Rating the Deadline Deals
I have to admit I got caught up in the trade deadline hype. About
two weeks before the 31st, it looked as though a record number of
players might change hands with multiple multiple-team trades taking
place. With a week left to go, the mood changed and it appeared
that everyone was at
stalemate and no players would move. Fortunately, the day before
deadline the gates opened wide and a number of deals of varying degrees
of importance were consummated. So here is my estimate of how
will affect the teams involved, and how the fantasy values may have
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers swung several deals, but it's not entirely clear how much
they helped themselves. First they traded Paul LoDuca, Juan
Encarnacion and Guillermo Mota to
the Marlins for Hee Seop Choi, Brad Penny and Bill Murphy. Bill
Murphy was then spun to the D-backs along with Koyie Hill and Roger
Abercrombie for Steve Finley and Brent Mayne. They had hoped that
Charles Johnson would accept a trade to replace LoDuca, but since that
didn't happen, Brent Mayne was the consolation prize.
I can see the attraction of the first deal as they upgrade their
rotation and get a nice long-term solution at first base. What I
don't get is trading for Steve Finely and Brent Mayne. Mayne
might not be any better than Koyie Hill or David Ross and the trade for
Finley moves Bradley to left and Shawn Green back to first base,
place for Choi to play. The Dodgers offense needs baserunners, so
relegating a hitter with a .389 on base percentage to the bench half
the time doesn't
seem like the smartest play. With LoDuca gone, it's not clear
that the Dodger offense is any better than it was and the addition of
Finley in center doesn't appear to make the Dodger outfield D any
better than it was with Bradley in center and Dave Roberts patrolling
Frankly, the only benefit I can see is adding Brad Penny, but overall
that was made
at the expense of two solid relievers. That's fine on days when
Odalis Perez or Penny are pitching, but what about the days on which
Ishii or Weaver or Lima are pitching? Ishii averages less than 6
innings per start and Lima and Weaver are only a little above it.
That still leaves two innings to go before Gagne. That will be a
problem as evidenced immediately on the 31st when Darren Dreifort blew
the save and the win in the 8th inning against the Padres.
Another concern is Finley's offense. His OPS away from the BOB
was more than 100 points lower over the last 3 years. The year
before he became a Diamondback, he finished with 14 home runs.
How much of his home run power will be left at the warning track?
Maybe quite a bit.
The Dodgers made two additional moves, presumably to replenish their
farm system: Roberts to the Red Sox for Henri Stanley and Tom
Martin to the Braves for Matt Merricks. With all the moves they made,
it's not at all clear that the Dodgers are that much better than they
were a week ago.
The fantasy effect appears to be that the Dodger starters might lose
more wins due to bullpen meltdowns. Wilson Alvarez loses his job
in the rotation, which hurts his value some, but he goes back to the
bullpen where he's pitched very well so he's still worth holding onto
in NL-only leagues. Finley will probably take a
significant hit in his home run numbers, as will Mayne, although with
the latter it might be hard to detect.
The Diamondbacks got their wish - several prospects who are close to
being ready for the majors, a cut in payroll and Steve Finely going to
a team that he probably won't re-sign with. The
thinking was that if they had traded him to San Diego, there was a good
chance he would have
re-signed with the Pads and the D-backs would have had to pay full
price for a centerfielder on the free agent market this winter.
effect is that several young players like Luis Terrero and Koyie Hill
will get a chance to show they deserve to stay in the majors
The Marlins got the catcher they needed in LoDuca, improved the team
addressed a shaky bullpen situation. If Benitez' elbow soreness
turns out to be serious, Mota can step in and give them a serviceable
option at closer. If he returns with no troubles, then they have
traded for a top notch set-up man. They also traded Abraham Nunez
to the Royals for Rudy Seanez, giving them a potentially deep quality
bullpen. Encarnacion moves Jeff Conine to first full-time, which
improves both the outfield and infield defense.
The offense will probably see a slight boost with the on base ability
of Choi being replaced by the RBI potential of LoDuca and
Encarnacion. While neither of the new additions
gets on base at an astounding rate, their presence deepens the line-up
and gives opposing pitchers fewer outs to work towards. Mike
Redmond is the odd man out, but he wasn't much
of an offensive force anyway.
The downside of their trade is they gave up a top notch starter.
The hole in the rotation might not be so bad if they can get some
consistency out of Dontrelle Willis and AJ Burnett down the stretch and
keep Josh Beckett from spending more time on the DL. If that
happens, the Marlins only have to hope that newly acquired Ismael
Valdes can do a decent job in the 5th spot for the 8-10 starts he will
have. It's definitely a downgrade but it's probably not
Fantasy-wise, this boosts the value of guys like Luis Castillo and Juan
Pierre because they will be driven in more often. Also, the
Marlin starters will be more likely to finish with a win if they leave
with a lead. Mike Redmond's value plummets, but it was already
pretty close to the floor.
