3 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)
The trade deadline in baseball has come and gone. I love the excitement and suspense of the deadline because there will always be surprises like Keone Kela going to the Pirates or Tommy Pham to the Rays. In the spirit of trade season, I’ll be writing a special edition of Burning Questions where it’s all trades, baby! I’ll cover the trades that give players the biggest boost to their fantasy value and players that take the biggest hits. I won’t be able to cover them all, as I read somewhere that 22 trades occurred on Tuesday alone. That doesn’t include big movers like Manny Machado to the Dodgers or Mike Moustakas to the Brewers that happened between the All-Star break and prior to Tuesday’s deadline.
What players get a boost with their new teams?
Cole Hamels (SP – CHC) to the Cubs from the Rangers
Hamels goes from the Ballpark in Arlington to Wrigley Field. When the wind is blowing out at Wrigley, few parks can match the hitter-friendly nature. However, the Texas heat in the summer can make for some long evenings for pitchers. Hamels’ biggest boost is moving from the American League to the National League. Facing a pitcher two to three times a game should at least help his ratios and strikeout rate. The rest of the NL Central outside of the Brewers isn’t scary at all. His first start is Wednesday (today) against the Pirates, then he gets the Royals, the Nationals, the Reds, then the Mets. Of course, that’s if everyone holds serve. It doesn’t get much better than that stretch, so I’m loving this in the short term and hope he carries the momentum into September and beyond.
Tommy Pham (OF – TB) from the Cardinals to the Rays
This move surprised me. It’s not that I love the move for Pham, I just believe he’s due for some positive regression in terms of batting average. He’s hitting the ball harder than ever and while the launch angle is low, he manages a high HR/FB% to maintain 20+ homer power. His steals are down a bit but I think with a batting average jump, we could see a few more stolen base attempts. If an owner is selling, I’m buying!
On a related note, I really like the move for Harrison Bader and most recent call-up, Tyler O’Neill. O’Neill has been killing it in Triple-A with 26 home runs in only 61 games! Bader, on the other hand, has a nice blend of speed and power, but nowhere near the power that O’Neill possess. Both have quite a bit of swing and miss in their game but once the Cardinals are officially out of the playoff race, they should both be getting everyday at-bats. I’ll give the slight edge to O’Neill over Bader because of his immense power potential.
Mike Moustakas (3B – MIL) from the Royals to the Brewers
This one is easy. Moustakas goes from one of the worst hitting teams in the Majors to one of the best. He also gets a relatively massive park upgrade.
Moose is going to benefit in Miller Park even if it’s only for another 27 home games. He doesn’t strike out much, hits a ton of fly balls and has fantastic table setters Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain right in front of him. In the final two months, it’s not inconceivable that Moustakas could hit 15 home runs and drive in 35-40 RBI. It likely will come with a .260 batting average, but who would complain? The only thing potentially holding him back is playing time concerns with the log jam in Milwaukee, but if he’s hitting he’ll continue to play.
Kevin Gausman (SP – ATL) from the Orioles to the Braves
He’s out of the gauntlet of the AL East and moves over to the soft serve NL East. No more Yankees or Red Sox and he gets a home park upgrade as well. Gausman put together a nice second half last year with a 3.41 ERA a 1.20 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 89.2 IP. He’s basically the same pitcher he was last year with a lower walk rate and decreased velocity. Uh oh, the lower velocity can be a red flag. I won’t speculate on injuries because he would have needed to pass a physical to ensure the trade be executed. His loss of 1.5 mph on his fastball has yielded terrible results on the pitch. However, his splitter and changeup have been good and his ground ball rate is up a tick. I think he gets a strikeout boost and can maintain a 3.00-4.00 ERA with the Braves, but I’m not falling over myself to grab him.
Jonathan Villar (2B – BAL) from the Brewers to the Orioles
You thought I was going to talk about Schoop, didn’t you? Well, Schoop already hit in a great ballpark, and I don’t love his approach, so I call it a clean wash for Schoop (get it). And that’s assuming he still plays every day in Milwaukee, which isn’t a guarantee given the plethora of infielders the team now has. Villar, on the other hand, now gets to play second base full-time for the Orioles. I know the Orioles don’t run much as a team but Villar is going to change that. I don’t love his approach either, but he’s a stat-sheet filler. Meaning, when he gets on base, he’s going to run and he has some pop too. He might hit .245-.250, but would you be surprised if he hit eight home runs and stole 15 bases in two months with the Orioles? I wouldn’t and he’s available in about 80% of leagues right now.
