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How the Trade Deadline Impacts Your Fantasy Baseball Team

darvish

The trade deadline always has the potential to shake up your fantasy baseball team, and while not much offense changed hands, some significant arms were shuffled to new cities. Entering August, the Twins, Mets, Marlins, Tigers, and likely Nationals will all have new closing pitchers. The Diamondbacks might make a change soon as well. How much does the Darvish trade matter to your fantasy team? What about more under-the-radar deals like Tim Beckham’s trade? Plus, what impact do I think Amed Rosario will have on fantasy teams this year? Hint: it’s not a big one.

Part 1 – the Closer Changes

First, let’s focus on closers changing hands. I play in almost primarily head-to-head points based leagues so unlike players in category formats, I’m not necessarily trying to chase the saves. That being said, saves are worth more than holds in these points leagues and closers are generally better relief options than set-up guys. So, regardless of which format you’re playing, these moves should impact you.

kintzler The Twins had to deal Brandon Kintzler (left), an extreme groundball pitcher (58% of contact against him winds up rolling through the infield), who’s having an all-star season with more games saved (28) than strikeouts (27). Kintzler is a big improvement to the Nationals’ bullpen but should never be confused for a dominant flamethrower. Now, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo only recently traded for former A’s relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Doolittle has converted 3 saves for Washington, but it hasn’t all been pretty. He’s walked a batter in four of his five appearances and surrendered three runs in a non-save situation against Milwaukee. Madson, meanwhile, has yet to allow a run while donning the curly W, and Brandon Kintzler has proven his worth, despite his lack of spectacular stuff, in the closing role. Dusty Baker, the Nats’ manager, strikes me as someone who certainly puts a great deal of weight in past success in the closer role. I don’t think we’ll know who the Nats’ closer will be until later this week but don’t drop Kintzler or Doolittle if you own them.

Matt Belisle seems to be the guy to take over for Kintzler in Minnesota. The 4.64 ERA and 4 walks per 9 might look a bit disgusting for a new closer, but you should feel comfortable adding the 37-year-old. Whether or not you put any weight into ‘clutch’ performances, batters have been just 4 for 38 this year against Belisle in high leverage situations. Further, after a rough start to the year, he hasn’t allowed a single earned run since June 24th (and has a 0.44 ERA in 20.2 innings since June 12th – he’s also only walked 2.2 batters per 9 innings in this span). Be comfortable adding Belisle to your roster, he’s a cheap source of saves, and the twins certainly give their closers plenty of opportunities (Kintzler’s 28 is 3rd most in the majors).

zieglerAJ Ramos owners must be breathing a sigh of relief after he was surprisingly dealt to the New York Mets. Addison Reed, who had been closing games for New York was subsequently traded to Boston. Reed won’t be getting many save opps with Kimbrel acting as the Red Sox stopper, but he could still be a valuable piece in the 8th inning (last year, as a set-up man, Reed struck out more than 10 batters per 9 innings and maintained a sub-2.00 ERA). Not much changes in terms of Ramos’ value either – both Citi Field and Marlins Park are good for pitchers, and Ramos should still get plenty of save opportunities in Queens. The Marlins’ bullpen, like it’s ownership, is complete trash. Brad Ziegler (pictured right) (21 earned runs, 13 walks, 17 strikeouts in 29 innings – 6.52 ERA) just came off the disabled list after missing more than a month of action. He looks like the first option in the 9th for Miami – especially with Kyle Barraclough injured. Junichi Tazawa, the other realistic option, isn’t much better and actually holds the 3rd worst xFIP (an ERA predictor that normalizes home run rate) among all relievers with at least 30 innings pitched this year. I can’t see a great rationalization for adding either Ziegler or Tazawa in any league – take the injured Barraclough over either, and hope that he returns swiftly and effectively.

The Diamondbacks traded for David Hernandez who’s having a solid season (2.23 ERA and more than a K an inning). Hernandez was actually Arizona’s closer for a spell back in 2011 but lost the job. Current D-back closer Fernando Rodney is somehow able to hold onto his closing role despite a 5.08 earned run average. Now, if you told me a team has a closer with an ERA above 5 and just acquired a former closer who’s got an ERA below 2.30, I’d guess the new guy would take the job. The problem here is that neither Hernandez nor Rodney are the best relievers on the D-backs. That title belongs to former top prospect Archie Bradley and his 1.50 earned run average. Keep your eyes open regarding this closing job, because Bradley or Hernandez have a shot to snatch it up.

The Tigers dealt Justin Wilson to the Cubs. With Wade Davis already entrenched as the reigning World Series Champs’ closer, Wilson loses all of his save opportunity upside. The replacement in Detroit is Shane Greene, a former starting pitcher who’s had some real success out of the ‘pen. Grab him if you still can.

