Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down some of the major storylines in baseball as the trade deadline approaches.
Trade Analysis: Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers
The Dodgers made a splash by acquiring former Marlins sensation Hanley Ramirez for Nathan Eovaldi and a willingness to take on Ramirez’s salary. First of all, this is the way it should be for Los Angeles. The Dodgers are supposed to be the West Coast Yankees, so it’s good to see them open the check book to bring in some star potential.
The move also makes baseball sense. The team already has two of the best hitters and pitchers in baseball, so it’s not a bad idea to go for the gold now. Eovaldi is too young to be depended on, while, even at his worst, HanRam is scoring runs and offering some pop and speed. On a side note, of all stadiums where Ramirez has played at least 65 games, his .388 average at Dodgers Stadium is easily the highest.
On the Market: Alfonso Soriano
With 19 home runs and 58 RBI, Alfonso Soriano is once again a solid slugger at the big-league level. He is also due to make $18 million in each of the next two seasons. His high performance provides the Cubbies with a window to trade him. Ken Rosenthal reported that at least one team has interest in the veteran outfielder.
Sellers: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are in a very interesting situation right now. They have some very bad contracts, though their huge investment in Cole Hamels is not one of them. He is still young at 28 years old and was developed within the Phillies system. The team is out of contention this season and must rebuild in the next few years. The only way players such as Shane Victorino could be dealt is if the Phillies get back prospects who will be ready to start next year.
Sellers: New York Mets
After a great first half, the Mets have won just one game since the All-Star break and could try to make a move. Johan Santana’s injury hurts them, as he is due so much money andcould have been traded. The Mets would have been happy to deal him in return for prospects.
With Santana injured, if there is a Mets player to be traded, it’s infielder Daniel Murphy. Jordany Valdespin has been incredible this season and offers more versatility and better defense than Murphy. However, the Mets will only make a trade if they get something back which they are really able to use, such as a power arm for the bullpen.
Sellers: Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have been buyers recently, bringing in players such as Zack Greinke and Aramis Ramirez, but it has not worked out. The best case scenario for them is that Greinke decides to stay in Milwaukee, which may not be very realistic. The Brewers were also shopping reliever Francisco Rodriguez and tried to increase his value. K-Rod, however, imploded with blown saves in consecutive appearances against the Phillies, likely costing the Brewers some prospects.
For more insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
Edwin Jackson is young, durable, and has been a winner with 10-plus wins in each of the last four seasons. The solid track record begs the question why did so many teams pass on him.
The 28-year-old hurler is now on his seventh Major League team and he hasn’t played for losers either. He went 5-2 down the stretch for the Cardinals last season, playing a role in the team’s World Series Championship.
One of the hardest throwing hurlers in baseball, Jackson has improved his control over the years. His greatest weakness recently is that he is just too hittable. Even in his successful run with the Cardinals the opposition hit .300 against him. The good news is that he keeps the ball in the yards, but for fantasy managers looking for a low WHIP, Jackson is not a solution.
The move to Washington means he’ll now don the jersey for his sixth team over the last four years. However, Bloomberg Sports likes his fantasy value. The larger ballpark and National League setting should translate to 170 strikeouts, double-digit wins, and a 4.21 ERA.
Jackson is a fine low-risk, high ceiling option in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. After all, it was just a few years back that he threw a no-hitter while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s see if he can finally sustain such dominance over a full season.
Once one of the hurlers in the most demand in the Major Leagues, Erik Bedard hopes to build on his improvement from last season while joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bedard was a disaster in Seattle. Because of injuries, he never lived up to the hype and while the Mariners traded away top prospect Adam Jones to the Orioles for him, they ended up letting him go for very little in return last season to the Red Sox.
The good news is that Bedard showed that even after all of the injury-ravaged seasons, he still has some potential right now. He offered fine control last season and fanned a batter per inning throughout the year.
A move to Pittsburgh should lead to some good results for Bedard’s fantasy managers. Pittsburgh’s ballpark plays neutral and he will no longer have to deal with designated hitters in the majority of his starts. Most importantly, he has sustained his health, which is the key to his performance.
BloombergSports.com projects a solid 3.74 ERA and 1 .30 WHIP from the veteran hurler this season, and with some luck he could reach double-digit wins for the first time in five years.
