Fantasy Baseball Offseason Tracker: Stephen Strasburg signing, Tommy Pham trade highlight the latest movement
From the Stephen Strasburg signing to the Tommy Pham trade to the renewed sleeper appeal for Dylan Bundy and Tom Murphy, Scott White breaks down the Fantasy Baseball impact of offseason moves both big and small.
The hot stove is heating up. Many of the top free agent targets remain, but moves are happening and we're here to guide you through them, breaking down the Fantasy implications where applicable.
Here's what's happened so far:
Stephen Strasburg signs with Nationals
Strasburg goes back from whence he came, so his 2020 standing won't be a response to any changes in venue or supporting cast. At least in terms of Fantasy production, his 2019 was a high point for his career, representing only the second season in which he reached the 200-inning threshold. More than health, though, it's the changes to his arsenal -- ones that made him more of a ground-ball pitcher and seemingly better equipped to withstand today's homer-happy environment -- that make him a surefire Fantasy ace..
Rays trade Tommy Pham to Padres for Hunter Renfroe, prospect Xavier Edwards
It'd be hard to make the case either of the outfielders changing hands here stands to benefit much, but the Rays do at least have a history of reforming flawed players, which the all-or-nothing Renfroe most certainly is. Then again, the Padres were slow to commit to him in a full-time role, and the Rays may be even less so given their tendency to mix up their lineup.
Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer should benefit from having a genuine on-base threat ahead of them, though Pham's poor launch angle puts him at risk for a power decline as he enters his mid-30s. Xavier Edwards is a fascinating contact/speed prospect whose appeal remains limited to long-term keeper leagues as a 20-year-old yet to graduate from A-ball.
Michael Pineda signs with Twins
Pineda gets another two years with the team that took a flier on him coming off Tommy John surgery and is apparently willing to take another flier despite a 60-game PED suspension. And it's worth pointing out Pineda was beginning to come into his own leading up to the suspension, seeing his fastball effectiveness tick up with more consistent use of his changeup. His 2.76 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 over his final 11 starts makes him a pitcher Fantasy players shouldn't overlook even though he still has five more weeks to serve on the suspension, and the Twins' willingness to double down is telling.
Omar Narvaez traded to Brewers
Narvaez gets improved job security with his move to the Brewers, who desperately needed a catcher after losing Yasmani Grandal to free agency, and the hitter-friendly environment mitigates some of the regression risk for a player who succeeded in spite of a bottom-20 exit velocity. But the bigger winner here is Tom Murphy, who becomes a genuine sleeper after homering 18 times in 260 at-bats this past year. Granted, his splits were far better against lefties than righties, but he was poised to see a bigger share of the at-bats anyway because of his superior defensive skills and now most certainly will given that his backup, Austin Nola, is also best against lefties.
Dylan Bundy traded to Angels
If there's anyone who could benefit from a change of scenery, it's Bundy, who not too many years ago was considered the game's top pitching prospect. Injuries have diminished his stuff to a degree, but he has an elite breaking ball and is one of the few swinging strike leaders who isn't already regarded as an ace. Maybe "ace" is aiming too high, but given the Orioles' poor track record of developing pitchers and the effect this venue change could have on Bundy's home-run tendencies, there still sleeper appeal here.
Zack Wheeler signs with Phillies
Why is it the biggest pickups are so often the least interesting for Fantasy purposes? It's a downgrade in venue, sure, but Wheeler has always a knack for keeping the ball in the ballpark and is obviously well acquainted with the NL East. It's a lateral move in terms of supporting cast, too, so while the venue change may expose him to greater risk, his most likely outcome is more or less the same.
Cole Hamels signs with Braves
Soon to be 36, Hamels is clearly in the twilight of his career and was signed to help bridge the gap to the Braves' next wave of young pitchers, headlined by Ian Anderson. The fact he accepted only a one-year deal shows how much his stock has fallen, but the fact he got $18 million shows there's still some production to extract. He had a 2.98 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 8.8 K/9 in 17 starts before missing time with a strained oblique, making what seemed like a concerted effort to keep the ball on the ground, but then got pummeled while pitching through a balky shoulder the rest of the way.
Jonathan Villar traded to Marlins
True, Villar immediately becomes the best player on a bad Marlins team, which means he has little in the way of support, but was it any different for him with the Orioles last year? Considering all the places he could have gone after the Orioles put him on waivers, this one at least assures he'll keep playing regularly, which should lead to a big steals total even if the power numbers decline with the change in venue. A fifth-round pick in 12-team Rotisserie leagues is still defensible.
Jesus Aguilar claimed by Marlins
With so few of their longer-term assets ready for the big show, the Marlins can take a flier on reclamation projects like Jesus Aguilar, who quickly fell out of favor with the Brewers after hitting 35 homers with a near-.900 OPS in 2018. Though it was a breakout few saw coming, it wasn't exactly out of nowhere either, seeing as he hit 16 homers with an .837 OPS in 279 at-bats in 2017. A rebound season on a team with nothing to lose isn't out of the question for the 29-year-old.
