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 the deadline the gates opened wide and a number of deals of varying degrees of importance were consummated.  So here is my estimate of how they will affect the teams involved, and how the fantasy values may have changed.

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, leaving no 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 left. 

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.

Arizona Diamondbacks
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.  The fantasy 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

Florida Marlins
The Marlins got the catcher they needed in LoDuca, improved the team defense and 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 critical. 

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 than average.

San Francisco Giants/Philadelphia Phillies
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.

Pittsburgh Pirates
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 reviewed. 

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 swing. 

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. 

Chicago Cubs
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.