July 2009

Trade Deadline Ticker

Reigning champs rein in reigning Cy Young winner


the deal we’ve all been waiting for.


the second deal we’ve all been waiting for.


of breaking the bank on Roy Halladay, the Phillies got the next best thing
available, acquiring Cliff Lee along with outfielder Ben Francisco from the
Indians for four prospects — pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp,
shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson.


don’t think for one second that Philadelphia passed on Halladay for some cheap


one thing, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. paid a pretty penny to land


the differences between Lee and Halladay aren’t as stark as you may


Halladay, Lee has an American League Cy Young Award to his name, earning the
honor just a year ago with a 22-3 record and a 2.54 ERA.  


pitchers have already turned in back-to-back complete games since the break. 
Halladay’s gone the distance four times in his last nine outings, while Lee’s
done it three times .

were even drafted by Canadian teams — Halladay by the Blue Jays, and Lee by
the Montreal Expos.


ballparks are a wash — Cleveland’s Progressive Field and Philly’s Citizens
Bank Park both favor hitters. 


biggest differences are that Halladay has been doing it longer and can control
the outcome of a game unlike practically any other pitcher.


may not be far from achieving that status himself, though.


of fighting tooth and nail to even his record, the lefty actually has a chance
to garner run support now with the likes of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul
backing him up.  If Jamie Moyer can win 10 games in Philly while
getting knocked around for a 5.32 ERA, it shouldn’t be too difficult for a guy
who’s got filthy breaking stuff, throws strikes (107/33 K/BB ratio) and doesn’t
get himself into too many jams. 


leagues also works in Lee’s favor, as he gets to face weak-hitting opposing
pitchers instead of dangerous DHs like Adam Lind, Jim Thome and David Ortiz.


put, Lee just climbed several rungs among fantasy starters and could ultimately
crack the Top 10-15.


what happens to Pedro Martinez? How does he fit into Philadelphia’s plans?
That’s something to keep an eye on in the days ahead, although it seems fairly
clear that he’ll still be given a long look at the back end of the club’s


the prospects heading back to Cleveland, the one worth paying attention to is
Carrasco. Long regarded as one of the Phillies’ top arms, the 22-year-old
righty has gotten good traction in the upper Minors —  until this season,
when he’s gone 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA. Still, the fact that he’s throwing to both
sides of the plate and getting his fair share of whiffs (112/38 K/BB ratio in
114 2/3 IP) bodes well for his big league prospects. It’s probably just a
matter of time before Carrasco replaces Lee in Cleveland’s rotation.


–Alex Cushing, MLB.com

Great-ful Deadline looming for Rauch, Frasor, Lidge?


Brad Lidge count on save opportunities come Aug. 1?


about Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee — with the way the Phillies are shopping for
relievers, you have to wonder whether their attempts to acquire another starter
mask their real goal: landing another closer.


all, they’ve already put so much time and PR work into Pedro Martinez. And why
part ways with top pitching prospects Kyle Drabek and/or Carlos Carrasco only
to watch Halladay walk in another year and a half?


Cole Hamels rounding into form and Joe Blanton finding his National League niche,
the greater concern is Lidge. The guy who
converted all 41 save opportunities last season to go with a sparkling ERA
of 1.95 finds himself lost without a compass in 2009. Not since April has his
ERA fallen below 6.00. The Phillies already tried sending him to the DL with a
knee injury, but they’re running out of options.


Diamondbacks closer Chad Qualls, whom the Phillies have been scouting for some
time now, according to various reports. With a quality setup man already locked
up in Ryan Madson, adding Qualls would allow Lidge to rest, clear his head and
recover in time for the postseason.


Phillies aren’t the only team eying Qualls, and Qualls isn’t the only closer
drumming up interest.


market is filled with teams looking to shore up their bullpen. I’m speaking of
the Rays, Twins, Angels, Rangers, Marlins, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers and Rockies. Of
course, almost all of those clubs already have established closers. 


is the time of year when new firemen rise and old ones fall — not the other
way around. The best way to get your hands on cheap saves is to focus almost
entirely on potential closer vacancies. While real-life GMs are busy trying to
land the best available relievers, savvy fantasy GMs are busy pursuing their


yourself this: Who’s next in line for saves? Who’s ready to take over for the
Diamondbacks, Astros, Braves, Reds, Pirates, White Sox, Orioles, Indians and
Blue Jays?


past couple of Trade Deadlines have opened doors for Joel Hanrahan, Kyle
Farnsworth, John Grabow, Octavio Dotel, C.J. Wilson
and Dan Wheeler.




of where Qualls ends up, knowing that Rauch is the odds-on favorite to replace
him makes a difference. Rauch excelled as Washington’s closer last year, and with
a 2.18 ERA since the start of June, he’s capable of doing the same if Arizona
parts ways with Qualls.


