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Charging the Mound: After the Deadline

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Monday, August 2, 2010 11:28pm
To: "Derek VanRiper"
Subject: Charging


With the trade deadline behind us, and most of our FAAB dollars spent, it almost feels like we're in the stretch run. Except we're not. Not even close.

There's roughly 35 percent of the season left, and many things will change. Players who were busts out of the gate like Justin Upton might yet earn every penny you paid for them. Some player is going to hit 20 more homers the rest of the way - it could be ARod, it could be Evan Longoria or it could be Jose Bautista. It's easy to feel after four months that your standings are more or less set with little room to move up or down, but it's often not the case. Not only will players surge unpredictably, but others will slump or get hurt. The September call-ups will derail some teams as veterans on non-contenders sit to make room for prospects getting their first taste of major-league ball. Even teams like Texas - which has an eight game lead in the AL West - might sit key fantasy players like Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Vlad Guerrero down the stretch if its margin gets any bigger. As solid as the teams ahead of you might look, they're vulnerable to being caught, and you should make the utmost effort to catch them.

Even if you're mathematically out of contention at this point, make a point of consolidating categories in which you can gain, and see how far you can move up. My Yahoo Friends and Family team is pretty much drawing dead in 9th place out of 14 teams, but not too long ago, I was in 12th, and I'm hoping to move up to fourth or fifth. Sometimes, those teams - the ones that are doomed, but which you put effort into and which reward you with a major surge - are more enjoyable than the first place teams that are barely holding on. It becomes an experiment in managerial skill, and you have nothing to lose. Whereas with a first place team, or a serious contender, you're always dreading a blow-up start, a minor injury, a lineup or FAAB mistake. When I won a couple big leagues last year that I had led most of the way, my primary feeling was one of relief - that I didn't get caught from behind. But my injury-wracked AL LABR team that finished third (and which was in 12th (last) as late as June) was pure enjoyment. So even if your team is doing poorly, see what you can salvage - while winning the league is obviously the goal, the reason most of us got into this was to test our baseball knowledge and roster management skills.

Jeff and I touched on a lot of trade deadline stuff last week, but a few more deals went down over the weekend, most notably Lance Berkman to the Yanks, Roy Oswalt to the Phillies, Brett Wallace to the Astros, Edwin Jackson to the White Sox, Matt Capps to the Twins, Dan Hudson to the Diamondbacks, Miguel Tejada to the Padres, Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals and Jorge Cantu to the Rangers. None of them strike me as fantasy game-changers except in NL or AL only leagues where you obviously want to pick all of these guys up for most of your remaining budget. I suppose Capps costing Jon Rauch his closer job, or Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard now being in line for saves is notable, but for the most part, I can't see that much changed in 12-14 team mixed leagues - or am I missing something?

The other thing to keep an eye on is the pool of players who could be moved before the August 31 waiver deadline. SI's Jon Heyman has a good list of possibilities - Manny Ramirez and Chone Figgins are on it among many others. I think the Dodgers will waive Ramirez since they're essentially out of contention, and he's due roughly $10 million the rest of the way. I could see the White Sox dealing some middle of the road prospects for him and maybe splitting the cost with the Dodgers.

Finally, I was big on Alfonso Soriano heading into last year, and after getting off to a great start in April, he completely fell apart. All year long I waited for him to snap out of it, and he never did, and then finally, in August, it was revealed that he had hurt his knee while running into the wall in late April, was shut down for the year and eventually had surgery in the offseason. Are we going to find out that Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Lee, Aaron Hill or some other disappointing player was actually playing hurt? It seems that's been part of the explanation for Joe Mauer's struggles (though .313/.382/.468 from the catcher spot is hardly catastrophic from a real life standpoint).

-----Original Message-----
From: "Derek VanRiper"
Sent: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 12:59pm
To: liss@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


Unfortunately, we're not in a position to have inside injury information from the clubhouse. Even if Braun has been playing with some sort of injury over the last two months, we don't get that info unless a beat writer from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel happens to see him receiving treatment and finds out about it. I think some teams are probably more secretive than others. Over his last 50 games, Braun is hitting .248/.284/.416 with eight homers and 32 RBI - and sure a .248, 24 HR, 96 RBI season wouldn't be the worst we've ever seen, but that's a pretty lowly pace for a guy who was the first outfielder off the board in many drafts this spring. On a positive note, he hit as many homers (five) in July as he did in his torrid April. That said, he was 11-for-11 on stolen-base attempts prior to this 50-game funk, and he's just 2-for-4 on the basepaths during that span. To me, a player of Braun's caliber is running when he's healthy and the lack of attempts suggests that he's been at less than 100 percent for some reasonably prolonged stretch of the last two months.

As far as the other players you mentioned - A-Rod, Hill, Lee - I think they're in similar boats. The Yankees admitted that Rodriguez was battling hip and groin soreness in June. Just because he's still playing regularly doesn't mean he's completely over it. Instead, it may just be an indication that it's ailment that he won't make any worse in the long run by grinding through it now. Lee's age and history with back injuries combined with the Cubs' lack of information regarding Soriano last season are enough to convince me that there's more in play here than just a rapidly-declining skill set. Hill spent time on the DL in April with a hamstring injury, and then missed some time in May thanks to the same issue. For what it's worth, I'm still a believer in him as a 20-25 homer guy as he's hit seven in his last 50 games, I'd just be surprised if he's more than a .270 hitter in future seasons when he's healthy. Are you on the side that is making a deal for Braun (or any of these guys, for that matters - or - are you selling them off with the notion that they're damaged goods?

