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Dear Mr. Fantasy: The going rate for a former ace

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

It's the thought of every NASA engineer in between tests of the new Space Launch System.

It's the most common topic of discussion at Mensa gatherings.

It's the reason Apple invented Siri.

And for one desperate man clicking away at his computer, it's interrupting a good night's sleep.

What the [heck] do I do with Tim Lincecum? -- Steven Hengel (via e-mail)

SW: A fine question -- one befitting of censor brackets even with a delete button on hand. Lincecum, two-time Cy Young winner and top-10 starting pitcher entering the season, is now 2-7 with a 6.00 ERA and 1.58 WHIP.

Most Traded Players (as of 6/13)
Player # of trades
1. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants 757
2. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies 557
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox 544
4. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox 491
5. Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks 463
6. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals 458
7. Dan Haren, SP, Angels 458
8. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners 397
9. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves 380
10. Bryan LaHair, 1B, Cubs 379

And your hair is all gone.

The rising walk rate, the declining velocity, the snowball effect on his other numbers -- you've heard it all before. The demise of Lincecum has become almost a foregone conclusion in some Fantasy circles, with me leading the charge.

But outright releasing him or trading him for whatever chump comes your way is less than ideal. Over the course of history, we've seen pitchers -- particularly those of ace caliber -- survive drops in velocity and overcome bouts of wildness. Granted, few have had to tackle both at once, which is one of the big reasons I put Lincecum's chances of coming around at less than 50 percent, but with players of exceptional talent, sometimes all it takes is one little adjustment to do a complete 180. Look at Clay Buchholz. He changes the grip on his changeup one day, as reported by the Boston Globe recently, and just like that, he's a shutout machine.

Obviously, if you play in a league without a bench, he's killing you, so you have to cut him. But if you have the means to stash him, you owe it to yourself to play out those unfavorable odds after investing so heavily in him on Draft Day. If anyone's going to capitalize on a return to form, it should be you, right? Right?

The better solution, however, would be to trade Lincecum now, when he still has his share of believers. You won't get full value for him, of course, but you'll get something, which is better than declaring him a total loss.

Just how much could you get? Let's examine a few of the trades made in actual CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues:

Tim Lincecum for Cliff Lee
That's grand larceny at this point.

Tim Lincecum for Dan Haren
Worth noting because Haren's base numbers are also down, but I'd consider him the far more likely of the two to turn it around.

Tim Lincecum for Rafael Furcal and Ryan Howard
On the surface, this one may seem like an undersell, but for all of Furcal's injury risk, he's most likely an upgrade at shortstop for you, at least in the short-term. That's enough to convince me.

Tim Lincecum and Michael Young for Mike Trout
I like it. Good way to use Lincecum to even out an otherwise uneven deal. You'll probably get better offers that way than by shopping him one-for-one.

Tim Lincecum for Jed Lowrie and Francisco Liriano
As a firm believer in Lowrie, I'd be willing to go that far.

Tim Lincecum for Ricky Nolasco
Not that far, though.

Tim Lincecum for Chipper Jones
Clearly moving the wrong direction here.

Tim Lincecum for Lonnie Chisenhall
OK, now you're just being ridiculous.

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Get the idea? You shouldn't be at the point where you'll take whatever you can get for Lincecum, because if all you're getting is waiver fodder, it's the same as cutting him. But if you're getting an every-week option in return, I'd consider it a job well done.

My 12-team Head-to-Head keeper league is upset over a recent trade. Please provide some insight. Team A gets Tim Lincecum and Chris Young. Team B gets Ryan Vogelsong and Lucas Duda. -- Nicholas Brown (via Facebook)

SW: If you don't think Lincecum's name still carries weight, you're just not trying hard enough.

The uproar here says it all: Your leaguemates may pooh-pooh the idea of trading for Lincecum when you approach them with an offer, but they don't want to see anyone else get him at a discount. No, sir.

It's a shame, really. Team B has plenty of reason to be skeptical of Lincecum. His wins are down because his innings are down. His innings are down because his walks are up. His walks are up because -- nibble, nibble -- his velocity is down, which is also why his hits are up, which is also why his WHIP is up, which is also why his ERA is up ... which is also why his wins are down.

