Who Needs The Winter Meetings?

With the Winter Meetings a little less than a week away (Dec. 9-12), baseball’s hot stove wasted no time cranking up the heat; numerous free-agent deals of the big and small variety have already been agreed upon, and a trade no one saw coming–possibly including one of the two teams involved–might have solidified baseball’s premiere starting rotation for 2014.

(As I write this, another contract has been signed, sealed and drone delivered.)

Because my Hyper-jet Engine Status is on “Light Speed” and I can’t quite keep up with all of the baseball activity, I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss the dynasty league implications from some of baseball’s most recent transactions involving starting pitchers. (FYI, I’m only going to focus on current major leaguers, so no minor leaguers yet. That’s for another day.) First, the big kahuna:

Tigers trade RHP Doug Fister to the Nationals 

No, it wasn’t surprising to see Detroit trade a starting pitcher this off-season, as Rick Porcello and even Max Scherzer were rumored to be on the move. But no one–and I mean no one–predicted the Tigers to trade Fister, who, over the past three seasons, has been the ninth most valuable starting pitcher, according to FanGraphs War. Fister was unlucky this year (hello, Tigers’ infield defense), posting a 3.67 ERA with 159 strikeouts in 208 2/3 innings. He performed much better than that, however, posting a 3.26 FIP and 3.42 xFIP. Fister, in fact, hasn’t had a FIP over 3.42 since 2010. He’s been really, really sneaky good, if someone would like to forward that bit of information to general manager Dave Dombrowski.

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Accountability Check: Reviewing a Trade

Bret, Ben and I are often asked our opinions on trades and on prospects, both here or on Twitter. We also get asked what we thought of trades that are already made, and we do our best to give honest answers whether that’s what the questioners want to hear or not. Well, I’m using this forum as an opportunity to discuss two recent trades I made in an AL-Only Keeper league. I’m going to give my rationale, and I’d love to hear what you guys think of the return I got and if the deal makes sense. This also allows you to see us walk the walk when it comes to player valuations. I can tell you I’m high on Adalberto Mondesi…but now you’ll see exactly how high I am. I will try to provide as much context as possible.

Relevant Details:

  • 10 Team AL-Only League
  • 13 keepers
  • 3 year limits on players with 1 player you can keep indefinitely (designated as “franchise player”)
  • Rosters are as follows:
  • Hitters: C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, DH
  • Pitchers: P (10, no designation)
  • No bench
  • 30-man minor league system
  • 10 FA moves allowed (these are pure FA moves and do not get used when reserving a DL’d player or a player sent to minors)
  • 10 MiLB moves allowed (can be made at any time, cannot be traded)
  • Categories: BA, HR, R, RBI, SB, DT (doubles + triples), IP, ERA, W, S, Ratio (some bizarre thing that is BB+H-K/IP, I don’t get it either)

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Transaction Analysis: Dickey, Hamilton, Anibal, Bauer, Dempster and More

It turns out that baseball doesn’t stop just because I go on vacation. Shocking, I know. So in the week since my last post, three of the top remaining free agents signed, a Cy Young award winner was traded, and two top prospects changed teams. And that’s not even including the monster Rays/Royals trade, which I wrote up before I left. The winter meetings had nothing on this random week in December.

For those of you who missed any of the excitement, here is a listing of the fantasy relevant moves from the last week:

* Angels sign Josh Hamilton (5 years, $125m)
* Tigers sign Anibal Sanchez (5 years, $80m)
* Red Sox sign Ryan Dempster (2 years, $26m) and Stephen Drew (1 year, $9.5m)
* Mets trade R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to the Blue Jays for Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck and Wuilmer Becerra
* In a three-team trade, the Indians receive Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers; the Diamondbacks receive Didi Gregorius, Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson; the Reds receive Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald

There’s clearly a lot to talk about here, so we’ll save any further pleasantries for another day. Here’s how this shakes out from a long-term league perspective:

Value Up

Shin-Soo Choo

Simply enough, Choo will benefit from being in a more hitter-friendly park in the easier league. Hitting lead-off in front of the Phillips/Votto/Ludwick/Bruce outfit likely to occupy the 2-5 spots in the lineup will also potentially make him an elite run scoring option (think 110+) along with a 20-20 threat. Tough to view this long-term since he only has one year left on his contract, but for 2013, he was at #27 among OF before the deal – and is a top-20 guy for me now.

