By R.J. Anderson //
Jason Bartlett’s name popped up in trade rumors more than nearly any other ballplayer in the land. No longer will that be the case, as the Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly traded Bartlett to the San Diego Padres for relief pitchers Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos.
Let’s begin with the fantasy implications for the Padres. Bartlett immediately steps in as their starting shortstop, diminishing whatever value Everth Cabrera may have held. The 31-year-old Bartlett hangs his fantasy hat on a strong 2009 (.320, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 90 R, 30 SB), when he benefited from an inflated batting average on balls in play (.364 – league average is typically near .300). His 2010 season (.254, 4 HR, 47 RBI, 71 R, 11 SB) represented a hasty step-back, one that resembles what folks should expect moving forward.
Stepping into an arctic offensive environment at Petco Park is unlikely to help. There are some slivers of good news, though: Petco is harshest on left-handed power hitters (Bartlett is neither left-handed nor a power hitter) and a bounceback in steals could be in the works (Bartlett stole at least 20 in three straight years before only taking 11 bags in 2010). A hidden source of upside with Bartlett in the National League West is the large number of left-handed starting pitchers; Bartlett typically feasts off lefties. He struggles against righties, though, and is a good bet to miss two weeks a season with a lower body injury.
In Bartlett’s place, the Rays will insert one-time top prospect Reid Brignac. A left-handed hitter with a better glove and more power potential than Bartlett, Brignac hit .256/.307/.385 with eight homers in 326 plate appearances last season. Brignac becomes an intriguing option in AL-only leagues and potentially a mixed league option if he improves on his plate approach.
As for the pitchers: Ramos is the less interesting of the two. He could be nothing more than a middle reliever or a situational lefty. However, Russell could be a sleeper candidate for saves, given that most of Tampa Bay’s bullpen graduated to free agency, including all of their set-up men and closer Rafael Soriano. Russell is a big guy (6’8″) with a mid-90s fastball that sinks. In 54 career big league innings he’s struck out 54 batters, and his minor league track record also augurs well in that regard.
Russell’s exact role will be determined later this off-season, and might not be solidified until the 2011 season has begun. But he might very well provide the most fantasy value next year among players involved in this deal.