Free Agent Departures & Beneficiaries (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
While we may need to wait to learn where a particular player will sign in free agency, we can see the immediate impact of said player leaving a team. That is, a new role is now vacated, and someone will eventually need to fill it.
“Eventually” is a keyword in this situation. We are assessing the state of a few teams with many questions unanswered. Still, the task is to get ahead of the curve and note those who stand to benefit from their teammates opting for free agency.
George Springer (OF – HOU): Signed with the Blue Jays
Arguably the biggest free-agent bat of the 2021 offseason will leave a hole to be filled by a built-in starter. George Springer departing from the Houston Astros now leaves Kyle Tucker in a position to shine. There’s no surprise with Houston’s intention here, as Tucker has been regarded as one of the franchise’s top prospects for quite some time. He saw a full season’s worth of at-bats in the shortened 2020 campaign and not becomes one of the more important bats in Houston’s lineup for the foreseeable future.
Beneficiaries: Kyle Tucker
Liam Hendriks (RP – OAK): Signed with the White Sox
Liam Hendriks was a truly extraordinary find for both the Oakland Athletics and fantasy baseball managers as he emerged as one of the league’s elite closers a few years ago. Now, those same Athletics and fantasy baseball managers will be searching for the next key bullpen arm. Hendriks recently signed with the Chicago White Sox as one of the more understated moves of the offseason. Why “understated”? Because the focus will likely shift to Chicago instead of Oakland. We know the Athletics like to rotate through the closer position and find value wherever they can, so we should be ready to pounce as soon as a candidate emerges. As of now, said candidate is Jake Diekman, but I would exercise caution before buying his stock so heavily. Take him at a discount, but remember Oakland’s strategy. There’s a good chance Hendriks’ replacement won’t be known until the first week of the season, so pay close attention to what the team does late in games early in the year.
Possible Beneficiaries: Jake Diekman
Carlos Santana (1B – CLE): Signed with the Royals
The Cleveland Indians — and many fantasy owners — have been begging for either Jake Bauers or Bobby Bradley to develop into the player depicted by their respective prospect profiles. To date, neither has delivered. Still, the departure of Carlos Santana opens the door for at least one to slide in as the everyday first baseman. Put both on your “watch list” and prepare to buy with any indication that one is winning the race. Indeed, Cleveland’s offense is slowly losing its explosiveness with each player traded away or allowed to leave via free agency. Still, both players have power, and a boost in volume could do wonders if they land in the middle of the lineup.
Possible Beneficiaries: Jake Bauers, Bobby Bradley
Trevor Bauer (SP – CIN): Yet to Sign
Trevor Bauer is arguably the biggest name still available in free agency, but we currently care more about his departure from the Cincinnati Reds than the team on which he will ultimately land. Since said team is unlikely to be Cincinnati, we have some candidates who can slide higher in the pitching rotation. Luis Castillo is a key name to target, but I’m not convinced Bauer leaving helps Castillo’s case in any way. Last year, his ADP was already priced without any consideration of Bauer, so we have a decent idea of his overall value. Instead, the trio of Tyler Mahle, Jeff Hoffman, and Michael Lorenzen all see their stocks rise, speculative as they may be. Mahle is already a near-lock for the rotation as he started nine games for the Reds in 2020, but Hoffman and Lorenzen carry excellent sleeper upside if either were to secure a role.
Possible Beneficiaries: Tyler Mahle, Jeff Hoffman, Michael Lorenzen
Marcus Semien (SS – OAK): Yet to Sign
Marcus Semien ultimately signing anywhere but Oakland is probably going to have a bigger impact on the Athletics than on whichever team lands him. This is not an insult to Semien — although it reads like one — but a balance of opportunity within the market. Shortstops are in high supply lately, and Semien leaving the position vacated allows someone else to slide into the role. The problem? The current name atop the shortstop depth chart is none other than Vimael Manchin. Who? I know. Manchin is not only a name new to fantasy baseball circles, but he may be the first person replaced from this list. That’s the key. His short audition with Oakland was anything-but-impressive, as he hit just .206 with a .296 on-base percentage in 24 games. The Athletics are almost certainly going to entertain other options, and we should be prepared to target whatever they’re buying. Consider Machin a “placeholder” for both Oakland and your fantasy team, ready to be supplanted by a viable starter.
Possible Beneficiaries: Vimael Machin
Nelson Cruz (UTIL – MIN): Yet to Sign
Nelson Cruz has departed from yet-another-team, but the designated hitter now turns over the reigns to two power-heavy bats who could desperately use a break from the rigors of everyday fielding. Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano can’t stay healthy — Sano has never played more than 116 games in a season, while Donaldson has missed 198 games over the last four years — but their potential in a given season cannot be ignored. Each year, we draft them with the proverbial “if” hanging over their heads. “If” they can stay on the field… Maybe now, they can. It will just be on a rotational basis as the Minnesota Twins’ designated hitters.
Possible Beneficiaries: Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano
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