The July 31 trade deadline is a time when Fantasy owners and baseball fans alike gather around their Twitter feeds hoping to see the entire league overhauled in a matter of hours.
But this year, that time would have been better spent on a nap.
Talk about a snooze-fest. What happened to Alex Rios changing leagues? What happened to those closer openings that were sure to arise as contenders restocked their bullpens? What happened to the July 31 blockbuster?
Well, we didn't get it this year. We got a July 30 blockbuster, though. I'll start there in my look at the five deadline deals with the biggest Fantasy implications, backtracking a couple days just to hold everyone's interest.
Fortunately, that one deal has enough Fantasy implications for the rest of them.
The Big Deal
When a third team gets involved in a trade, you know it's a serious swap -- the kind destined to have far-reaching effects in Fantasy. This one is no exception.
Though Peavy is the most notable name here, his Fantasy value only marginally improves, mostly because he goes from one of the worst teams in baseball to one of the best. You can't predict wins, no, but that move certainly improves his chances for them. He goes from one small park to another, but at least at Fenway, he'll have a better chance of keeping left-handed hitters at bay.
The real winners here are those in line to replace what the Red Sox gave up. Jose Iglesias had been starting at third base, and though benchwarmer type Brock Holt gets the first crack at replacing him, sooner or later the Red Sox will want offense at the position and turn to either Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts. I'm thinking Bogaerts. Not only has manager John Farrell hinted that the 20-year-old is in the conversation for a promotion, but the Red Sox shifted him from shortstop to third base about a week ago, possibly in anticipation of this move.
Middlebrooks has already gotten two chances in the majors this year and couldn't capitalize on either. His swing-at-anything approach is a liability at the major-league level, and his .257 batting average at Triple-A Pawtucket suggests he hasn't made the necessary adjustments. Plus, in terms of upside, he's just not on the same level as Bogaerts, who could end up giving the Red Sox what they traded away in Hanley Ramirez eight years ago.
Even if Middlebrooks beats him to the big leagues and claims the third base job forevermore, the Red Sox could simply slot Bogaerts in for Stephen Drew, who's in the last year of his contract and batting only .226. The bottom line is that, before this trade, Iglesias blocked Bogaerts at both third base and shortstop. Now, he blocks him at neither. His time is coming. Iglesias' departure ensures it. I'm scooping him up wherever I can get him.
As for Iglesias, he'll simply step in for Jhonny Peralta in Detroit whenever MLB hands out the Biogenesis suspensions, which is an important sidebar here. If the Tigers thought Peralta had any chance of avoiding or even delaying a suspension, they might not have pursued this deal, which leads me to believe the evidence against the Biogenesis players is so overwhelming that, like Braun, the majority of them will just accept their punishment rather than try to appeal. Time to take what you can get for Everth Cabrera and Nelson Cruz.
Garcia is the other notable name here for Fantasy owners, and his value certainly improves with this move. Going from a contender to a rebuilder, his .374 batting average at Triple-A will earn him a promotion sooner than later, and the move to a smaller park can only improve the startling lack of power he has demonstrated in the majors so far. Still, I see him as more of an AL-only option at this stage of his career.
Best of the Rest
Like the Jake Peavy deal, this one didn't happen on deadline day, but it's still worth dissecting here, especially since we have yet to learn all the Fantasy implications. And we won't learn them until the next time the Astros have a save opportunity.
They traded their closer, you see, and they traded him to a team that doesn't really need a closer. No, Joaquin Benoit isn't exactly proven in the role, but his track record in middle relief gives him a better chance of holding up in it than Veras' does.
Of course, that's no consolation for the owners who have relied on Veras' 19 saves to this point. While it's possible a meltdown for Benoit could open the door for Veras to reclaim ninth-inning duties, the better bet for saves going forward is to gamble on whomever he Astros ultimately choose to replace him.
Right now, they plan to go closer-by-committee, but that arrangement never lasts long. Ultimately, someone always emerges as the preferred option, and in this case, my guess is Jose Cisnero, who has strikeout-per-inning stuff and a 2.67 ERA over his last 19 appearances. But Travis Blackley is also in the mix, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Josh Fields and Wesley Wright get looks as well.
