Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
The non-waiver trading deadline is a time when most fantasy owners hold their collective breath - will my guy get dealt into a better position, or will a deal remove any value that pitcher had for the foreseeable future? I have discussed opportunity, and it's relevance to fantasy production. If you don't have a great opportunity, you probably have no future on a fantasy roster. Now, it's time to grab that guy moving to a pitcher's paradise, or perhaps dump the guy that went from closer to just another bullpen arm, and to scour the waiver wire to quickly add that intriguing arm stepping into the spotlight with upside. Let's take a look.
Matt Garza (to the Texas Rangers)
Going from the Cubs to the Rangers has it's obvious benefits, and perhaps just a touch of downside. Garza is a quality arm - near the top of a rotation quality - but he has to stay healthy to maintain that status. Based on his first couple outings for Texas, he seems to be in good shape, so moving from a poor team like the Cubs to a serious pennant contender has to be a major step in the right direction. He will probably win a few more games for the Rangers, but his peripherals may not show a huge spike since Arlington is one of the tougher places to pitch in the hottest months of the year, notably August and September. The Cubs received Justin Grimm in the deal, but he isn't likely to be a big help to them right now, and his value to a fantasy team, already marginal at best, probably took a big hit. It could open the door wider for Jake Arrieta, who has more upside than most of the Cubs arms, but he still needs to harness his command to help a fantasy team. If you own Garza, you win. Maybe not by the margin you would have liked, but his value for the rest of this season is heading up.
Jose Veras (to the Detroit Tigers)
This is one of those situations where the key player in the deal takes a big fantasy hit, but the door of opportunity swings open for someone else. The Tigers have already said Veras will now serve as a set-up man for Joaquin Benoit, so at least initially, Veras becomes a non-factor in any league that doesn't count holds. Remember, Benoit is (or at least was) seen as a set-up man himself. He has done reasonably well since stepping into the closer's role, so they won't just arbitrarily take the job away, but Veras is very good insurance should Benoit give them a reason to make a change. As for Houston, there are now a few saves to be had for a quick fantasy owner. There isn't anyone in their system ideally suited to the job, but Jose Cisnero probably has the inside track at first crack. Cisnero has good stuff, but has trouble finding the strike zone so I want to throw out a couple of other names to monitor. First, Lucas Harrell lacks the repertoire to consistently be effective as a starter, so it wouldn't be a major surprise to see him get a taste of closing, but my Astros target might just be Chia-Jen Lo. The Taiwan-native was once considered the heir-apparent to the Houston closer's gig, but injuries derailed his progress. The Astros recently protected him from the Rule 5 draft, and when Veras was dealt, he immediately got the call. Keep a very close eye on his usage. If they do head down this path, they might bring him along slowly at first.
Jake Peavy (to the Boston Red Sox)
Peavy immediately moves to the top of the Boston rotation, and will find the Red Sox offense and defense more to his liking. With his bulldog mound demeanor, a playoff run should be very motivating as well, and Fenway Park is actually better suited to his pitching tendencies than the home run leaning park on the south side of Chicago. The AL East lineups he will be facing can be a bit more challenging, but the good side of his move should more than compensate. I expect a big couple months from Peavy as long as he avoids any of the injuries he seems to deal with on a routine basis. He has a custom-made spot in the rotation. Brandon Workman is likely bullpen bound now, and if and when Clay Buchholz returns, Ryan Dempster might be the odd man out. Some you may recall I mentioned being impressed with Andre Riezo in the Future's Game. He's not an ace, but I liked some of what he showed, he stepped in and pitched well for Peavy on Tuesday night, and his last Triple-A start was a no-hitter so there is some reason for optimism. He wasn't dealt, but he is the benefactor of a clear opportunity to make his mark.
Bud Norris (to the Baltimore Orioles)
Norris was dealt to the Orioles, who clearly need some rotation help for the playoff drive, especially with Jason Hammel going on the disabled list with tenderness in his throwing forearm. No word yet on the severity of the injury - he will have an MRI on Thursday - but his numbers have been mediocre at best for Baltimore, and probably even less than that for fantasy owners. Norris, on the other hand, is still a bit of a work in progress, but he moves from a weak team in Houston to one of the more volatile offenses in baseball. He's still relatively young (28) but the fact that Houston moved him for a marginal return despite still having a couple of years left on his contract suggests he may not have quite the ceiling he was thought to have just a couple of seasons ago. He should be a modest upgrade for the Orioles, but he is too hittable to be considered truly reliable while facing the potent lineups in the AL East. Look for him to perhaps win a couple more games than he might have, but it would be mildly surprising to see his peripherals improve right away. Baltimore may feel there is more to be had from him in the future, he does have a live arm, but anything significant might not happen before next year. Actually, I'm not terribly optimistic about this year or for the future.
Ian Kennedy (to the San Diego Padres)
While this deal might have a fairly minor impact on the playoff races, it has the potential to be a nice boost for fantasy owners. Kennedy is not overpowering, so he has to rely on pinpoint command. This season (and to a lesser extent last season) that command has been inconsistent. And, playing in a home run haven ballpark in Arizona, he has been susceptible to bad innings punctuated with a long ball that ruined an otherwise decent outing. Now he'll toe the rubber for half his starts in the very pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego. Even if he doesn't make significantly fewer mistakes, at least some of those mistakes will stay in the yard, and that could really improve his fantasy production. There's plenty of room in the Padres rotation, so he won't bump anyone with high value out. This might be my favorite deal of the deadline. I already liked Kennedy's chances of improving going forward, and I like them even more now. As for Arizona, with Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill coming back from injuries, they had a surplus in starting pitchers, but they needed bullpen help. They got that in Joe Thatcher, but he will remain a set-up man, and is unlikely to have any impact on fantasy stats.
On Tuesday, the Dodgers signed former Giants closer Brian Wilson, but they have also told Kenley Jansen he will stay in the closer's role. Jansen is one of the highest ceiling closers in the game, and Wilson has been away for a long time recovering from surgery last season. ... Ernesto Frieri has been decimated over his last few outings and the Angels might look to give him a mental break if it continues. There isn't much to get very excited about in the Angels cupboard - maybe Kevin Jepsen or Dane De La Rosa. They would certainly like to see Ryan Madson resurface, but no word on his readiness. ... Interestingly, there were reports that the Rangers listened to offers involving the ageless Joe Nathan. He wasn't dealt, but that Texas, embroiled in a pennant race, would even consider moving him strongly suggests they might be very pleased with how Joakim Soria has come along since returning from the disabled list. ... I'm going to mention once more that Brad Ziegler is not the closer the Diamondbacks need for the race to the wire. A side-armer who is best reserved for short stints against righty hitters or getting a ground ball when there are men on base does not a closer make. Every sign points to J.J. Putz getting healthier, and when he's ready, he takes the job. ... In Toronto, Sergio Santos is finally back, but he has a lot to prove and shouldn't be any threat to Casey Janssen any time soon. ... Jason Grilli says he'll be back before the end of the year, but don't give up Mark Melancon just yet. Grilli might be labeled more optimistic than realistic.