These things aren't supposed to happen this time of year.
I'm not talking about back-to-school sales, hurricane warnings or preseason football games. I'm talking about MLB trades -- at least ones involving more than middle relievers and players to be named later.
Granted, this one had its players to be named later -- they've since been (unofficially) identified as Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands -- but it also had Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. You may remember them from the early rounds of your Fantasy draft.
But that's not all. Nick Punto, James Loney, Allen Webster, Ivan DeJesus -- the idea that nine players, including three higher-profile ones, could be part of the same deal at a time when anyone involved in any deal has to pass through waivers first is as implausible as opening a bag full of green M&M's. And on top of that, it's legal. Most Fantasy owners wouldn't be allowed to pull off such a move in late August, and that's supposed to be, you know, fantasy.
I wonder if the Giants have petitioned the commissioner for a veto yet. "It's not fair! The Red Sox don't have anything to play for! They just gave the Dodgers the championship! Waaah!"
Of course, the effects of this blockbuster in Fantasy go beyond a simple discussion of trade etiquette for third-party participants. The number of players it impacts both directly and indirectly is enormous.
So let's take a moment here and now to identify some of the ones it impacts the most. The change in value will be immediate for some, but for others, it won't take effect until 2013. Oh, don't look at me like that. By now, you have more control over next year's team than this year's anyway.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B/OF, Dodgers
The crux of the deal. Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett are quality players and all, but the only reason the Dodgers were willing to take on their contracts is because it meant getting Gonzalez. That's high praise, even if in an indirect way, and it should help put your mind at ease as a Gonzalez owner. Sure, he's going from what's generally regarded as a hitter's park to what's generally regarded as a pitcher's park, but over the last couple years, he never did take advantage of Fenway Park's dimensions the way so many thought he would, hitting six more home runs on the road than at home. And he was at his best in the most pitcher-friendly stadium of all, PETCO Park. He has the type of skill set that is seemingly immune to park factors, so you can trust that his second-half surge will continue and that he'll hopefully get back to being an elite player next year.
Shane Victorino, OF, Dodgers
Victorino's transition to Dodger Stadium has been a bit rocky so far. He has no homers and a .656 OPS in 58 at-bats there this year, which is admittedly not a large enough sample to draw any real conclusions. Still, it's an early indication that his 15-homer potential could be in jeopardy in such a large ballpark. He's a free agent in the offseason, but prior to this deal, the threat of him staying was enough to cast doubt over his long-term prospects. Now, though, the Dodgers are on the hook for Carl Crawford long term, as they are for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. None of the three is exactly bench material, which means Victorino is out on his keister after the season. His prospects will look a whole lot brighter just about anywhere else.
Josh Beckett, SP, Dodgers
Sure, his strikeout rate and average fastball velocity are down from previous years, but I'm thinking pitching in Boston had just as much to do with Beckett's struggles this year. He came to be hated there, which no doubt started because of his performance on the mound but became self-defeating over time. Talk about a hostile work environment. The guy was booed when he left with a back injury in late July. To keep a right mind, even the surliest veterans need to feel like someone out there is rooting for them, and clearly that wasn't happening for Beckett in Boston. Now that he'll have something of a home-field advantage again -- and at a park well suited for pitchers who occasionally fall victim to the long ball -- I suspect he'll return to being top-50 starting pitcher in Fantasy. Think an ERA in the 3.60 range.
James Loney, 1B, Red Sox
Dodger Stadium is a tough place to hit, so when a player who has long fallen short of expectations there finally gets an opportunity to leave, it's cause for celebration in Fantasy. Of course, a move like this one probably won't be enough to resuscitate a player like Loney. Earlier in his career, his numbers did get a significant boost on the road, but over the last couple years, the splits have been pretty much even. I don't know if the frustration of playing in a big ballpark caused some mechanical tweaks that adversely affected his numbers on the road or if he was just never that good to begin with, but by now, I fear he's so set in his ways that it won't matter. A change of scenery can sometimes work wonders for a player, but the smart money here says Loney is a lost cause.
Scott Podsednik, OF, Red Sox
Podsednik has been getting regular at-bats over the last week or so and doing a good job with them, batting .378 (14 for 37) with a stolen base. But Fantasy owners were hesitant to buy into him because of all the lineup options in Boston. This trade combined with Daniel Nava's (wrist) return to the DL leaves the team with a hodgepodge at first base and the outfield to close out the season. It's mix-and-match all the way, which makes Podsednik's job as safe as anyone else's (except for maybe Jacoby Ellsbury's). If you need steals, why not take a shot on him?