The strange thing about this year's deadline is that there weren't many roles that changed hands. Even in the Jackson-Hudson deal, it wasn't a case where Hudson had been stuck at Triple-A Charlotte and was finally given a rotation spot because of the trade. As far as fantasy owners go, the biggest loser appears to Jorge Cantu. Somehow, moving into the Texas lineup is going to hurt his numbers, since he's platooning at first base with Mitch Mooreland. There could still be more deals on the way - Adam Dunn may be on the move, but he may not clear waivers since there are a few teams (White Sox, Rockies, Giants) who could all put in a claim for him. I agree with you that Manny might be on the move as well, but the Dodgers will really have to slide for another week or two in order to revert into full-scale payroll dumping mode after making deals for Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and Octavio Dotel over the weekend.

In addition to Dunn, how about the surprising names that weren't moved? The Orioles didn't deal Ty Wigginton or Luke Scott, the Brewers held onto (and extended) Corey Hart, the Royals couldn't find it within themselves to part with Jose Guillen and the Astros' love for Brett Myers was revealed with a contract extension even more bizarre than Hart's. Other than Brett Wallace, the highly-regarded upper level prospect movement was minimal. Jesus Montero is still property of the Yankees, Jeremy Hellickson is still a Ray, and Madison Bumgarner is still a Giant. Do you think that this is part of a large philosophical realization of most front offices that elite prospects shouldn't be traded for rentals anymore, or a small sample size fluke? Are there any teams that jump out at you as major winners or losers, either for their poor decisions or inactivity?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 8:39pm
To: "Derek VanRiper"
Subject: Charging


It's almost as if sellers that didn't get obvious deals done for their expiring players felt compelled to extend them to make it look like that was the plan overall. It makes it easier to justify not getting prospects for them. I'm not entirely clear on how the whole Type B free-agent compensation works, but I could understand not dealing them, letting them walk and then getting draft picks that you deemed better than the offered prospects. But it's pretty odd to extend the guys for whom you were just listening to offers before the season even ends.

As for Braun/Lee/ARod, I'd be inclined to buy if I needed a big push, but sell if I had comfortable leads in the offensive categories if I could get 90-95 cents on the dollar. They might be hurt and not bounce back, but it could also just be bad luck. Even if the injury's real, it could clear up (like Aramis Ramirez in July), and the player could snap out of it. But if you're in first place, and just need to avoid a collapse, dealing ARod for Ryan Zimmerman makes some sense.

I'm a little surprised about Dunn staying put, but at the same time, with Stephen Strasburg in Washington and Bryce Harper coming up (along with Zimmerman already there), you could understand how the Nats might have wanted to keep their biggest bat. Of course, they could have just signed some other free agent, but they'd be taking their chances there as well. That the top prospects stayed put isn't that much of a shock given the players that were available. The Yanks offered Montero for Cliff Lee, but once he was off the board, there weren't that many players worth dealing top prospects for. Plus, with the economy still far from recovered, I think having young, cheap and talented players under team control for a while is especially appealing.

I don't think the Dodgers will have to slide a whole lot more - they're nine out and behind three other teams in their own division. If they don't gain 2-3 games over the next two weeks, it's over. If they lose any ground, it's really over. Sometimes you put in money to see the turn card, and when it misses, it's time to fold.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Derek VanRiper"
Sent: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 1:18pm
To: liss@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


Maybe the trade deadline - which had enough deals to quench my thirst - just gets much more hype in this age of information overload with 140-character rumors being volleyed around like a beach ball throughout the season. Just making a deal to appease the fan base during a disappointing season doesn't always make your team better. Unloading Prince Fielder isn't the Brewers' best move between now and the end of 2011 if the trade doesn't clearly make their roster better in the long haul. That is, they're not going to the playoffs without him next season since they've got no way of replacing him at 50-plus RAR.

The Nats made the right choice in sending Matt Capps to the Twins - we always say that proven closers are a luxury on bad teams. Dunn fits in well there, and I don't think re-signing him is necessarily a bad thing. With the pieces they've got in their system (Harper, Derek Norris Danny Espinosa) and Jordan Zimmermann coming back from Tommy John surgery, they're definitely a team on the rise and one that could surprise in 2011.

Teams that lose a Type B Free Agent receive a supplemental pick, but the team that signs that player doesn't lose a selection the way they would in Type A cases. Arbitration must be offered in order to receive compensation in both cases. One of my favorite links to monitor throughout the season is the projected Elias Rankings over at MLB Trade Rumors. It's interesting to note that some of the guys that I thought would be on the move (Guillen, Wigginton, etc.) that ended up staying put failed to qualify as Type B free agents. The value of draft picks and young talent had to have played a role similar to pure salaries when general managers were evaluating the market.

One last thought on Manny - he's projected as a Type A free agent. Maybe the Dodgers decided that eating salary and potentially losing draft picks was a bad way to go about handling him, since the only known offer from the White Sox was a deal where they'd pay $1 million of his remaining 2010 salary without sending any players back to the Dodgers in return. Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if they're going to offer him arbitration (Not convinced he'd accept because his sense of self-worth on the open market may still be inflated). It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees are willing to risk Javier Vazquez accepting an arbitration offer. Essentially, that could be a source of lost draft picks if they don't, while they'll have to pony up selections if they sign Cliff Lee. Fortunately for the Yankees, they have no need to play the same way as everyone else as far as bankroll goes, but it may have a long-term effect on their farm system as far as thinning them out a little bit with fewer selections and a weak 2011 draft class.