It's a vicious circle with one stat feeding into another and no end in sight. If the owner of Team B doesn't want to deal with it anymore and can actually get something halfway useful in return, he should have that option. I doubt he just now had the idea of trading for Lincecum. He's probably been shopping him for weeks. If nobody stepped up and made an offer, then you can understand why he thought this was the best he could do.

Of course, Lincecum isn't the only player going to Team A here. Young is probably more valuable than either of the two players Team B is getting in return. But while Vogelsong and Duda have both spent some time on waivers in mixed leagues this season, both have shown potential in the past and are certainly performing up to snuff now.

If you assume Lincecum owners are at least toying with the idea of dropping him in mixed leagues -- which is accurate, judging by the first question -- then his presence in this deal shouldn't have much bearing on its fairness. What if it was a player with similar droppability -- Jeff Samardzija and Young for Vogelsong and Duda, let's say? Doesn't look so bad then, does it?

I'm not saying this is a deal I'd make under ordinary circumstances. I've already pointed out the dangers of selling too low on Lincecum, and I don't view Vogelsong and Duda as enough of a return for Young. But I can see why the owner of Team B would make it, and if it's defensible, it's admissible.

I have only Jeff Samardzija and John Axford for my relief pitcher slots. Would you pick up Drew Hutchison, Tyler Clippard, or maybe a Kris Medlen-Andrew Cashner type? -- @AnteGALIC2 (via Twitter)

SW: First of all, I think you'd be just fine starting Samardzija and Axford every week. Because Samardzija spent so many years in the bullpen, he may hit a wall when his innings reach a certain point, but I don't think early June is the start of it. I see his recent struggles (which have only spanned two starts, mind you) as little more than a rough patch. As for Axford, you'll have to blame the Brewers for his last outing, when he allowed three earned runs against the Padres on Sunday. They brought him in for a non-save situation. That's just asking for trouble. Considering he had allowed just one earned run (on only five hits) in his previous 12 innings, I'm confident he's back to being the Axford we saw last year.

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But a little depth could never hurt, and if that's all you want, shoot, all of these guys are worth picking up.

In a world where Drew Storen doesn't exist, Clippard would be my first choice. He has proven he can handle closing duties for a first-place club and is the only true reliever on this list. Granted, starters are often worth more Fantasy points in the long run, but closers tend to be more consistent. Having Clippard to replace Samardzija for unfavorable matchups wouldn't be such a bad thing. Of course, Storen does exist and is likely to return from his elbow injury after the All-Star break, so if you'd prefer a long-term solution, Clippard isn't the way to go.

I like both Medlen and Cashner to a certain extent. Medlen put together a nice little run before needing Tommy John surgery in 2010, and Cashner, with his high-90s fastball, obviously has a high ceiling. But Hutchison to me is kind of the best of both worlds. He has the mid-90s fastball to help him overpower hitters, unlike Medlen, but a halfway decent command of the strike zone, unlike Cashner. Plus, he's actually having some success now with a 3.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his last six starts. Medlen and Cashner are both speculative pickups.

So clearly, all four of these pitchers have their strengths and weaknesses. If I was ranking them for the average Fantasy owner, I'd go Clippard, Hutchison, Medlen and Cashner.

I need a shortstop badly. Would you trade Neil Walker for Zack Cozart or trade one of Aroldis Chapman, Chris Perez and Jim Johnson for Jed Lowrie? -- Stephen Parrott (via e-mail)

SW: Swapping Walker for Cozart is a fair deal, but if your goal is to upgrade at shortstop, I'm skeptical Cozart will do it for you. Although he has more pop than the average shortstop, that's pretty much all he's good for at this stage of his career. He's not the base-stealer many projected him to be, and his poor plate discipline likely condemns him to a .250 batting average. With those numbers, he's closer to being Alex Gonzalez than Asdrubal Cabrera.

If you want to improve your standing at shortstop, you need to aim higher. Lowrie is unquestionably higher. His .898 OPS is the highest among shortstop-eligible players and a full 100 points ahead of Hanley Ramirez. He's on pace for 32 homers. He has five weeks of 20 or more Head-to-Head points compared to Cozart's one. Yeah, you could dismiss it as a fluke, but considering he had similar numbers down the stretch in 2010 and was projected to be a middle-of-the-order hitter all along, I'd say that's an unfair assumption.

