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 AL or Mixed, we'll specify)
- 5x5 categories
- Each team has a $100 FAAB budget
A.J. Griffin, A's - Through his first six starts in the majors Griffin has a 2.25 ERA with 29 strikeouts over 36 innings. This past week he disposed of the Blue Jays by allowing just three hits over six innings with nine strikeouts and just two walks. Griffin's xFIP says he's been pitching more like a 4.00 ERA pitcher than the one we've seen thus far and there's no doubt that Griffin will not pitch like this forever, but until then he needs to be owned in more mixed leagues. This week he gets two starts, both at home, one against the Rays and the other against the Blue Jays. If he's still available in your league, pick him up. As Walter White would say, "There is gold in the streets just waiting for someone to scoop it up." Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Zack Greinke, Angels - The crown jewel of this season's trade market, Greinke was traded this week from the Brewers to the Angels. He joins a rotation where he won't be asked to be the ace of the staff as he was in Milwaukee. With the Angels he goes to a tougher league to pitch, but one he knows well from his days with the Royals. Stats wise, Greinke has pitched much better than his 3.44 ERA would seem to suggest (2.79 xFIP). He has 122 strikeouts in 123 innings with 28 walks this season. His ground ball rate is up to a career high 53.7%, which has helped him keep the ball in the yard and reduce his home run rate. In AL only leagues you're going to want to bid all that you have left in your FAAB budget to get Greinke. Not only is he worth that much in terms of skill, but also the market for starting pitching in the AL is extremely scarce. Don't hold back in your attempts to get Greinke, he's worth it. Mixed: Owned; AL: $50 -Or all that you have left to spend.
Anibal Sanchez, Tigers - As part of the Omar Infante/Jacob Turner trade, Sanchez was traded to the Tigers this week as they attempt to sure up their starting rotation. In his debut against the Blue Jays on Saturday things did not go well for Sanchez as he allowed five earned runs over six innings with only three strikeouts and three walks. His strikeout rate, which made him something of a breakout pitcher in 2011, has dropped this season to 8.01 K/9. He's moving from the NL to the AL, which is never an easy transition, but he's upped his ground ball rate to 46.9% this season, which should help him keep the ball in the yard as he faces tougher lineups. I'm expecting something close to a 4.00 ERA for Sanchez over his next 10 starts. Mixed: Owned; AL: $20.
Pedro Strop, Orioles - Since the All-Star break, Jim Johnson has a 18.47 ERA with two strikeouts and two walks over 6.1 innings pitched. He has four saves and two blown saves, the last of which came in spectacular fashion as he gave up six earned runs and only got one out. There are no rumblings that Johnson is going to lose his gig soon, but another blown save or two and that might not be the case. The most logical choice to replace Johnson would seem to be Pedro Stroup who has a 1.40 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 22 walks over 45 innings this season. Those walks are problem and his 3.80 xFIP says he's been rather lucky to this point, so keep that in mind if you're hedging against Johnson. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Dan Bard, Red Sox - According to Bobby Valentine, Bard is "getting close" to leaving Triple-A Pawtucket and rejoining the Red Sox. Of course when he does so it will be as a reliever and not a starter as that experiment was already ruled a failure earlier this season. As a reliever last season, Bard had a 3.33 ERA with 74 strikeouts over 73 innings with 24 walks. He looked like someone that could close games for the Red Sox if needed and often out-performed then time closer Jonathan Papelbon. A season later he'll be trying to recapture that magic, when he comes back to the bigs. Current closer Alfredo Aceves has a 3.73 ERA with 22 saves in 26 chances this season and has only given up two earned runs this month, so his job is safe. Keep Bard in mind when speculating for saves. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
George Kottaras, A's - Kottaras was traded Saturday from the Brewers to the A's, where he'll likely be the backup to either Derek Norris or Kurt Suzuki. He was traded by the Brewers because with Jonathan Lucroy coming back from the DL, there was no place for Kottaras and it didn't help that he was hitting only .209/.409/.360 on the season with three home runs. Do not expect his batting average to rise in Oakland as Kottaras is a career .221 hitter with very limited power. Unless you're in dire straits for your second catcher spot in an AL only league, it is doubtful Kottaras will have much value to you. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Chris Iannetta, Angels - Iannetta was activated from the 15-Day DL on Saturday, after dealing with soreness in his right forearm. The soreness was something that caused his rehab to drag on as Iannetta originally injured his wrist back in early May. He'll go back to being the Halos’ everyday backstop and should have value in AL only leagues and some deeper mixed leagues. Last season, his last with the Rockies, he hit .238/.370/.414 with 14 homers and six stolen bases. A career hitter with a .233 batting average, Iannetta is often very frustrating to own, as he is such a drain on your roster's batting average. Also, the power that he usually hits for may be slow to come around given his recent wrist injury. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Jeff Mathis & Yan Gomes, Blue Jays - With J.P. Arencibia done for the next six weeks with a fractured right hand, Mathis is expected to assume the starting catcher job for the Blue Jays. On this season, his first with the Toronto, Mathis is hitting .264/.309/.516 with five homers. He is a career .199 hitter, so don't expect that .264 batting average to stay that high the rest of the season as more playing time will likely expose him to for the weak contact hitter he is. He has value in AL only leagues for sure, but I'd be very hesitant to pick him up in deeper mixed leagues because of his lack of power. Yan Gomes will back Mathis up and will soon have catcher eligibility in most leagues, if he already doesn't. This season in 61 plate appearances in the majors, Gomes has hit .212/.267/.442 with three homers. He has more power than Mathis, but is not as good defensively, so it's doubtful he overtakes him to become the starter at any point. Mathis Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Gomes Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Mike Carp, Mariners - With Justin Smoak getting demoted to the minors this week, Carp is the new everyday first baseman for the Mariners. He had been dealing with a right shoulder issue that forced him to the DL, prior to taking over for Smoak. On the season Carp is batting a disappointing .180/.291/.360 with five homers over 117 plate appearances. Last season he hit .276/.326/.466 with 12 homers over 313 plate appearances. In an ideal situation owners would bench him at home and start him on the road to avoid the offensively depressed Safeco Field. Carp isn't the worst option for a corner bat in an AL only league. Those in mixed leagues will want to look elsewhere for help, despite the playing time Carp will get. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Ryan Roberts, Rays - Roberts was traded this week from the Diamondbacks to the Rays as Tampa continues to wait for Evan Longoria to come back from his hamstring injury. Roberts has been disappointing this season hitting only .242/.306/.356 with seven homers and six stolen bases, this after he hit 19 homers and stole 18 bases last season in Arizona. He should see regular playing time at third base until Longoria comes back. When that happens, he'll shift to more of a utility player and his value will decrease. For now though, owners would be wise to take a chance on his power and speed. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Danny Valencia, Twins - Valencia was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Friday, after the Twins put Trevor Plouffe on the DL with a thumb injury. Valencia was the team's starting third baseman this season through early May, until he was demoted to the minors. Valencia hit a meager .250/.289/.399 at Rochester with seven homers and one stolen base. In the majors this season he has hit an even worse .192/.206/.298 with one homer. It's tough to fault the Twins for going back to Valencia considering the alternative is Jamey Carroll, who simply does not hit. There's not much upside with Valencia for fantasy owners, even in AL only leagues. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Eric Chavez & Jayson Nix, Yankees - Alex Rodriguez's broken left hand has caused the Yankees to go with a platoon of Chavez and Nix at third base for the next two months. Chavez being the lefty in the platoon should afford him more playing time. On the season Chavez has hit .258/.322/.454 with eight homers and stayed surprisingly healthy. At 34 years old he won't hit for a great average, but Chavez could be helpful for his power. Nix on the other hand will see far less playing time, as he's the righty in the platoon and will often be in the lineup only to face left handed pitchers. On the season he has hit .250/.298/.466 with four homers and three stolen bases. Nix is a career .211 hitter, so like with Chavez, don't expect any miracles here. Chavez Mixed: $3; AL: $10. Nix Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Maicer Izturis, Angels - With Erick Aybar going to the DL with a fractured right big toe and Jean Segura getting traded to the Brewers, Izturis has shortstop all to himself. He's only batting .228/.308/.296 on the season, but has 13 stolen bases, which is the main reason anyone would own him in fantasy leagues. An increase in playing time should only help his speed numbers. As for his batting average, he has a .261 BABIP, which is well below his career mark of .296. Those in AL only leagues should grab him, if he's not already owned. Those in deeper mixed leagues should take a look as he'll get regular playing time for at least the next week or so. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Omar Infante, Tigers - Infante was traded from the Marlins to the Tigers this week as Detroit attempts to address the offense black hole they've had at second base this season. On the season, Infante has hit .278/.305/.426 with eight homers and 10 stolen bases. One would reasonably expect his runs scored to go up as he goes to a much better offensive lineup in Detroit. He's never been much of a power hitter as this will likely be his first season with double digit homers since 2004, when was originally with the Tigers. Given the lack of options at middle infield these days in AL only leagues, Infante will likely draw a decent amount of attention, just don't go over spending for the handful of counting stats he's likely to produce. Mixed: Owned; AL: $17.
Vernon Wells, Angels - Wells was activated from the DL this week, after dealing with a thumb injury. He enters into a crowded outfield with Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos, and Wells all fighting for one spot as Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo are far too productive to be removed. For the season Wells is hitting .237/.274/.410 with six homers and two stolen bases over 146 plate appearances. Last season he hit 25 homers and stole nine bases, but it came with a .218/.248/.412 batting line. Given his current playing time and offensive decline, only those in deep mixed leagues and AL only leagues should consider him. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Trayvon Robinson, Mariners - Robinson was recalled this week from Triple-A Tacoma, following the trade of Ichiro to the Yankees. At Tacoma he was hitting .265/.331/.409 with nine homers and 19 stolen bases. On Saturday he started in left field for the M's and hit eighth in the lineup. Given his youth, there's still time for Robinson to grow as a player, but calling Safeco Field home is not conducive to hitting for power. It's much more likely that Robinson helps in the speed department as he did in his debut when he stole one base. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Lew Ford, Orioles - Ford was brought up from Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday to give the O's a right-handed bat in their lineup. Given he's 35 years old and was last in the majors back in 2007 for the Twins, it's quite a surprise to see Ford in a MLB lineup and hitting fifth no less. With Norfolk he hit .331/.390/.550 with 11 homers and eight stolen bases. While this is a feel good story, Ford doesn't have much power or speed and should be ignored in most all fantasy leagues. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Sam Fuld, Rays - Fuld was activated from the DL this week, after dealing with a wrist injury that required surgery back in April. Last season Fuld developed something of a cult following as he stole 20 bases and hit .240/.313/.360 over 346 plate appearances for the Rays. At 30 years old, he does have speed and so far he's 6-for-12 in his four games, showing no ill effects from his wrist. If you're looking for speed, Fuld can be of help, just don't expect much more than that. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop them in the comments section.
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