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)
Each team has a $100 FAAB budget
- Happ has made incremental progress this season for the Astros. His walk rate is down over a walk per nine innings so far, and his strikeout rate has climbed from 7.71 to 8.42 batters per nine innings. With the good comes the bad, so it's worth pointing out that his HR-rate is up to 1.58 per nine innings, despite him inducing more groundballs overall. I think there's more good than bad, and the notion that he gets so many starts against weaker NL Central offenses has to be encouraging, too. Don't use him when he faces the Cardinals or when the team travels to Cincinnati or Milwaukee, but there are plenty of streaming opportunities with him. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
- Hudson returns from the DL on Sunday to start against the Brewers. Given my natural wariness in using pitchers coming back from shoulder injuries, I'm leaving him on my bench for his first start back. What bothers me is how this came on (or at least was made public) so suddenly, and with very little explanation. I'd rather risk leaving a good start on my bench than risk a blow-up or a truncated outing on my active roster. Overall, I think you have to include at least some risk of relapse into your calculation of his value if you're looking to trade for him right now - I'd give him a solid 7-10 percent discount on his rate stats. Mixed: $10. NL: Still Owned.
- Wang will take over the Nats' fifth starter job from Ross Detwiler
, who has struggled recently after a nice beginning to the season. Wang remains wholly reliant on inducing ground balls and having good results on balls in play. On his rehab assignment, he recorded only eight strikeouts in 20.2 innings at Triple-A Syracuse. He'll be useful in spot starts here-and-there, but his first start is Wednesday at Miami, which appears to be a little more difficult than initially expected after their rough April at the plate. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
- The Cubs are a hot mess right now, but Wood actually has two reasonable starts this week, a home start against the Padres and a road start against the Giants. He hasn't been great in his two starts, with a 7:5 K:BB ratio and two homers allowed in 11.2 innings. Don't break your bank chasing his two starts, but he's not a terrible stream option. I'd rather have him than Jeff Suppan
, for instance, who also has two starts this week. Mixed: $1; NL: $3.
Shawn Camp / James Russell / Carlos Marmol
- The Cubs officially removed Rafael Dolis
from the closer's role Sunday morning, instead installing a combo of Russell and Camp. Camp pitched two innings Saturday, suggesting that Russell might get the first save chance if one arrives Sunday. Both Russell and Camp have good ERA's, but their component stats are underwhelming. Russell has a 15:10 K:BB ratio and has a .70 G/F ratio in 20.2 innings; Camp has a better ratio (22:8 in 25.1 innings) and has pitched well so far, but isn't a hard thrower (average fastball is 86.8 mph). That isn't really a necessity, but typically closers are harder throwers, and in the past Camp hasn't been much of a strikeout guy, averaging 5.56 K/9IP over the last three seasons. Marmol returns off the DL this week, but given manager Dale Sveum's emphasis on throwing strikes, Marmol's return to the closer's job doesn't seem imminent. If you've held him this far, it can't hurt to hold him longer just to see how this situation shakes out, but don't rush to the waiver wire or trade market. All of this is tempered by the utter lack of save opportunities presented by the Cubs lately. Russell and Camp: Mixed: $5; NL: $10.
- Cishek finally got his first save of the year after temporarily serving as the closer earlier in the season, as Heath Bell
couldn't put away the Giants Friday despite having a three-run lead. Immediately after the game, manager Ozzie Guillen reaffirmed Bell as his closer, and given Bell's contract, that's a scenario that's likely to repeat later on this season. We'll just reiterate how good Cishek has been this season, borrow the Ron Shandler maxim to “buy skills, not roles,” and make sure to emphasize that Cishek is a pitcher you want to have on your roster. He can still help in a set-up role - as we've seen plenty of times this season, good fantasy production can still come from a high strikeout guy in a set-up role, and should Bell falter again (or, perhaps, when Bell falters again), you'll be there to pick up the pieces. Mixed: $7; NL: $20.
- Nats' manager Davey Johnson finally decided to use his best healthy reliever in the ninth inning after a series of Henry Rodriguez
failures, and Clippard has closed out the last three saves for the team. Drew Storen
isn't expected back until around the All-Star break, so we could be looking at Clippard getting 10-to-15 saves if this arrangement holds up. When the Nats removed Rodriguez from the role, they said that it could be a committee including Craig Stammen
and Sean Burnett
as well, but assuming that Clippard is available on a given day, he'll get most of the chances. Mixed: $10; NL: $24.
- Ondrusek picked up a save Thursday when Aroldis Chapman
was unavailable, and Sean Marshall
got one Monday after Jose Arredondo
walked two batters in the ninth to create a save chance. Ondrusek now appears to be the principal righty option on days when Chapman can't pitch, which means maybe in the future if the Reds ever do opt to move Chapman to the rotation, Ondrusek could be the guy. But that probably won't happen until 2013 now. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
- The Braves are carrying three catchers thanks to David Ross
' groin injury and Brian McCann
's illness. Boscan is a “break glass only in case of emergency” guy, as he was hitting .192/.257/.308 in Triple-A Gwinnett before his promotion. Mixed and NL: No.
