Saturday, December 06, 2014

Hot Stove Junkie: The Pre-Winter Meetings Version

posted by Jon Williams
Obviously this should have been published a couple of weeks back. Things got busy for me and production slowed dramatically when I accidently deleted half what I had written. But this is not about the news that happened but rather what the impact to our fantasy teams might be. So I hope you'll still find some value in this. There are two more reports being published very quickly after this one appears. 

Peace and good trading - 

Jon

The New York Yankees Trade For Didi Gregorious and Sign Andrew Miller 

Didi Gregorious makes good contact, has a decent eye at the plate and is willing to take walks. He has solid power for a middle infielder and his fly ball trends are a good fit in Yankee Stadium. He has
good speed but has not been inclined to steal many bases so far in his career. GM Brian Cashman is saying that (initially at least) Brendan Ryan will get most of the at-bats against lefties.I believe this is at least partially a way to lessen the pressure on Gregorious. I like him as an infield option at 10-12 dollars in keeper leagues, a little less in re-draft leagues.

Andrew Miller will need to shave his big bushy beard but this is a great signing for the Yankees bullpen. Miller could potentially close since Robertson did not re-sign, but he is also comfortable as a set-up man. This is especially important if the Yankees push Dellin Betances into the closer role. The Yankees could still add a solid closer option which would be a good idea. The Yankees rotation is thin and loaded with injury issues and anything that allows them to shorten the game is a good idea. Miller's K-rate has steadily improved to massively dominant over the last three years. The control did not come until 2014 and it is difficult to believe that walk rate will not rise at least a bit back towards his career rates. However, as long as his strikeout rate is maintained he should be a very valuable piece of your fantasy bullpen even without the closer role. He is probably approaching a ten dollar player in any case but if you see saves in his future I could see approaching 15 in keeper leagues.

I think it is interesting that the Houston Astros actually made the biggest offer to Miller. The Astros were willing to give him ten million per season. Miller apparently turned them down for a better opportunity to compete and reach the playoffs. The Astros could seek revenge by signing David Robertson (that didn't happen). They are also rumored to have reached out to Sergio Romo and Luke Gregorson (more on that in the next reports) in an attempt to improve their major league bullpen. The Astros have money to spend and someone out there is going to get a crap load of it.

The Detroit Tigers Get Shane Greene in the Deal

The Tigers get Shane Greene in the deal and he could be a surprising strong long-term addition to their starting rotation. Although he was never a top tier prospect he has good stuff and three solid pitches. He didn't seem to put it all together until Double-A which is part of the reason he has not been hyped much. But Cashman always liked him and referred to him as an underrated prospect after his Double-A season. I would not go crazy bidding on him but I like him in keeper leagues and would be willing to spend 8-10 dollars on him. I see a decent profit built into a price like that.

The Diamondbacks get lefty starter Robbie Ray (who the Tigers so famously traded Doug Fister to acquire) and infield prospect Domingo Leyba. 
The Diamondbacks were offered their pick of the Tigers' young, close-to-big-league-ready starters — right-handers Buck Farmer and Drew VerHagen, and left-handers Kyle Lobstein and Kyle Ryan — and it wasn't a surprise to Dombrowski when Arizona's first-year general manager Dave Stewart opted for Ray.
Judging by his performance in 2014 Ray needs some more time in the minor leagues. I would not invest in a re-draft league but I might use a minor league pick on him in a deep draft. I see his upside as mid-rotation starter or strong reliever. He pitched 28 inning in the majors last year and was pretty bad. He also was not good at Triple-A. He certainly has potential if he can find his control again and get back to the level of his 2013 performance. Maybe the D'Backs can draw it out of him. I would avoid investing on Ray at this point.

Domingo Leyba is a long way from the major leagues. He looks like a decent defensive middle infielder with some speed and could develop some pop. He's probably worth a minor league pick if you can afford to wait four years, other wise I'd avoid him. 

Did the Tiger Give Up on Ray Too Soon?

Nick Markakis Signs With the Atlanta Braves 

The Braves were apparently aware that Nick Markakis may require surgery on his neck before the season which makes this signing if not questionable at least a little odd for a team in a re-structuring mode. The problem with a herniated disk in his spine is the reason some are giving for the Orioles lukewarm interest in re-signing their veteran free-agent.But according to Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Markakis is indicating he could have the surgery soon (he just did) so that he can be ready for the regular season. Long-term, Markakis will probably be fine if he has the procedure done but it could impact his start to the 2015 season. If he does not have the procedure that may be a reason to avoid him, as pain and stiffness in the area could impact his power and swing even if he manages to make it on to the field everyday. The injury has supposedly been an issue for the last two years. Markakis has usually been a 15-20 dollar player but the surgery, change to the National League and the change from Camden Yards (128 HR factor for lefty batters) to Turner Field (97 HR factor for lefties) is enough to ensure I will only draft him at a heavy discount.

