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Setting the Trends: Free agent bargain hunting

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Francisco Liriano is currently owned in 54 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. He is started in just 15 percent. He has an ERA of 11.02, with a 2.33 WHIP. He's not good. At least, not right now.

Way back in 2011, there was another pitcher, Javier Vazquez, who carried a miserable 6.39 ERA into May. At the All- Star Break, he had dropped his ERA to, for him, a relatively-low 5.23. And then something clicked. Vazquez became a monster in the second half of the year, posting a 2.15 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. He struck out a batter per inning. He walked just three in 38 September innings.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 5/1)
Player % owned
1. Trevor Bauer, SP, D-Backs 47
2. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves 40
3. Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees 38
4. Julio Teheran, SP, Braves 27
5. Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals 27
6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs 26
7. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies 24
8. Brett Jackson, OF, Cubs 19
9. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians 17
10. Danny Hultzen, SP, Mariners 17

Nothing but some kind of feeling that he would turn it around kept him on Fantasy rosters before the turnaround. And that turnaround came slowly: First, there was a start on June 21, where he didn't allow an earned run in 5 1/3 innings pitched. The very next game, he went seven innings without allowing an earned run. Two starts later, he struck out 10 batters in seven innings. He'd hit double-digit strikeouts two more times before the year was over. And his numbers led plenty of teams to Fantasy glory, just for either having faith in a pitcher who had been brilliant (albeit, with some pretty bad mixed in) in the past, or for jumping on the bandwagon when they saw him rise on the Most Added lists.

Sometimes it doesn't matter how you get there, just that you got there. This isn't meant to be a stirring defense of Francisco Liriano, but I'd monitor him closely -- read the local papers, follow the Twins beat writers on Twitter -- because if he figures out whatever it is he's doing wrong, he'll likely be blazing back up the Most Added lists (he began the season owned in 93 percent of leagues) before long. And Liriano, like Vazquez, can carry a team on his back when he's on.

For now, though, we present the current movers in CBSSports.com Roster Trends ...

Most added highlights

Less than 50, more than 50
Players owned in less than 50% of leagues who should be owned in more than 50%
Player % owned
1. Geovany Soto, C, Cubs 49
2. Scott Downs, RP, Angels 49
3. Stephen Drew, SS, D-Backs 45
4. Felix Doubront, SP, Red Sox 35
5. Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles 32

Scott Downs, RP, Angels
Jump in ownership: 44 percent (from five percent to 49)
Reason for the jump: He's the possibly-temporary/possibly-more-than-temporary closer for the Angels
Why you should join the crowd: There's a fairly long history of "temporary" closer moves that end up being more permanent than we're led to believe. It usually plays out with the demoted closer revealing he has been injured, followed by a stint on the DL, which turns into a longer stint on the DL, all while the temporary closer pitches brilliantly and secures the job. This doesn't look to be the case here, as Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that Jordan Walden needed to work on "repeating a pitch" and "being able to get a breaking ball that's consistent." He also managed to be very vague in not giving an actual timetable on how long Walden might in the middle relief role. Downs isn't exactly a stranger to the closer's role: he has 18 career saves, the most coming with Toronto in 2009, when he successfully converted nine saves.
Devil's Advocate: It really could just be a temporary move for Walden.

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
Jump in ownership: 41 percent (from 48 percent to 89)
Reason for the jump: Of his last seven games, five have been multi-hit.
Why you should join the crowd: Altuve came up last year and hit a forgettable .276, with two home runs in 221 at-bats. He also stole seven bases. It wasn't a debut that caught the attention of numerous owners. This resulted in a 286 ADP for 2012. But Altuve has been scorching hot so far this year, posting a .361 average through Tuesday morning, with four steals and one home run. And a look at his minor league numbers show that this isn't a fluke; over 382 games, Altuve amassed a .327 average. The only season in the minors in which he hit lower than .300 was in 2008, when an 18 year-old Altuve batted .284. He also flashed some power with 10 home runs in 2011 and 15 in 2010. In 2011, his OPS was 1.017. And the speed seems to be legit, as well -- Altuve stole 42 bases in 2010, and 24 in 357 minor league at-bats last year.
Devil's Advocate: Altuve did skip Triple-A entirely, so there's always a chance that major league pitchers discover a way to get him out consistently at the higher levels. But that's a bit of a stretch.