Mike Moustakas signs with Reds
Though it has obvious real-world implications, this signing hardly impacts Moustakas' Fantasy value. He goes from one hitter's park to another, where he'll continue with the second base experiment that by now we should classify as a success. Another 30-homer season is likely, but his limited batting average potential and modest on-base skills make him decidedly second-tier even at a weak position.
Jurickson Profar traded to Padres
An earlier trade with the Brewers gave the Padres an opening second base, and GM A.J. Preller opted to fill it with Profar, who he knows well from their time in the Rangers organization. Back then Profar was considered the top prospect in baseball, and while he has proven to have good bat-to-ball skills, the quality of contact is lacking. After a breakthrough year with Texas in 2018, he was exposed in a larger park in Oakland and could suffer more of the same in San Diego, where he'll attempt to hold off converted third baseman Ty France for at-bats.
Padres trade Luis Urias, Eric Lauer to Brewers for Trent Grisham, Zach Davies
This trade is most notable for the hitters, who have each proven all they could in the minors but seemed to be getting squeezed in the majors. Urias, an exceptional contact hitter with a top-prospect pedigree, will try to break in as the Brewers' starting shortstop, with the light-hitting Orlando Arcia serving as his only real competition. Grisham, an outfielder, has more competition in the form of Manuel Margot, Franchy Cordero and Josh Naylor, but he had a respectable showing as an injury fill-in down the stretch in 2019 and has obvious sleeper appeal after hitting .300 with 26 homers, a .407 on-base percentage and a 1.010 OPS in 370 minor-league at-bats.
Drew Pomeranz signs with Padres
A signing that would seem to have minimal implications in Fantasy may actually have medium-size ones just judging by the terms of the deal. At four years, $34 million, Pomeranz is being paid like a premier reliever and, upon closer inspection, became one when he joined the Brewers bullpen (after previously starting for the Giants) last August, compiling a 2.39 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 15.4 K/9 in 25 appearances. Clearly, the Padres are buying in, and if they're right, the journeyman lefty could be an impact middle reliever worth a late-round look for ratio help in 5x5 categories leagues.
Kyle Gibson signs with Rangers
While on the surface, Texas seems like a terrible destination for a pitcher who has never been more than fringy, Gibson has recently showed signs of becoming so much more, delivering an elite swinging strike rate with an impact slider and under performing his 3.80 xFIP by more than a run (4.84 ERA) in 2019. Your attitude toward Gibson will depend on how much credit you think the Rangers deserve for maximizing their return on Lance Lynn and Mike Minor, two of last offseason's under-the-radar signings, but he'll get some late-round looks.
Travis d'Arnaud signs with Braves
While Tyler Flowers is an expert pitch framer, the Braves almost certainly aren't giving d'Arnaud $16 million over the next two years to be his backup. But while it's true d'Arnaud was once a top prospect under GM Alex Anthopoulos' regime in Toronto and seemed last year to rediscover the offensive potential that years of injuries had obscured, most of his production came during a magical July in which he hit .342 with eight home runs. Still, at a weak position like catcher, he's verging on top-15 status as a projected starter.
Prospect Evan White signs long-term deal with Mariners
The six-year, $24 million deal is certainly noteworthy for a player who has yet to make his major-league debut, and it suggests the Mariners are ready to turn over first base duties to the 23-year-old. White has yet to advance past Double-A, where he hit .293 with 18 homers and an .838 OPS in 365 at-bats, but the scouting reports are more sold on the glove than the bat. T-Mobile Park isn't the sort of environment that will elevate his modest pop, so an Eric Hosmer-like outcome may be the best anyone can hope for.
Will Smith signs with Braves
Though the Braves gave Smith closer money -- fittingly, seeing as he was a top-five reliever in virtually every format last season -- they're for now saying Mark Melancon is still their first choice to close. And while Melancon is an elite strike-thrower with elite ground-ball tendencies who seemed to rediscover his All-Star form with a 2.93 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 10.0 K/9 in the second half last year, he's no Smith. There's an argument for drafting Smith ahead of Melancon still, trusting the talent to win out in the long run.
Yasmani Grandal signs with White Sox
This signing signifies less for Grandal himself, who goes from one hitter's park to another, than for the White Sox's intentions. They're transitioning from rebuilding to competing, which means impact prospects like Luis Robert, who've already proven all they can in the minors, are probably on the fast track. Stock up for him. Stock more or less even for Grandal, who may lose a larger share of at-bats to 2019 All-Star James McCann than he did to his backup in Milwaukee last year, but the DH spot should help in that regard.
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