He's actually healthy, which is something new in a career marred by a broken wrist, a bout with mononucleosis and, just last year, a balky shoulder. He's also a different player against right-handed pitchers this season after hitting only .210 against them last season, having corrected a mechanical flaw from the left side of the plate this spring.

I can't promise Lowrie will stay healthy all season -- his track record doesn't support it -- but I can promise (or at least strongly suggest) that when he is healthy, you won't do much better at the shortstop position.

I don't know that I could bring myself to trade Chapman for him, but for either Perez or Johnson, I wouldn't think twice.

Should I trust Edwin Jackson, Max Scherzer and Ryan Dempster? -- @ColbSchlick (via Twitter)

SW: Depends what you mean. Can you trust them to be relevant Fantasy options all year? I'm fairly confident of that. But can you trust them to continue doing exactly what they've been doing? That's an iffier proposition.

I've always believed Dempster was one of the more underrated pitchers in Fantasy. His strikeouts are plenty consistent, and his ERA and WHIP, omitting his horrendous month of April last year, are plenty good enough. But he's not the Cy Young contender that his current 2.31 ERA and 1.03 WHIP make him out to be. With his BABIP at an unreasonably low .243 and his stuff showing signs of decline at age 35, he's due for a downturn. And if he has mustered only two wins behind the Cubs offense when pitching this well, imagine the troubles he'll have during his inevitable course correction.

Jackson, in contrast, has long been one of the more overrated pitchers in Fantasy. He's always had good stuff but has never had the strikeout rate to match, and though he's shown flashes of potential in the past, he inevitably reverts to his usual high-contact, high-WHIP ways. I keep thinking back to 2009, his lone All-Star season, when he looked like he had turned the corner with a 2.52 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in the first half only to post a 5.07 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in the second. Or that late-season stretch with the White Sox in 2010, when he looked like he had finally put it all together with a 1.21 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning in 11 starts only to regress to, well, the numbers we saw last year. And those numbers were fine, loosely speaking, but they weren't enough to make him rosterable across the board in Fantasy. Granted, he's doing great now, so you might as well ride it out while it lasts, but at the end of the year, I can't see him being one of the top five options on your staff.

Of the three, Scherzer's numbers are the worst, but he's also had the lowest low points to date. So he's streaky -- we all know that -- but his best is so mesmerizingly good, with the kind of strikeout-to-walk ratios that would put Zack Greinke to shame, that you can't afford to miss out on them. And how do you avoid it? By gritting your teeth and throwing him out there every time he has a turn, hoping that the ugly starts continue to become fewer and farther between, as they have since his rocky April.

So if you mean "trust" in the way I think you mean it, as in the player you'd be most inclined to leave in your starting lineup forevermore, Scherzer would be my first choice, followed by Dempster (who you can always hope will get traded) and Jackson.

Would you try to trade for Roy Halladay? The owner in my league is desperate. -- @JTlove11 (via Twitter)

SW: I don't know why you wouldn't be interested in acquiring arguably the best pitcher of the last five years. The question, as always, is what you'd have to give in return.

When Halladay first went down with a strained shoulder on May 27, the estimated timetable for his return was 6-8 weeks. Considering he'll have to ramp up the innings all over again, you should assume the maximum, which will put him coming back at the beginning of August.

By the beginning of August, the fate of your Fantasy team might already be decided, particularly in Head-to-Head leagues where the playoffs might be just two or three weeks away.

In other words, you have to prioritize the present here. Halladay offers plenty of assurances for the future, but if you fall back in the standings waiting for him to return, whatever boost he gives you might be too little, too late.

So unless you have a commanding lead or insurmountable depth, you can't trade any of the staples on your roster. You can't trade any of the Jon Lesters or Yovani Gallardos this other guy is probably looking to acquire. Whatever you trade has to be something you know you can live without, which means something you haven't been starting on an every-week basis.

