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Dear Mr. Fantasy: What to do with Sir Albert?

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

If you drafted Albert Pujols in Fantasy, chances are you're in last place. You might even be 0-6.

Maybe not. Maybe you've gotten enough from your late-rounders that you've been able to navigate his miserable start, but that's not the way it's supposed to work. When you draft arguably the safest hitter in Fantasy, you assume you have a head start in that area and assemble the rest of your team accordingly. So when you find out that instead of a head start, you have nothing ... yeah, try to wiggle your way out of that.

It's a tough pill to swallow, knowing that the only reason you're in this hole is because you made the no-brainer move of taking the best player of the last 10 years with either the second or third overall pick. Anyone who claims he would have done otherwise is either lying or has a screw loose.

But it's where you are now, which means a desperation heave might be your best bet at this point.

And what's more desperate than trading Pujols himself?

Is it selling low? Yeah, technically, but it's not crazy as long as you keep in mind that he's still very much a player in demand. He's by far the most-traded player in Fantasy right now, and it's not just because the owners who drafted him don't want him anymore. It takes two to tango, you know.

Clearly, Pujols has value, and if giving something of value will get something of value, it's certainly a move to consider. But if you lose that mindset and decide to make a deal to get rid of Pujols, you've pretty much forfeited the rest of your season.

What do you think about this trade? I'd give Albert Pujols and Tim Stauffer. I'd get Michael Young, Carl Crawford and Tim Lincecum. I'm currently winless in my Head-to-Head league. -- @BigJoeWall72 (via Twitter)

SW: I understand the feeling of needing to make a deal to jumpstart your team, and trading Pujols is a legitimate way to do that. In your desperate position, you need wins now, so you can't afford to wait around for him the way, say, a 4-2 team could. But in this particular deal, I think you're selling way too low.

Keep in mind the other owner in this deal is trying to use this situation to his advantage. He not only has an opportunity to acquire one of the best players in history, but to do it in a way that makes you feel like he's doing you a favor. How kind of him to take that .213 hitter off your hands. Now the mean man can't hurt you anymore.

But obviously, the most likely scenario for Pujols still, given his track record, is that he snaps out of this slump at some point and spends the final two-thirds of the season performing like one of the top five hitters in Fantasy. That's what the other owner is obviously expecting, and quite frankly, that's what any Fantasy owner, including yourself, should expect.

So why trade Pujols? Again, you don't know how many weeks he'll need to get back on track, and you can't afford to wait it out. You're not trading him because he's terrible all of a sudden; you're trading him because you've been forced into a position where you have to take it week by week. And next week's not looking so good for him.

You haven't accomplished anything simply by finding a taker. It's Pujols, so for the right price, everyone's a taker. With that in mind, don't just take the first offer that comes your way. Test the market. See how much all of those naysayers are willing to pay if you act like you're ready to walk away. I'm guessing it'll surprise you. No Fantasy owner whose team is in healthy standing would rest easy knowing he had a shot at Pujols and passed it up.

And if I'm wrong, so be it. You have nothing to lose at this point anyway, so you might as well just stand pat and hope Pujols snaps out of it tomorrow. That's a better solution than any trade you could make right now anyway.

Ideally, you'd get two immediately serviceable, relatively high-end players in return. Maybe like a Mark Teixeira and Corey Hart or an Andrew McCutchen and Melky Cabrera. Even a Curtis Granderson and Alejandro De Aza wouldn't be so bad. With any of those deals, you'd be limiting your team's ceiling, but you'd be giving your lineup a boost in the short term while retaining enough upside to sustain that boost long-term.

Most Traded Players (as of 5/17)
Player # of trades
1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels 784
2. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants 536
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees 434
4. Josh Johnson, SP, Marlins 423
5. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals 386
6. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox 383
7. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals 381
8. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers 376
9. Dan Haren, SP, Angels 376
10. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies 372

So what's wrong with the offer currently on the table? Crawford clearly isn't going to provide anything right now, and Lincecum has been nearly as disappointing as Pujols so far. Young is the only immediately serviceable part you'd be getting in return, and a straight downgrade from Pujols to Young isn't going to pay off in the long run.

