Baseball's Winter Meetings are scheduled to begin this coming Monday here in Orlando, but you would never know it with the flurry of activity that we have seen in the hot stove this week. Typically, this type of activity is reserved for those meetings, but baseball front offices must have plans to spend the time at the parks with their families because they have been extremely active this week.
By my count, there have been 21 trades or signings this week that involved players changing teams, so there is a lot of fantasy impact to review.
Norichika Aoki goes to Kansas City: Aoki has gotten on base at a .355 clip and has swiped 50 bags over the past two seasons in Milwaukee. He will hit leadoff for the Royals and will have a very nice situation behind him, especially if they add Carlos Beltran. Kansas City loves to move guys on the bases, so Aoki should be able to at least repeat his 20-steal season in 2014, if not match the 30-steal effort from 2012.
J.P. Arencibia goes to Texas: He should have the primary catching duties with Texas as Geovany Soto backs him up. Arencibia is a one-trick roto pony in that he hits homers but he's the Adam Dunn of catchers. Moving to Texas isn't going to affect his numbers because Toronto is a great place to hit, but he has to adjust his game before he plays his way out of it.
Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles to Colorado: Barnes is a fourth or fifth outfielder for deep NL leagues and the move doesn't change his outlook. Lyles is the one who suffers here. He is a curveballer and the pitch just does not work at 5,280 feet, humidor or not. Physics dictate the ball will not break as much as it does at sea level. Lyles is now reserve material in NL leagues.
Robinson Cano to Seattle: Yeah, shocker. Cano leaves the cozy short porch in Yankee Stadium for the bigger reaches of Safeco Field. It shouldn't matter that much because hitters hit. His fantasy production will drop a bit here and what was an easy top-five pick now is just a first round lock. I am no believer in lineup protection, but it would be lovely if Seattle gets someone in front of Cano that gets on base at a high rate.
HitTrackerOnline allows us to see the changes that Cano is facing in his new home.
His pull shots will have to go just a bit further than what he's accustomed to, but he will enjoy hitting the ball the other way, something he's very good at.
Michael Choice to Texas: Texas traded some of the speed they had for Choice's raw power. He has it, but hasn't had a chance to show it in the majors. He will get the chance to do that in Texas. The change in parks is an obvious plus for him; how much he can produce will depend on his playing time. AL end game pick that is now out of the reserve rounds.
Scott Feldman to Houston: Did not see this one coming. My concern with Feldman is he has never thrown back-to-back seasons of 160 innings, and he exceeded that total in 2013. His fantasy value takes a hit with the offensive run support and bullpen issues that exist in Houston, so knock him down a couple of ticks. I would have liked him much more had he signed with a contender.
Doug Fister to Washington: NL-only folks will love this guy. He's a groundball machine that has been very undervalued in recent years and now mixed-league players get the bonus of him facing the pitcher rather than DH's. He's not a star, but he's very good and one of the safer targets you can make for pitching.
Dexter Fowler to Houston: He has hit .299/.396/.488 at home and .243/.336/.364 on the road over the past five seasons. Coors Field was great for him because of the spacious outfield and the hits that drop in front of the outfielders that are positioned deep to protect the gaps. Minute Maid Park is similar to that in center field and the short porch in left field should help him. It better, as his road OPS has declined each of the past three seasons.
Craig Gentry to Oakland: Oakland needed a nice insurance policy for WHEN (not if) Coco Crisp gets hurt and has one in Gentry. Gentry is an excellent defender, runs very well, and hits lefties well. Changing teams won't fix his issues against right-handed pitching and that is what keeps him from being draftable in anything but the end game in 15-team mixed leagues.
Curtis Granderson to New York (Mets): Granderson takes a couple of trains and relocates from The Bronx to Queens. Like Cano, Granderson is going to miss Yankee Stadium's short porch, but not as much as you may think. Granderson has hit 145 home runs over the past five seasons; 73 at home, 72 on the road. He has an .822 OPS at home in that time and an .812 on the road. Let others be scared about him becoming another Jason Bay and buy the 2009-2010 version of him. Even if healthy, he's never hitting 40 homers again.
Ryan Hanigan to Tampa Bay: If you are in an AL-only league, you could do a lot worse for your second catcher. When he is healthy, he has a high OBP and could help in runs. The benefit here is his defense as he is a fantastic pitch-framer and can throw runners out. His addition will help the Rays pitchers, particularly Jeremy Hellickson who struggled controlling the running game using the slide step because both Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton are not great throwers.
Phil Hughes to Minnesota: His value immediately goes up because he is out of Yankee Stadium. Hughes suffered from Ed Whitsonitis and simply could not pitch well at home. There are flaws to his game – issues with righties, inability to change speeds, etc – but they worked pretty well on the road. Minnesota is a great place for him to recover from Post Traumatic Yankee Syndrome and get back on track. The outfield defense on the Twins' roster is not very strong, as it looks now, so temper your excitement about Hughes suddenly becoming what people have hoped he would become.
Jim Johnson to Oakland: And every AL owner who was holding onto a piece of Oakland's pen speculating on Grant Balfour's replacement is now very upset. Oakland isn't paying a reliever $10.8M to do anything but close. Johnson couldn't repeat all his 2012 magic, but he was still good at what he did last year. Now, he gets a better park and the Astros on his schedule.
Scott Kazmir to Oakland: Two years ago, he was working on the sets of Universal Studios. A year ago, he was pitching Indy League ball in his home town. Now, he's guaranteed two years and $16M. What a country! He got better in the second half of the season and Oakland's park is going to be a nice fit for him. I'm buying.
Brian McCann to New York (Yankees): He's going to love hitting in that ballpark and fantasy owners are going to love owning him. He has had his issues staying healthy, but this should be an easy 25 homers for him. I don't like paying $15 or more for a catcher, but I have no qualms doing it for him in 2014.
Joe Nathan to Detroit: This marriage was one of the most obvious ones to predict this offseason. The Tigers get a very reliable closer whose skills have fully recovered from his previous injury, even if he's lost a little velocity and bite on his pitches. We don't know how Brad Ausmus will use his closer, but he is still safe money.
Dioner Navarro to Toronto: Hits 13 homers in Wrigley and moves to another friendly park in Toronto. Invest, right? NO! That home run total was fueled by a hyper-inflated home run to fly ball ratio and this is still a guy that has been non-tendered and released twice in the past three seasons. He's still a second catcher for AL Leagues despite the starting role he now has with Toronto.
Ricky Nolasco signs with Minnesota: No value change here. Pencil in 12-14 wins, a 3.70ish ERA, and 140-150 K's. New location, same old performance. There's value in that.
A.J. Pierzynski to Boston: He has hit 44 home runs over the past two seasons, but nearly all of them were pull shots. Fenway isn't a park that plays well to that approach. There's a good chance Pierzynski struggles to hit as many as 15 homers in Fenway, and at age 37, it’s at a point many catchers have previously escalated their statistical slide.
Will Smith to Milwaukee: Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs did a great job of breaking down Smith's upside and I encourage you to read it. He is an intriguing end game NL pick as he is now, with Chris Capuano upside down the line.
Ryan Webb to Baltimore: The Orioles have many arms in their pen, but guys like Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, and Brian Matusz have splits issues that make them very risky options as closers. Webb fixed his splits in 2013 by pitching inside to lefties on a regular basis. He lacks closing experience, but the skills say he deserves a chance against what Baltimore currently has on their roster.