Brad "Bogfella" Johnson here, filling in for Dave Regan who is on vacation. He will be back next week with more Mound Musings for the serious fantasy baseball fan. And speaking of serious baseball fans, be sure to check out my column, Bogfella's Notebook, posted weekly here on RotoWire, and throw me a follow on Twitter @bogfella.
Who are the Most Likely Trade Deadline Arms Dealers?
With the July 31 trading deadline approaching, there will likely be some roster changes that could shuffle your fantasy rotations and bullpens. While the rumors fly fast and furious, only a small percentage of those rumored deals will come to pass. But when a player, in our analysis a pitcher, does change teams, it usually affects that critically important aspect of a player's fantasy impact - opportunity.
Keep in mind, that opportunity door swings both ways. One closer moving into a set-up role with a new team reduces his value while creating a golden opportunity for another arm to step into his vacated role. Similarly, a move into the rotation of a contending team could significantly boost the value of one pitcher while greatly reducing the anticipated future production of the pitcher he will replace.
As always, the prevailing rumors include a good number of pitchers. It's been slow so far, but once the deals begin, trades can be a lot likes dominoes. This year, most are not high-visibility hurlers, but there are still a lot of possible changes to consider. We will look at them categorically, both starters and relievers.
Ubaldo Jimenez (Colorado) - Jimenez is perhaps the biggest name being circulated, but he has a favorable contract, and the Rockies would need considerable motivation to move him this year. The Yankees asked and were told it would take a package to include Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Ivan Nova. By any measure, that is a huge price tag. The Reds are perhaps one of the few contenders with the depth at the right positions to consider an acquisition of Jimenez. Some combination of Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Yonder Alonso and Devin Mesoraco could be enough to motivate the Rockies, and Alonso (first base) and Mesoraco (catcher) are buried on the Reds depth chart. Jimenez would get a pretty big boost in value going to a friendlier home park, while the returning player would be jumping into a lot of innings in Coors Field.
Hiroki Kuroda (Los Angeles Dodgers) - He's one of the most competent, and least talked about, major league pitchers. The Dodgers would love to move him as they are rebuilding, but he has a no-trade clause in his contract and has stated he would prefer not to move to the east coast. Kuroda doesn't say a whole lot, but he has indicated he would consider accepting a trade on a "case-by-case" basis. Does the "east coast" include everything on the other side of the Rocky Mountains? If not, Detroit and Cleveland have been linked to interest in acquiring Kuroda. He would be a big addition to either team. The Tigers would drop him into the slot currently occupied by Duane Below or Charlie Furbush while the Indians probably have more rotation slots to consider. Beyond Justin Masterson, Kuroda would be a step up, though Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco are probably safe. On the Dodgers side, there are few prospects considered ready to step up to the major league level, so perhaps a reliever like Blake Hawksworth, or someone acquired in the deal, would get the nod.
Erik Bedard/Jason Vargas/Doug Fister (Seattle) - All three are candidates to move away from the very pitcher-friendly surroundings of the Pacific Northwest. While it's unlikely they could go anywhere without being in line for considerably more run support, the destination could have a pretty significant negative impact on their ERA and/or WHIP. That said, the most likely benefactor from a possible deal would be Bedard, quite simply because he has the stuff to survive, or even prosper, in a more hitter-friendly environment. Now the downside - Bedard has been on the disabled list with a balky knee since late June. That has kept the discussion regarding him to minimum, but he is expected to start later this week in what could become a showcase for his services. If they are convinced he is healthy, Boston, New York and Detroit likely would all be suitors, and don't cross Arizona off the list. The Diamonbacks could desperately use another solid starter, and they had pretty good luck a few years ago with another lefty who had previously made a mark in Seattle. I think they called him the Big Unit. Blake Beavan has been filling in reasonably well for Bedard, so moving any of three mentioned here would just solidify his spot in the rotation for the rest of the year.
Jason Marquis/Livan Hernandez/Chien-Ming Wang (Washington) - Marquis and Hernandez are essentially placeholders for the Nationals as they point toward being serious contenders in 2012 and beyond. Wang hasn't pitched in two years, but has fared well in his recent rehab. The Nationals would like to upgrade in center field, and they have a lot of very talented young pitchers waiting for that coveted opportunity to move up. This could be a good time to move arms they have been counting on to bridge the developmental gap. None of the three is a front-line guy, but they could help out at the back end of a contending team's rotation. They make sense for teams like Minnesota (the Nats are reportedly high on Denard Span) or maybe St. Louis (the Cardinals have Colby Rasmus and would like to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen). If one or more go, it could mean a move to the rotation for Ross Detwiler - he will likely be there anyway at some point when they shut down Jordan Zimmermann - while clearing the way for anticipated arrivals from the minor leagues by Tom Milone and Brad Peacock. Similar to the Seattle situation with Bedard, Washington is expected to call up Wang for a start later this week so interested parties can have a closer look.
