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AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

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.

This is our weekly look at American League free agents. We have two goals for this article:

1. Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Estimate how much of your free-agent budget you should bid on them.

This year, we're incorporating grids into the FAAB articles, so users can easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The grids, which are sortable by column (click on the header), include a very basic "player grade" column. This serves as a reflection of a player’s skills and role on an A-E scale. Carlos Correa would have been an "A" grade player last year -- that mark will be reserved for similar high-impact prospects stepping into an everyday role.

As always, if there is a player that was not discussed in the article that you would like to know about, feel free to ask about the player in the comments.

PLAYER TEAM POS GRADE $ (12-Team Mixed) $ (15-Team Mixed) $ (AL-Only)
Henderson Alvarez OAK SP C 1 2 5
Clay Buchholz BOS SP B 3 7 15
Doug Fister HOU SP C 2 5 Owned
Yovani Gallardo BAL SP C 1 2 5
Colby Lewis TEX SP C 2 4 Owned
Tim Lincecum LA SP C 2 5 11
Nick Martinez TEX SP D No No 2
Tommy Milone MIN SP C No 2 5
Daniel Norris DET SP B 2 5 11
Adrian Sampson SEA SP D No No 2
Blake Snell TB SP A 6 14 31
Eric Surkamp OAK SP E No No 1
Andrew Triggs OAK SP E No No 1
Deolis Guerra LA RP D No No 1
Will Harris HOU RP B 4 9 21
Liam Hendriks OAK RP D No No 1
Justin Wilson DET RP D No No 3
Chris Iannetta SEA C C 2 4 Owned
Ike Davis NY 1B D No 1 3
A.J. Reed HOU 1B B 5 11 26
Mark Teixeira NY 1B B 4 9 21
Danny Worth HOU 2B E No No 1
Deven Marrero BOS 3B E No No 1
Casey McGehee DET 3B D No No 2
Didi Gregorius NY SS C 2 5 Owned
J.J. Hardy BAL SS C 2 4 9
Jose Iglesias DET SS C 1 3 Owned
Andrelton Simmons LA SS C 1 3 7
Troy Tulowitzki TOR SS B 5 11 26
Ezequiel Carrera TOR OF C 2 5 11
Darrell Ceciliani TOR OF E No No 1
Shin-Soo Choo TEX OF B 4 9 21
Brett Eibner KC OF C No No 2
Alex Gordon KC OF B 4 9 21
Ryan LaMarre BOS OF E No No 2
Michael Martinez CLE OF D No No 1
Steven Moya DET OF C 1 3 7
Daniel Nava LA OF D No No 2
Kevin Pillar TOR OF C 3 7 Owned
Danny Santana MIN OF C 2 4 9
J.B. Shuck CHI OF D No No 1

Starting Pitcher

Henderson Alvarez, Athletics: Alvarez potentially made his final rehab start this weekend and could be poised to join the A's beleaguered rotation next week, although after lasting just three innings for Triple-A Nashville on Saturday that plan could be up in the air. The former Marlin will never give you big strikeout totals, but the groundball specialist keeps the ball in the park and should be able to post solid ratios. He's never pitched 200 innings in a season though, and after making just four starts last year due to shoulder trouble he's not what you'd call reliable. Possibly up your bid by a buck or two in 4x4 leagues, where his lack of K's isn't as much of a liability.12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Clay Buchholz, Red Sox: Here we go again. After a few scoreless appearances out of the bullpen, the Red Sox have decided Buchholz is fixed and will return him to the rotation Tuesday. If they're right he's still got the upside to go on a tear in the second half, which makes him worth bidding on if you need pitching and he got cut loose. The operative word there is 'need' though. He's just as likely to set fire to your ratios as rescue them, so he's more the kind of pitcher you chase when you have nothing to lose than one final piece to put you over the top.12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team AL: $15

Doug Fister, Astros: Fister has completely put his injury-marred final season in Washington behind him and returned to being the reliable low-K sinkerball master he was before 2015. Over the last month, he's got a 2.17 ERA and 1.21 WHIP to go along with a 28:12 K:BB in 37.1 innings. He likely won't keep that ERA up, but the rest of his numbers are right in line with his 2011-2014 performance. If you need someone to help stabilize a fantasy staff that's been pitching a bit over its collective head so far, Fister's your man.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Owned