Ryan Lavarnway, C, Red Sox
Lavarnway also figures to be a part of that hodgepodge, but I'm thinking bigger picture here. I'm thinking the Red Sox's willingness to trade Adrian Gonzalez shows just how much confidence they have in Lavarnway to become a middle-of-the-order threat within the next year or two. He's certainly shown the ability in the minors, hitting .292 with 40 homers in 754 at-bats over the last two seasons. The only question scouts had about him was his defense, but now his future might not even be at catcher. I realize he hasn't done much damage yet this year, but he also hasn't gotten consistent at-bats either. Now that the Red Sox are clearly playing for the future, I expect that to change -- perhaps even enough for him to factor in mixed leagues.
Rubby De La Rosa, SP, Red Sox
Chances are De La Rosa, who is fresh off Tommy John surgery, would have a good shot at a rotation spot next year even if he stayed with the Dodgers, but in Boston, with Josh Beckett out of the picture and Daisuke Matsuzaka soon to follow, you can pencil in his name already. I suppose a team with the Red Sox's resources could always opt for an offseason spending spree that pushes him out of the picture, but something tells me they'll take some time to assess what they have first. In De La Rosa, they have a hard-thrower with swing-and-miss stuff -- the kind of skill set that translates even to the AL East.
Jerry Sands, OF, Red Sox
Sands, like De La Rosa, won't be able to contribute to the Red Sox until next year since he's technically a "player to be named later," which only improves Scott Podsednik's and Ryan Lavarnway's chances this year. Of course, no one's saying Sands would be starting for the Red Sox even if he was available. His minor-league numbers suggest he should be, especially since he's already 24, but they mostly came in the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League and have yet to translate to the majors. Still, as a right-handed pull-hitter, he couldn't be going to a place better tailored for his swing. If he gets his chance next year, he might just be able to salvage his potential. Most likely, he'll have some competition, though.
In the now ... A look at how recent events have impacted certain players' Fantasy value
Kris Medlen, SP/RP, Braves: Ben Sheets' trip to the disabled list Saturday was actually a net gain for Fantasy owners. It meant Medlen would be staying in the rotation. You could argue he had earned a spot regardless with his 0.83 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings in five starts, but it's not like anyone else had pitched his way out of the rotation. Would the Braves have given mainstay Tommy Hanson the ax when they inevitably had to cut their six-man staff down to five? Or what about Mike Minor, with his 2.50 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in his last nine starts? Talk about sending mixed messages. Likewise, Sheets, Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson appeared safe as the elder statesmen of the group. Omitting those five would have left only Medlen, which would have left the Braves in a pickle. Thankfully, the dilemma is no more, and now that the ultra-efficient Medlen has been stretched out to go 7-8 innings, he should just about every time out. Given his eligibility at relief pitcher, how could you let him go unowned in Head-to-Head leagues?
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox: Those who've been waiting the last six weeks for Ellsbury to return to form can probably take some solace in his .310 (18 for 58) batting average over his last 13 games. But if you take his numbers since returning and project them over a full season, he'd have just a .380 slugging percentage and 32 steals. Maybe that line isn't so terrible in and of itself, but this is Jacoby Ellsbury we're talking about -- a player who once stole 70 bases in a season, who emerged as a power hitter with 32 home runs last year. Right now, he's looking more like Alcides Escobar. Perhaps he's still in the process of rehabilitating his shoulder and needs more time to regain his power stroke, but with a month to go, time is a luxury we no longer have. And now that the Red Sox will be relying on Ellsbury as a middle-of-the-order hitter with Adrian Gonzalez out of town, he won't have the same leeway on the base paths that he did as a leadoff man. If you're satisfied with what Ellsbury has given you since his return, great. Keep starting him. But don't expect to see any substantial improvement from him until 2013.
Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics: Take a break for a moment to see if Crisp is available on your league's waiver wire. Yeah? Well, congratulations. You're contributing to him being the most underowned hitter in Fantasy. At 55 percent, he's valued at about the same level as Dayan Viciedo and Cameron Maybin even though he produces at about the level as Josh Hamilton and Carlos Beltran. No, really. Since returning May 21 from an inner-ear infection that most likely had something to do with his early-season struggles, he's the 21st highest-scoring outfielder in Fantasy, ranking ahead of both Hamilton and Beltran. And here's the kicker: He's batting only .268 during that stretch, so it's not like his numbers are unsustainable. The prolific base-stealer is often overlooked in Fantasy because of his propensity for injury, but when he's healthy, as has been the case for a couple months now, he's practically a must-start option. Why not turn over a new leaf and contribute to him being the most-added player in Fantasy?