Jeremy Guthrie (Baltimore) - The Orioles season hasn't gone as scripted so there is a good chance they will move veteran Guthrie before the deadline. He has an ugly record, but has pitched much better than the record suggests. The Cardinals have been named as possible pursuers, as have the Tigers, and some other AL East teams would likely consider him as well, though the Orioles may not be in a hurry to deliver him to a divisional rival unless the payback is considerable. If Guthrie is dealt, Baltimore has relatively few options to take his rotation spot. Brian Matusz is still working to get his game back on track at Triple-A, and the other minor leaguers they have tried have generally been found lacking. The most promising arm in the Orioles arsenal probably resides in their bullpen. Jim Johnson has been mentioned as a candidate for the rotation, and although it would take time to stretch him out, he might have the best chance for success.
Derek Lowe/Brandon Beachy (Atlanta) - Both Lowe and Beachy have been mentioned as possible trade bait as the Braves shop for a right-handed hitting outfielder. Lowe's contract would require some work, and Beachy, while he has been relatively successful so far, would be unlikely to bring the same kind of stick Lowe could provide. The Braves have the luxury of a deep minor league mound corps with a couple of those arms (notably Mike Minor) considered ready to step in at the major league level. If either depart, Minor would be the most likely to benefit in the short term, but Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino and Russell Delgado would also move up on the food chain.
Jeff Francis/Bruce Chen (Kansas City) - Both are soft-tossing veterans that could be moved to start clearing the way for the young hurlers moving through the well-stocked Kansas City minor league system. Danny Duffy is already getting his feet wet, Mike Montgomery has an even higher ceiling if he can refine his command and the Royals have already said 2011 set-up man Aaron Crow is destined for the rotation next year. He could be at least as good, or maybe even better, than any of the young talent on its way. Francis and Chen both probably fit a bit better with a National League team, but there may be relatively few takers. Reports indicate there has been lukewarm interest in Francis, but very little action regarding Chen. Obviously that could change if teams lose out on their preferred targets. Even then, since there aren't any teams in extremely favorable ballparks on the buyers list, a move may have limited impact on their value.
Edwin Jackson (Chicago White Sox) - The White Sox have the luxury of a small surplus in the starting pitching department. The emergence of Phil Humber has resulted in a six-man rotation at times this season, and the only reason they haven't been forced to make some tough decisions regarding the rotation has been the on-again/off-again health of Jake Peavy. Chicago has reportedly discussed a deal with St. Louis that would feature Jackson for Colby Rasmus as the centerpiece. Jackson might benefit from a move to the National League, and Rasmus would very likely enjoy a change of scenery, but Rasmus has put the Cardinals in a very difficult situation - they would like to move him out of St; Louis (and out of Tony La Russa's doghouse), but he has so much talent, it's very difficult to let him go. The Sox would likely have to give more.
Aaron Harang (San Diego) - He signed with the Padres last offseason, and the move to Petco Park has resurrected his career somewhat. While some pitchers could weather a move away from pitcher's paradise, Harang is probably not the best bet to succeed if he moves to a new field where, instead of turning into outs like in San Diego, long flyballs land in the seats like they did for Harang the last few seasons in Cincinnati. Detroit has shown some interest, and its park is at least neutral, but it's more likely he will remain with the Padres.
Wandy Rodriguez/Brett Myers (Houston) - Yes, the Astros would love to move one or both of these expensive contracts. That's the catch. The contracts, especially Wandy's, are prohibitive. Unable to absorb a large portion of what is owed, the Astros will have a very difficult time dealing these two, even if they ask for considerably lesser talent in return. Given those restrictions, it's unlikely either will leave Houston this deadline.
Jason Isringhausen (New York Mets) - He was the first benefactor in the trade deadline opportunity factory when the Mets dealt their former closer, Francisco Rodriguez, to Milwaukee. Originally, it was thought the Mets would also move Isringhausen, but they have recently said they might prefer to keep him around as a mentor to Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato - their likely future end gamers. In truth, that's exactly what you might expect the Mets to say if they want to up the price, but Parnell has struggled recently, and keeping him around would allow Izzy to notch his 300th save as a Met.