Yovani Gallardo, Orioles: Gallardo returned to the rotation Saturday and somewhat miraculously held the red-hot Blue Jays offense to just two runs over five innings. That's the good news. The bad news is that he's still Yovani Gallardo, and his 5:4 K:BB on the day matches up well with his struggles from earlier in the season. The O's bats could get him some wins though, and if he's full recovered from his shoulder injury he won't hurt you (or help you) in ERA, so there's some potential value here.12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Colby Lewis, Rangers: After his near-miss no-hitter, is it time to re-evaluate what kind of pitcher Lewis is? In a word, nope. He's still a junkballing righty who's gotten somewhat lucky through the first two-plus months of the season, but with a potent Rangers offense and mostly solid defense behind him he can pitch to contact and make it work. His ERA will rise in the second half, of course, but how much it will rise is the kind of philosophical discussion too big for this column but perfect for Sunday brunch, as it involves things like how the Gambler's Fallacy might apply to season-long predictions and statistical stabilization rates as opposed to discrete events.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: Owned

Tim Lincecum, Angels: Timmy! Lincecum's return to the majors is a glorious day for fans of floppy-haired moppets, but maybe less so for fantasy owners. While not much has changed since Clay profiled him last week, the fact that he was able to turn in a quality start against the A's on Saturday was encouraging enough to bump up his recommended bids if you had to wait for him to be officially added to the Angels' 25-man roster. His 2:2 K:BB is a reminder not to go overboard, though. The Lincecum who won Cy Young Awards and could regularly pop 94 mph with his fastball is long gone.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Nick Martinez, Rangers: Martinez got called back up and made his first major league start of the season Saturday, but couldn't even last five innings against the Cardinals. It was a tough matchup, but there's little on his resume or in his merely OK raw stuff to suggest he's anything more than a replacement-level arm. If he sticks in the rotation for a while he might get a win or two, though.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Tommy Milone, Twins: The Twins swap out one crafty lefty for another, as Milone got called up Friday to take Pat Dean's spot in the rotation. Milone's had bursts of success in the majors before and he was straight dealing at Triple-A during his demotion, posting a 1.66 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 41:4 K:BB in 48.2 innings over seven starts. He won't come close to those numbers with Minnesota, but he should pitch better than he did earlier in the season.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Daniel Norris, Tigers: Tigers GM Al Avila said earlier this week that Norris “would be a viable option in the near future if the need were there.” Well, don't look now, but the need is there. Matt Boyd got demoted right after getting hammered by the Royals on Saturday and while the team hasn't officially made a move to replace him in the rotation, Norris is the logical candidate. His Triple-A numbers on the season don't look all that appealing but he's got a 2.67 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 33:10 K:BB over his last five starts and 30.1 innings, including seven scoreless frames against Rochester on Friday, and if he carries that momentum forward into his return to the majors, you could be very glad you jumped in early to grab him.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Adrian Sampson, Mariners: Sampson was called up to face the Red Sox on Saturday and predictably struggled. The unheralded righty put up solid numbers for Triple-A Tacoma this year but his stay in the majors could be brief with Wade Miley only expected to miss a couple of starts with shoulder soreness. He might get you a win, though.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Blake Snell, Rays: The big-time lefty's latest promotion should be the one that sticks, because goodness knows Snell doesn't seem to have much left to learn in the minors. His 90:28 K:BB in 63 Triple-A innings is simply unfair, and while he didn't last long against the Mariners on Thursday that was partially due to some shaky defense behind him. The AL East can be a tough place to break into the majors, but his 94 mph fastball, vicious slider and pure upside are too juicy to ignore. Barring a deadline deal that brings an established ace over from the Senior Circuit, Snell could be the best pitcher you see in the free agent pool for the rest of the year.12-team Mixed: $6; 15-team Mixed: $14; 12-team AL: $31

Eric Surkamp, Athletics: Surkamp keeps going out to the mound and proving he doesn't belong in the majors, with Tuesday's debacle against the Rangers being the latest example, and the A's keep running out of options to put in the rotation ahead of him. It's almost a co-dependent relationship at this point. Still, he's a guy with a starting job, and if a shot at a win is more important than the damage he can do to your ratios I can pretty much guarantee that he's available in your league.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Andrew Triggs, Athletics: Triggs got called up Saturday to make a “start”, but it was really a bullpen day for the A's as he wasn't stretched out and only lasted three innings. He's had a solid season at Triple-A in relief this year (15:3 K:BB in 10.1 innings) and his 19:5 K:BB in 21 major league frames isn't too bad either, although he's been a lot more hittable. He's best suited for a long relief-swing man role given his fringy raw stuff, but Oakland might be stuck with him in the rotation for a while longer yet.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Relief Pitcher