Do you think Tim Lincecum will turn it around? His strikeout rate is still great, but his walks are concerning me. -- @colmtully (via Twitter)

SW: It's not looking good for Lincecum right now, and apart from a steadfast allegiance to track record, I don't see any reason to expect anything more.

If anything, I find more reasons to doubt him with each passing start. When so much was made of his declining velocity at the start of the season, a common excuse was that his arm still wasn't in midseason form and that his heater would return in time. But since then, it's only gotten worse. According to FanGraphs.com, he's now averaging an even 89.9 miles per hour on his fastball. He's practically a soft-tosser.

Maybe his delivery is still deceptive enough for him to pile up strikeouts, but if nothing else, the reduced velocity makes him more hittable. And while the same may be true to some degree for some of the other struggling aces around the league -- such as Josh Johnson and Dan Haren -- Lincecum has a few other shortcomings that make his decline in velocity the most difficult to overcome.

You've noted the biggest one yourself: his walks. Since his second Cy Young season in 2009, Lincecum's walk rate has steadily risen, to the point that his 3.6-per-nine-inning mark last year ranked 82nd among the 93 qualifying pitchers. And this year, it's even higher, perhaps a result of him nibbling to compensate for his reduced fastball.

Of course, Lincecum's lack of innings should be just as concerning to Fantasy owners. In eight starts this season, only three times has he lasted six innings, which is about the minimum requirement for an effective big-league starter. And unless he's able to reduce his pitch count, which would mean reducing his walks or reducing his strikeouts, the early hooks will continue.

It's all interrelated. If his velocity is down, he's giving up more hits. If he's giving up more hits, he's pitching more carefully. If he's pitching more carefully, he's issuing more walks. If he's issuing more walks, his WHIP is rising. If his WHIP is rising, his ERA is rising. If his ERA is rising, he's throwing more pitches. If he's throwing more pitches, he's getting earlier hooks. If he's getting earlier hooks, he's not winning as many games. And just like that, those seemingly minor concerns that have popped up for Lincecum over the last couple years -- from the rising walk rate to the declining velocity -- have snowballed into a full-fledged collapse, with that final dip in velocity being the nudge that set the ball in motion.

Because he's still providing strikeouts, he's not a total loss for your Fantasy team, and he's smart enough that he could still make an adjustment that salvages his season. But at this point, you shouldn't count on Lincecum being the ace you drafted him to be.

I'm in a 12-team Head-to-Head keeper league. I have Ian Kinsler and picked up Jason Kipnis off the wire. I'm actively shopping Kipnis and could use a first baseman in return. Could I get a quality option, or am I better off sticking with Kipnis? -- Will Hartzel (via e-mail)

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SW: Based on his minor-league track record, I think Kipnis is doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing. He always hit for a high batting average with good power, good speed and halfway decent plate discipline

Offense was never the concern for him coming up through the minors. He didn't have a position to play, which held him back on some of the top prospect lists, but clearly the Indians are satisfied with his work at second base so far. And clearly, defense isn't a major concern for his Fantasy owners anyway.

Of course, just because I believe in Kipnis and you believe in Kipnis doesn't mean everyone else in your league is going to believe in some player you recently plucked off the waiver wire. Some owners might turn you down on principle alone. You wouldn't want to undersell Kipnis just because he has yet to earn people's trust.

Right now, you might be able to get a Bryan LaHair or Adam Dunn type for Kipnis. Maybe if you're lucky, you'll be able to buy low on Eric Hosmer. If that works for you, great, problem solved. If not, then your best bet might be to trade Kinsler instead.

Obviously, it's risky. I believe in Kipnis, sure, but not nearly as much as I believe in Kinsler. Of course, that's true for the rest of your league, too. If Kinsler could net you a surefire stud at first base, like Joey Votto or Prince Fielder, then the deal would pay off big time if Kipnis is indeed legit. And if not, you've simply reallocated your resources, making first base the strength of your team instead of second base.

