This is our weekly look at the free agents in each league. We have two goals for this article:
- Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
- Try to estimate how much of your free agent budget you should bid on them.
One size doesn't fit all, and we could never hope to encompass all league structures, so we have to have a set of base assumptions. Those assumptions are:
- League size of 12 players (either NL or Mixed, we'll specify)
- 5x5 categories
- Each team has a $100 FAAB budget
Homer Bailey – Bailey, who has been out with right shoulder inflammation, began a rehab assignment on Monday with Low-A Dayton. In that start, he gave up three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five. Bailey made a second rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Louisville and gave up just three hits in 6.2 scoreless innings. Look for the Reds to use the entire 30-day rehab period to build up Bailey’s shoulder strength and buy the club time to decide how to work him back into the mix. For those curious, no, my proposed bid is nowhere near as high as it was when I wrote about him a few months ago. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Thomas Diamond – Diamond, a top Rangers prospect before undergoing Tommy John surgery, has finally made it to the bigs with the Cubs; and he is in line to start Tuesday against the Brewers. Diamond has lost some velocity since his pre-Tommy John days and works at 88-92 now. However, his slider has improved, and he still has a killer changeup. The Cubs need a starter to fill the hole left by the Ted Lilly trade, so Diamond will make his MLB debut at age 27. He had a 104:46 K:BB in 108.1 innings this year for Triple-A Iowa, but control was a problem at times. He could potentially hold onto a spot in the rotation for the rest of the year as Chicago looks to the future. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Dan Hudson – Hudson, who posted a 6.32 ERA over three starts with the White Sox this year, was traded along with minor league pitcher David Holmberg to the Diamondbacks on Friday for Edwin Jackson. However, Hudson posted a 3.47 ERA with a 10.4 K/9 over 17 starts with Triple-A Charlotte and was regarded as Chicago’s top pitching prospect. Hudson throws a low-90s fastball, a slider and a change-up and will be teamed with a weaker offense and a shakier bullpen in the desert, but the move to a more pitcher-friendly park and league should help his overall numbers. Mixed: $3; NL: $13.
John Lannan – Lannan was called up to take Stephen Strasburg's turn in the rotation Sunday against the Phillies. Lannan struggled earlier in the season, posting a 5.76 ERA, and hasn’t been much better at Double-A Harrisburg. Bid and use at your own risk. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
James McDonald – We profiled McDonald a few weeks ago when he was called up by LA but his stint in the rotation lasted just one start. On Saturday, McDonald was dealt with Andrew Lambo to the Pirates, where he will eventually get the chance to start. GM Neal Huntington sees McDonald as a starter in the long run; but for now, he will pitch out of the bullpen. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Daniel McCutchen – McCutchen was called up Saturday and surrendered three earned runs in 5.2 innings, walking six while allowing six hits in an 11-1 loss to the Cardinals. All you really need to know is that outing actually lowered his big league ERA from 8.58 to 7.94. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Scott Olsen – Olsen, who had been out since mid-May with shoulder tightness, was activated and started Thursday against the Braves. He gave up three runs – two earned – in six innings. Olsen is still a question mark until he proves that the shoulder troubles are behind him, but remember that he had a 2.04 ERA and a 26:10 K:BB ratio in the six starts before he landed on the DL.. Olsen will need to pitch well to keep his rotation with Jason Marquis and Jordan Zimmerman nearing their return; but if he does so, he should stick over Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Joe Saunders – Saunders was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren deal last week, along with Rafael Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin and PTBNL (apparently Tyler Skaggs). Saunders has scuffled through a mediocre season, throwing a handful of decent starts but also experiencing a few disaster outings. In the past, Saunders was better than his peripherals indicated; but this year he has not been as lucky. Saunders benefits by going to the NL, but on the flip side, he's in a tougher ballpark and has a worse bullpen supporting him. Saunders is a decent innings eater and had a decent first start, but he gave up another homer on Thursday (15 allowed so far after serving up 29 last year), which has to be a concern considering his home games will be at hitter-friendly Chase Field. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Sean West – West could be called up from Triple-A New Orleans to take Tuesday's start in place of Alejandro Sanabia, who was sent to the minors. West posted a 3.12 ERA and 46:19 K:BB ratio in 57.2 innings and threw a shutout in his last start on Tuesday. West was a rotation candidate in spring training but ended up on the DL for an extended period with a back injury, but he is fully healthy now. Even if he doesn't get called up at the beginning of next week, it shouldn't be long before he is back in the Marlins' rotation. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Jake Westbrook –The Indians traded Westbrook and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday as part of a three-team trade between the Indians, Cardinals and Padres. Westbrook went 6-7 with a 4.65 ERA in 21 starts this year with the Indians after missing the entire 2009 season due to right elbow surgery. Westbrook is exactly the type of pitcher that could benefit from the move to the NL. He is a pitch-to-contact pitcher who is moving to a team with a good defense. Plus, he gets a chance to work with the magician pitching coach Dave Duncan, which only enhances his value. This could work out pretty well for him and for those NL owners that grab him, so get ready to spend some FAAB dollars. NL: $60.
