I really love this time of the off-season. I don’t love the part where every time I finish a projection update there’s a major free agent signing or trade that will change things. What I enjoy is reading the armchair commentary from fantasy community, both in and out of the industry. This used to be localized on message boards but with the advent of Twitter, opinions are out there in basically real time.
Here’s where I get the biggest kick. The same guy up in arms over how much money the Twins paid to Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes will blow his wad on similar flotsam and jetsam at his auction come March. The same dude calling Dave Dombrowski a maroon for trading Doug Fister for what appears to be peanuts will agree to a deal that is vetoed next June because in the eyes of his fantasy league, he got ripped off.
With that as a backdrop, here’s one man’s opinion of the fantasy relevance of several recent transaction. OK, I may drop in an editorial or two.
The Detroit Tigers trade Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray
It was no secret Detroit wanted to clear a starting spot for Drew Smyly who was wasted in a set-up relief role. The question was Rick Porcello or Fister. <<Here comes an editorial comment or two.>> After dealing Prince Fielder, it’s quite clear the Tigers are looking to clear salary to both extend Max Scherzer and fortify their current squad. Dealing the more expensive Fister clears more cash with the hope that Porcello can continue to develop and provide pretty much the same stuff as Fister. Actually, Porcello and Fister were the same guy in 2013; their peripherals and expected ERA were close to identical.
Mission accomplished. As I’m writing this, it has been announced that Joe Nathan is now the Detroit closer so there’s another piece to the puzzle. The final effort will be signing someone like Shin-Soo Choo to play left or dealing for a third baseman with rookie Nick Castellanos taking the other spot. The newly acquired Lombardozzi can be a bridge at third in the event Castellanos needs a bit more seasoning.
The Nationals are getting a very effective middle of the rotation innings eater – though some will argue he’s more, especially with the move to the Senior Circuit. As a groundball specialist, Fister won’t enjoy the more favorable park or the league change as much as others. His strikeouts will tick up and a few more flies will be caught, but on a relative basis, the impact will be less than that of the league average when a hurler switches leagues. The area Fister may improve is with infield defense. Though, as a worm-burner, his BABIP will be a little high and he’ll still be subject to the whims of where the batted ball does.
From a fantasy sense, there are two small marks against him. He’s probably going to throw fewer innings since he’ll be lifted for a pinch hitter in close games which will temper his whiffs and reduce the influence his ERA and WHIP have on his fantasy team’s numbers. And while wins are fickle, it is fair to suggest his wins potential is less in Washington. If I own Fister in a mixed keeper, I’m pretty happy. But I bet come March, he becomes the proverbial so underrated he’s overrated moiety.
The Baltimore Orioles trade Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for Jemile Weeks
This is another salary dump deal as Jim Johnson is slated to hit arbitration and pocket in the neighborhood of $10M - nice neighborhood. Johnson has long been chastised by fantasy pundits for his lack of dominance but yet he has racked up consecutive 50 save campaigns. That said, last season he brought his strikeout rate close to the league average. If he can continue that along with remaining a groundball machine, my fellow pundits will have to find someone else to pick on. One may question why Billy Beane is adding on so much salary for a commodity like a closer, but no doubt he has a plan. The key with Johnson is realizing he may whiff a few more than perceived. He’s not in the elite class, but his troubles at the end of last season aside, he’s in the next tier for me – which happens to be the tier I target.
Many expect Tommy Hunter to step into the closer role with Baltimore and he might, but caveat emptor As closer, he’ll be facing more lefty swingers and that’s not a good thing. His L/R splits are quite pronounced and he’s not a high strikeout sort.
Weeks is an interesting gambit, especially when all you have is Ryan Flaherty and rookie hopeful Jonathan Schoop to man the keystone sack. There’s nothing to hang your hat on, suggesting the younger Weeks will be a post-hype sleeper success story, but in today’s fantasy landscape, sometimes a chance is all that’s necessary.
The Minnesota Twins sign Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes
Who cares about the money – honestly, who cares? It’s all Monopoly money. Teams are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they spend it, they wasted it. If they don’t, they’re selfish bastards for not spending.
Target Field croaks left-handed power while moderately decreasing right-handed power. This is really good news for Hughes. I mean really, really good. I’ve always felt Hughes was a fly ball version of Homer Bailey and in the right park, he could carve a career arc similar to that of Bailey. Hughes will still sport a higher ERA since he’ll surrender more homers, but the other skills will be similar. Nolasco has spent most of his time in favorable pitching venues so he isn’t quite as giddy as Hughes with respect to his new digs, but he’s not complaining. To me, both are streaming options – to be deployed at home until we see more. If the cost is a late round or dollar pickup and you have a reserve list, both are decent spec plays.
The Kansas City Royals designate Chris Getz
Looks like Emilio Bonifacio is the everyday second baseman. Blech.
The Los Angeles Angels non-tender Tommy Hanson and Jerome Williams
The Halos aren’t exactly loaded with starting pitching so this speaks a lot to the health issues of both Hanson and Williams.
The Pittsburgh Pirates designate then non-tender Garrett Jones
Are the Bucs really counting on Gaby Sanchez? Another move is coming.
The Toronto Blue Jays sign Dioner Navarro and non-tender J.P. Arencibia
This was a bit curious as it was not too long ago that Travis d’Arnaud was dealt to the New York Mets because the Jays already had Arencibia in tow. On the other hand, Arencibia’s already suspect contact rate has further slid so his power is no longer enough of an asset to keep him around.