Don't settle for anything less, though. Flipping Kinsler for Edwin Encarnacion just because you have a hole to fill at first base is clearly a step in the wrong direction.

I just traded Matt Wieters and Trevor Cahill for Alex Avila and Mat Latos. Good deal in the long run? -- @jimmysmo (via Twitter)

SW: I think you did a great job of buying low on two early-season underachievers in Avila and Latos.

Avila's numbers don't look so hot right now, which I'm sure has some people thinking his breakthrough 2011 season was a fluke, but let's not forget he was batting .279 just a little more than a week ago. He has already endured a couple of peaks and valleys this season, leading to some fluctuation in batting average, but the power numbers have been there, which is enough to convince me he'll be more or less the same hitter we saw last year. Because you happened to catch him during a down period, you got him at a discount.

Latos, meanwhile, had his routine interrupted late in spring training by a calf injury and has struggled to find his footing since. Lame excuse? I'd think so too if the same thing hadn't happened to him last season, when he was overcoming a spring shoulder issue. He had a 4.60 ERA through eight starts then, which is similar to his 4.54 ERA through seven starts now, but he eventually rediscovered his control, righted the ship, and posted a 3.13 ERA over his final 23 starts, going seven innings or more in 11 of them. If you trust in his stuff, then you should trust it'll come through in the end.

I realize I'm laying out a best-case scenario for both Avila and Latos, but considering what you're giving up, you can afford the optimism. I think Wieters is legit given his power surge in the second half last year, but you won't miss Cahill. Limited strikeout potential and consistency issues make him a replaceable part in mixed leagues.

When assessing trades, I normally favor the side that lands the best player, which in this case is Wieters, but acquiring a potential ace in Latos for what might only be a slight downgrade at catcher seems like a worthwhile to me.

Would you drop Ubaldo Jimenez for Carlos Zambrano right now? When is it too soon to give up on the potential talent? -- @jforrest84 (via Twitter)

SW: Frankly, I'm surprised you've stuck with Jimenez as long as you have. I understand he was a Fantasy ace just two years ago, but what went wrong for him last year wasn't any big mystery. His average fastball velocity fell off a cliff, dropping from 96.1 miles per hour one year to 93.5 the next.

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A pitcher who tops out at 98 can get away with more than one who tops out at 94. If he puts a guy on base, no big deal; he'll just blow it by the next one. For his first five years in Colorado, including his near-Cy Young 2010 season, Jimenez operated with that mindset, succeeding in spite of a mediocre walk rate. But when he lost those miles per hour on his fastball, suddenly that walk rate wasn't so manageable.

The bottom line is he puts too many men on base. His hit rate has risen with his loss of velocity, and his walk rate is still as high as ever.

Waiting on talent is one thing, but waiting on lost talent is a waste of time. Until Jimenez re-learns how to pitch, changing the approach he's had for his entire career to compensate for the lost velocity, he's going to be a lost cause in mixed leagues.

I'm not especially high on Zambrano. He has control and velocity issues of his own. But his performance so far at least suggests he may have made the adjustments necessary to succeed with whatever he has left. You have a better chance of getting something out of him than Jimenez, probably.

I know you sometimes touch on dynasty leagues. I was wondering if you could run through a quick list of the top 10 prospects to own in such a format. -- Jesse Oskey (via e-mail)

SW: I'm always up for a little prospect talk, provided it has some kind of framework. Obviously, the list of prospects is never-ending, but different ones have different applications in Fantasy.

When I think "dynasty league," I think minimal roster turnover and lengthy gestation period, which means the emphasis is on upside rather than proximity to the majors. I've eliminated the prospects expected to lose rookie eligibility this season, thinking they won't have the same keeper parameters in the offseason, which reduces some of the clutter. Naturally, Bryce Harper is among that group, as are Julio Teheran and Trevor Bauer. Teheran is already almost halfway to losing rookie eligibility with his 19 2/3 innings last year, and rumors of Bauer's impending arrival have been too prevalent to dismiss.