Deolis Guerra, Angels: This week's fungible and likely available middle relief option comes to you from sunny Anaheim. Since being called up at the beginning of the month Guerra has a 3.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and strong 15:0 K:BB in 15 innings, but the fact that he doesn't have a single hold indicates how far down the Angels' bullpen pecking order he is. He doesn't overpower anyone with his 90 mph fastball but can pull a string with his changeup, which is what's generating his K's. If you need a solid arm to plug a roster hole, you could do a whole lot worse.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Will Harris, Astros: While the Astros continue to make a show of having a closer by committee situation (Ken Giles blew his latest save opportunity Saturday), Harris is clearly their best and most dependable option even if he doesn't make radar guns pop the way Giles does. He's likely long gone in AL-only formats, but the fact that he hasn't yet been officially named the ninth inning guy for the team may have allowed him to slip through the cracks in shallower formats. Given his ridiculous ratios (0.57 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) and five saves so far in June, it's long past time to rectify that.12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team AL: $21

Liam Hendriks, Athletics: Hendriks was expected to be an effective setup man for the A's this season, but a brutal start proved to be the product of a sore elbow and he hit the DL. He hasn't been dominant on his rehab stint, but the club feels he's healthy and ready to rejoin the bullpen in the next day or two. If he regains his 2015 form, he'll quickly work his way into high-leverage situations and could be a solid source of holds, although the A's have plenty of other closing options.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Justin Wilson, Tigers: This is a pure spec saves play. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus suggested earlier this week that Wilson would have been his option to handle the ninth inning instead of Francisco Rodriguez after K-Rod blew the save Tuesday, but since then Wilson's had a sore elbow and never got a chance to take the reins. In fact he hasn't pitched since last Sunday, but his 34:5 K:BB in 25.1 innings this year (not to mention a fastball that averages 95 mph) certainly suggest he's got the raw stuff to close. The concern created by a possible elbow injury should keep his price down, but if it proves to be a minor issue that gives you an opportunity to get in on a possible future closer before his role is established and his price skyrockets.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3


Chris Iannetta, Mariners: The veteran catcher's been raking lately, hitting .389/.477/.722 with two home runs and six RBI over the last two weeks. It won't last, but the Mariners' offense has been humming in June and if you need help behind the plate in shallower formats, Iannetta's worth riding while he's hot.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: Owned

First Base

Ike Davis, Yankees: The Yankees went dumpster diving to find a solution for their first base problems and came up with Davis, who was hitting a pedestrian .268/.350/.437 for the Rangers at Triple-A. He's manning the strong side of a platoon with Rob Refsnyder at the moment, but once Mark Teixeira gets healthy enough to rejoin the lineup, Davis could be cut loose. He should be viewed only as a stop-gap option.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $3

A.J. Reed, Astros: No, he hasn't been called up yet, but the writing is on the wall. Last weekend GM Jeff Luhnow said Reed was “getting closer” to a promotion and on Friday, Tyler White got sent back down to Triple-A. If the Astros are serious about making a run in the AL West they won't settle for trotting out Luis Valbuena and Marwin Gonzalez at first base for long. Reed's numbers aren't particularly impressive and he's striking out too much at Triple-A to think he'll be an asset in batting average right away in the majors, but his upside in the power categories is real and over the last 10 games he's hitting .317 with two home runs, so he's doing his part to encourage the front office to give him a call.12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: $26

Mark Teixeira, Yankees: Tex is inching closer to a return from his knee injury, and if all goes well in his rehab assignment this week he could be back in pinstripes by the weekend. I know what you're thinking here too. How can an unproven commodity like A.J. Reed warrant a higher bid than a proven major league slugger like Teixeira? Two reasons. One, prospect inflation is real and requires you to throw a few more bucks at a player who could be the Next Big Thing if you want to roster him. Two, Houston's got a better supporting cast for Reed than New York does for Teixeira. The Yankees' offense has been mostly moribund this year, and that means more RBI opportunities for the kid than the vet going forward. That's not to say Tex won't end up being the more valuable player for the rest of the season. If you need help at first base, this could well be a case where you're happier winning your backup option than your primary target.12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team AL: $21