Heath Bell/Mike Adams/Chad Qualls (San Diego) - Any or all of these solid Padres relievers could be toiling in another city within a few days. Bell is probably the hottest pitching commodity on the deadline market, and he is also probably the most likely to go. Where he goes - virtually ever contender has been mentioned - becomes the huge question with regard to his value. For example, Texas is said to be heavily focused on him to set up Neftali Feliz - big drop in Bell's value. The Cardinals have shown interest, presumably to take over the closer's role - big step down for current closer Fernando Salas. See how it works? If Bell is dealt, and Adams stays, Adams steps into the closer's shoes and his value spikes. That is the most likely scenario.
Koji Uehara (Baltimore) - The person likely to benefit most from a deal involving Uehara is current O's closer Kevin Gregg. Presumably because Uehara presents durability concerns, Baltimore has been reluctant to hand him the closer's reins even though Gregg is not the most reliable reliever around. Several teams have been linked to Uehara, but in most cases the plan would be to use him in a set-up role similar to what he is filling now. He doesn't have a prototypical closer's stuff, so he isn't always looked upon as an end-game option. All he does it get the job done, so the wily veteran makes a great insurance policy. And, with Jim Johnson potentially headed to the rotation, Uehara being dealt would very likely remove virtually all possibility of Gregg losing his closer's gig this year.
Jon Rauch/Frank Francisco/Octavio Dotel/Jason Frasor (Toronto) - That is a substantial list of right-handed bullpen help, and the Blue Jays would likely entertain offers for any of them. What a deal might mean to the Toronto end game is a matter of pure speculation. The Blue Jays would probably most prefer to deal Francisco who hasn't panned out as their early season favorite to close. Jon Rauch has been in and out of the role, but it's clear they prefer him in a set-up role, and that's where he's best suited. Octavio Dotel has closing experience, but he also has a distinct vulnerability to left-handed hitting, and Jason Frasor has some limited experience as a closer, but he too is typecast as a set-up guy, even though he might actually be the best option. Whoever goes likely loses all save opportunities, and whoever stays, is likely to do no more than share them in Toronto.
Huston Street (Colorado) - He's been very successful in Colorado, but management wants a payroll cut, and Street is a leading candidate to help make that happen. He might be one of the best bets to maintain his fantasy value after a trade. After all, if you can do the job in Coors Field, it's a good bet teams will see you doing at least as well in their park. However, the big guns might still acquire him to set-up their already established closer, and he could take a hit like many of the others covered here. A few weeks ago, Matt Lindstrom would have probably been the heir apparent. He might still be, but a better bet, especially long term, is Rex Brothers. He has been building considerable credibility and will have a very good chance of closing if Street hits the road.
Leo Nunez (Florida) - He was a talked-about trade candidate before the season began, and now that talk is heating up. The likelihood he will be dealt has been a mixed bag, but it is highly unlikely he would continue to close if dealt. He would make an ideal set-up man for a contender, and could perhaps bring some young talent in return to a team clearly focused on the future with a new stadium. And, it was so likely he would be dealt, at one point, the Marlins actually named a successor - Edward Mujica would assume the closer's duties. The scenario was clarified when Florida opted to move Clay Hensley back into the rotation. Hensley served well as a fill-in for Nunez last season, but he would apparently not be a consideration to step in for the remainder of this year.
Kyle Farnsworth (Tampa Bay) - The Rays have to decide whether they are in or out of the race. Farnsworth has enjoyed a spectacular season so far, but he is 35 and the prudent move, if they are going to look beyond this year, is to deal him while his value is at its zenith. Farnsworth is another who could find himself in a set-up role with a new team. He might close with a very select few teams, but there is a good chance his fantasy value would take a hit. The most likely to benefit if he leaves? Joel Peralta might be first in line, and the Rays are hopeful Jake McGee can develop into a closer. There is one other sleeper to consider. The Rays have already said they intend to bring super-prospect Matthew Moore up to pitch in relief in September. Well, closing is relief.
Matt Thornton (Chicago White Sox) - Interestingly, the Sox have recently started using Thornton in higher leverage situations again after he failed in his April trial as the closer following a few years of exemplary set-up duty. It appears Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen has lost some confidence in his primary closer, Sergio Santos, while Thornton's high-profile innings could also be a showcase for teams like the Yankees, who desperately want help from the left side in their bullpen, or the Cardinals who might like to see Thornton included in a deal for Rasmus. In either scenario, his fantasy value would be limited with it being unlikely he would close many games.
Brandon League (Seattle) - Just when you thought League was safe - following the announcement that David Aardsma would need to undergo Tommy John surgery - the Mariners closer has become the low-key subject of deadline trade talks. It would seem unlikely the Mariners will actively try to trade him. He is under team control next year at a very reasonable price, and they don't have many quality options in the bullpen now, or in the high minors, so they would probably have to be overwhelmed with an offer.
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