Zach’s Musings (1/24)
With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in less than a month, we’re rapidly approaching the finish line in the Hot Stove season. Michael Bourn is without question the biggest name still out there on the free agent market, and I’m very curious to see if the Scott Boras client will end up signing a moderate two or three-year deal or instead opt for a one-year contract so that he can test the free agent waters again next winter.
Anyway, let’s look at the notable signings/trades that took place since my last post.
Justin Upton and Chris Johnson traded to Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado and prospects
Finally! All the rumors turned into reality today as Justin will join his older brother in the Atlanta outfield. Even though J-Up is coming off a disappointing season in which he let down a lot of owners who used a first-round pick on him (myself included), I’m fairly confident that he’ll bounce back. He proved in 2011 just how great of a fantasy force he can be, and it’s not like he completely fell of a cliff last year. Note that he batted .287 with 10 homers, eight steals and a .817 OPS in the second half, which isn’t too shabby. The move from Chase Field to Turner Field might cost him a few homers, but his across the board production makes him well worth taking towards the beginning of the second round of a 12-team mixed league draft. I wouldn’t be surprised if he performs at a top-10 overall level.
As for the rest of the players involved, Johnson has some pop but should only be considered in NL-only leagues or as a last resort CI in deep mixed leagues. Playing time will probably be an issue as he figures to platoon at third base with Juan Francisco. Prado will likely serve as Arizona’s everyday third baseman and should continue to be a quality all-around fantasy contributor, particularly in the AVG department. His multi-position eligibility is a nice bonus. Delgado was erratic in 18 appearances for the Braves last year but will be only 23 on Opening Day. A spot in the D-Backs rotation to begin the season is no guarantee as he will need to beat out Tyler Skaggs, but in an NL-only league there are far worse mid to late-round gambles.
Michael Morse traded to Mariners
Seattle wasted little time following their failed attempt to acquire Justin Upton, adding a much-needed bat to the middle of their lineup. Morse’s power is legit, though you’ve got to think that moving to cavernous Safeco Field caps his home run upside. As for his ability to maintain such a high batting average, I’m very skeptical. Over the past two seasons, the 30-year-old has posted K/BB ratios of 97/16 and 126/36, yet he still managed to register a combined .297 average. This simply doesn’t add up. I can’t see myself drafting this guy. Too many question marks relative to his expected price tag.
As part of what turned out to be a three-team trade, John Jaso heads to Oakland, where he’ll assume the role of No. 1 catcher. Don’t sleep on him in AL-only leagues! Jaso swatted 10 homers with an .850 OPS in 108 games for Seattle last season and batted .302 against right-handed pitching. He even makes for a quality No. 2 catcher in mixed leagues.
Rafael Soriano signs with Nationals for two yrs/$28 million
Wow. The contract also includes a vesting option for 2015 should Soriano register a combined 120 games finished over the next two years, which is very unlikely. But even if we just focus on the two years, I don’t quite understand what the Nationals were thinking here. Both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen have already proven that they can perform at a high level in the ninth inning role, so I’m not sure why the Nats opted to pay top dollar to address an area that was already a strength. But I guess you can never have enough bullpen arms. Washington is obviously trying to win it all in 2013. Good for them.
From a fantasy perspective, this signing kills Storen and Clippard’s value, as there’s now zero chance that either of them saves more than a few games barring an injury to Soriano, who instantly becomes a top-10 closer. There’s no reason to think that he can’t duplicate last season’s stat line. Clippard and Storen are still worth drafting in NL-only formats for their excellent ratios. Value-wise, I’ll give Storen the slight edge just because I consider him to be next in line for saves.
Delmon Young signs with Phillies for one yr/$750 K
As long as Young can avoid any major off-field incidents, this could turn out to be a steal for the Phillies, as they’re getting a quality hitter for a dirt cheap price. Young burned me in Mixed Tout last year so I’m pretty much done with him from a fantasy standpoint, but if Delmon is still available in the last few rounds of your mixed league draft, feel free to take a shot on him. With regular playing time in a hitter-friendly park (and it sounds like the Phils will give him an opportunity to be their everyday right fielder), 20 homers and 85 RBIs isn’t a stretch.
Scott Hairston signs two-year contract with Cubs
Hairston could reportedly earn up to $6 million if he reaches all of his incentives. I was somewhat surprised by this move, as it’s not like the Cubbies are in any position to contend this season, but homer-happy Wrigley Field is a nice fit for Hairston, who managed to hit 20 home runs in just 377 at-bats for the Mets last year. Nate Schierholtz will steal some playing time from Hairston, specifically versus right-handed pitching, but he should still get enough at-bats to carry fantasy value in deeper mixed leagues.
Shaun Marcum signs one-year contract with Mets
Despite the injury history, I expected there to be a lot more interest in Marcum, and I love this move for both parties. Marcum gets to re-establish his market value on a one-year deal and the Mets get a very underrated starter who will have the opportunity to pitch half of his games at Citi Field. The only risk you’re taking on by drafting Marcum in the latter rounds has to do with his health, but at what will surely be a very cheap price, I’m all for adding him to your fantasy squad. He’s one of this season’s prime examples of a low-cost SP who can net you a huge profit and help you win your league.