Among pitchers, that means the absolute most you're giving up is someone like Jordan Zimmermann, James McDonald, Shaun Marcum or Wandy Rodriguez. Would that be enough to win over the Halladay owner? Probably not, but if he's as desperate as you say, it's worth a try. If necessary, you can try adding a second (lower-end) player to sweeten the deal.

How would you rate the keeper value of Carlos Quentin, Josh Reddick, Nolan Reimold and Colby Rasmus in a 12-team, 16-keeper league? -- @MightyBoa (via Twitter)

SW: In a league where every team keeps 16 players, roster turnover is minimal, which means all but the fringe waiver types are worthy of consideration.

Unfortunately, fringe waiver types are exactly what I see here.

Reddick is a notable exception, of course. I expect him to slow down -- and to a certain extent, he has -- but he has demonstrated enough power in his second major-league season to convince me he can remain a top-30 outfielder all season, which would make him keeper-worthy in your league, especially at age 25.

Likewise, I suppose labeling Quentin a "fringe waiver type" is selling him a little short, but it is only a 12-team league. Just because he's a consistent 25-homer guy doesn't mean he's a certainty to get drafted in the first 16 rounds next year, especially when you throw prospects into the equation. Think back to where Josh Willingham was drafted in your league this season and ask yourself what makes Quentin so different.

Reimold and Rasmus in particular don't excite me. Reimold was a hot pickup early in the season, when he homered five times over a six-game stretch, but those were kind of his 15 minutes of fame in Fantasy. He's a 28-year-old who still has yet to establish himself as a full-timer in the big leagues, and this neck injury might be the nail in his coffin. Rasmus supposedly has upside but has made no progress over the course of four seasons and has been more of a hindrance than a help to Fantasy owners during that time. Sure, he's heating up now, but he's had enough hot streaks over the years that I'm not jumping at the start of another one.

To rank them, I'd go Reddick, Quentin, Rasmus and Reimold, with Reddick and Quentin being the only two I'd seriously consider keeping. But just to state the obvious, plenty could change between now and the end of the year.

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
Report: Padres continue to talk to Braves about Justin Upton
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:15 am ET) The Padres continue to talk to the Braves about outfielder Justin Upton, according to Bleacher Report's Scott Miller.

Despite the fact that the Padres acquired both Matt Kemp and Wil Myers on Thursday, the team may not be done yet. It's unclear where Upton would fit into the team's plans, but he would be a clear upgrade over whoever the club is planning to start in center field. If the team were to acquire Upton, one of that trio would be pushed into action in center. While Kemp has experience at the position, he's not considered a strong defender. 

The 27-year-old Upton is coming off a season in which he hit .270/.342/.491 over 566 at-bats.


Report: Rangers showing interest in Brandon Beachy
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Rangers have shown interest in pitcher Brandon Beachy, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Beachy is coming off Tommy John surgery, but multiple teams are said to have interest in signing him. The 28-year-old has a 3.23 career ERA over 267 2/3 innings, but underwent his second Tommy John surgery in March. Beachy's representative, Robert Martin said Beachy has multiple offers, but doesn't believe a decision is imminent. 


Report: Athletics sending Derek Norris to Padres
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Athletics have agreed to trade catcher Derek Norris to the Padres, according to the New York Daily News.

After dealing Yasmani Grandal to Los Angeles in the Matt Kemp deal, the Padres were in need of a new backstop. It didn't take long for them to replace Grandal, as the team acquired Norris shortly after the Kemp deal went through.

Pitcher Seth Streich will also head to the Padres in the deal, according to FoxSports.com The 23-year-old posted a 3.16 ERA over 114 innings in High A last season.

The 25-year-old Norris is coming off a season in which he hit .270/.361/.403 over 385 at-bats. Norris is under team control through the 2018 season.

The Athletics are expected to receive pitchers Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez in the deal, according to Yahoo! The 24-year-old Alvarez posted a 1.25 ERA over 43 1/3 innings at Double-A last year.

Hahn, 25, posted a 3.07 ERA over 73 1/3 innings in the majors last year. He was excellent in Double-A, posting a 1.91 ERA in 42 1/3 innings before being called up.


