder Ryan Raburn should benefit the most from these injuries, as Rhymes will get most of the at-bats at second base, and Raburn will cover left field (with Brennan Boesch moving over to right). Rhymes hit .304 with just two home runs in 336 at-bats with Toledo, and Raburn is hitting just .203 with the Tigers this year. Neither player is likely to have much fantasy value.
MONDAY, JULY 26
Victor Martinez activated from the 15-day DL
Red Sox fans breathed a sigh of relief as their starting catcher finally returned from his thumb injury after missing about a month. Martinez fractured his left thumb during a game on June 27, and was hitting .289 at the time. His injury, plus backup Jason Varitek's broken foot forced the Red Sox to use the likes of Kevin Cash (.149), Dusty Brown (.182) and Gustavo Molina (.143) in the catcher's role. Boston went 9-13 while Martinez was out, but injuries to other key players like Dustin Pedroia also likely played a factor. Dusty Brown was optioned back down to Pawtucket to make room for Martinez to return. Several other solid Major League catchers returned from the DL this week. Ryan Doumit, Matt Wieters, Rod Barajas and Ramon Hernandez all returned to action.
TUESDAY, JULY 27
Troy Tulowitzki activated from the 15-day DL
After a brutal road trip in which they went 2-9, the Rockies are glad to finally have their starting shortstop back. Tulowitzki missed over a month with a broken left wrist, and hadn't played since June 17. At the time of the injury, he had scored 47 runs in 62 games, and was hitting .306. Tulowitzki has emerged as one of the most productive shortstops in baseball, and at just 25 years of age, he may only get better. In his absence, the Rockies moved second baseman Clint Barmes over to shortstop, and handed the second base duties over to Jonathan Herrera. Barmes will shift back to second now that Tulowitzki is back, but Herrera may have earned himself the occasional start with his performance at the plate. Through Monday, he's hitting .291, while Barmes it at just .248. To make room on the roster for Tulowitzki, the Rockies designated first baseman Brad Eldred for assignment. Eldred was 6-for-24 with a home run and three RBI for the Rockies.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 28
Shane Victorino to the 15-day DL
Victorino was placed on the DL due to an abdominal strain on his left side after he injured himself diving back to first base during a pickoff attempt on Tuesday. The Phillies' center fielder had already set a career high in home runs this year with 15, and was just nine RBI shy of his season-best 62 at the time of the injury. He had also scored 59 times and stole 20 bases, although his batting average plummeted to .250, which would easily be the worst mark of his career. To replace Victorino on the roster, the Phillies called up rookie outfielder Domonic Brown from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Brown hit a combined .327 between Double-A and Triple-A, crushing 20 home runs and driving in 68 runs in just 93 games, while stealing 17 bases. Philadelphia wasted no time getting him some action, as Brown was inserted into the lineup and playing right field on Wednesday night. He went 2-for-3 in his major league debut, scored twice and drove in two runs. Just 22, he's likely to experience some growing pains, but he's certainly worth a look as long as the Phils have a place for him to play. Manager Charlie Manuel has stated that he doesn't expect Victorino to be back at full strength for about three weeks.
Scott Podsednik traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers
With Manny Ramirez's repeated trips to the DL this season, the Dodgers decided to pull the trigger on a deal that landed them an insurance plan. Scott Podsednik was putting together one of the best seasons of his career when L.A. picked him up from the Royals. He was hitting .310, and in 95 games had already matched the 30 stolen bases that it took him 132 games to get last year. If Manny Ramirez ever manages to stay healthy, then Podsednik's fantasy value will likely take a huge hit. With Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp occupying the other two spots in the Dodgers outfield, there just wouldn't be anywhere for him to play. Ramirez isn't expected back before mid-August, so fantasy owners should get good use out of Podsednik in the meantime. The Royals received a couple of minor leaguers in this deal – catcher Lucas May and pitcher Elisaul Pimentel.
THURSDAY, JULY 29
Roy Oswalt traded to Philadelphia
To bolster their chances of making the postseason, the Phillies added yet another ace named Roy to their rotation by picking up Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros. Oswalt waived his no-trade clause, allowing the move to go through and in return, the Astros get lefty J.A. Happ and some Minor League prospects. Oswalt has been dominant throughout his Major League career, bringing a 143-82 career record and 3.24 career ERA over to the Phillies. Happ has been no slouch either, as he ended up with a 2.93 ERA in 166 innings last year with Philadelphia and had a 1.76 ERA in three starts this year. The Phillies got a solid front-of-the-rotation starter, while the Astros unloaded a huge contract and picked up a younger starter who is solid in his own right, so it's a win-win for both teams. In fantasy terms, Oswalt will likely see a boost in the win column as he moves from one of the worst offensive teams in the NL to one of the best. Happ, on the other hand, will likely have a harder time racking up the W's.