The loss of CJ Wilson could be crushing to the Texas Rangers. Just a year removed from a second World Series, the Rangers lost their ace for a second time. First it was Cliff Lee who bolted to rejoin the Phillies. Now it’s Wilson, and while he may not be as dominant as Lee, the fact that he joins the rival LA Angels of Anaheim makes matters worse.
The Rangers were desperate to respond and without many proven stars on the market they had to compete with teams including the Toronto Blue Jays to land Yu Darvish, an ace from Japan. With an enormous bid, the Rangers land the hard-throwing hurler who will enjoy the loftiest expectations by a free agent to join the Rangers perhaps since Alex Rodriguez signed his now infamous $252 million deal.
As far as realistic projections for Darvish, BloombergSports.com offers a 13-8 record, 185 strikeouts, and a 3.63 ERA for the hard-throwing hurler. That makes him the 16th best starting pitcher, and a top-50 fantasy talent.
Despite the lofty projections, there is still a great deal of risk for fantasy managers. After all, Darvish is new to America and will have to adapt culturally to Major League Baseball, plus he calls home to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. He will not get away with many mistakes and the media will be hounding him all season long.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw uses the BloombergSports.com Front Office projections to rank the top five strikeout artists in Major League Baseball for the upcoming season. While Justin Verlander is expected to lead the Majors in strikeouts, National League rivals Tim Lincecum andClayton Kershaw are not expected to be far behind.
Verlander is fresh off one of the greatest seasons ever by a starter and while he earned the MVP and Cy Young award, he is expected to repeat his success this upcoming season. The Tigers have added some pop to their lineup in the form of first baseman Prince Fielder, while Miguel Cabrera is now destined for third base.
While most fantasy managers will focus on that offensive boost, a greater concern may be the poor defense behind Verlander. The good news is that he may become more dependent on strikeouts. Bloomberg Sports projects a staggering 244 strikeouts from Verlander this season.
On the west coast, Tim Linecum and Clayton Kershaw will battle for fantasy supremacy. The hurlers seem to be moving in different directions as Lincecum has regressed a tad in recent years while Kershaw is peaking. Regardless, Lincecum remains a safe bet pitching in AT&T Park with a proven track record that includes 220 or more strikeouts in each of the last four seasons. It also helps having a healthy Buster Posey back in the lineup.
Kershaw finally put it all together last season as he improved his control, went deep into games, and finished with a stellar 21 wins and 248 strikeouts. The southpaw’s statistics are looking more and more like Sandy Koufax’s by the day. The BloombergSports.com Front Office tool projects 239 strikeouts from Kershaw this season.
The fourth most strikeouts will likely be racked up by the forgotten Felix Hernandez. The Mariners 2010 Cy Young award winner has a little more offensive support this season, which should lead to more wins and greater confidence. The durable right-hander picked up 222 strikeouts last year despite some struggles at home. He is projected to surpass 200 K’s for a fourth straight season.
Finally, Cliff Lee edges teammate and fellow ace Roy Halladay on the list. The veteran hurler brandished a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in one of his finest seasons yet. He tallied a career-best 238 strikeouts and that number is expected to take just a minor decline this season.
if looking for sleepers, a couple of less heralded hurlers who can deliver K’s are Braves starter Brandon Beachy and A’s top prospect Brad Peacock. While Beachy is hoping to be a bit healthier in his second full season, Peacock is just the latest young hurler hoping to breakout in Oakland.
For more insight visit BloombergSports.com for access to Front Office.
By R.J. Anderson //
Jayson Werth signing a $126 million deal with the Nationals figured to be the surprise of the off-season. Instead, Cliff Lee has outdone his former teammate by signing with the team they once shared. For all the talk about the Rangers and Yankees dueling over the ace’s services, in the end Philadelphia walked away with the biggest catch of the off-season.
Lee joins Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels to form possibly the best rotation in modern history (as Dave Cameron showed here, this rotation is comparable to the Atlanta Braves of the early-to-mid 1990s). Of course, fantasy owners are more interested in how Lee fares rather than the foursome as a whole. In particular, there’s a thought that looking at Lee’s time in Philly represents an accurate projection of what to expect from the 32-year-old.