Kyle Farnsworth/Steven Jackson/Wil Ledezma/Mike MacDougal/Will Ohman/Ramon Ramirez/Rafael Rodriguez/Atahualpa Severino - This week’s cast of middle reliever/end of bullpen fillers are in player alpha order: Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Florida, San Francisco, Arizona, and Washington. Farnsworth and Ramirez potentially have value, as does Rodriguez. Farnsworth had a good run with the Braves in the second half of 2005, carrying a 1.98 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 32:7 K:BB in 27.1 innings. Farnsworth will likely serve as a seventh-inning setup man down the stretch as part of the bridge to Braves closer Billy Wagner and could get some Ks. Same for Ramirez, who may help get the ball to Brian Wilson. Rodriguez could eventually get a chance to close in what has been an underwhelming Arizona bullpen to say the least. All except Farnsworth, Ramirez and Rodriguez - Mixed: No; NL: $0. Farnsworth and Ramirez – Mixed: $0; NL: $3. Rodriguez- Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (as a spec bid).
Ryan Madson/J.C. Romero –Stop us if you have heard this before. Manager Charlie Manuel expresses confidence in Brad Lidge. Lidge, blows save, speculation starts that Madson and/or Romero could be a factor for saves. Well, if not, guess what, we are at it again. Manuel gave Lidge the ball with a one-run lead in the ninth on Saturday, and the only out he recorded was a sac bunt to Nyjer Morgan. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Lidge's fastball velocity was down, and not surprisingly it was the fastball that Ryan Zimmerman took out of the park for the win. Manuel restated his faith in Lidge, but things could get interesting down the stretch. Romero blew his shot at a save Thursday, but he could factor in against lefty-laden lineups. Madson has shown the ability to close in the past, but for now, this is pure speculation. Madson – Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (though likely owned in NL-only formats). Romero – Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Evan Meek/Joel Hanrahan – Pittsburgh manager John Russell wouldn't say Saturday who will close for the Pirates following the trade of Octavio Dotel to Los Angeles. Meek might have a more impressive repertoire than Hanrahan, but Hanrahan continues to pitch later in games than Meek, has been more consistent on a game-by-game basis, and has a 12.43 K/9 ratio. If you have room for both, grab them, but if guessing who will close, give the slight nod to Hanrahan until more is known. Meek – Mixed: $3; NL: $11 (though likely owned in NL-only formats). Hanrahan – Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Chris Ray – Brian Wilson missed some time last week with a back ailment, allowing Ray to notch both a win and a save. San Francisco has several closing options in the bullpen if Wilson has to miss more time, but Ray is in that mix and has closing experience, which could give him the nod. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Drew Storen/Tyler Clippard/Sean Burnett – Storen, Clippard, and Burnett will split the closer role for the Nationals after Matt Capps was traded to Minnesota. Storen is clearly Washington’s closer of the future, but he may be eased into the role before he assumes ninth-inning duty full-time. He has steadily improved his K:BB ratio, but still has strides to make in BB/9 department, and he has a solid GB:FB ratio. Clippard, who was brilliant earlier in the year, has struggled mightily lately and was brought into the seventh inning for the second consecutive game on Saturday. That likely means his role really hasn’t changed much since Capps was dealt, pushing the needle towards Storen even more. Burnett may be used in specific matchups since he is left-handed, but he is the least likely of three to notch saves. At worse, Storen will be a third reliever in deeper leagues, but he projects to be a bit better than that and could see lots of save opportunities like Capps did this year. Storen - Mixed: $12; NL: $30 (in case for some reason he is not owned). Clippard and Burnett – Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (Burnett only, Clippard likely owned after early–season hot streak).
