Fantasy Baseball: Biggest trade deadline winners and losers, from Kirby Yates to Chris Archer to Brian Dozier
Dozens of players changed teams over the past week, but not all of them to great impact in Fantasy. Scott White has the real needle-movers here, and some of the names may surprise you.
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The biggest winner of all Tuesday wasn't anyone who changed hands, though Hand had a hand in his newfound handiness.
How good? So good that he may be even better than Hand was during his half-season in the role. Just compare the numbers:
Among relievers with at least 30 innings, Hand has the 10th-lowest FIP at 2.05. His splitter has become one of the game's elite pitches. He has all the makings of a shutdown closer.
So what makes him a winner now, as opposed to when the Hand trade went down July 19?
It's a good question in part because it helps clear up exactly what time period we're talking about here. For winners and losers, I'm considering only the trades made in the week leading up to Tuesday's deadline and not any that came before.
But back to Yates: He's a winner precisely because he stayed put Tuesday. I think a big reason Fantasy owners were hesitant to buy into him despite his obvious upside is because they expected him to follow Hand out the door, but the Padres naturally wanted a return just as strong for a reliever who has been just as good. He's not making a ton of money yet, so there's not much downside to holding on to him.
And there's not much chance he passes through waivers either, which is a requirement for August trades. Nope, Yates is the Padres' closer to the bitter end, which should be all the incentive you need to rush to the waiver wire and pick him up. He's still available in nearly 40 percent of CBS Sports leagues, more than Fernando Rodney, Shane Greene, Seranthony Dominguez, Hector Rondon and Jeurys Familia, to name a few. Those last three aren't even true closers.
Think the Padres will limit Yates' potential? Think again. Hand was a top-five reliever in Fantasy at the time of the deal, tying for third in the NL in saves.
Now let's look at some of the other winners and losers from the week leading up to Tuesday's trade deadline.
1. Newly anointed closers
Yup, nothing will take a player from irrelevant to relevant in Fantasy faster than becoming that one guy in the bullpen who's entrusted with save opportunities. Yates was a winner because he retained the role at the deadline, but Jose Leclerc and Ken Giles are the fresh-faced newbies ... sort of.
Giles obviously has a history in the role but also piles of unresolved baggage — he was actually with the Astros' Triple-A affiliate, where he had an 8.44 ERA, at the time the Blue Jays acquired him, which tells you most everything you need to know. But manager John Gibbons has already said the right-hander will get a look in the ninth-inning role, especially since Roberto Osuna was the player sent back to Houston. And, given that Giles has a 2.28 FIP in his 34 appearances in the majors this year, he's not without hope.
The more exciting pickup to me, though, is Leclerc, a 24-year-old with all the bat-missing ability you'd want in the ninth inning. The Rangers haven't officially named him the closer, but the other main candidate for the role, Jake Diekman, ended up following Keone Kela out the door just before the deadline.
2. Starting pitchers rescued from the AL
It's hard to choose which is the biggest winner between Cole Hamels, Chris Archer and Kevin Gausman since they all suffered from more or less the same problem. In short, they were victims of their environment.
Hamels was a more direct case. Globe Life Park in Arlington has rated as the most hitter-friendly environment in baseball this year, so it shouldn't be so surprising he had a 6.41 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.4 home runs per nine there compared to 2.93, 1.23, 9.9 and 1.1 on the road. He still had a FIP near 4.00 on the road, so it's not like he'll recapture ace standing. But if he's pitching deep into games with more than a strikeout per inning for a contender, he'll be close to must-start.
Archer's move out of the AL East was a long time coming. Though he had a nice home environment in Tampa Bay, he put together a 4.70 ERA in the other four AL East venues compared to 3.43 everywhere else. Granted, the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles all had good lineups more often than not during that time, but the parks themselves had a little something to do with it. The NL as a whole should be more forgiving without the DH and the schedule a little easier to navigate. It's an exciting development for a pitcher who has long fallen short of his ace potential.
Kevin Gausman, meanwhile, barely sniffed his potential in six years with the Orioles, coming closest to meeting it during a 19-start stretch to end last year in which he had a 3.39 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His pitch selection has been similar this year, but the strikeouts haven't been there. A high swinging-strike rate is reason to hope that a more forgiving environment can push him over the top.
You think Moustakas is pretty good already, right? That's with him playing half his game at a pitcher's park — and one that's especially troublesome for a hitter like him whose swing is entirely geared for power. A high pull percentage and high fly-ball percentage leads to a high number of outs in an expansive outfield. But at Miller Park, he should be right at home. Over the past two years, he has 23 home runs in Kansas City vs. 35 everywhere else.
Plus, he'll have more RBI and run-scoring opportunities than he did for the Royals, who ranked last in the majors in runs scored at the time he was traded.
4. New Rays Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow
Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow sat at the top of the Pirates prospect rankings for what felt like half a decade, and while neither would have qualified for that list next year, it's not like the Pirates had entrusted the present to them either, instead working them in tepidly via unfamiliar roles.
Meadows actually got off to a great start when called up to fill in for for an injured Starling Marte in May, but then the Pirates tried to work him into a four-man outfield rotation and it quickly fell apart. It's true his minor-league numbers never measured up to his pedigree, but for someone who sat atop the prospect rankings for so long and showed flashes of potential in his first look in the bigs, we should be excited at the thought of him shifting to a full-time role. It won't happen right away — the Pirates are sending him to Triple-A to start out — but it'll happen soon enough.
And we should be excited at the thought of Glasnow shifting to a starting role, something the Pirates weren't going to allow him to do this year but the Rays desperately need him to do now that their rotation is reduced to zero. No, really — their depth chart listed no one at starting pitcher at the end of the day Tuesday. Sure enough, Glasnow has already been announced as Wednesday's starter, and while the walks are clearly an issue, his fastball-breaking ball combo is electric. It's not too unlike Archer when he was just getting started, actually.