Jays setup man Jason Frasor also proved capable of handling closer duties,
filling in admirably for Scott Downs amid an injury spell weeks ago. There’s no
reason to expect anything different if Downs relocates.


has a few familiar firemen of its own in Grabow and Hanrahan should the market
heat up for Matt Capps. Grabow is probably first in line, but don’t be too
quick to dismiss Hanrahan, who overcame a rough stretch with Washington to
deliver a 3.38 ERA since arriving in Steeltown. 


inconsistent yet promising reliever worth watching is Chris Perez, who figures
prominently in the Indians’ relief plans and could wind succeeding Kerry Wood
sooner rather than later. Acquired from St. Louis in the Mark DeRosa deal, the
hard-throwing 24-year-old has looked sharp in his last five outings, all of
which were scoreless.


deeper and you’ll find Nick Masset, who’s fared well enough (2.51 ERA, 39/14
K/BB ratio) to be considered a viable backup to Reds closer Francisco Cordero.


every team offers diamonds in the rough. Take the Orioles bullpen, where closer
George Sherrill is garnering interest as a setup man, not a closer. Why not
beat Baltimore to the punch and cash in before his value turns to dust? Better
that than banking on a replacement emerging from the likes of Jim Johnson or
Danys Baez.


count on Bobby Jenks leaving the South Side any time soon, as White Sox skipper
Ozzie Guillen as repeatedly shown his support for the burly finisher. The
acquisition of Tony Pena signaled the possible departure of Dotel and Scott
, not Jenks.



–Alex Cushing, MLB.com

Garko set for leadership role in San Francisco


Travis Ishikawa, hello Ryan Garko.


some much-needed punch to their lineup, the Giants got themselves a first
baseman and a middle-of-the-order presence in Garko on Monday, giving the
Indians a Class A arm in Scott Barnes.


Garko will be asked to some heavy lifting for a contender after towing the line
for a floundering Indians club. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him featured
right alongside Pablo Sandoval in the heart of San Francisco’s order, with
Sandoval batting third and Garko slotting into the cleanup spot.  
The opportunity is long overdue for a Minor League masher who’s been defying
critics all throughout his career. What’s more, the timing couldn’t be any
better — he’s in the midst of a scorching-hot July, ringing up a .343 average,
three homers, seven RBIs and a .514 slugging percentage.


downside for Garko is he leaves behind one hitters’ park in Progressive Field
for one ginormous pitchers’ paradise in AT&T Park.


when a team believes in you enough to make you the new centerpiece of their
offense, who really cares about venues? Garko fits in perfectly with the San
Francisco’s slew of offensive outcasts. 


takes over for Garko at first?


Indians have several options. Chief among them is Matt LaPorta, the team’s top
prospect who recently began playing first more with the idea of improving his
chances of a callup.  LaPorta scuffled in his first go-round the bigs a
few months back, but the guy has nothing left to prove at Triple-A Columbus,
where he owns a .301 average and a .533 slugging percentage in 272
at-bats.  Another option is Andy Marte, who’s having a renaissance season at Columbus. They can also move Victor Martinez to first and give Kelly
the bulk of starts behind the plate. They can also move Martinez to
first and promote super-catching prospect Carlos Santana (no, not the
musician), who boasts a .272 average, 19 homers, 69 RBIs, a .396 on-base
percentage and a .534 slugging percentage for Double-A Akron.


is as good a time as any to scoop up LaPorta and take a flier on Santana.


and give Garko a look while you’re at it.


Alex Cushing, MLB.com

Big second half in Cards for Holliday


For all the anticipation leading up to the Trade Deadline, only a few moves really wind up impacting fantasy leagues.

This is one of them.

The Cardinals acquired Matt Holliday from the A’s on Friday for three prospects — third baseman Brett Wallace, right-hander Clay Mortensen and outfielder Shane Peterson.

For Holliday, going anywhere other than Oakland would have boosted his fantasy stock. His situation there paled in comparison to that which he had in Colorado, where he had benefited from both offensive support and one of baseball’s best hitters’ park to ring up a .645 career slugging percentage of .645.

In St. Louis, Holliday not only gets back to familiar ground in the National League, but he also gets another distinct advantage: Albert Pujols. You know, the guy who’s got the first legitimate shot at a Triple Crown Award in decades? The thought of Holliday batting right behind Pujols in the cleanup spot is enough to jump out of your skin if you’re lucky enough to own him.