Second Base

Danny Worth, Astros: It's nice to see a 30-year-old utility infielder get rewarded for a hit start at Triple-A with some major league service time, but Worth is simply a place-holder on the Astros' 25-man roster. The more interesting question is who he's holding a spot for. A.J. Reed? Alex Bregman? We'll find out soon enough.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Third Base

Deven Marrero, Red Sox: Marrero's another place-holder, but in this case it's much clearer who's spot he's holding as Brock Holt struggles to get clearance to begin a rehab assignment after his concussion. That uncertain timeline could give Marrero a nice run in the majors, but don't expect him to see a lot of playing time given his feeble .216/.256/.264 line at Triple-A Pawtucket.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Casey McGehee, Tigers: This was a bit of an odd move by Detroit. McGehee was certainly hitting well enough at Triple-A to earn a promotion back to the majors, slashing .323/.370/.440, but the Tigers already have plenty of infield depth with Mike Aviles and Andrew Romine behind four entrenched starters. It's possible he could end up seeing time in right field in place of J.D. Martinez if Steven Moya falters again, but until McGehee's path to at-bats becomes clearer there's no reason to throw much of a bid at him.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2


Didi Gregorius, Yankees: I can't help it. Every time I see Gregorius' name, I think of this. Unlike most of Dexter's experiments though, Gregorius is actually working better than anyone expected at the moment, hitting .343/.384/.467 over the last month with three homers, two steals, 15 RBI and 14 runs scored. Even in shallower formats finding quality middle infield depth can be an issue, so don't be afraid to hitch a ride on Gregorius while he's hot.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Owned

J.J. Hardy, Orioles: Hardy came off the DL on Saturday and promptly stroked a double in three at-bats. The veteran shortstop doesn't have a lot of upside at this point in his career, but he'll be hitting in a potent lineup and could supply useful production for you if you don't mind the hit to your batting average.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: $9

Jose Iglesias, Tigers: Iglesias had a 14-game hitting streak snapped Friday which has helped him look far more like his old empty batting average self, as he's now hitting .333/.396/.438 over the last two weeks. If his cold start had him kicked to the curb, he could be useful plugging a hole at middle infield for you.12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Owned

Andrelton Simmons, Angels: Simmons came off the DL earlier this week, but that's about the only thing to recommend him. Among the veteran shortstop options this week who got healthier or returned to relevance he's by far the worst, as other than a flash of power in 2013 he's never shown he'll be anything more than a slick glove man in the majors, albeit an elite one. He'll get regular at-bats though, and in deep AL-only formats that's still worth something.12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays: Tulo's return from the DL on Saturday didn't go as well as Hardy's, as he went 0-for-4 with another strikeout. It shouldn't really be that surprising, but Tulowitzki's been a shell of the producer he was in Colorado, hitting a miserable .219/.300/.377 in 88 games since coming to Toronto. It takes time to re-adjust to sea level though, and the offense around him is more than good enough to keep him in RBI and runs until he finds his stroke again. That upside and reasonable floor makes him worth a bid, even if his 2016 production so far makes it seem like he might be done.12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: $26


Ezequiel Carrera, Blue Jays: A lot has changed since Carrera got profiled last week. Jose Bautista has officially hit the DL and the Jays called up a defense-first fourth outfielder to replace him, indicating their intention to let Carrera run with the right field job. It's easy to see why, as he's hitting .300/.397/.440 over the last month and has even done a credible Joey Bats impression with two homers in the last week. Carrera's also been bumped up to the leadoff spot, and while Toronto isn't a big running team he does have the speed to swipe a base or two from the top of the lineup. He could also cool off any second now, but the upside of his role and the offense around him makes him worth a reasonable bid.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Darrell Ceciliani, Blue Jays: Funny how the Jays now have both players with 'Cecil' in their last names. Ceciliani was hitting all of .225/.279/.292 for Triple-A Buffalo and he's on the roster mainly to be a late-inning defensive option in the outfield while Bautista is on the DL.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers: Choo came off the DL earlier this week and didn't immediately get hurt again, which is a good sign. He joins a Rangers roster that's a lot more crowded than the one he left though, as Ryan Rua has stepped up and Nomar Mazara has emerged as an early Rookie of the Year favorite. DH isn't really an option either with Prince Fielder and Jurickson Profar both jockeying for at-bats. Choo's started five of six games since his return, going 5-for-18 with a homer, a steal, three RBI and four runs scored, so he's definitely worth picking up. Another cold streak could land him back on the bench though, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him dealt for bullpen help as Texas gears up for a run at the AL West title.12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team AL: $21