Chris Archer (SP – PIT) from the Rays to the Pirates
The trade that finally happened. Ken Rosenthal predicted this exact trade to happen two years ago! It’s amazing and funny at the same time because all of these players involved in the trade have lost value since 2016. He’s finally out of the AL East, it’s been rumored for the past three years. Archer is starting to throw his changeup more, which is great because it’s gotten positive results. His fastball has lost a tick, so it will be interesting how the Pirates tinker with Archer’s arsenal. The Pirates are notorious for their overuse of the fastball. However, the recent changes in Jameson Taillon‘s repertoire show that maybe they are willing to change (pun intended). If Archer does have a third pitch he can go to, maybe he will be able to go deeper into games. This is obviously a great move for owners of Archer who stuck with him through the tough times.
Which players have decreased value after the trade deadline?
Obviously, any closer that moved from their current situation to one where they will be used as a setup man hurts their value. I’m doing a quick lightning round below for the relief options that were moved and any handcuffs that should be owned. But here are those other players that were negatively impacted by trades.
Lance Lynn (SP – NYY) from the Twins to the Yankees
Lynn has been bad this year and it’s not like he was very fantasy relevant before the trade. I just don’t see how moving to the AL East and pitching in Yankee Stadium could help Lynn. The Yankees continue to bolster their bullpen so it’s not like they need Lynn to eat a ton of innings. They also added J.A. Happ so Lynn might end up getting squeezed out at some point as well. I wouldn’t touch him and even in a favorable streaming situation, he likely won’t be my first choice.
Adam Duvall (OF – ATL) from the Reds to the Braves
Moving away from Great American Ballpark in the summer is not great for Duvall. Duvall moves from a place where he was going to get full-time at-bats with the loss of Jesse Winker to a crowded Braves outfield. He now becomes the fourth outfielder behind Ronald Acuna and Nick Markakis. It’s not as though he’s getting a significant upgrade in terms of offensive line up either. Hitting behind Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez was pretty solid. He also compiled 370 plate appearances to date in Cincinnati. I don’t expect more than two starts a week from Duvall the rest of the season barring an injury. What little value he had is gone. He can remain on the waiver wire.
Mallex Smith (OF – TB) Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays added Tommy Pham from the Cardinals and it now leaves Smith as the fourth outfielder. Smith can play all three outfield spots, so he should get at least three to four starts a week. However, he’s been hitting near the bottom of the lineup recently and doesn’t offer any power. I don’t usually love to own players whose only offensive skill is stealing bases. I realize Smith is hitting .284 but it comes with a .360 BABIP. In deep leagues and AL-Only leagues, he should be owned, but he won’t play enough to have good value in shallower leagues.
Max Muncy (1B/2B/3B – LAD) and Chris Taylor (SS/OF – LAD)
Muncy has cooled off since his impossibly hot two-month stretch. Taylor really hasn’t gotten going all year. Taylor’s strikeout rate is up and he’s riding an incredibly high BABIP over the past month just to post a .285 batting average. The additions of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier to the Dodgers has really squeezed several players into very few positions. Currently, Justin Turner is on the DL, so Machado is manning third base and Taylor is at shortstop with Muncy at first base. Cody Bellinger is slated for center field according to MLB Depth Charts. I’m not sure how well Bellinger can play center field, but I have to imagine he won’t stay there the rest of the year. The Dodgers will play some sort of roulette moving Taylor to center, Machado to short, Muncy to third, and Bellinger to first. I’m getting exhausted just thinking about it. That’s all well and good until Turner comes back. At that point, whoever is slumping is the odd man is out.
Austin Meadows (OF – TB) from the Pirates to the Rays
I already discussed why I don’t love Mallex Smith with the addition of Tommy Pham. It really halts Meadows prospects to get regular playing time at the major league level, and he’s been sent to the minors to see regular at-bats in the meantime. Personally, I don’t believe the Rays should be playing Carlos Gomez much, but they are. As long as Pham and Kiermaier are healthy, they will play every day. There isn’t enough playing time for Meadows to be mixed-league viable.
As a result of the trade deadline, what RP handcuffs should you grab and stash?
Keone Kela becomes the new setup man for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kela was solid for the Rangers as their closer and Felipe Vazquez struggled earlier in the year. With the stakes high, a couple of missteps by Vazquez could put Kela in the driver seat.
Ken Giles was acquired by the Blue Jays as Roberto Osuna moved to Houston. Ryan Tepera is currently the closer in Toronto but hasn’t been all that impressive. I think Giles ends up taking over as the closer at some point in mid-to-late August.
Brad Brach was one of may Orioles traded in the past week and he is currently behind A.J. Minter in the pecking order. With Arodys Vizcaino still on the DL and currently not throwing, Brach could find his way into the closer’s role before the month of August is through.
Seung-Hwan-Oh was sent to the Rockies this week. Wade Davis has had an up and down season with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He has notched 30 saves but with his injury history and the unfavorable conditions for pitchers in Colorado, it’s not inconceivable to see Oh in the closer’s role before the season is done.
Kelvin Herrera is the current closer in Washington. With Doolittle coming back soon, Herrera will likely be dropped. I don’t trust Doolittle to stay healthy the rest of the season. I could see Herrera getting five to eight opportunities within the next two months.