Jim Johnson Also Signs With the Braves

Without a shot at saves, Jim Johnson does not collect enough strikeouts to contribute to most fantasy rosters as a reliever. I suppose if Craig Kimbrel went down with an injury he might be capable of stepping in but that seems like a long shot.I am not worried about his performance. Most of last year's badness looks like just bad luck and the usual fluctuation in reliever performance. You can probably get him for a buck and the chance at the occasional save probably makes that a solid investment. 

Nelson Cruz Signs With the Seattle Mariners

Cruz has the power to regularly hit the ball out of any park. Still, Safeco Field (88 HR Factor for righties - Camden Yards was neutral for right-handed batters) probably isn't the ideal landing spot as far as his fantasy stats are concerned. Everything went right for Cruz with Baltimore in 2014 and it seems unlikely to go the same way in 2015. Even if the park factors don't slow him much you can probably count on at least some regression towards his career numbers. I would pay 20-25 for Cruz and expect 25-30 homers with a decent batting average. The Mariners lineup is improving so the runs and RBI totals should still be strong.

The Blue Jays Acquire Michael Saunders

The Mariners basically dumped Michael Saunders over their war of words. Seattle's GM had some negative things to say publicly about Saunder's conditioning and preparation. He could probably use the change of scenery anyway. Saunders should play regularly for the Blue Jays and he has 20-20 potential if he can stay healthy and on the field. He goes from Safeco (a smidgen above neutral power for left-handed batters) to Toronto's Rogers Centre (which has a 125 HR factor for left-handed batters). He isn't a great player but he works well for fantasy purposes. Even in his injury-shortened seasons he has been a 10-12 dollar player. I would try to buy him in the 10-15 dollar area (plenty of room for profit there), assuming the Blue Jays do not upgrade any further.  

The Oakland Athletics Trade Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays

I was just as stunned as everyone else when this trade was announced. It seems like an obvious move for the Blue Jays. They upgrade their lineup and get a more consistently healthy player to boot. Josh Donaldson should see a small boost to his stats playing in the AL East parks but I would not go nuts about that possibility. Still a move from Oakland Coliseum (87 HR factor for right-handed batters) to the Rogers Centre (129 HR factor for righties) is drool inducing. He was already a  30-35 dollar player and is probably worth the extra buck or two in AL-Only leagues.

The A's also picked up Ike Davis From the Pirates

Ike Davis still has that power but it becomes more and more unlikely every season. However, again, the Athletics have a knack for coaxing a strong performance out of older prospects. Even so, I would not spend more than a buck or two on Davis. 

Some Say Beane and Donaldson were Feuding

Various Reactions to the Donaldson Deal

The Prospects in the Deal Evaluated

For the Blue Jays The Time is Now

Yasmany Tomas Signs With Arizona Diamondbacks

I was surprised to hear that Yasmany Tomas signed with the Diamondbacks. However, I was not surprised that the contract did not reach the lofty heights speculated by the mainstream media. Tomas has awesome power potential but he is not necessarily a fully developed player. He is not as field ready as Jose Abreu or Rusney Castillo (who also seems a bit overrated). I would not be at all shocked to see him spend some time in the minors during the 2015 season. From the little bit of video I have seen of him I don't his swing much. As a fantasy owner I would be willing to make a fairly serious investment in dynasty leagues but in the typical NL-Only keeper league. I would not want to go too far past 10-12 dollars. HQ has him with a 16 dollar projection, that is probably closer to a 20 projection in most keeper leagues. I recognize that I am unlikely to own him in most leagues. The hype around Cuban and other international free-agents has exploded to ridiculous levels. Fantasy owners should be careful not to get too caught up in the hype and forget to keep their bids for Tomas relative to his projected performance.

BTBS on the Tomas Signing and the Future of the Diamondbacks

The SnakePit Does Some Projections

The Boston Red Sox Sign Both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval

This move was stunning to me. I expected the Red Sox to sign of these players. I thought they were targeting Pablo Sandoval with Hanley Ramirez as a back-up plan. This is primarily because even with Ramirez's newly stated flexibility as to what position he plays I did not think that a team with a outfield log jam would add yet another body to the mix. Hanley Ramirez is probably the best hitter of the bunch, at least in the short term. And I am certain the Red Sox will be trading some outfield assets to improve their rotation.