Brett Eibner, Royals: Eibner's in a tough spot. Just off the DL from an ankle injury, he's hit extremely well since coming up from Triple-A and at 27 years old he's not really a prospect, but Alex Gordon began a rehab assignment this weekend and could bump him back to the minors in a week or so. Even if the Royals do decide to keep him around, it's tough to see him getting more than a handful of at-bats a week. Consider him a spec play in case he gets traded at the deadline to a team that can offer him a larger role.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Alex Gordon, Royals: Finally recovered enough from his wrist injury to begin a rehab assignment, Gordon appears to be a week or so away from rejoining a Royals lineup that could really use the 2011-2014 version of him. If he's fully healthy again there's no reason to think he can't regain that form, but his poor start to 2016 and the fact that he's 32 years old do create some concern that he might have simply been a late bloomer and early wilter. The possible upside is worth chasingm though.12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team AL: $21

Ryan LaMarre, Red Sox: LaMarre gets his second taste of the majors after a brief stint with the Reds last year. He's earned it with a .313/.383/.475 line at Triple-A, but he's never shown that kind of offensive upside in his career before and his game is based more on speed than power. The Red Sox are thin in the outfield at the moment though, and if his performance at Pawtucket indicates he's having a bit of an age-27 breakout he could hit his way into steady at-bats, if not a starting job.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Michael Martinez, Indians: The scrappy Indians keep getting surprising contributions from different players, but none have been more surprising than the run the 33-year-old Martinez is on. He's hitting .316/.333/.447 over the last month in limited playing time, but his performance has started to earn him more at-bats as he's started three of the last six games for Cleveland. In a deep AL-only format, that's worth a look to see how long he can keep it up.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Steven Moya, Tigers: J.D. Martinez's fractured elbow gives Moya another shot at establishing himself as a big league hitter. The 24-year-old is having a good campaign at Triple-A, hitting .298 with 13 home runs in 50 games, but that power has yet to translate to the majors and his big strikeout totals suggest he'll be a batting average liability even if he does begin to put a few over the fence. The Tigers will give him a healthy length of leash this time, but if he struggles again they won't hesitate to look for another alternative in a few weeks. There's upside here, but also a lot of risk.12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Daniel Nava, Angels: Nava comes off the DL to once again be the Angels' default left fielder. All he really has to offer is at-bats, as he doesn't have much power or speed and isn't very likely to hit .300, but sometimes bulk playing time is all you're looking for on the waiver wire.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays: Pillar has been a central part of the Jays' recent offensive resurgence, slashing .321/.367/.643 over the last two weeks with five homers, nine RBI and 11 runs scored. If Ezequiel Carrera stumbles in the leadoff spot Pillar could be next in line for a shot at it, which would further boost his value. As he showed last year, he can be quite productive when he's locked in, and right now he's locked in.12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team AL: Owned

Danny Santana, Twins: Activated off the DL on Thursday after recovering from a hamstring injury, Santana wasn't immediately given the starting center field job back, as the Twins wisely decided to let Byron Buxton suffer through his growing pains in what's shaping up to be a lost season anyway. That's not necessarily a bad thing for Santana's value though. While he'll lose some at-bats, in a super-utility role he'll also gain some extra positional flexibility, essentially filling the role Eduardo Nunez held the last couple of seasons now that Nunez has pushed his way back into the starting lineup. Given that his offensive upside is based primarily in his speed, Santana will look a lot better in your lineup at a middle infield spot than in your outfield.12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: $9

J.B. Shuck, White Sox: Austin Jackson's injury has suddenly made Shuck an everyday player, as the White Sox don't have any better option in their outfield. He's hit an empty .273 over the past week which is about the most you can expect from him, but as long as he's getting at-bats he's worth a look in deep AL-only formats.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1