Wilson Ramos – The Twins parlayed a somewhat extraneous chip into a closer at the deadline, trading Ramos for Matt Capps. That’s not to say it’s fair value, but Minnesota believed they needed another arm for the pen and Ramos wasn’t going to see much time in Minnesota with Joe Mauer behind the dish. Ramos has struggled this year at Triple-A Rochester, batting .241 with five homers and 30 runs batted in, but he did a good job in a brief stint with the Twins earlier in the season. In the past, Ramos showed a good eye at the plate and a strong throwing arm while also displaying decent power. He is expected to be a September call-up and provides needed depth behind the plate with Jesus Flores still out with a shoulder injury. In addition, Derek Norris, Washington’s other catching prospect, has also struggled with injuries and is further ahead offensively than defensively, which may prompt a move from behind the plate down the road. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (long-term spec bid).
Chris Snyder – Snyder was traded to Pittsburgh as part of the five-player deal that sent Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby and D.J. Carrasco to Arizona. The plan appears to be for current Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit to see time at first base and right field once he's healthy enough to come back from a concussion, allowing Snyder to become a near full-time catcher for the Pirates. Snyder has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since his breakthrough 2008 season; so don’t go nuts on bidding for him. Still, it looks like he should see a major increase in playing time. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Jeff Clement – Clement, who was promoted Saturday following a variety of Pirates deals, batted just .189/.230/.331 earlier this season for Pittsburgh. He will likely serve as a bench player and pinch hitter barring injuries at first base. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Mike Hessman – Hessman was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo to take the injured Rod Barajas' roster spot on the Mets. Hessman was mashing the ball for the Bison, hitting 18 home runs and posting a .573 SLG in 248 at-bats, but he has struggled to regain his stroke after just returning last week from a right hand injury that cost him a month. Hessman provides the potential for instant power off the bench and could see the occasional start in the outfield, as well as first or third base, to give a starter a rest. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Todd Helton – Helton, who was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment early last week but returned to Denver to strengthen his legs, reported to the Rockies’ rookie club on Thursday and began his rehab assignment on Friday. Helton, who is hitting .246 with two homers and 16 RBI this season and been on the disabled list since early July, hopes to return to the Rockies' lineup by Monday. As indicated by his numbers, Helton is a shell of the player he once was, so bid wisely. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Brett Wallace - Wallace was traded for the fourth time in the past year last week, this time to Houston for Anthony Gose, who was obtained by Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal. Wallace is arguably the better prospect in that deal and fills a need at first base with the departure of Lance Berkman. Wallace hit .301 with 24 doubles and 18 home runs in 95 games at Triple-A Las Vegas this season and was second on the club in RBI with 61. He is below average defensively, but should be better now that he’s at first base rather than at third, the position he started at when he began his career. Wallace still needs to work on his plate discipline, and while he has good power, it’s not great. His high SLG (.509) has somewhat been a product of the parks in which he has played. In that regard, he gets a bump up as half his games will be played at Minute Maid Park. The Astros are in full rebuild mode after dealing Berkman and Roy Oswalt, so Wallace should play nearly every day. For now, he looks like someone who will pan out to be a good player but not a superstar. That said, Wallace is worth considering in NL-only, deeper mixed leagues, and most keeper formats given his power potential and regular playing time. Mixed: $9; NL: $30.
