While many of us sports fans were enjoying the NFL playoffs these last few weeks, the MLB Hot Stove League turned up the heat with some major signings. The Detroit Tigers shocked the baseball world by signing Prince Fielder to a 9-year, $214 million deal, while the Texas Rangers spent over $111 million for SP Yu Darvish.
There also was the good ol' fashioned blockbuster trade between the Yankees and Mariners that involved rising stars Michael Pineda and Jesus Montero. That looked like a fantasy baseball trade, but was actually a trade of teams looking to shore up weaknesses on both coasts.
All of this is well and good for Major League Baseball, but more importantly for us, how do all of these moves impact fantasy baseball owners? I have the details here, so let's dive into the facts:
Yu Darvish: This was a huge investment for the Rangers, who paid $51+ million for the posting rights and guaranteed a six-year, $60 million contract to this 25-year-old right-hander. The numbers certainly justify the contract, though, as Darvish posted a 1.44 ERA in the Nippon Professional Baseball League last year with 276 strikeouts and only 36 walks in 232 innings. He showed in the World Baseball Championship that he has big time talent and is ready for this next step. He has ace potential, but we've all learned that dominating in Japan doesn't necessarily translate into instant major league success.
Still, fantasy players are diving in on Darvish since his signing with the Rangers. In earlier NFBC drafts, Darvish was taken in the 10th round or around pick 150. When the Rangers made their post, he was being picked in the 8th round, or around pick 125. In our last three drafts since the signing, Darvish has gone 104th, 96th and 81st. That's a huge jump in the last two weeks. If you plan on drafting Darvish, you better adjust your draft boards because he's not going to be around after pick 100, not with the buzz surrounding him in Texas.
Michael Pineda: The Yankees landed a 23-year-old potential ace in the trade with the Mariners, but for fantasy purposes it may have actually hurt Pineda's value for 2012. Yes, he's definitely going to win more games this year - he had only 9 last year in Seattle - and yes East Coast drafters are going to drool over this young star. But die-hard fantasy owners know that his home/road splits were noticeable and moving from Safeco Field to Yankee Stadium is going to result in a higher ERA and WHIP Ratio. Last year at Safeco, Pineda was 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 82 strikeouts in 77 innings and a .182 opposing batting average. On the road, he was 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 91 strikeouts in 94 innings and a .234 OBA.
Pineda's early NFBC ADP was 93, which means he went early in the sixth round. Just before the trade, he went 105th, 98th and 105th. Since the trade, Pineda has actually gone almost a round later, going 112th, 114th and 111th. You would have thought that the trade to the Yankees would have increased Pineda's fantasy value, but instead leaving Safeco Field has hurt his value a little. Still, Pineda will be a valuable pickup on Draft Day.
Jesus Montero: Interestingly, Montero going from a hitter's park and a high profile team like the Yankees to a pitcher's park and a low-profile team like the Mariners has actually increased his fantasy value. He is going a full round higher now since the trade and in some cases much higher than that. The reason is simple: He is guaranteed a full-time job in Seattle and even though in most fantasy leagues he starts the season with UT-only eligibility, the Mariners plan on using him at catcher enough to give him eligibility there very soon.
Montero has the potential to be a Miguel Cabrera-type hitter for the next decade. His talent is that immense. There's no doubt that he could have produced better numbers at Yankee Stadium, but the opportunity is better in Seattle. The Mariners are ready to build their offense around him. Fantasy owners know that and want his bat now. Before the trade, his ADP was 168 and in three previous drafts he went 163rd, 173rd and even 188th. His value was falling because the Yankees were going to use him fulltime at DH. Since the trade, he's gone 112th, 153rd and 156th. He's going one to two rounds earlier than before. In the FSTA Experts League last week in Las Vegas, Montero went 117th overall. If you want him, expect to pay more for his services now that he's in Seattle.
Prince Fielder: The signing with Detroit just happened and Fielder's ADP was already at 10, but don't be surprised if Fielder's fantasy value drops slightly with this signing. Remember, he hit 24 home runs at Miller Park last year and no left-hander has ever hit more than 12 home runs at Comerica Park. He will put up big numbers hitting behind Cabrera, but Fielder's value was already high and I expect him to land between 10 and 15 on Draft Day. As for Cabrera, the arrival of Fielder can't hurt his value and even though his ADP already was 3, some folks are touting him as the new No. 1 pick. He did go No. 2 overall in our last two NFBC drafts, so don't be surprised if Cabrera gets a slight bump in value thanks to this signing.
Yoenis Cespedes:The next big free agent signing could involve Cespedes, the Cuban defector who some compare to Raul Mondesi. He's still a relatively unknown in fantasy circles, with an ADP of around 255. But I've seen him move up a round or two in recent drafts and he went 210th recently in an NFBC draft. Don't be caught off guard if you're drafting now because once he signs his value is sure to rise.
The Hot Stove is just heating up and astute fantasy-leaguers know when it's time to turn off the NFL and turn on the baseball news. In case you didn't realize it already, that time is NOW!! Good luck in your draft preparation and continue to follow these trends so that you're not caught by surprise on Draft Day.
(Greg Ambrosius is the founder of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association's Hall of Fame. For more information on the NFBC, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to nfbc.stats.com).