- Clevenger is due off the DL soon from his oblique injury, and with both Geovany Soto
and Wellington Castillo hurt, the opportunity is there for him to take over the starting duties. He's not considered a significant prospect, but he has hit well at each minor league level on his way up to the majors. When Soto was slumping so badly early on, there was some talk of Clevenger taking away more of his time anyhow, so this could be a nice chance for him. Mixed: $0; NL: $1.
- Hill is listed as a catcher, but he won't be playing there with the Cards, barring an injury to Yadier Molina
or Tony Cruz
. Instead, he'll be a utility infielder and pinch-hitter. Hill is a minor league veteran and not a prospect, but he has a little bit of pop if he ever got the chance to play. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
- Nieves will be the backup to Rosario with Ramon Hernandez
on the DL. He typically doesn't offer much offensively, but at least the Rockies are home all week this week. He's better than the other rent-a-catchers getting called up this week. Mixed and NL: $0.
- Rosario has demonstrated both why he's interesting and why he's been relegated to backup duty this year before Ramon Hernandez
's hand injury. He has six homers in just 76 at-bats, but he's also compiled a 4:26 BB:K ratio in that span, which is consistent with his brief exposure to major league pitching last season. There's a good power upside with Rosario, and he has a nice stretch of games in Colorado coming up, but be aware that he could absolutely torch your batting average with those extra at-bats and counting stats. Mixed: $4; NL: $15.
- Schmidt is up temporarily with Miguel Montero
still day-to-day. Don't view him as anything more than that - he had a .755 OPS at Triple-A Reno before the callup, which is among the absolute best hitting parks in professional baseball. Mixed and NL: No.
- Thole (concussion) could be back at the end of the week after beginning baseball activities. He's expected to have a short rehab assignment if all goes well. The only problem is that's not too actionable - in mixed leagues, the payoff isn't that great to take the zero for at least half the week, and he's not available in NL-only leagues, so no bid recommendation.
- Bell is going to get the majority of starts at third base for the Diamondbacks following his promotion and the surprising decision to cast aside Cody Ransom
(and yes, this is 36-year old Cody Ransom
we're talking about here, so we won't get too up in arms about it, other than to note what he was hitting at the time they cut him). But he already has five strikeouts in five at-bats with no walks, which follows his major league statistical profile - six walks and 83 strikeouts in 232 career major league at-bats heading into this season. He has real power and never has gotten an extended look, but the grisly contact and walk rates have prevented him from getting those looks. But enough about the Diamondbacks' decision - what matters for you is that Bell will kill your average, but he could get you some power if you can deal with that tradeoff. But he's a poor man's Brandon Wood
, without the shortstop eligibility. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
- Hague got the call Friday after the Pirates parted ways with Nate McLouth
and then started the first two days after his promotion. Given their painful struggles scoring runs, it makes all the sense in the world to at least give him a look. Hague has demonstrated a good sense of the strike zone and the ability to make contact, though he's not much of a power hitter. Still, when the alternative is more at-bats for Casey McGehee
, why not play Hague? Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Jerry Hairston Jr.
- Hairston quietly was one of the contributing reasons why the Dodgers' offense has been outperforming expectations, hitting .328/.418/.466 before his hamstring injury in Chicago. He'll get a good portion of the starts at third base before Juan Uribe
returns and maybe even after Uribe returns. He's also capable of playing second, which could come in handy with Mark Ellis
out. Hairston could score some runs, but otherwise he won't provide much in the way of counting stats at this stage of his career. Mixed: $1; NL: $5
- What a strange week -- nay, season -- it's been for Ransom. What's the least likely of these events to have occurred for him?
A: That he'd get called up and take away playing time from Ryan Roberts
at third base, and post a .922 OPS while doing so?
B: That he'd essentially get released while posting a .922 OPS, all for a mediocrity like Josh Bell
C: That he'd end up as the Brewers' starting shortstop by the end of the week?
He's got that spot thanks to Cesar Izturis
' hamstring injury, and could be there for the next month. His 3:21 B:KK ratio in his span with Arizona suggests that his bubble was going to pop (in fact, it was already popping when the Diamondbacks made the move), as if we needed another sign that it would pop, given Ransom's age and previous level of performance. Still, with one more game at shortstop he'll qualify there in many leagues, if he doesn't already for you, and there's a chance he could be the best available at that spot in the short-term future. Mixed: $2; NL: $10.