San Diego Padres
Kevin Towers countered the Dodger flourish by doing next to
nothing. He traded Ismael Valdes to the Marlins for Travis Chick,
and then Jon Huber to the Mariners for Dave Hansen. Originally,
he traded Jake Gautreau to the Rangers for Brad Fullmer but the deal
fell through because of Fullmer's injured knee. Losing Valdes
isn't a big blow because he really hadn't pitched that well. Most
of his wins are due to the fact that he got over 6 runs of support per
game. Only Brian Lawrence has gotten as many as 5. Sterling
Hitchcock will take his place as the #5 starter when he comes back from
rehab. The pitcher they got for Valdes, Travis Chick, appears to
be a pretty decent prospect. The 20-year old was doing very
well in the Sally League, striking out 112 batters in barely more than
90 innings. Dave Hansen is a professional pinch hitter and has
little value above that.
Kansas City Royals
I was surprised that the Royals were able to get Abraham Nunez.
Several years ago he was hailed as an excellent outfield prospect, and
after several years of injuries, looked like he was going to realize
his potential this spring. However, he has struggled this year
with sporadic playing time and it's not clear whether his excellent
spring was a mirage or a portent of things to come. His only
competition for playing time is the underwhelming Dee Brown and Ruben
Mateo, so he might be a nice sleeper for next year. Justin Huber,
who came to the Royals in the Mets' Kris Benson trade, has a chance to
be their primary catcher by the end of next year and could be better
San Francisco Giants/Philadelphia
I believe the Giants conceded this season when they traded the one guy
who could close for them consistently, Felix Rodriguez, to the Phillies
for Rickie Ledee and Alfredo Simon, then didn't get a legit closer at
the deadline. Ledee is a guy they'll take a good look at next
year in right field. This year, he simply adds to the mix of
Michael Tucker and Dustan Mohr. Rodriguez becomes one of the
set-up men for Billy Wagner when he returns, along with proxy closer
Tim Worrell. Philly starters should feel more secure leaving with
leads now; Giants' starters should not.
New York Mets
The Mets added two starters to their rotation - Kris Benson and Victor
Zambrano. Shea is a forgiving place for pitchers and when they
are healthy, Mike Cameron, Kaz Matsui and Jose Reyes make a terrific
middle-of-the-field defense. Plus, pitching coach Rick Peterson
has a knack for making his wards better. Both Benson and Zambrano
have plus stuff so with a little tweaking, they could be much better
than anticipated. To get these two, along with reliever Bartolome
Fortunato and prospect Jeff Keppinger, the Mets had to surrender a good
portion of the quality in their farm system. Justin Huber, a top
catching prospect, went to Kansas City and Scott Kazmir, a
lefty-starter with lightning in his arm, went to Tampa, along with Jose
Diaz. However, it may be too late for the Mets to make anything
happen this season. On the plus side, the Mets should have a very
good starting rotation next year if they are able to keep both
pitchers. Additionally, the Mets traded Scott Erickson to the
Rangers for a player to be named later and cash. It's doubtful
this transaction will have any impact, real or fantasy.
In exchange for Benson and Keppinger, the Pirates received Ty
Wiggington, Jose Bautista (from the Royals) and Matt Peterson.
Wiggington takes over at third base for the rest of the year and
becomes their starting third baseman until something better comes
along. I'm not convinced he's significantly better than Rob
Mackowiak offensively or defensively, but he does bring additional
flexibility to the line-up. Peterson has some potential, but
probably won't be a factor until 2006 at the earliest.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Lou Pinella was probably both elated and dismayed that Zambrano was
dealt. Dismayed because his best starter had been traded.
Elated because he won't have to watch him pitch anymore. Zambrano
was among the league leaders in strikeouts, but was the league leader
by a substantial margin in walks and hit by pitches. his
departure opens up a spot for either Jorge Sosa to show what he can do,
or Doug Waechter when he returns from the DL. While Sosa's
wildness has been a problem in the bullpen, he has had several
brilliant outings. Earlier in the season, he was sent down to
start a few games in AAA and work on his mechanics. The result
were impressive: in 13 innings, he allowed 11 hits, 4 earned runs, zero walks and struck out 23 of the
47 batters he faced. Along those same lines, Scott Kazmir has
been dominating low level hitters and should be making his first big
league appearance by 2006.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox dealt Esteban Loaiza to the Yankees for Jose Contreras
and cash. The Yankees were simply fed up with Contreras'
inconsistency, especially when facing the Red Sox. It's weird
because his career ERA against Boston is 16.43. Twenty-eight of
the 86 earned runs he's allowed in his career have come in 5 games
versus the Red Sox. His career ERA against the rest of baseball:
3.45. Coming to a team with a decidedly latin flavor and where he
will only have to face Boston once per year, he should become a very
solid starter fairly quickly.