Just think about all the glorious RBI opportunities Holliday will see in St. Louis. And not just because of Pujols, mind you. A lineup already featuring the likes of Ryan Ludwick, Mark DeRosa and Pujols is cause for celebration for a guy who’s been stuck between an aging Jason Giambi and whoever else Oakland placed in its five-spot.

Plus, there should be far more opportunities on the basepaths with the Red Birds than with the A’s, a team known for their lack of aggression on the basepaths.

One major talent exchange between Oakland and St. Louis took place back in 1997, when the Cardinals acquired Mark McGwire.

Holliday has nowhere near that kind of power upside, but the fantasy ramifications of his arrival are no less impactful than the Manny Ramirez deal one year ago.

For NL-only owners weighing what to bid on Holliday’s services, think no more. Break the bank.

As for the prospects, the main guy to watch  is Wallace, who is one of the game’s top third-base prospects heading to a team with a gaping hole at the hot corner. Drafted in 2008, Wallace rose all the way to Triple-A in just over a year, hitting a combined .306 with a .390 on-base percentage and .a 466 slugging percentage while earning a starting nod in the XM Radio All-Star Futures Game.

With Eric Chavez‘s career in jeopardy, nothing stands in Wallace’s way at third. His pop leaves something to be desired, but at 23, he’s ready to make an impact in AL-only play when Oakland summons him in the next month or two. 

Perfect time to sell high on Buehrle


He did it.


Mark Buehrle became the American
League’s first pitcher in 10 years to throw a perfect game, and against one of
baseball’s most dangerous lineups, no less, in the Tampa Bay Rays.


As fantasy owners, we’re often challenged
to fine in milestones and rare occurrences (you know, real baseball stuff).


After all, at the end of the day,
when all the celebration ends and the dust settles, a perfect game is really
just a bunch of zeroes in the box score, right? There are no special prizes,
bonuses or handshakes for owning the guy who threw a no-hitter, especially when
the subject is someone as well-established as Buehrle. Now, if you happened to
sit Buehrle today — worried about the prospect of a meltdown against the Rays,
perhaps — that’s an entirely different story.


A few weeks ago, when Jonathan
fell a Juan Uribe error shy of pitching a perfect game of his own —
instead settling for a measly no-hitter — the waiver wire was flooded with
owners looking to pounce on the flavor of the week. Compare that with two years
ago, when Buehrle tossed a no-hitter against the Rangers, which had little
effect on the fantasy landscape because he was already owned. The veteran’s place
in the baseball universe had long been established, so the fallout was minimal.


If anything, then, Buehrle owners
would be wise to auction off the crafty lefty to the highest bidder. How much
higher can his value rise?


Let’s be honest — Buehrle may
bring consistency to any fantasy staff, but the hard truth is he’s always just
been one of those players whose fantasy value lags behind his real-life
value. Why? He doesn’t strike guys out. He’s a soft-tosser, a finesse guy who’s
more interested in getting outs than he is in getting whiffs. He’s no better
than Ricky Romero, Josh Johnson or any other breakthrough pitcher, and in fact
he’s probably less valuable because his stuff isn’t as overpowering.


Longevity, durability and
efficiency may get you to a World Series, but it won’t earn you a fantasy


What better way to celebrate
Buehrle’s crowning achievement than to trade him for someone who will?


–Alex Cushing, MLB.com

LaRoche trade signals second chance for Milledge


Word just broke that first baseman Adam LaRoche is heading to Boston in exchange for Minor League
shortstop Argenis Diaz and right-hander Hunter Strickland.


It’s not quite the Roy
blockbuster deal everyone is hoping to see, but hey, it’s better
than nothing nine days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.


Conventional wisdom says leaving the floundering Pirates for
the always-competitive Red Sox team would be a huge boon for LaRoche, but
that’s not the case. For the next few weeks, sure — LaRoche will see a good
chunk of time at first, with Kevin Youkilis shifting to third in place of Mike
, who continues to work his way back from hip problems. However, once
Lowell gets back up to speed, LaRoche will become nothing more than insurance,
a bench bat who essentially rides the pine waiting until one of the regulars
needs rest or suffers an injury.


The differences between Boston’s offense and Pittsburgh’s
offense are undeniable, but those same differences explain why playing time
will be tougher to come by in Beantown than it was across the diamond from
younger brother Andy.


So, does anyone benefit from the move?


Yes, although nobody included in the deal itself. In fact,
the big winner isn’t even on the Red Sox or Pirates as we speak.


Give up?


