Here we are, approaching the non-waiver trading deadline. Have you already consigned your squad to a "wait until next year" program? Or, are you in the hunt? If you are, this could be one of the most important points of the season. A lot of things could change dramatically in the next couple of weeks. And, just like draft day, you have to be ready. Be prepared for pitchers (and position players) to experience role changes; some good for your staff, and some not so good. The Notebook forum is now open for business. Always remember, knowing what a guy has done is not nearly as useful as knowing what he is likely to do going forward. So, let's get started with this week's edition by taking a look at a few pitchers who could see more or less fantasy relevance based on a recent trade.
Some Arms Who Have Moved to Different, if not always Greener Pastures:
J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon to Toronto – The Blue Jays have had their pitching staff decimated by injuries, and the huge 10-player deal they made with Houston was designed to help in that regard. Lyon is probably an upgrade from Francisco Cordero in the setup role, but his fantasy value doesn't change much, if at all. However, while they have started Happ in the bullpen, it is very likely he will get a rotation spot soon, and he has the tools to make a positive impact. He has limited experience against the AL East, but he has fared reasonably well against those tough lineups. He has scuffled with Houston, but keep in mind, he was in the running for NL Rookie of the Year just a couple of seasons ago, and while it will be tougher in the AL East than it was in the NL Central, he has good enough stuff to enjoy some success, especially in the period where opponents will be seeing him for the first time. Toronto also has a history of getting pitchers to meet or exceed expectations, and Happ could be next in line.
Francisco Cordero and some minor league pitchers to Houston – Cordero is probably nearing the end of his career. He no longer has the arm that made him a reliable closer for many years, but he is likely get a chance to finish games in Houston through the end of this season. He could lend a veteran presence to the Astros' bullpen, but he will also have his times of trouble. If saves are a priority for you, grab him, but it might be prudent to also stash Wilton Lopez, who could be a slight favorite to step in should Cordero fail to hold the job. The Astros also received some young arms, but they were generally mid-tier prospects (the Blue Jays managed to avoid including any of their several blue chip young arms). So, it was names like Asher Wojciechowski who has nice numbers, but is old for his current level of competition, and Joe Musgrove, a minor league reliever who has a live arm, but is also some distance away from any major league impact who completed the package. The Astros appear to be collecting bodies, and will hope to find a diamond in the rough among the arms they bring in.
Jeremy Guthrie to Kansas City – Guthrie comes to Kansas City while lefty project Jonathan Sanchez moves over to Coors Field. On the surface, this looks a lot like an, "I'll take your problem if you'll take mine" deal, and to some extent that is likely a part of the equation. Both pitchers came to their new team prior to this season, both were expected to play key roles, and both failed miserably. However, Guthrie could have some opportunity to redeem himself in Kansas City. He is a flyball pitcher, certainly not an endorsement for pitching in Colorado, and his new home park should be considerably more forgiving. If nothing else, after pitching in home run havens like Baltimore and Colorado, the fences at Kauffman Stadium should appear to be somewhat further away. He made his first start for the Royals over the weekend, and while it wasn't anything to make potential owners rush to the waiver wire, it was better than most of his outings so far this year. He's still a longshot to help a fantasy team, but keep an eye on him as the Royals hope he can help bridge the gap to the young arms in their system.
Jonathan Sanchez to Colorado – It wasn't all that long ago that Sanchez was throwing no-hitters and ringing up strikeouts at a wicked pace. Sure, he would walk a few along the way, but it was only a matter of time before he got all the moving parts in sync, and stepped up as a top of the rotation starter, right? Wrong. Now he is best known as the player the Royals received in return from the Giants for All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera. Teams will continue to take a chance on Sanchez. The majority of pitching coaches in baseball have probably told their front offices that they hold the key to making Sanchez an ace. He has the stuff to be that. Unfortunately, no one has been able to refine his mechanics enough to lock in a release point. In fact, if anything, any changes have resulted in diminishing returns, not increased value. Colorado obviously won't be a boost to his confidence, and it is yet to be seen whether someone in the organization owns a magic wand, but if they do find a way to get him on track, he has an electric arm that could even survive pitching in Coors Field. There is nothing to suggest he will have a miraculous turnaround, so leave him on the wire, at least for now.
Brett Myers to Chicago AL – Myers provided a major surprise in the spring when he was moved to the bullpen, and stepped into the closer's role with the Astros. They had tried to move him to another team without success, but it looks like his new role helped to increase his trade value. From the White Sox's perspective, he is Allstate – and they hope their new insurance policy leaves their bullpen in good hands, and pays dividends. In the hunt for a division title, their closer, fireballer Addison Reed, is talented, but relatively inexperienced. It's hard to predict how a rookie pitcher will react to a pennant race when his role puts him in an unforgiving spotlight, night after night. If Reed takes it all in stride, Myers becomes a high-priced setup guy who can fill in as needed. But, if Reed gets a case of the yips sometime along the way, the Sox new insurance policy can kick in, and hopefully provide a seamless transition to Plan B for the postseason sprint. Right now, Myers' value takes a big hit, however he should be monitored, and if you own Reed in a league with roster flexibility, he could be a good handcuff.
Anibal Sanchez to Detroit – The Tigers are serious about claiming the AL Central title, and were willing to part with top pitching prospect Jacob Turner to acquire Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante. Sanchez has been somewhat inconsistent over the years, but much of that can be attributed to a laundry list of injuries. He has been able to take the mound every five days so far this season, and while he is due to become a free agent at the end of this season, he is a big boost to the Tigers' staff right now, and he will be playing in front of an explosive offense for a change. Note also, you might want to give a slight nudge upward to all Tigers starters with the major positive impact Infante will have on one of the worst infield defenses in baseball.
