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The Long Game: Deadline Risers & Fallers

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

With the July non-waiver trade deadline now in the books (or, given how skimpy it was, maybe just in the brochures) let's take a look at how the deals impacted the rosters of various clubs, and boosted or undercut the keeper values of some key players.

More specifically, I'm looking at the how the values of these players have changed with an eye towards next year's auction table in March. Obviously a lot can happen between now and then both to the players themselves and to the organizations around them, but knowing which way the arrow is pointing on their keeper value can matter in trade talks right now. Uncertainly and rapid change creates opportunity, and that rule applies in both directions. Where one Mike Olt owner might not recognize his improved outlook and trade him for too little, another might be able to sell him off at a premium to someone who overestimates how much that outlook has actually improved.

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Jake Arrieta, P, Cubs: The Matt Garza trade was inevitable simply from a common sense perspective, but it does leave a hole in the Cubs' rotation. Chris Rusin is plugging that hole at the moment, but as near as I can tell he's nothing but a poor man's John Lannan and yes, I'm well aware of just how poor you'd have to be to have Captain Fungible himself out of your price range. Arrieta, meanwhile, is still walking far too many batters for sustained major league success but has at least re-discovered his strikeouts since joining the Cubs' system (11.86 K/9 at Triple-A Iowa). If he shows the least hint of reining in those free passes he'll get a shot, and it wasn't that long ago that Jeff Samardzija was walking an unsightly numbers of batters too. They were both tall righty prospects with lethal, erratic arsenals, and if the Cubs could figure out how to unlock Jeffy Scrabble's potential they might just do the same with Big Rude Jake. In deeper leagues, Arrieta is exactly the kind of guy you should be targeting with a small FAAB bid in the hopes of big-time profits down the road.

Grant Green, INF, Angels: The A's didn't seem to have much use for Green. They couldn't decide on a position for him, wouldn't commit to him as a super-utility player, and didn't trust an offensive profile built primarily around a high batting average. So, naturally, they trade for an older, more boring version of him in Alberto Callaspo, and swapped Green's upside for the handful of extra walks Callaspo brings to the table. Now that Green has a fresh start in Anaheim, he could get a chance to finally turn into the player that his minor league numbers hinted at... which, again, is basically Alberto Callaspo. If Green can flirt with a .300 average, sock double-digit home runs and qualify at multiple positions though, and do so at a reasonable salary, he's going to find a home on a lot of winning fantasy teams.

Mike Olt, 3B, Cubs: Olt was seeing his prospect sheen get tarnished badly this season, but the trade north did wonders for his outlook. He went from a guy with vision problems who was stuck behind a borderline Hall of Famer in Adrian Beltre (and, honestly, for my money you can drop the 'borderline') to as sweet a setup as he could ask for. Olt merely has to be better than the decades of mediocrities that have slouched out to third base for the Cubs since Bill Matlock bumped Ron Santo aside in order to become an instant fan favorite in Chicago. With potentially elite hitting talent coming up behind him in the Cubs' system, Olt could end up being the third or fourth best hitter in a stacked lineup in the not too distant future, and a valuable HR/RBI/R source at the hot corner if you can stomach the batting average risk (I did mention those vision problems, didn't I?). If his current owner has soured on him due to his admittedly awful 2013 stat line, now is the time to make an offer.

Andre Rienzo, P, White Sox: After years of slow progress and wavering command in the White Sox's system, Rienzo turned a corner this year in Triple-A and was rewarded with a spot in the rotation after Jake Peavy was sent packing to Boston. He doesn't have an ace-like ceiling, but his fastball and cutter are good enough right now to get the job done and if he sharpens his curve and/or his changeup he could solidify a spot at the back of the Chicago rotation. He also keeps the ball down in the zone, an important quality for a pitcher whose home starts will come in a homer-prone park like U.S. Cellular Field. Rienzo is another guy who could provide a nice return next season on a modest investment.

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Kris Bryant, 3B?, Cubs: It seems ridiculous to downgrade Bryant just a couple of months after he was the second overall pick in the draft, but hear me out. While everyone loves his bat and his power potential, there were already major concerns about Bryant's ability to stick as a third baseman. When the Cubs drafted him, there wasn't much standing between him and the major league job at the hot corner so there wasn't much sense worrying about it. If he at least seemed competent defensively, he'd get a chance to handle the position. The addition of Mike Olt in the Matt Garza trade changes that calculus. Olt's reputation with the glove is solid, and while there's enough of a development gap between them that Bryant won't get shifted off third right away, if Olt establishes himself in the majors Bryant's future will be at first base or a corner outfield spot where offensive performance has less inherent value. If he ends up being a top shelf slugger, Bryant owners won't care much where he qualifies, but if he proves to be more Josh Willingham than Giancarlo Stanton he'll be a much less sexy prospect away from third base. Bryant has gone from being a potential impact bat at a premium defensive position to merely being a potential impact bat, and in dynasty leagues and similar formats that is a significant difference when you consider who to invest in with that early minor league pick.

Robbie Erlin, P, Padres: I still like Erlin, don't get me wrong. Any Padres pitching prospect is worth liking, given the cavern they pitch in. But the Ian Kennedy acquisition isn't exactly a rousing vote of confidence for Erlin or the other San Diego hurlers knocking on the major league door, and when you also factor in the eventual return of Corey Luebke from Tommy John surgery it's hard to find a place for Erlin in the 2014 rotation even if Edinson Volquez has worn out his welcome with the club. Erlin has gone from being a sleeper to a lottery ticket, and that's a big step back.

L.J. Hoes, OF, Astros: Poor guy. It's bad enough he's had to live with that name, and all the jokes that came with it. But after scraping and clawing his way up the Orioles' ladder, and establishing himself as a nifty OBP-and-defense guy who could slot into Nate McLouth's left field and leadoff spot in 2014 without the club missing a beat, he now finds himself on the Island of Misfit Outfielders in Houston where he has to fight off a phalanx of other players with intriguing but limited skill sets for the right to charge up Tal's Hill. The Astros need OBP and defense as much as any club, of course, so Hoes could still open 2014 hitting leadoff (if at the top of a less potent lineup), but Robbie Grossman is an OBP and defense guy too. Meanwhile Chris Carter and Marc Krauss are both slugging slugs looking for at-bats in left field or first base or DH, Brandon Barnes is exactly the kind of jack-of-all-trades fourth outfielder who winds up being a second division starter for a year or two to establish his bona fides before joining the Yankees bench, and all of them are just holding their breath waiting to find out whose job George Springer steals. It's just not a situation as conducive to Hoes making his fantasy mark as the one in Baltimore was.

Brandon Workman, P, Red Sox: Workman certainly did his job, continuing the ascent up the Red Sox's depth chart that he began in 2012, but his reward for making his big league debut and not looking out of place was for Boston to trade for Jake Peavy and a contract that runs through 2014. Now, being the sixth starter in a rotation that includes not only Peavy but Clay Buchholz is a role that can supply plenty of value, but given that Workman's ceiling was, well, workmanlike to begin with, this is definitely a case where a rotation job in the hand is worth far more than waiting in the bush leagues for two guys to get hurt. (Man, if only Boston had a bird-themed nickname... I was so close to making that proverb beg for mercy.) Like Erlin, Workman now looks like reserve list fodder next year rather than an astute endgame pick.