With those names off the table, here are the 10 prospects most worth stashing in a dynasty league:

1. Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers
Profar got off to a slow start at Double-A Frisco, but he has come around lately, showing his breakthrough at Class A Hickory wasn't a fluke. His combination of power, speed and patience is especially rare at the shortstop position, and at age 19, he can only get better from here. In his prime, he could be a perennial first-rounder.

2. Wil Myers, OF, Royals
Myers' stock took a hit during an injury-plagued 2011, but he has come roaring back with a .343 batting average, 13 homers and a 1.146 OPS at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Granted, if he keeps performing that way, the Royals may turn to him before season's end, but nothing is imminent.

3. Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles
Bundy wasn't the first, second or even third pitcher drafted last year, but aside from maybe Bauer, he's the one with the most buzz. The 19-year-old has yet to allow an earned run in seven starts at Class A Delmarva, recording 36 strikeouts compared to only two walks. That's Stephen Strasburg-like dominance.

4. Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals
Because Miller is already at Triple-A Memphis, he could potentially lose rookie eligibility this season, but chances are his struggles there so far will keep him in the minors another year. Among pitching prospects, only Matt Moore, Yu Darvish and Teheran ranked ahead of him coming into the season, and it's not like his stuff has changed since then.

5. Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins
The further the 19-year-old Sano moves up the minor-league ladder, the more legitimate the Miguel Cabrera comparisons become. After spending a couple years in the Rookie leagues, he's at Class A now, and he's hitting .279 with 11 homers and a 1.004 OPS. Like Profar, he has first-round potential.

6. Manny Machado, SS, Orioles
Initially, Machado was considered the better offensive prospect than Profar. The minor-league numbers haven't backed it up so far, but the scouts usually have the last laugh.

7. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates
Cole went ahead of both Bauer and Bundy in last year's draft, and though he hasn't gotten as much hype, he's doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing at Class A Bradenton, racking up 39 strikeouts in 34 innings.

8. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals
The Cardinals have an overcrowded outfield as it is, which pretty much ensures Taveras will remain in the minors even though he's tearing up Double-A as a 19-year-old, batting .313 with 10 homers and a .997 OPS.

9. Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners
Walker may be the biggest reason why the Mariners were willing to trade Michael Pineda in the offseason. His command of the strike zone is rare for a pitcher his age, and he has a 1.83 ERA at Double-A Jackson.

10. Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates
Taillon was the player who went after Harper in the 2010 draft. The Pirates are advancing him slowly, but so far, his numbers have lived up to the hype.

I traded Josh Hamilton and Ryan Dempster for Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzalez and Jose Bautista. Good move? -- Ben Mayer (via e-mail)

SW: I wrote about selling high on Hamilton earlier this week, and this is the perfect way to do it. He's looking like the best player in the world right now and has enough of a reputation that some people might actually think he's the best player in the world, so you can pretty much name your price with him.

But as good as he may be, he's never hit more than 32 homers in a season and has only once played more than 133 games. He'll slow down, and more likely than not, he'll get hurt. And then he won't look like the best player in the world anymore.

Why not trade him now, when his value is at its highest and you've already gotten the best of what he has to offer? You might just get a return like this one.

How good is it? I'll put it this way: I wouldn't at all be surprised if Bruce hit more home runs than Hamilton the rest of the way, and he's the third-best player in the deal. Granted, he's more of a one-trick pony, but if you assess each player on all-around ability, Bautista and Gonzalez are just as good as Hamilton, if not better. And because they have yet to put together any historical hot streaks this season, they probably have more left in the tank for the final 4 1/2 months.

This is just another example of why shopping Hamilton is the way to go right now. You don't have to trade him if you don't get an extremely favorable return, but chances are someone will make an offer as good as this one. Personally, I would have taken it even without Bruce.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also check us out on Facebook or e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
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.

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
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(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
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(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
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(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).


Mariners' McClendon toying with idea of using Wilhelmsen as starter
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:28 pm ET) The acquisition of J.A. Happ means Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon doesn't have to head into spring training with long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen competing for a spot in the rotation.