Colleague Nando Di Fino keeps hyping recent call-up Chia-Jen Lo as a closer candidate, and frankly, nothing would surprise me at this point. But if the Astros really thought he had the potential to do that, why is he only now in the majors? Seems like a long shot to me. I'm going Cisnero.
As a general rule, good players are good players regardless of where they play, so I try not to put too much emphasis on park factors when assessing trades.
But when the player in question is a former Cy Young contender who has fallen on hard times lately and the place he's going is San Diego, I just can't help myself.
I'm referring, of course, to Kennedy, who has known mostly misery since going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 2011. He had a minor resurgence in the second half last year but has so thoroughly bombed this year, compiling a 5.23 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, that he's now virtually unusable in Fantasy. And stashing him has gone out of style as well, his ownership rate dropping to 68 percent.
Maybe this deal changes that.
Granted, it won't fix what's wrong with him, but it may hide it pretty well. Petco Park has a history of making the unusable usable (see Eric Stults), thanks to its larger dimensions. Kennedy has fared better there than anywhere else in his career, compiling a 2.27 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in six starts, so if he's unowned in your league, I'd take a flier on him just to see what happens.
And if I already own him, I'd consider shopping him now just to see if anyone else buys into that theory. Hey, if you can get all of the benefit with none of the risk, why not? And if you play your cards right, you really could get all of the benefit. Kennedy's numbers figure to improve with this move, but I doubt he'll get back to being Cy Young-caliber.
As for the opening his departure creates in the Diamondbacks rotation, I don't think it matters in Fantasy with Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) on Trevor Cahill (hip) on the verge of returning from the DL. Maybe it improves Tyler Skaggs' chances of contributing down the line, but he's been shaky in his previous opportunities anyway.
Now begins the snooze-fest. I could pretend that Norris' move to an actual contender where his starts will actually matter will propel him to new heights or that his move out of Minute Maid Park (where his career ERA is two runs lower than on the road, mind you) will have a favorable impact on his numbers -- and I'll certainly keep an eye out for any change in production -- but I don't have enough evidence for either of those theories to act on them.
Remember how I said good players are good players regardless of where they play? Well, mediocre ones are mediocre regardless of where they play, and that's the stance I'm taking with Norris until he shows otherwise.
The ripple effect of the Astros' side of the deal probably won't reach Fantasy owners. The candidates to replace Norris are Lucas Harrell, who was the definition of the bottom-feeder in his earlier stint in the rotation, and Brett Oberholtzer, a non-prospect whose greatest claim to fame is being part of the deal that sent Michael Bourn to Atlanta two years ago. Even in AL-only leagues, I'd try my best to avoid them.
With Justin Maxwell shipped out in a separate deal, Hoes will probably get a look on the major-league roster, but he's a fourth-tier prospect -- one on about the same level as Robbie Grossman -- and profiles as more of a reserve in the long run.
This trade raised eyebrows if for no other reason than because Baseball America rated Green the Athletics' top prospect just two years ago. He had plate discipline problems back then and hasn't really improved on them since. Still, a player who hits .325 with an .879 OPS at Triple-A and can play any position but pitcher and catcher should have some measure of long-term appeal, walks or no walks.
Of course, to have traded him for someone as assuredly low-end as Callaspo, the Athletics must have felt that Green is a lost cause, which means they must think his success at Triple-A is either a product of his advanced age -- at 25, he's certainly old by prospect standards -- or the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He didn't make a strong case for himself by going 0 for 15 in a stint with he big club earlier this season.
Maybe they're right -- hey, they'd know better than I would -- but because the Angels moved their starting third baseman in this deal, I think Green will get another chance to show what he can do after getting a refresher at third base in the minors. In a deep AL-only league, I'd take a flier on him.
With the trade, Callaspo will apparently move back to second base -- a position he hasn't played with any regularity since 2009 -- which will slightly improve his nearly insignificant Fantasy value. But in the long run, this deal will be a bigger deal for Green.