Remember Lastings Milledge? You know, the Mets former top
prospect who fell out of favor in Washington, prompting a trade to Pittsburgh a
few weeks ago? Well, the mercurial outfielder has been preying on Minor League
pitching at Triple-A Indianapolis, ringing up a .400 average (14-for-35) there
to go along with the 10 swipes he’s collected on the farm.


With LaRoche out of the picture, the smart money says recent
waiver-wire beast Garrett Jones shifts to first base and Milledge takes over in
left field. That plan will work out fine until mega-prospect Pedro Alvarez is
summoned to man first for the next decade or so.


Pittsburgh will clearly be willing to overlook Milledge’s
personal issues if it means five-category production in return, whereas the Red
Sox will only play LaRoche — a traditional bounceback second-half monster with
no history of misbehavior — when they have to.


How’s that for a reversal in fortune?


If you have the roster space, why not follow Pittsburgh’s
lead and give Milledge a second chance?


–Alex Cushing,

Boston clears way for Buchholz


On the surface, Tim
was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday because of a lower
back strain.


Another way to see
it is that Wakefield landed on the DL because of Clay Buchholz. Call it a case
of “Clay Buchholzitis,” an injury Wakefield may have been able to overcome were it not for a promising young right-hander waiting in the wings.


Whichever view you
prescribe to, what’s clear is this: Buchholz has nothing left to prove at
Triple-A Pawtucket, where he’s gone 7-2 with a 2.36 ERA and an 89/30 K/BB ratio
over 99 innings. The injury provided Boston the perfect opportunity to rest one aging knuckleballer and call upon an up-and-coming 24-year-old who’s done
everything to show he belongs in Beantown, including winning
season debut last Friday, in which he held Toronto to one run over 5 2/3


The move raises
Buchholz’s profile from should-grab to must-grab. Sure, there are no guarantees
he’ll stick in Boston’s crowded rotation. Wakefield is due back on Aug.
2, and the club also has Daisuke Matsuzaka getting back up to speed (remember him?). But a few
strong outings from Buchholz could make sending him back down to the farm all
but impossible. And if that means finding a taker for Brad Penny before the
July 31 Trade Deadline, or bringing back Wakefield and Dice-K at a super-slow-motion
pace, the Red Sox will do what’s necessary to keep the kid around, so long as
he’s holding his own.


And based on
everything we’ve seen this season, Buchholz is fully capable of doing just that, even after coming up short last year.

Ironically, the no-hitter Buchholz threw two
years ago probably hurt more than it helped his development. Expectations shot through
the roof, opposing teams took notice and the early success may have gone to his head.


No longer burdened
by unrealistic expectations, the Texas native could take the opportunity and
run with it. Who knows? Come August, it may be Wakefield and Matsuzaka who get shut out of Boston’s rotation, not Buccholz.


–Alex Cushing, MLB.com

Pounce on early surgers Encarnacion, Cabrera


It’s only been a few days since the All-Star
break, but already hitters are either making names for themselves or reemerging
from the fantasy abyss. If you missed the boat on Franklin Gutierrez, this may
be your last chance to grab these second-half surgers:


Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Reds: Encarnacion went
7-for-7 with a pair of homers and six RBIs in his first two games back from the
break. Injuries wiped out his first half, but a healthy return combined with the
favorable environment of Great American Ball Park has Encarnacion primed for a


Gordon Beckham, SS/3B, White Sox: For a guy
drafted eighth overall one year ago, it’s a wonder Beckham isn’t getting more
waiver-wire attention. Pushing Josh Fields to a permanent bench spot, the
22-year-old shortstop-turned-cornerman appears to be gaining steam after a
tough first few weeks in the bigs.  With seven extra-base hits this month
and good momentum coming out of the All-Star break (5-for-10), Beckham could be
in contention for the American League Rookie of the Year Award by season’s


Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks: Acting
Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch has leaned on Montero more and more since
taking over for Bob Melvin, and the decision is clearly paying off. Montero is
thriving with fellow backstop Chris Snyder out of action, batting .380 with four
homers, five doubles and 10 RBIs in his last 16 games, including a 7-for-12 stretch
and a pair of long balls since the All-Star break.


Orlando Cabrera, SS, A’s: Cabrera delivered a
pedestrian first half, but he’s hitting .371 with two homers and six stolen
bases this month. The well-traveled shortstop has a history of heating up after
the break and could be dealt to a contender before the Trade Deadline, so don’t
let his overall numbers sway you from plugging him in your lineup.


Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals: Who knew D.C.
could bring out the best in someone? Since arriving in a trade from Pittsburgh
on June 30, Morgan has taken his pesky offensive approach to the next level,
hitting .367 with a Major League-leading 10 stolen bases in 14 July games, including
four swipes since the All-Star break.