Those stats include 12 starts in 2009, with 79 innings pitched (roughly six and a half innings per start, even though that’s impossible), a 3.39 ERA, a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 7.4, and a win-loss record of 7-4. Believe it or not, Lee is probably better than some of those stats suggest. Over the past three seasons he’s compiled a 2.98 ERA, a 48-25 record, and a 5.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio between four different teams.
A stretch of dominance like Lee’s is hard to replicate for too long. Even Greg Maddux couldn’t keep up the frantic pace he posted from 1995 to 1997 (96 starts, 687 innings pitched, 53-17 win-loss, 2.21 ERA, and a 7.46 SO/BB, while walking fewer than one batter per nine innings pitched); Maddux’s 1998 included a 2.22 ERA, 18-9 record, and a 4.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Fall off? Hardly, but expecting a slight stepback is safer for expectations than holding Lee to his own superhuman track record. The table below shows how each of the top five pitching seasons (as determined by K/BB ratio) fared in K/BB and ERA the next season. Each pitcher saw his strikeout-to-walk ratio decline and his ERA increase (with one exception), a sign that Lee probably won’t upon his historic 2010 season:
Double-digit wins (wins are heavily influenced by factors beyond a pitcher’s control), 200-plus innings, and a sub-3.50 ERA seem reasonable enough. And given that it’s Lee, there is a chance he might blow those conservative projections away. He’ll be one of the first pitchers off the board come draft time – as will three of his rotation mates. Deservedly so.
By R.J. Anderson //
Given the happenings of the past few days, it’s safe to say most baseball fans are wholly aware of Justin Smoak’s name and new location. The new Mariners’ first baseman is going to have a difficult time making fans forget about just how special Cliff Lee is, but he should do a wonderful job making them forget just how terrible Casey Kotchman was.
Smoak is only 23 years old and a switch-hitter who the Rangers took 11th overall in the 2008 draft. He’s from Goose Creek, South Carolina which is also the birthplace of Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. Rated as the 13th-best prospect in baseball entering this season by Baseball America, Smoak spent only 15 games in the minors during the season, hitting .300/.470/.540 with two homers and six doubles. For his minor league career, which reaches nearly 600 plate appearances, he hit .293/.411/.461.
Not everything is sparkles and giggles however. In nearly 300 major league plate appearances he’s hit .208/.310/.356. That’s not enough time to label a player with his pedigree as a bust, but it’s enough time to make antsier fantasy owners a bit concerned. In down times is when doubts start to creep into people’s minds. Like, maybe Smoak only has warning track power. Or maybe he’s just going to be another Lyle Overbay. You don’t want to trade one of the best pitchers in baseball for a Lyle Overbay.
One projection system, CHONE, had him pegged at .240/.340/.363 this season. Kotchman, for instance, has hit .218/.299/.370 this year and it seems unrealistic to think Smoak would provide less pop than a first baseman who is renowned for his inability to hit his way out of a paper bag.
Still, the reality is Smoak might not contribute much this season. That’s fine, but what about those in keeper leagues who have the chance to add him cheap? That is definitely worth the risk. Even though Smoak will play most of his games in Safeco Field, he will spend most of his time batting from the left-handed batter’s box, meaning Safeco’s constrictor-like death grip on right-handed power won’t affect him as much as, say, Jose Lopez or Adrian Beltre. Of course the same could’ve been applied to Milton Bradley, and he’s got one of the worst slugging percentages of his career.
Bottom line: Stay away from Smoak in standard leagues, grab him in keeper leagues.
by Eno Sarris //
The trade deadline isn’t until the end of the month, but enterprising contenders are already making the rounds and looking to pick the carcasses of teams less fortunate. Every extra start or at-bat that the contender can get out of the fresh meat is a start or at-bat in their favor, so they might as well get going.
Fantasy owners might take note here and get ahead of the eight ball themselves. The danger in AL- and NL-only leagues is that a fantasy owner’s player gets traded out of their league and creates a hole on their roster. Another danger is that a player moves from a beneficial situation to one less supportive of their skills. Let’s run down the top ten trade targets in the rumors currently and talk a little about where they might land and what that would mean. We’ll handle the pitchers today, and the hitters early next week.