Padres, Rays and Nationals complete Wil Myers trade
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Padres, Rays and Nationals have completed a trade that will send Wil Myers to San Diego, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The deal had been in the works for a few days, but was finally agreed to late Thursday night. Myers, 24, will head to the Padres in the deal. He hit .222/.294/.320 over 325 at-bats with the Rays last season. Myers also missed time due to a wrist injury. 

The Padres will also receive catcher Ryan Hanigan and pitchers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo in the deal. 

Tampa Bay will receive outfielder Steven Souza and pitcher Travis Ott from the Nationals. Souza, 25, hit .345/.427/.577 in 357 at-bats spread over three levels last year. 

The Rays will also receive catcher Rene Rivera, first baseman Jake Bauers and pitcher Burch Smith from San Diego.

Washington is set to acquire pitcher Joe Ross from San Diego. The team will also receive infielder Trea Turner in the deal. Turner was a 2014 draft pick, and cannot be traded until midseason, so he's currently considered a player to be named later.


Phillies to send Jimmy Rollins to Dodgers
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Phillies have completed a trade that will send shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. News that the deal was finally going through was initially reported by Yahoo!

The deal has been in place for some time, but was dependent on a separate Dodgers deal going through. The Dodgers will send pitcher Zach Eflin to Philadelphia as part of the Rollins trade, but first needed to acquire Eflin from the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal. The Dodgers and Padres finally reached an agreement late Thursday night, meaning Eflin could finally be sent to Philadelphia. The 20-year-old Eflin posted a 3.80 ERA in 128 innings at High A last year.

Rollins, 36, hit .243/.323/.394 over 538 at-bats last season. He's in the final year of his contract, and is set to make $11 million next year.


Dodgers complete Matt Kemp deal with Padres
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Dodgers and Padres have agreed to a deal that will send outfielder Matt Kemp to San Diego, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. News that the deal had finally come together was first reported by Yahoo!

The trade has been in the works for some time, but was dependent on Kemp passing a physical. It was reported early Thursday that Kemp's physical revealed arthritic hips. The Padres had to to figure out insurance on the contract, which is why it took so long for the deal to go through.

Catcher Tim Federowicz will also head to San Diego in the deal. The Dodgers will send $32 million over as well. 

In return, Los Angeles is set to receive catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitcher Joe Weiland and Zach Eflin. Eflin is expected to be flipped to Philadelphia for shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

The 30-year-old Kemp hit .287/.346/.506 over 541 at-bats last year. Kemp is set to earn a little over $21 million in each of the next five seasons. 


Rockies seeking veteran right-handers to fill out rotation
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Rockies are looking at a number of veteran right-handers to fill out the rotation, according to MLB.com.

Kevin Correia, Aaron Harang, Josh Johnson and Kyle Kendrick have all been considered by the club. With Johnson reportedly signing a deal with the Padres, that leaves the other three as options for the club. Though the team is said to be interested in all three players, it has not engaged in serious conversations with any of them. 


Cubs agree to sign Anthony Carter
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Cubs have signed reliever Anthony Carter to a minor-league deal, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.

Carter spent last season in Japan, pitching for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He posted a 3.97 ERA over 45 1/3 innings. 


Padres to sign Josh Johnson
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) The Padres are set to sign pitcher Josh Johnson to a one-year deal, confirms CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Yahoo initially reported the two sides were on the verge of a deal.

Johnson will make a base salary under $2 million, but can earn as much as $8 million due to incentives. Given his recent injury issues, it's assumed those incentives will revolve around both his numbers and his ability to remain healthy. Johnson signed with San Diego last season, but was unable to pitch after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The team declined his option during the offseason, but showed interest in re-signing Johnson to a lesser deal.

Johnson posted a 6.20 ERA in 81 1/3 innings with Toronto in 2013. 


A's C Stephen Vogt expects to be ready for opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/18/2014) Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt believes he'll be ready for opening day, according to MLB.com.

Vogt had foot surgery in October, but had his walking boot removed Thursday. Vogt admitted that he may not be 100 percent by spring training, but said he expects to be ready for opening day. After playing multiple positions due to the injury last season, Vogt said he's eager to get behind the plate again. 

The 30-year-old Vogt hit .279/.321/.431 over 269 at-bats last year. 


 
 
 
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