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Emergency Transaction Analysis: The Wil Myers Trade

The stakes of these off-season trades just keep getting bigger and bigger. It was one thing when the Marlins dumped half their roster on the Blue Jays — I mean, the Marlins do that every half-decade or so. But a trade like this is arguably even more rare. Yes, elite prospects get traded all the time. You don’t even have to go back 12 months to find a top-10 prospect who got traded (Jesus Montero). However, the last time a reigning Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year was traded was all the way back in 1998. Paul Konerko was the 1997 award winner and was dealt from the Dodgers to the Reds (yes, he did play 26 games for the Reds) in July of 1998. Other than that? Never.

With that said, I do think the Rays certainly got the better end of this trade — and I think you’ll understand why when we get into the individual player values affected below. But first, here’s the trade in its entirety:

Kansas City Royals receive James Shields and Wade Davis (plus a PTBNL/cash)
Tampa Bay Rays receive Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard

Value Up

Wade Davis

The clear winner from a fantasy angle in this trade is Davis. There was going to be no room for him again in the Tampa Bay rotation for 2013, and it was a long shot at best for him to get saves. Now, he’s moving to another pitcher-friendly park, which comes in handy when you have a 43% career fly ball rate, and he’s going to be given every chance to make the Royals rotation. Now, with all that said, I don’t expect great things from him. At this point, I think the best you can hope for with him in the near-term is that he can throw 180 league-average innings (4.00 ERA or so) with a 7.0 K/9. So even that would make him a solid #4 in a mixed league rotation. I’m very curious to see where the hype train goes with him through February and March, as he has very real and serious concerns about staying in the rotation long-term. But he will get his chance.

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Transaction Analysis: Ten Players Whose Values Changed During the Winter Meetings

Let’s be honest, the first five weeks of the off-season were pretty boring. However, the last week or so has seen some big time free agent signings and trades – and it’s no coincidence that this lines up with the Winter Meetings in Nashville. So since there’s been a lot of news lately, in the interest of timeliness, I’m going to quickly run through ten players who have seen their fantasy outlook change in a meaningful way because of one of these transactions – whether it’s up or down. So, for example, I’m not including Mike Napoli in this post because I think he’ll more or less be the same Mike Napoli in Boston as he was in Texas. And in the interest of further timeliness, this is the end of the introduction.

Shane Victorino

The Flyin’ Hawaiian is the source of many GIF’s, but he also might be a nice source of value in 2013 drafts and beyond. Yes, he hit a whopping .245/.316/.351 for the Dodgers after the mid-season trade from Philadelphia, but the 32-year old still has a lot to offer. Batting average will be easier to come by in Boston, and so will counting stats. On top of that, he’s going to be playing under a manager, in John Farrell, who has a track record in Toronto of being a bit lead footed when it comes to stolen bases. To be fair, Victorino is a guy who I liked to have a bounce back season in 2013 even before I knew who he signed with, but playing in Boston will give him the opportunity to be a top-30 OF again.

Joe Blanton

Leaving the “friendly” confines of Philadelphia for Anaheim is a net gain for anyone, but especially a pitcher like Blanton, who has been homer-prone in his career. Despite being more of a ground ball pitcher, Blanton has given up more than a HR per inning each season since leaving the A’s. Including partial seasons, here are his HR/9 rates with Philly: 1.38, 1.38, 1.09, 1.37, 1.49. So while his K-rate will likely go down moving to the AL, if his new ballpark can keep his HR/9 rate right around 1.0 and his HR/FB rate below 10% (which it hasn’t been since his days in the Coliseum), Blanton could be a helpful back-end starter for the next two years.

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Transaction Analysis: Jays/Marlins Supertrade

“That’s not a knife, THIS is a knife.”

There are going to be a lot of transactions written up here at The Dynasty Guru, but few are likely to be bigger trades than the one which went down last night between the Marlins and Blue Jays. Now, I know everyone is up in arms about the deal for reasons much larger than the talent exchanged between the two teams, but for fantasy purposes, we’re not interested in that. However, I will add one brief thought to the echo chamber on the non-baseball related aspect to this deal: I hope that this trade finally spells the end of publicly financed stadiums for sports teams.

And with that said, let’s move on to the baseball aspect of this deal. Here is the full trade:

Blue Jays receive Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck

Marlins receive Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hecchevaria, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony Descalfini

Value up

Justin Nicolino

The biggest winner of this trade, as far as future fantasy value, is clearly Nicolino. He is a left-hander with average stuff that plays up due to advanced command and pitchability for someone his age. However, don’t think we’re talking about Tommy Milone here — Nicolino can dial his fastball up into the low 90’s. The biggest issue with Nicolino is that he may arrive in the big leagues without a feature pitch, something which will garner swings and misses from batters at the highest level on stuff alone. Fortunately, life is a lot easier for pitchers like that in the NL East than in the AL East — not to mention the difference in future home parks on top of that. Expect Nicolino to make a big jump in my dynasty prospect rankings solely based on the scenery change.

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