Lee owners in AL-only leagues should be shopping him as hard as they can. Some might even counsel that Lee owners should take whatever they can get, perhaps from a team in the bottom half of the table looking for a home-run shot. Apparently Lee has told his teammates he’s already made his last start for the Mariners (and then he promptly denied it in the media). The worst news is that many of the most-rumored spots for Lee are in the National League. The Mets, Phillies and Cardinals have all been linked to the lefty with the insane strikeout-to-walk ratio (just look at the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs and see how pretty his work has been). Lee owners might take heart that the Yankees and Twins have also been included in the rumors. Even though the source might be a little old, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times said on June 24th that the Mets and Twins were the favorites to land Lee, and that seems to make the most sense. The thing is, the Twins aren’t known for making big trade deadline pickups, as the lede in this MLB.com article about the Orlando Cabrera pickup states. That kind of move seems more up embattled Mets’ GM Omar Minaya’s alley. Keep Lee in an AL-only league at your own peril.
Millwood is actually second-most likely starting pitcher to be traded to Lee. Because of his advanced age (35), rough ERA (5.40), expiring contract, and the Orioles’ record (24-54), if anyone wants him they can probably get him. The thing is, he’s sporting his best strikeout rate since the last time he was in the National League (7.00 K/9) and a walk rate that is right in line with his career number (2.78 BB/9). He’s giving up a few too many home runs (1.69 HR/9), and that’s will happen to a flyball pitcher (42.9% GB% career) in the AL in a tough park for pitchers (1.283 park factor for home runs). Given his nice underlying statistics, and his success in the NL in the past, Millwood is less of a loss for AL-only owners and more of a potential pickup for NL-only owners. He’s not someone to bust your FAAB budget on, but he’s certainly worth some money, especially if he ends up in a park that suppresses home runs like Citi Field (.595 park factor for home runs) or Busch Stadium (.763 park factor for home runs).
The sharks circling Houston are a little less rabid despite the obvious state of that carcass, but that’s perhaps justified in the case of Oswalt. He is due $16 million next year and has a $2 million buyout in 2012. That’s a lot of money for a pitcher that is 32 going on 33, never had an elite strikeout rate, and has a body type that some feel doesn’t age well. On the other hand, Oswalt is showing the second-best strikeout rate of his career and is pitching the best he has in about four years. Because of the money, he’s a little less likely to change hands. Even with owner Drayton McLane saying he would eat some of Oswalt’s salary, the only team linked to the pitcher so far has been the Rangers. That’s a bit ironic, considering their financial situation. It’s also worrisome to NL-only Oswalt owners.
The Cubs aren’t used to being sellers, but they are 10.5 games out, 11 games under .500, and have a -24 run differential. They don’t look good. Many of their problem players have salaries that are too onerous to trade – no team will want to take on the rest of the Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Zambrano contracts, for example – but then there’s Ted Lilly. We talked about Lilly as a fantasy hold – his velocity is returning, and he’s showing a nice ERA – but his strikeout rate is still lagging, and he’s still an extreme fly ball pitcher. Look at the difference between his xFIP (4.60) (expected Fielding Independent Pitching, a number that strips out batted ball and home run luck to produce a figure on the ERA scale) and ERA (3.12). If the Cubs are smart enough to sell, they’ll get some interest in Lilly, but the trade rumors have been light so far. GM Jim Hendry might give the team as long as he can before selling a piece like Lilly, so fantasy managers should probably take the same approach.
Though the Diamondbacks are obviously cleaning house, the feeling is that the team would have to be ‘overwhelmed’ to trade their ace. First of all, it might be selling low, because despite secondary statistics in line with his career rates (8.90 2010 K/9, 7.71 career K/9; 1.70 2010 BB/9, 1.96 career BB/9; 41% 2010 GB%, 44.1% career GB%), his ERA is not pretty (4.56). Secondly, he only costs about $33.75 million from 2010 until 2012 according to Cot’s Contracts. It wouldn’t make much sense to trade an underpaid ace at a lowpoint in his value. It’s much more likely that the team trades some of its veteran position players.