Chris Davis, 1B/3B, Orioles
Jump in ownership: 27 percent (from 38 percent to 65)
Reason for the jump: Three home runs in the last six games.
Why you should join the crowd: Davis isn't exactly an unknown to owners; he hit 21 home runs in 391 at-bats with the Rangers in 2009 before slowly sliding into a rut/the minors and being traded to Baltimore late last season. But Davis has been stellar so far in 2012, batting .310 with four home runs and 12 RBI. He has never had 400 at-bats in a season, and his minor league numbers are great: a .318 average in 472 games with a .971 OPS. He has hit more than 20 home runs in three separate minor league seasons and those totals would likely be higher if not for his call-ups to Texas. On top of it all, Davis can be slotted at either first or third base in pretty much every league.
Devil's Advocate: We've been tantalized by Davis' possibly-realized potential before only to see him slide back, hit around .230, and be sent to the minors. With Wilson Betemit and the slumping Nick Johnson able to play first base, there's no guarantee Davis will be given too long of a leash if he hits a prolonged slump.

Tony Campana, OF, Cubs
Jump in ownership: 17 percent (from three percent to 20)
Reason for the jump: He's running wild on the basepaths.
Why you should join the crowd: After Marlon Byrd's trade to Boston, Campana became the De facto starting center fielder for the Cubs. He's currently batting .370 with seven steals in just 27 at-bats on the season. Last year, in a late-season stint with the Cubs, Campana stole 24 bases in 143 at-bats -- a rate better than even Dee Gordon's. He has seasons of 66 and 48 steals in the minor leagues with a career .303 average over five seasons.
Devil's Advocate: Campana also has a total of one home run in the minors and has a minor league track record eerily similar to Joey Gathright, who never caught on in the major leagues but had stellar minor league numbers. Complicating matters is the eventual call-up of Brett Jackson, Chicago's presumed center fielder of the future, which will likely mean a decreased amount of playing time for Campana.

David Phelps, SP, Yankees
Jump in ownership: Nine percent (from two percent to 11)
Reason for the jump: He will start on Thursday for the Yankees.
Why you should join the crowd: You'd likely be ahead of the crowd on this one. While Phelps has been a solid member of the Yankees' bullpen so far this year, his name may elicit a bunch of "who?"s from even Yankees fans. With Freddy Garcia struggling, Phelps, who started in 86 of his 87 minor league appearances, has been moved into the rotation. He doesn't have the exciting "top prospect" status of a Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, but he does have some really impressive minor league numbers: a 2.61 career minor league ERA, and a 1.18 career WHIP. He doesn't get a ton of strikeouts, but he's probably good for five or six in his seven-inning starts.
Devil's Advocate: The Yankees still have Andy Pettitte looking to take someone's spot in the rotation and if Phelps stumbles in his role as a starter, he could be moved back to the bullpen.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Marlins announce signing of Ichiro Suzuki
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:18 pm ET) The Marlins announced Tuesday they signed outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract.

The deal was expected to be announced once Suzuki passed his physical. He is expected to be the Marlins fourth outfielder as well as a left-handed bat off the bench.


Rays pitcher Matt Moore begins throwing off mound
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(9:40 pm ET) Rays pitcher Matt Moore took a significant step forward in his receovery from Tommy John surgery when he threw off a mound Tuesday, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

"It felt pretty good," Moore said.

Moore had the surgery in April and said he is pleased with the progress he has made.

"I would have thought a while ago I would have been nervous, but I was looking forward to it," Moore said. "And I felt like I had a lot more that could have come out. That's a feeling I've had the last month or so, and that's a feeling I like to have. I think we're in a good spot right now."