I suppose you could put Harrison Bader here, too. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak has already said the two will split center field duties 50-50 with Tommy Pham out of the picture, but that's presumably just for as long as the Cardinals stick with Dexter Fowler in right field or at least until one of O'Neill and Bader distinguishes himself from the other.
O'Neill has the better chance of doing so. Just look at the numbers he put up at Triple-A Memphis:
Project them over 160 games, and it comes out to nearly 70 home runs. He homered in three consecutive games with the big club during a brief stint in May, and with his blinding bat speed and high fly-ball rates, there's little reason to doubt the power. Whether he draws enough walks and makes enough contact to get the most out of it is another matter, but he's not a lost cause in those areas. I'd say in a deeper format, be it a 16-team league or a five-outfielder league or really any league where you need to make up ground in home runs in short order, you'll want to keep a close, close eye on this 23-year-old.
1. Displaced closers
Jose Leclerc is only getting a chance to close for the Rangers because Keone Kela is in Pittsburgh now, where the Pirates don't need a closer. Felipe Vazquez is doing a fine enough job already and has a fixed salary — i.e., one that isn't going to rise in accordance with save totals through arbitration.
Joakim Soria, who was closing for the White Sox, and Zach Britton, who was closing for the Orioles, are now working as setup men for the Brewers and Yankees, respectively, and they're leaving behind such awful situations that their replacements (Jace Fry and Mychal Givens, most likely) are hardly worth the trouble.
2. Brian Dozier and his new Dodgers cohorts
This trade could turn out to be a disaster for Dozier owners, who held tight to the slumping second baseman hoping he'd pull the same trick he did the last two seasons, scuffling for the first half of the season before blowing up in the second half. And this trade wouldn't necessarily interfere with that hope except for the fact the Dodgers aren't beholden to him like the Twins were. Case in point:
"He's going to play against left-handers and against right-handers, but to say every day, that's a little extreme," manager Dave Roberts told MLB.com. "We have a lot of good players and I feel we still need to keep them involved."
Now, there's probably some degree of manager-speak in there. Roberts doesn't want his longer-tenured players to feel marginalized, and all it would take to make Dozier less than an everyday player is sitting him once a week — or less than that, even.
But it's clear there will be a logjam here once Justin Turner returns from a groin injury (potentially as soon as this weekend), and it's not so clear who will bear the brunt of it. It won't be Manny Machado or Cody Bellinger, and I doubt it'll be Max Muncy. But everyone else would seem to be at risk, including Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Turner and Dozier himself.
3. Travis Shaw
I mean ... maybe not. Maybe manager Craig Counsell will find a way to satisfy all of his new infield bats. But the plan after the Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas from the Royals was to shift Shaw over to second base, which was worrisome enough seeing as he had minimal experience there. And now that they've brought in a true second baseman in Jonathan Schoop who's blistering hot and has an All-Star profile, that plan would appear to be over.
I say "appear to be" because Schoop has some experience playing shortstop in the minors and even a little in the majors, and that's where the Brewers are weakest offensively. But a team willing to play two guys out of the position up the middle is giving up on defense, in which case the Brewers pitching staff might be the big loser.
Maybe it won't be Shaw who suffers. Maybe it'll be Schoop. Maybe Moustakas. Maybe even Jesus Aguilar. But seeing as Shaw was the one asked to change positions, he would seem to be the lowest in the pecking order. And it's a shame because I think there's even more to like about him than about Moustakas. Bad BABIP luck has defined Shaw's season so far.
The player who figures to cut into Inciarte's playing time, Adam Duvall, is also one of the big losers of the trade deadline. After all, he goes from playing more or less every day with the Reds to being the lesser half of a platoon.
And that appears to be the plan for now: Inciarte will start against righties and Duvall against lefties, with Ronald Acuna shifting over to center field. It's obvious why the Braves have elected to go this route — Inciarte is batting .207 with a .516 OPS against lefties this season — but for his career, the splits are fairly even.
Rather than divide his time with an all-or-nothing slugger who wasn't so valuable to Fantasy owners even when he had a job of his own, I'd prefer the Braves let regression take its course and trust his numbers to come around over the final two months. He still makes tons of contact. His issue is mostly a BABIP that's 50 points lower than normal.
So much for any hope of a late surge. And given the way Inciarte has stopped running over the past couple months, he's not a great choice as a category specialist either.
5. Mallex Smith
Between Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows, the Rays soon won't have room in their outfield for Carlos Gomez or Mallex Smith, and it's the latter who Fantasy owners will miss the most. He had become something of a category specialist, stealing 18 bases, and it's not like he was a slouch with the bat either.
It's just not much of a power profile in an era where everybody who's anybody hits for power, so I think even in five-outfielder Rotisserie leagues, his days of usefulness are limited, contingent on how long Meadows sticks in the minors, basically.
Winner? Loser? It could go either way
That the Cardinals could only get fringe prospects for a pre-arbitration player who was in the MVP conversation a year ago doesn't say much about Pham's ability to bounce back during a disappointing season.
But there are other factors at work here. Pham hasn't been shy about his frustrations with Cardinals management, from their delaying his arrival for so long to their attempts to work out a team-friendly deal this offseason. As for his struggles, he has repeatedly made reference to a mechanical problem that he can see on video but just hasn't been able to correct. You have to think new eyes and new insights from a new coaching staff might help with that.
There's still the potential for a high-OBP 20-20 man, methinks, especially now that he's with an organization that believes in him. If there's anyone who could have used a change of scenery, it's Pham.
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