The Indians are terrible (31-47), and Carmona is cheap ($11.375 million combined 2010/2011), but it will be interesting to see how much teams will want to pay for his services. He relies very heavily on his sinker-inducing ways (58.6 GB% this year, 60.8% career). When his control eludes him (3.16 BB/9 this year, 3.78 career), he can be terrible. But right now, despite his inability to strike people out (4.73 K/9), he’s doing well enough to elicit interest (3.68 ERA, 1.28 WHIP). On the other hand, named suitors don’t abound (the Mets “aren’t interested‘ according to Joel Sherman), and his fantasy trade value is hard to gauge. Carmona may be one of those players that fantasy managers are happy to have owned when he was going well.
This group may include the most-dealt pitchers on the list, as relievers cost less in both contracts and salary. They also are perceived as difference-makers for contending teams with poor bullpens, rightly or wrongly. Heath Bell tops the list, as his Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider chart shows. His owners should be slightly nervous, as rookie GM Jed Hoyer is talking about adding offense, and has two ready-made replacements in Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson, but as long as the team is going well, Bell should remain in San Diega.
Kevin Gregg, on the other hand, might change hands if someone wants him. Toronto isn’t going to the postseason, and they also own Jason Frasor and Scott Downs, so teams needing bullpen help will be calling. The thing is, Frasor and Downs have been pitching better and are free agents at the end of the year. They might be preferable to contending teams, and with Gregg’s bloated ERA (4.20) and walk rate (5.40), he could just stay in Toronto.
David Aardsma is struggling (5.33 ERA), and is also cheap (arbitration-eligible for three more years), so he’ll probably stay in town despite the odd rumor. If he does leave, it’s Brandon League that will take over. Octavio Dotel has surpassed expectations and is obviously not in the long-term plans for the Pirates, so his owners should be worried. Suitors are not yet obvious, though, and his perceived value is probably not too high. His owners could shop him to saves-starved teams to be ahead of a possible trade, on the other hand.
For more on Cliff Lee and other possible trade-deadline movers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
By R.J. Anderson //
Most people presumed Cliff Lee would be a good fit for the Mariners when they acquired him this off-season. When an abdomen injury pushed his season back a few weeks, the condition alleviated some of the buzz surrounding him. Lee is five starts into his 2010 season and still people seem to look elsewhere when discussing the best starters to date. That’s a mistake. Not only is Lee pitching well; he’s pitching better than he ever has before.
Lee is averaging a little over seven innings per start, which totals 36.2 innings pitched. He’s struck out 32 batters and walked one. That would be a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 32, which is simply unheard of. The best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball history (for pitchers with at least 100 innings in a single season) is 11 – posted by Bret Saberhagen in 1994. Ben Sheets‘ 2006 season is the only other case of a double-digit strikeout-to-walk rate for a starting pitcher with at least 100 IP.
Aside from Saberhagen and Sheets, Curt Schilling is the only other pitcher to break the 9 K/BB barrier, which is fitting. During Schilling’s later years with the Diamondbacks, ESPN would always joke about whether Schilling’s win total would exceed his walk total. Now, Schilling never actually accomplished the feat, but Lee very well could. In fact, Lee actually has more wins (two) than walks at this moment – and given his performance to date, should have more wins, if not for lousy run support and other factors beyond his control.
Also, Lee has yet to allow a home run. That tidbit, combined with the walks and strikeouts, make his 3.44 ERA look absurdly high. Lee’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) allowed is .341. That’s well above league average around .300 as well as his career norms, and should regress given that he’s supported by one of the best defenses in baseball, in a park that suits left-handed pitchers very well.
Lee’s FIP – which takes defense out of the equation – is a microscopic 1.44. His xFIP – which normalizes home run rates (i.e. attempts to strip out even more luck) – is a still excellent 2.93. Lee’s Cy Young winning xFIP was 3.57. Last year it was 3.69. He’s about a half run per nine innings better than when he was considered one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Now, don’t expect Lee to pitch quite this well all season; history tells us his walk and home run totals can’t stay this low forever. But he’s still a true elite pitcher, and can reasonably be mentioned in the same breath as Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez and other star hurlers. Unless the plan is to ship him away for future help in deep keeper leagues, there’s no reason to trade or bench Lee. Instead, appreciate how great he really is.
Oh, and give kudos to the only batter Lee walked this year: Evan Longoria.
For more on Cliff Lee and other aces, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.