Angels' Garrett Richards to begin throwing off mound in February
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(9:33 pm ET) Angels pitcher Garrett Richards is ahead of schedule in his return from left-knee surgery and will begin throwing off a mound in the second week of February, reports the Los Angeles Times.

General manager Jerry Dipoto said they have been pleased with the progress Richards has made from the surgery.

"Ordinarily, he'd have thrown off a mound a couple times at this point in January, so he's not too far behind where he'd be in his normal throwing preparation," Dipoto said. "It's a matter of making sure the knee is stable and his lower body is in good shape. We're very optimistic, as we have been throughout."

In 2014, Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA.


Orioles finalize trade with Pirates for Travis Snider
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) As part of the trade sending outfielder Travis Snider to the Orioles, the Pirates will receive prospect Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later, the team announced.

The left-handed Tarpley pitched at Class A in 2014 and went 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA.

Snider hit .264 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI in 2014 and will be a free agent after the 2016 season. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Snider fits in well with the team, reports MASNsports.com. 

"Snider is a solid dependable power-hitting outfielder and is an excellent fit for Camden Yards," Duquette said.

To make room for Snider, the Orioles designated Michael Ohlman for assignment


Rangers plan to stretch out Ross Detwiler's starts in spring training
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:40 pm ET) Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday the team plans to stretch out pitcher Ross Detwiler's starts to open spring training, reports foxsportssouthwest.com

Detwiler did not start a game in 2014, making 47 relief appearances with a 4.00 ERA. In 2013, he started 13 games for the Nationals and went 2-7 with a 4.04 ERA.


Red Sox trade Anthony Ranaudo to Rangers for Robbie Ross
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) The Red Sox and Rangers announced a two player trade Tuesday where Boston sent Anthony Ranaudo to Texas and the Rangers sent Robbie Ross to the Red Sox, both teams announced.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday Ranaudo is in play to become the No. 5 starter in the rotation, but if he doesn't win the job, he will likely start in the minors.

Ranaudo posted a 4-3 record with a 4.81 ERA in 2014 for Boston in 39 1/3 innings pitched. Ross went 3-6 with a 6.20 ERA in 78 1/3 innings for the Rangers.


Report: Blue Jays also interested in Jonathan Papelbon trade
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Along with the Brewers, the Phillies have also discussed trading closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Blue Jays, soruces told MLB.com.

Papelbon is due $13 million next season, which is believed to be one of the sticking points in negotiations. In 2014, Papelbon had 39 saves with a 2.04 ERA.


Report: Orioles, Pirates rekindle Travis Snider trade talks
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(5:50 pm ET) The Orioles and Pirates have revived trade talks regarding Pittsburgh outfielder Travis Snider, a source told The Baltimore Sun. The Orioles are closing in on a framework for a deal for Snider and are encouraged a trade will happen in exchange for one or two minor-league players.

The 26-year-old Snider is in his second year of arbitration and will be a free agent after the 2016 season. He will make $2.1 million in 2015.


Report: Angels, Garrett Richards set arbitration date
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(5:50 pm ET) The Angels and pitcher Garrett Richards have reportedly set an arbitration date for Feb. 11, according to the L.A. Times.

Talks for the new contract have been moving slowly with no discussion of a multi-year deal coming, according to the report. Richards asked for $3.8 million, but the team only offered $2.4 million.

Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 2014, amassing 164 strikeouts in 168 2/3 innings.


Giants SS Brandon Crawford agrees to $3.175M salary for 2015
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(4:34 pm ET) The Giants and shortstop Brandon Crawford avoided arbitration Tuesday, agreeing to a $3.175 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Crawford, who is in his first year of arbitration, made $560,000 in 2014.

Crawford just finished his fourth season in the majors and third full season in 2014. He had career highs in triples (10), home runs (10), runs (54), RBI (69), walks (59) and games played (153).


 
 
 
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