However, McClendon hasn't totally given up on the idea of Wilhelmsen potentially transitioning to a starting role down the road, per MLB.com.

"I don't think it's totally dead," McClendon said. "I would say it's probably a long shot. My plan, as we speak right now, is to maybe stretch him out in spring and just play with it a little bit and see what happens, but I think it's a long shot. He was just so good in the role he was in, it'd be hard to take him out of that role."

Wilhelmsen pitched multiple innings in 24 of his 57 appearances last year. The former closer went 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings.

"I really tried not to change anything at all, [other than] try to simplify a little bit," Wilhelmsen said. "If I was going in in the fourth inning, I knew I'd have to throw two or three innings and I just really attacked the zone. But it's not like you don't attack the zone any other time. It's the same thing. You have to get outs."


Tigers' Castellanos works to be 'more comfortable' at 3B in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos struggled in his first full year playing third base at the major-league level in 2014, so he is hard at work this offseason improving his defense

"Last year was [about] the actual ground-ball catching," Castellanos said, per MLB.com. "This year is a lot more [about] quickness, working on my range, lateral movement."

On top of committing 15 errors, Castellanos' Ultimate Zone Rating of negative-18.4 was nearly twice as bad as the next-lowest rating among third-base regulars. He also had a Defensive Runs Saved of minus-30 and a plus/minus rating of minus-39, which was lowest in the majors last year.

"I'm going to be more comfortable this year," Castellanos said. "Last year, I knew nobody [in terms of hitting tendencies]. Also I was getting used to the tempo of the game. It wasn't like I was in the big leagues for a while at another position and then had to go to third base. It was pretty much me making my first year in the big leagues at pretty much a new position, or trying to relearn an old position."


Santana, Escobar to compete to be Twins' starting shortstop
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:56 pm ET) While Danny Santana is considered the front-runner to be the Twins' starting shortstop, first-year manager Paul Molitor said nothing has been decided yet. Santana will compete with Eduardo Escobar for the starting job this spring.

"It's probably been one of the more awkward things for me this winter in dealing with that situation," Molitor said, per MLB.com. "Obviously, I have to go in there open-minded about how it will play out. I can't say Santana will be the shortstop because things can change. Escobar deserves an opportunity to play and whether it's spotting around the organization or he has to go back to shortstop, I can't tell you it all will work out."

Escobar started a team-high 86 games at shortstop in 2014 for Minnesota. He made it clear he wants to play every day, but is willing to play where Molitor needs him.

"This season is important for me," Escobar said. "I'm coming in ready to play. I don't know if I'm going to be the starting shortstop or not, but I've been working hard to be ready for spring training. If Molitor wants me to play shortstop, or wherever, I'm ready for it."

Santana said he is excited he is moving back to shortstop after making a team-high 62 starts in center field last year. He's been fielding 200 grounders per day in the Dominican Republic to get ready for the season.

"I'm very happy about playing shortstop. I was waiting for that moment," Santana said. "Shortstop is my natural position. I just need to keep working and I can do the same thing as last year."


Rockies' Bridich: 'Highly unlikely' Tulo, CarGo traded before opener
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:17 pm ET) Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told FOX Sports on Tuesday that it is "highly, highly unlikely" shortstop Troy Tulowitzki or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez will be traded before opening day.

Tulowitzki, who has been linked to trade rumors involving the Mets this offseason, is under contract through 2020 on a six-year, $118 million deal. He is also recovering from August hip surgery.

Gonzalez is under contract through the 2017 season on a seven-year, $80 million contract. He is also recovering from surgery in August to repair the patellar tendon in his left knee.


Pitcher Johan Santana shut down in Venezuelan Winter League
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2:46 pm ET) Free-agent pitcher Johan Santana has been scratched from pitching in any of the remaining Venezuelan Winter League championship series games, reports FOXSports.

Santana has been experiencing discomfort in his shoulder. Teams that have indicated interest in Santana include the Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres. Santana's agent said Santana may still throw for major-league scouts, but wasn't sure.

He last pitched in the major leagues in 2012 and produced a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts.


 
 
 
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