Part 2: Starting Pitchers

gray Starters who are traded might experience some slight bumps in production because, in many cases, they head to more potent offenses where they have greater opportunities for wins. In Yu Darvish’s case, he also gains the advantage of facing National League batters who are much less familiar with him (and heading from the 5th best hitter’s park to a more neutral home stadium). I haven’t done a deep dive into Darvish’s recent struggles, but on the surface, he looks like a top arm for the remainder of the year. You might think Sonny Gray (left) would get more win opportunities with New York than he did with Oakland, but the Athletics’ bats showed up when he pitched. While Oakland ranks 23rd in terms of total runs scored this year, they averaged 5.1 runs per every 9 innings that Sonny Gray pitched. The Yankees average 5.3 runs a game – an increase, but not a marked one. Expect similar statistics from him too. Jordan Montgomery loses most of his value with the additions of Gray and Jaime Garcia likely knocking him out of the Yankees’ rotation.

The Orioles acquired Jeremy Hellickson which probably bumps Ubaldo Jimenez from the rotation but, if you still have Ubaldo on your roster, you probably aren’t reading this because you’re just too stupid to be literate. If I were the O’s GM, I might consider shifting former top prospect Dylan Bundy to the ‘pen rather than Jimenez. It’s a lost year, Bundy is young and has a history of injuries, and has a 7.85 earned run average over his past 7 outings.

Part 3 – Offense and Keeper League Prospects

On the offensive side, there weren’t many deals – Tim Beckham will take over as Baltimore’s starting shortstop. The former 1st overall pick’s hard-hit % is 12th best in all of baseball (and 10 of the 11 guys in front of him are real sluggers). Unfortunately, he also carries the 7th worst strikeout rate in baseball. I wonder if this opens the door for Tampa Bay’s top prospect Willy Adames to be a September call-up; he’s already on the 40-man roster.

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In dynasty leagues or leagues with minor league rosters, the Phillies’ refusal to call Rhys Hoskins, already 24, to the big leagues has frustrated you all season. Tommy Joseph attracting no suitors at the non-waiver trade deadline has gotta be another nail in your coffin. I’m guessing that Joseph is dealt at some point in August and would be pretty surprised if Hoskins is NOT the starting 1b on September 1st. That being said, if you are in a re-draft league, you should consider dropping him (and really, should probably never have added him).

rosario Another NL East 1st base prospect, Dominic Smith, should be on his way up. Smith’s power is a question mark (which is odd considering his 6’0, 240 lb frame), but he can really hit. Don’t put too much credence into his stats in hitter’s paradise Las Vegas (and the Pacific Coast League as a whole), but if you need hits or batting average out of your 1b – he’s your guy. If the power ever develops, he’ll be a star. Amed Rosario (right), the Mets’ other big prospect is already on his way up despite Asdrubal Cabrera not yet being dealt. People have been clamoring for his callup for months, and all I can think is how disappointed fantasy owners will be in him. He’s a top prospect and he might develop some real pop, but if you want somebody to push your team to the 2017 post-season, this isn’t the guy. I swear this is a legitimate take, but give me Padres’ Carlos Asuaje’s (owned in just 1.0% of leagues) stats over Amed Rosario’s for the rest of 2017. Just 2 years ago, Rosario went 103 games without a homer, the gaudy average (.328) isn’t so spectacular in the PCL, and 2 of the 16 Pacific Coast League TEAMS have higher overall on-base percentages than Rosario’s .367. Rosario is a great real life player and will eventually be a very good fantasy bat, but if you’re thinking of dropping 30 FAAB or trading top talent for him: don’t. In fact, if it’s a re-draft, either stay away or add and hope you can harness the hype and trade him for an upgrade after a few good games.

Melky Cabrera, Howie Kendrick, Alex Avila, and Eduardo Nunez should all have similar value with their new teams, and their replacements probably shouldn’t have been rostered in any but the deepest leagues. The Tigers’ acquisition of Jeimer Candelario could push Nick Castellanos into the outfield (or to the DH role) in 2018 and beyond. Let’s hope it’s the outfield because I still really believe in Castellanos and view him as an early ’18 sleeper. AJ Reed, last year’s prospect sweetheart was re-called to Houston after they dealt Nori Aoki. If you’re in a deep keeper league, add him and hope he turns it around, otherwise, he won’t have enough playing time or production to be worth a roster spot.

cal Finally, the Rangers add another bat that doesn’t really have a position to their organization. Joey Gallo is already in limbo (and has recently played a few games in the OF – he’s at 5 now, and full eligibility there would be huge), but now prospect Willie Calhoun (left) is in the mix. Calhoun’s bat is beautiful, and he’s almost the perfect fantasy prospect (He’s got 50 MILB homers since the start of the 2016 season). The problem is he’s a poor defensive 2nd baseman who’s stuck behind Rougned Odor. Odor, meanwhile, only has a .260 OBP this season (and .293 in his career). He’s got pop and recently signed an extension, but I wonder if Calhoun will ever supplant him as the starter. Regardless, Calhoun is certainly a guy you want in all leagues with minor league rosters (and his trade to a better hitter’s park just made his future even rosier). The biggest outcome of this trade from a fantasy perspective, bigger than Yu turning in his uniform (unless you’re in an AL or NL-only League) is that, even if Calhoun never improves enough defensively to be reliable in the field, he’ll have a DH spot waiting for him in the AL.

I’m Sam Alaska, I’m going to try to write some fantasy baseball blogs each week. disclaimer: I play in primarily head to head points leagues, so the information might be most relevant to people in those formats.