Adam Kennedy – We profiled Kennedy a few weeks ago when it looked like he was going to get more playing time. Now, the trade of Cristian Guzman means that Kennedy should be the every-day starter at second base from here on out, He has heated up at the plate, hitting .353 in 51 at-bats during July. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Hector Luna - Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez says he wants to get Luna a couple of starts a week at third base. Wes Helms will get most of the playing time, but if Luna gets hot at the plate that arrangement could change. Luna was hitting .294/.367/.477 at Triple-A New Orleans with 16 home runs prior to his promotion and could be worth a look in deep NL-only leagues. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Argenis Diaz – The Pirates recalled Diaz from Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday. Diaz is a strong defensive shortstop, which is a nice way of saying he has no stick. Diaz hit .248 with no homers and 22 RBI in 274 at-bats for Indy prior to his recall. He will back up Ronny Cedeno at short. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Miguel Tejada – Tejada was traded to the Padres for minor league pitcher Wynn Pelzer, and the Padres are expected to take the bulk of his remaining salary. The original expectation was that Tejada would replace Chase Headley at third base, allowing Headley to move to left, but that plan appears to have changed. Tejada, who hit .269 with seven homers and 39 RBI in 97 games for the Orioles, started at shortstop his first two games for San Diego, which pushed Everth Cabrera to the bench. The Padres appear to be focusing on the potential upgrade at the plate Tejada could bring rather than the unsightly -12.4 UZR rating he brings at shortstop. In addition, one could argue that Jerry Hairston Jr., when David Eckstein returns to play second, could man the position just as effectively as Miggy, who has posted just a .670 OPS this year. The move to short is worth noting since Tejada was likely going to lose eligibility at that position next year after playing all of this season at third. He will have more long-term value with eligibility at shortstop. NL: $35 (based on shortstop eligibility).
Greg Dobbs – We profiled Dobbs when it looked like he would see an uptick in time when Placido Polanco was sidelined, but he deserves another mention due to his recent performance and manager Charlie Manuel’s assertion that Polanco will play second for the time being. Dobbs will still split time at third base with Cody Ransom, but he should see most of the starts. Barring a trade, this news gives Dobbs additional job security until Chase Utley returns from the disabled list in late August. Mixed: $0; NL: $5.
Wes Helms – Helms will see his playing time increase and will be the Marlins’ primary third baseman with the trade of Jorge Cantu to Texas. Donnie Murphy and Hector Luna could also see action at the hot corner, especially if Helms fails to produce much offense, but Helms will get the first crack at manning the hot corner. Helms’ last real productive fantasy season came in 2003 with Milwaukee, which was a fluke, given his numbers before and after. His OBP, K:BB, and K/AB ratios along with a low contact percentage leave a lot to be desired, so temper your bid. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Chris Johnson – We profiled Johnson a few weeks ago when he was promoted, but his fine July warrants another mention. Johnson went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI in the Astros' win over the Brewers Saturday, which stretched his hit streak to 14 games - every start since the All-Star break. He has gone 23-for-51 (.451) with eight extra-base hits during the streak. However, keep in mind that his BABIP of .404 is a likely unsustainable, and he also has weak K:BB, BB:AB and K:AB ratios. Johnson will likely regress some, but his recent performance warrants a bid in most formats. Mixed: $5; NL: $16.
Ryan Rohlinger - Rohlinger was promoted by the Giants last Sunday to replace Eugenio Velez, who suffered a concussion the previous day. Rohlinger will assume the role of the 25th man, backing up a couple infield spots. He was having a good season at Triple-A Fresno, hitting .308 with 22 walks and five home runs in 159 AB. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Rick Ankiel – Ankiel was traded to the Braves on Saturday as part of a five-player swap. Given the instability of Nate McLouth in center field, Ankiel will almost certainly slot in there for the Braves and share playing time in the outfield with Melky Cabrera, Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz. Ankiel is likely to sit against left-handed starters given his career .239/.279/.402 line against them. Plus, given his injury history, it would not be surprising to see Ankiel, who recently returned from an over two-month absence, miss time again. Mixed: $2; NL: $9.
