Friends In Low Places
While some players are fighting for divisions and pennants, many valuable fantasy baseball assets are playing on teams where even the beer can’t chase their blues away. With the trade deadline less than two months away, many of these assets will be wearing new colors come August, but will a change of scenery benefit them all?
Jose Martinez, OF, STL
Despite slashing .292/.350/.398 and being one of the best OBP assets in fantasy baseball, Jose Martinez is forced to split time with Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader in the Cardinals outfield. Even more frustrating for fantasy owners is how his usage has played out, as the righty has seen only 29 plate appearances against lefties in 2019, despite owning a career .975 OPS against southpaws.
The Cardinals have no real way to maximize Martinez’s usage more than his current situation, as he is clearly the inferior defender among his platoon partners. After acquiring Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason, any hope that Martinez would log first base appearances was lost, and it was assumed that the Venezuelan would be dealt to an American League club. While that offseason trade never came to fruition, the Cardinals could still use Martinez as an asset to bolster a more pressing need, such as pitching help.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF
For baseball purposes, Madison Bumgarner is in one of the worst situations in the Majors. The San Francisco Giants are an aging team with no signs of youth coming up and are certainly destined towards a lengthy rebuild. However, the realities of baseball often don’t line up with the fantasy alternatives. With an expiring contract, Madison Bumgarner will need to be traded in order to suit up for a competitive team, but unlike other players moving to better situations, a Bumgarner move could negatively impact his fantasy value.
Age comes for all, and after three straight sub-3 ERA seasons with over 9 K/9 and 215+ innings pitched, Madison Bumgarner looks like he is playing much older than his 29 years. While Bumgarner is still an effective pitcher, he has taken a considerable step back from the fantasy ace he was during his prime. Despite pitching in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, Bumgarner’s HR/9 is sitting at 1.4 for the second time in three years and his ERA is at an all-time high. Bumgarner has not lost velocity or effectiveness on his pitches, so perhaps a change of scenery to a competitive roster could re-ignite the leftie’s flame, but a new home park will certainly not help.
Ken Giles, RP, TOR
The Toronto Blue Jays have been one of the worst teams in baseball, but one of the bright spots has been the re-emergance of dominant closer Ken Giles. That last thing the league’s third-worst team needs is a lockdown closer, especially one with only one remaining year on his contract, and so the rebuilding Jays will look to turn 28-year-old into controllable assets. Giles has done wonders for his value thus far, posting a near-perfect 1.08 ERA, backed up by a 1.15 FIP, and a gaudy 15 K/9 across 25 innings pitched. Still relying on a near 50/50 split usage of fastball and slider, Giles will be one of the top prizes for bullpen needy teams at the 2019 trade deadline.
It is fitting that Giles is destined for a trade back below the border, as ‘160 kilometres Giles’ just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘100 miles Giles.’
Ian Happ, 2B/OF, CHI
Once one of Major League Baseball’s top prospects, and yet another jewel on top of the Cubs World Series crown, Ian Happ has fallen on hard times. After posting above average offensives seasons in 2017 and 2018, Happ failed to break camp with the Cubs after posting a .389 OPS in 2019 Spring Training and has failed to work his way back up to the team ever since.
With Carlos Gonzalez, David Bote, and Daniel Descalso manning the Cubs’ bench, it seems unfathomable that Happ couldn’t crack the roster, and yet it is reality. With Happ’s struggles and the Cubs seeming unwillingness to call him back up, even after putting Ben Zobrist on the reserved list, a change of scenery seems in the cards for the 24-year-old.