Lance Lynn, SP/RP, Cardinals: Yes, the Cardinals removed Lynn from the starting rotation after his fourth straight ugly start Friday, which perhaps makes this selection an obvious one. But manager Mike Matheny wasn't crystal clear on what the demotion means for Lynn's future, calling it a "break" or a "change of scenery," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Does that mean after a couple turns of Joe Kelly, we'll see Lynn back pitching every fifth day? My guess is no. With 144 1/3 innings, he's at about 25 more than he had last season. Extending him further than that would probably do him more harm than good. Besides, he's probably more valuable to the Cardinals as a reliever right now, given how he performed as one during their World Series run last year. Most likely, the Cardinals still view Lynn as a starter long term, with Matheny calling his recent struggles a "learning experience." They've just chosen to preserve his arm this way rather than shutting him down altogether.
Josh Donaldson, C/3B, Athletics: When the Athletics recalled Donaldson from Triple-A Sacramento to man third base for them again, the move was met with collective groans in Fantasy. The man had his opportunity -- two, in fact -- and could muster only a .153 batting average. Why wouldn't the Athletics give up on him already and make way for the real players? Here's why: Donaldson was hitting .335 with 13 homers and a 1.000 OPS at Triple-A Sacramento, emerging as a legitimate offensive force after showing flashes of power earlier in his minor-league career. One explanation for that line is that he's a 26-year-old beating up on 22-year-olds in a hitter-friendly league, but another is that he can actually hit a little. The latter explanation at least gives some credence to Donaldson's .386 (17 for 44) batting average and 1.028 OPS since returning. If he was strictly a third baseman, the lack of home runs might cause you to overlook him, but since he's one of the few catcher-eligible players getting everyday at-bats, even an ounce of production is enough to make him relevant. Clearly, he's delivering more than an ounce right now.
Down the line ... A brief update on some of the minor-leaguers or prospects who have caught the attention of Fantasy owners
Gary Brown, OF, Giants: So far, the Giants have resisted the temptation to promote their top hitting prospect in the wake of Melky Cabrera's 50-game suspension, but now that the Dodgers have added Adrian Gonzalez to their lineup -- after already out-maneuvering the Giants by adding Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino at the trade deadline -- the Giants might see the need to upgrade from Gregor Blanco. Granted, Brown would be making the jump from Double-A, where he's batting .281 with a .739 OPS, but those numbers are a little misleading. Since the beginning of June, Brown is batting .305 with six homers and 14 steals. Still not impressed? Look, no one's saying he's Mike Trout, but with good speed and a high contact rate, he's clearly the team's leadoff hitter of the future. And if his recent move from center to left field is any indication, that future may not be so far off.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Diamondbacks: Like an addict in denial, Bauer would respond to critiques of his high minor-league walk rate with variations of "I can quit anytime I want," most often saying it was all part of a conscious effort to accumulate strikeouts. Great plan. Too bad it didn't work against big-league hitters. No, they just took those pitches, creating hitter's counts that led to hittable pitches that led to a 6.06 ERA in Bauer's first big-league stint. Apparently, he's learned his lesson, issuing just one walk in each of his last two starts -- one lasting seven innings and the other lasting nine -- for Triple-A Reno. And oh yeah, he still piled up 21 strikeouts during that span. With his groin injury behind him, Bauer could get another look if the Diamondbacks opt to go with a six-man rotation at some point in September, especially now that Joe Saunders is out of the picture. It's a bit of a long shot, but if you need a quick influx of strikeouts, he's stashable.
Jedd Gyorko, 3B, Padres: No, the Padres weren't able (or didn't try?) to trade Chase Headley at the July 31 deadline, but that doesn't necessarily mean Gyorko is stuck at Triple-A Tucson to close out the season. It doesn't necessarily mean he'll go to the bench when he gets the call either. Though he's primarily a third baseman, he has proven more than capable of manning second base, having played 44 games there this year, and at last check, the Padres were ping-ponging the relatively unenticing duo of Alexi Amarista and Logan Forsythe at the position. Of course, the Padres have yet to confirm they'd be willing to add Gyorko to the 40-man roster for a sneak peak into next year, but if they do, his .321 batting average and 29 homers in 470 minor-league at-bats suggest he'd be a game-changer in Fantasy.
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