Domonic Brown – Brown, the Phillies’ best position prospect, was recalled this past week from Triple-A Lehigh Valley when Shane Victorino was placed on the DL with a strained oblique muscle. Before being promoted, Brown hit .327 and recorded 20 HR, 68 RBI, 17 SB, and an OPS of .980. As seen by his numbers, he has an excellent blend of power and speed. Brown still needs to work on his plate discipline and pitch recognition, and at times he relies more on his athletic ability than his baseball knowledge, but those are areas that should improve as he matures. Brown is filling in for Victorino, but he will initially sit against certain lefties as manager Charlie Manuel eases him into the lineup; however, that could change as Brown adapts to major-league pitching. Going forward, Jayson Werth will be a free agent this offseason and there are strong rumors he won’t be re-signed. Plus the Phillies could look to deal Raul Ibanez, who is signed through 2011, and open up a full-time spot for Brown next season. Of any remaining commodities in the minor league market, Brown has the potential to make the biggest splash this season. The only question, which limits the bid from the being the max, is will he remain with the Phillies the rest of the year? Mixed: $50; NL: $85.
Chris Denorfia – Denorfia had a big July, with most of his production coming after the All-Star break. Denorfia went 18-for-65 with six home runs and 14 RBI in July. The trade of Ryan Ludwick to the Padres locks up the right field spot, but look for Denorfia, as long as he stays hot, to see heavy action in left and center with Will Venable, Tony Gwynn Jr., and to a certain extent Scott Hairston, getting squeezed out. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Jesus Feliciano – Feliciano was recalled by New York after Jason Bay landed on the DL Friday. Feliciano batted .291 with four doubles and two RBI in 55 at-bats during his first stint with the Mets this season and will serve as a backup outfielder at all three spots. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Jon Jay – Jay, who was first profiled when he was called up in early July to replace the injured Ryan Ludwick, will get more playing time in right field with Ludwick in San Diego. Jay has excelled, hitting .383/.433/.583 in 115 at-bats with the Cards, but there's a danger that the Cardinals are over-reliant on Jay's short-sample performance since getting called up this year. It's not that he wasn't a prospect before this year, but he wasn't considered an elite prospect. Jay had just a .732 OPS at Triple-A Memphis in 2009, though he had a small breakout in Double-A the year before. Allen Craig could be recalled while Randy Winn and Nick Stavinoha might also be part of the picture too, but the job is Jay’s to lose. Mixed: $11; NL: $28.
Logan Morrison – Morrison was promoted to take over as the Marlins’ starting left fielder after Chris Coghlan was placed on the DL with a torn left MCL. Morrison was hitting .307/.427/.487 with six homers in 235 at-bats at Triple-A New Orleans before getting the call. Health has been a problem of late - Morrison has dealt with lingering wrist and shoulder injuries this year and was bothered by a hand injury last season. Because of that, his lack of power can be discounted a little bit, though on the flip side durability could be a concern. Morrison’s numbers aren't really PCL-inflated that much, as New Orleans isn't a hitter's park. He has spent most of his career at first base but will play the outfield and likely remain there going forward with Gaby Sanchez seemingly entrenched at first and Coghlan shifting to third base with Jorge Cantu in Texas. If you missed out on Domonic Brown, Morrison could be a great consolation prize. He lacks the power/speed package Brown has, but he should see more playing time from here on out and will play every day for now. Mixed: $40; NL: $75.
Scott Podsednik – The Royals traded Podsednik to the Dodgers last week for two minor leaguers. Podsednik will play regularly in left field while Manny Ramirez is on the DL and should also see time there in day games even after Ramirez returns, considering how infrequently Ramirez has been in the lineup for afternoon tilts this season. Overall, Podsednik’s value is expected to take a hit as won’t be a full-time player whenever Ramirez returns, which is expected to be a bit less than two weeks away. However, Andre Ethier has missed time this year with injuries and Matt Kemp has been up-and-down at times, so Podsednik could see some time at those spots, especially when either needs a day off. NL: $30 (based on SB potential and if you believe Manny’s calf will act up again).
Nick Stavinoha – Stavinoha, who has been out since before the All-Star break with a strained right shoulder, was activated off the disabled list Saturday. He batted .368 in a five-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Memphis and was called up following the trade of Ryan Ludwick to the Padres. With Jon Jay playing well, Stavinoha will find at-bats hard to come by, but he could factor in the right field mix if Jay struggles. For now, Stavinoha will resume his role as a reserve outfielder/pinch hitter. Mixed: No; NL: $3.