Jacob Turner to Miami – This is probably a nice move for Turner who will likely be given time to develop by the more patient Marlins rather than being baptized by fire in Detroit. From a fantasy perspective, odds are he will quietly fall out of sight for awhile as he learns his trade in the minor leagues, and when he does arrive, possibly sometime next year, he should be more prepared to handle the competition at the highest level, and he should benefit from the pitcher-friendly park in south Florida. Give him a nudge up in both keeper and dynasty leagues. Wade LeBlanc also benefits from the deal as he gets the rotation spot vacated by Sanchez, but his fantasy value is marginal.
Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell to Seattle – Move along, nothing much to see here. Farquhar has been with four organizations in the past couple of months, and Mitchell is pretty much a non-prospect who relies on a solid sinker rather than overwhelming stuff to get people out. It's a bit surprising to see the Mariners give up Ichiro Suzuki for mid-tier (that may be generous) pitching prospects, but there was some cash involved, and they, like a few other teams, may be somewhat intrigued by Farquhar. He does have a live arm, and a very deceptive delivery based on varying arm angles, but that deception also leads to lapses in command so there is work to be done. That said, if he does climb the ladder to the major leagues, his role is likely to be middle relief or specialty work (he is tough on righties) so his fantasy value is limited.
NOTE: The following trade analysis was written with the deal still pending. The teams have agreed to the players involved, however Ryan Dempster, as a 10/5 player, has to approve any trade. He is expected to agree to the deal in the next day or so.
Ryan Dempster to Atlanta – He was having an excellent year on a bad team, and now he moves to a serious contender in the Braves. As an added benefit, his splits were considerably better away from Wrigley Field (a 1.52 ERA in eight starts on the road). He should slide immediately into their rotation, possibly replacing Jair Jurrjens who was torched in each of his last two outings. Dempster is a seasoned veteran who throws strikes making him an excellent fit for the Braves who would love to put more heat on the division-leading Nationals. There isn't much analysis needed for this one; Dempster just took a big jump in fantasy value while probably removing any temptation, if any existed, to pick up Jurrjens.
Randall Delgado to Chicago NL – Delgado actually offers the Cubs a good return on impending free agent Dempster. The move may have a negative impact on his short term value, since he will now be pitching for a weaker team, but he should be able to secure a regular turn every five days as a member of a weak rotation – especially if the Cubs also trade Matt Garza and/or Paul Maholm. For the rest of this season, the pressure is off for him, and he can settle into a learning experience that will likely be a positive down the road. Long term, Delgado has significant upside, and only needs to hone his skills – particularly his command – to provide the Cubs with a middle of the rotation starter.
The Trade Rumor Mill
The above deals are possibly just the tip of the iceberg as quite a few other arms are being shopped or pursued. Beyond the Dempster deal, the Cubs have been in talks with several teams regarding Matt Garza and Paul Maholm – it's likely at least one more of them moves in the next few days, especially if Garza shows his recent triceps injury is no longer a concern. Quite a few teams have checked in on Jason Vargas, and he could help a contender, but a move out of Seattle probably hurts him in fantasy circles. The Rays have listened to inquiries about James Shields who could be a huge boost if he can smooth out his 2012 performance like he did in 2011. Jeff Niemann should be back soon, and the Rays could plug him into Shields' rotation spot. The Astros have already led the path to the dumping grounds, but they still have Wandy Rodriguez to offer around. The tough part in moving him is a balky contract, a portion of which they would likely have to eat. The Phillies are pushing hard to get Cole Hamels' name on a contract extension, but there are plenty of suitors should negotiations hit an impasse. The Marlins already dealt Sanchez, but they may not be done. Rumors persist that the Red Sox have been looking at Josh Johnson who developed a blister during his Monday start, but was pitching exceptionally well. A minor thing like that would not jeopardize a deal. Lastly, what about John Lannan in Washington? He was banished to the minors before the season began, but looked sharp in a spot start in this past weekend's doubleheader against the Braves. That start may have rekindled interest.
San Diego's Huston Street was a popular name in the rumor mill, but supposedly the Padres have changed course, and are trying to sign him to an extension. There is a good chance he stays put. John Axford is out as the closer in Milwaukee, but don't be very surprised if that move is short term. Francisco Rodriguez has been a bit of a train wreck, but will fill in until they feel Axford has it together (which could be very soon). Frank Francisco is due back soon, and Bobby Parnell didn't do all that much to claim the job, so the Mets will probably let Francisco try it again – at least until his next injury rolls around. The A's used Sean Doolittle to close when Ryan Cook needed a breather. He could get the odd opportunity, but Cook should be the guy barring any catastrophic blowups. The Giants' Santiago Casilla has gone through a really tough stretch, including a minor injury, but when a save opportunity came up Saturday, he was the guy that got the ball, and he converted. Don't write him off yet. Finally, Tyler Clippard has really been scuffling for a couple of weeks now in Washington. Drew Storen is active now, and he could be just a few strong outings from getting his old job back.
Again, is there a pitcher you would like to see discussed in an upcoming Notebook? Throw the name out and I'll see what I can do. In fact, I would like to remind readers to check back often as each week's Notebook will feature updates in the comments section on evolving mound situations. And, as always, keep in mind this is an interactive forum, so your comments are always appreciated. I will respond to any comments or questions as soon as possible. Thanks.
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