New York Yankees
In exchange for Contreras, the Yankees got a starter who seems to have
lost his way after a huge breakthrough year in 2003. John Kruk
pointed out that Loaiza's cutter lacks the same bite as it did last
year and that he'll be able to refine it under the tutelage of Mariano
Rivera. That sounds like a plausible story, but I'm not sure it
holds much water. Just because a guy can show you his grip,
doesn't mean you can throw the ball the same way he does. Rivera
has gotten by his entire career throwing just that one pitch, so there
has to be something special about the way he is physically built that
allows his cutter to be so much better than everyone else's.
Loaiza doesn't have that. No one does. So even if he
refines his cutter to be more like Rivera's, there's no guarantee that
it will work as well. In fact, the likelihood is that there will
be no change in Loaiza's performance. However, if Loaiza's
performance doesn't improve and Contreras pitches lights out for the
White Sox, it could be GM Brian Cashman's performance that will be
The Yankees also signed John Olerud to play first in Jason Giambi's
absence, although it appears that Tony Clark will ge the lion's share
of playing time.
And finally.... the blockbuster
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox divested themselves of Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton in
a four way deal that brought them Orlando Cabrera and Doug
Mientkiewicz. In another deal they exchanged minor leaguer Henri
Stanley for Dave Roberts. In one fell swoop, they not only made
Derek Lowe a good starter, but they also added a dimension to the
team's offense that has rarely been seen in Boston: speed. But
first things first. Orlando Cabrera, when healthy and motivated -
and a pennant race should be all the motivation he needs - could be the
best defensive shortstop the Red Sox have ever had. Along with
Mientkiewicz, they now have two guys in their infield who have great
range and rarely make dumb plays on defense. This will make
Bellhorn, Mueller and Youkilis much better defensively as they can
aggressively charge balls they think they can get and not have to worry
about collisions or someone not covering the appropriate base.
Better still, Cabrera can swing the bat. He's probably been
trying to force the issue in Montreal this season, but in a line-up
like Boston's, he can simply relax and play his game. That game
is a potential 20/20 shortstop, although the Green Monster will
probably limit his homers to around 15, but it should increase his
doubles to 45 or 50 a year.
They also brought in Dave Roberts, who can play any of the outfield
positions competently and has oodles of speed on the bases. He's
stolen at least 40 bases the last two years and is on pace to do it
again this year. More remarkably, he's only been caught once this
season. The last Red Sox player to steal 40 bases was Otis Nixon
in 1994. Before him you have to go back to Tommy Harper in 1973
to top 40. Roberts and Cabrera are important parts of their
playoff picture because now the Red Sox can use speed to score runs
against the elite teams. Before, they could only wait for the big
The downside is that Mientkiewicz has been battling wrist injuries all
season and may be the batting equivalent of Pokey Reese at first
base. While quite inconvenient, that won't be the kiss of death
that it might be to another team. And Mientkiewicz can still help
his team by making contact, hitting and running, bunting... doing the
little things. It just won't help fantasy teams.
From a real baseball standpoint, the Red Sox made out great. They
improved their defense at only slight expense to their offense, and in
the process, made their pitching staff much better. From a
fantasy standpoint, now would be a good time to trade for Derek
Lowe. The playing time picture is awfully crowded for
Mientkiewicz and Roberts, but Roberts at least should get enough
playing time to have some value even in mixed leagues.
The Cubs got Nomah, which is exactly what they needed. The high
infield grass of Wrigley will camouflage his increasing lack of range
and other defensive liabilities, while his bat should make a deep
line-up especially dangerous. However, it may be a bit much to
expect Garciaparra to contend for a batting title in the NL. His
career batting average at Fenway was .337; away from Boston it's
.308. His OPS at Fenway was also 67 points higher. On the
plus side, his home run rate was higher on the road. The biggest
hit on Nomar's value this year is that his achilles is bothering him
again, which will prompt ample days off, if not a stint on the
DL. He will still be a productive player, but he could be reduced
to a guy who plays only 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5 or 6.
Matt Murton is a decent outfield prospect who has a chance to be a
regular, but it won't be within the next two years.
Montreal Expos/Minneota Twins
The Expos got a couple of decent prospects - Francis
Beltran and Brendan Harris - who should prove useful when they move
into their new home next year and a quality defensive shortstop - Alex
Gonzales - they could spin this offseason for more young talent.
Likewise, the Twins picked up a decent prospect in the exchange in
Justin Jones. However, he's at least two years away.