- Rizzo remains on fire at Triple-A Iowa, and interleague road games are approaching where the Cubs can employ a DH. But that might not matter soon anyhow; Bryan LaHair
's overall numbers still look good (aside from his ghastly strikeout rate), but he's in the throes of a slump that is starting to prompt the Cubs to give him days off here and there already. It's just a question how the team gets Rizzo the playing time, but it's happening, and it's happening soon. Once he's called up, it should be here to stay. If your league allows for it and he still happens to be hovering, go ahead and grab him now while he's cheap. Mixed: $10; NL: $20.
- “Tat Man” actually benefits some from the decision to call up Josh Bell
. Cody Ransom
was already taking away his third base at-bats, but Bell has a lesser chance of succeeding, plus Roberts is playing more at second base than he was in the past and could get to 10 games there, affecting his eligibility in some leagues. He's predictably regressed this season, but he still is successful when he runs and takes the occasional walk. That skill set isn't rosterable in your standard mixed league, but in deeper leagues that has value. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
- Every year for the baseball magazine, I vet somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 players to see if they merit inclusion in our player profiles, maybe more. Yet every year a handful of players get called up early in the season that weren't anywhere on my radar. Solano is one of those players. Signed as a minor league free agent after previously being in the Cardinals' system, Solano nearly won a utility job out of spring training, but ultimately was beaten out by Donnie Murphy
. He was called up out of necessity and not merit, as he was hitting .262/.327/.326 at Triple-A New Orleans. He picked up a token start against lefty Madison Bumgarner
on Saturday, and that's his role for the very short-term - spot starts against lefties. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
- Is there an offspring of a former major leaguer out there still unsigned that the Dodgers can take a crack at? Their roster is somewhat incredible in that respect - perhaps there's an undiscovered Bell or Boone that they can ink, too. DeJesus won't play much or do much once he's in there, but he's already made his impact on the season with his game-winning double against J.J. Putz
and the Diamondbacks earlier in the week. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
- Jon Herrera
's injury created the opportunity for LeMahieu's promotion, but right now it doesn't appear that he'll get anything more than a spot start at third base, despite both Herrera and Chris Nelson
going on the DL. Jordan Pacheco
is hitting reasonably well, even though he's a defensive disaster at third base. Don't be surprised if LeMahieu gets a start in Monday's doubleheader against the Astros. Mixed: No; NL: $1.
- The Giants have gotten nothing from their middle infielders all season long, so even though Theriot is no great shakes at the plate, he's the best of a bad set of alternatives. Moreover, Freddy Sanchez
just had another setback and won't be ready to return anytime soon, so barring a trade from outside of the organization, the job is his for a while. Prepare for plenty of TOOTBLAN
alerts. Mixed: $2; NL: $8.
Jason Bay / Mike Baxter
- Bay could begin a rehab assignment this week and return by the weekend, threatening Baxter's playing time after the latter has served pretty well so far. But it's not a done deal that Baxter is completely out of a job once Bay returns. Andres Torres
has really struggled to hit the ball with any sort of authority, though at least he's taking walks. Kirk Nieuwenhuis
has played well but is left-handed, possibly opening the door for Baxter to play against lefties. And the big wild card is Ike Davis
- if his struggles continue, he could get demoted, with Lucas Duda
sliding over to first base. Bay - Mixed: $7 NL: Already owned. Baxter - Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Chris Coghlan / Bryan Petersen / Justin Ruggiano
- The injury to Emilio Bonifacio
and the demotion of Gaby Sanchez
have created two outfield openings for the Marlins, with Logan Morrison
moving to his natural first base position. The players most frequently filling the void have been Coghlan and Petersen, though the Marlins just acquired Ruggiano to give them another option. Coghlan hit a big homer Friday, but that was his first of the season and he's hitting just a paltry .111 heading into Sunday's game. It's not hard to envision the Marlins tiring of that production and giving someone, anyone else a shot. Petersen is a better center fielder, perhaps the only natural center fielder among those healthy for the Marlins, but he too needs to do more at the plate, though at the very least he's demonstrated good on-base skills in the past. After spending his professional career bouncing up-and-down in the Rays' organization, Ruggiano signed a minor league deal with the Astros this offseason and had a .990 OPS for Triple-A Oklahoma City before the Marlins came calling. He offers a little bit more power than Coghlan or Petersen, if he gets the playing time. Coghlan - Mixed: $1; NL: $3. Petersen and Ruggiano - Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
- Hernandez completes the circle on Nate McLouth
's tenure with the Pirates, as he was acquired in the then-infamous deal sending McLouth to Atlanta. Hernandez really stalled out at the upper levels of the minors, however, including this year where his Triple-A Indianapolis OPS was .698. Hernandez has speed but not a lot of power and just middling plate control. He's not playing that frequently initially upon his promotion either, with just one start since his callup 10 days ago. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
- Rivera is making good progress in his hamstring rehab and could be back later this week. Whether that qualifies as good news for the Dodgers is somewhat dubious, given his shaky defense and .247/.276/.358 line before he was hurt. Mixed: $0; NL: $4.