At this point you know who Hanley Ramirez is as a player. He has good solid power, steals some bases (not as many as in his youth) and has a tendency to suffer nagging injuries that drag down his plate appearances and to some degree his production. He takes walks, makes decent contact and hits the ball hard. He can be counted on for a solid if not spectacular batting average and is always a threat for a 20/20 season when he stays relatively healthy. Dodger Stadium gives a small boost to right-handed power hitters (115 HR factor) but is a drag on all other offense. Fenway Park is close to neutral for right-handed power but provides a boost to almost everything else. You might look for a slightly better batting average with a slight but not significant dip in HR numbers. You can bid 20-25 with confidence especially in keeper leagues, more than that and you're ignoring the injury factor which is a risky maneuver as far as roster building goes.

I knew the interest in Pablo Sandoval was going to be strong. He is younger than most six-year free agents and has been a productive batter and defender at a tough position for a World Series winner. Still, I thought the San Francisco would re-sign him as they typically over pay to keep the players they develop that hit free agency and are really loyal to players that serve them well. I think this is a good move by the Red Sox, they get his prime and should be out before he hits a massive decline. Sandoval hits the ball hard but is not a huge homerun hitter. He makes good contact from both sides of the plate and takes the occasional walk. He is not great against lefties and his production against them has sunk three years running, though it is not disastrous at this point. San Francisco's AT&T Park is fairly neutral for most offensive categories for left-handed batters but trashes homerun production from both sides of the plate.

AT&T Park Factors from StatCorner.com:

PARK FACTORS (LHB / RHB)
K:101104
nB:96106
gbH:10094
ofH:110101
1B:10295
GB:105103
2/3B:105101
FB:10097
HR:6774
LD:9794
Runs:9186
IF:8685

Fenway Park Factors from StatCorner.com:

PARK FACTORS (LHB / RHB)
K:9998
nB:105103
gbH:9398
ofH:126113
1B:98102
GB:99106
2/3B:153118
FB:10099
HR:6699
LD:10493
Runs:100108
IF:8799

Looking at those factors you could be forgiven for the optimistic view that Sandoval's numbers may rebound a bit from the right side of the plate and even hit hit a few more homeruns. He should also be in a better lineup and see a boost to his runs and RBI stats. He has been a 15-20 player most years and closer to 20 in keeper leagues. I think 20-25 is a fair price. I would not pay much more than that and expect a profit.

The Quick Stuff You May Want to Know But Not Necessarily Fantasy Relevant
  • Torii Hunter Returns to the Minnesota Twins as far less of a player than when he left but is still a solid player and fantasy option. The change in parks is not exciting however.
  • The Mariners Sign Kyle Seager to a Seven-Year Contract. A good move for the Mariners - locking up one of their better players. It could make top prospect DJ Peterson trade bait or force a position change.
  • The Royals Trade Aaron Crow to the Marlins. Crow is still young and has closer potential if he reaches his ceiling. The Marlins have been excellent at developing pitching talent. I'd invest a buck in endgame.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers Acquired Juan Nicasio From the Colorado Rockies, and the Dodgers bullpen is looking a lot better and deeper than it was in 2014.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays traded utility man Sean Rodriguez to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named and cash. the Rays made room for reliever Ernesto Frieri. The Pirates will use Rodriguez in the utility role that Josh Harrison filled so capably last season. The Pirates designated Gabby Sanchez to make space on the roster. 
  • Ryan Dempster Retires and Joins the Cubs Front Office - I was a Dempster fan and wish him luck.
  • Kevin Cash is the new manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. He may have a Terry Francona style as he is often referred to as from the Francona management tree.
  • Jayson Werth will spend ten days in Jail for reckless driving.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka returns to Japan. I like Dice-K a lot and I think the Red Sox (in retrospect obviously) may not have been the best team for him to sign with. They spent all that money on him and then insisted on changing his workout routine and trying to change the way he pitched. In my opinion, you sign a guy like that and let him do his thing.
  • The Royals Re-Sign Luke Hochevar. If he is fully returned to health he should add quality to an already strong bullpen.

Other Links of Interest to Fantasy Owners

The Impact Moves Will Continue into December

Ryan Braun's Thumb Feels Great

Jayson Stark Suggest Hamels Trade Is Not the Best Idea for the Phillies

The Case for Allen Craig Rebounding

An Older Piece on the New Style MLB Manager

Making Hitters Better Through Science

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