–Alex Cushing, MLB.com

Second-half trends to monitor


first half of a baseball season isn’t all that different from a wild and crazy
night out on the town.


are all kinds of surprises, twists and turns, bizarre and inexplicable
anomalies. The best thing you can hope for is that you’re in one piece by
morning. Then, you can clean yourself up, shower, get coffee, enjoy breakfast
and get back to the real world.


it’s morning time. The real world beckons.
Out with “anything goes” and
in with conventional wisdom.


usually thrives after the All-Star break? Who sinks? Who will be the postbreak Ben Zobrist, the late-summer Mark Reynolds?


The cast
of characters may change, but the basic guidelines remain the same year in and
year out.


Here are
the rules of the second half:


the typical slow pokes


have habits, just like humans do. You’ve heard of morning people and nightowls.
Well, some players simply don’t get going until All-Star break has passed. For
better or for worse, there are a handful of usual suspects who start slowly and
heat up down the stretch annually.


knows why first baseman Adam LaRoche coasts through the first half and
awakens during the second half — he just does. His .250 average and .447
slugging percentage this year eerily resemble his respective career marks of
.252 and .447. So why should this second half look anything differently than
the career .297 average and .548 slugging percentage he’s delivered? If there’s
one quintessential second-half player to target, it’s LaRoche, especially if he
ends up being dealt to a stronger lineup down the stretch.


who’s stuck by Jimmy Rollins through rough thick and thin can at least
take comfort in the fact the best has yet to come. Rollins — one of the biggest
first-half busts of all time — once delivered a slugging percentage down the
stretch that was 119 points higher than he’d compiled over the season’s the
first three months. Look for the former National League Most Valuable Player’s
.229 average and .355 slugging percentage to climb significantly, and for his
steals and runs scored to follow suit.


Ditto Aubrey
, who’s pushed many a fantasy owner ahead of the pack with his usual
dose of second-half thunder. He’s practically made a career out of strong finishes,
dating as far back to the conception of the Tampa Devil Rays. With a career
.299 second-half average of .and a .514 slugging percentage — including a
diesel .332/.376/.558 output down the stretch last season — he’s bound to heat
up once again in a revamped Orioles lineup.


late risers worth watching include Mark
, Rafael Furcal, Troy Tulowitzki, Garret Anderson, Robinson
, Bobby Abreu, Freddy Sanchez, Placido Polanco, Carlos
, Randy Winn, Jeremy Hermida, Jorge Posada and Felipe


young pitchers


out 200 innings is no easy task for any pitcher, especially if that pitcher
lacks experience — even 150 frames is asking a lot from a guy in his first or
second full season. The majority of young hurlers seem to hit a wall in August,
often resulting in injury or implosion.


Josh Johnson knows this all too well. The
wear and tear of 24 starts during the right-hander’s rookie season resulted in
a second-half ERA roughly two runs higher than his first-half mark and
eventually led to Tommy John elbow surgery that forced him to miss almost all
of ’07. Getting beyond that 24-start mark this year could prove problematic for
Johnson, who logged only 87 1/3 innings last season.


Johnny Cueto got pounded down the stretch
last season, and his small stature (5-foot-10) only raises concerns about his
durability. The jury is out on whether he can sustain his current 3.62 ERA as
the workload piles up.


Even Daisuke Matsuzaka wore down in his first
season stateside, finishing with a 5.19 ERA in the second half of ’07.


And whatever
happened to Greg Smith, who helped
anchor Oakland’s staff last season? The heavy load took its toll on him, as it
did on Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan, both promising Blue
Jays starters whose breakthrough seasons were cut short by major injuries.


fellow Toronto pitcher Ricky Romero
avoid that fate? For all of his first-year accolades, who knows how the young
lefty will cope with the grind of 150-plus frames.


Those of
you expecting another 3.16 ERA from 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw in the season’s final few months will probably
leave be left disappointed, too, as will those hoping for another 96 innings
from Max Scherzer.


How will
Joba Chamberlain, Brad Bergesen, Tommy Hanson, David Price,
Randy Wells, Scott Richmond, Ross
, Kenshin Kawakami and
the entire A’s rotation respond to the taxing new workload?


every young pitcher is destined to deteriorate down the stretch, but for those
of you with something to lose, the unknown is worrisome enough to consider
cashing in your chips.


makes veteran rubber arms like Mark
, Javier Vazquez and Derek Lowe all the more valuable.


Know the
good teams from the bad


sounds novel at first, but distinguishing between contenders and
pretenders can be critical down the stretch.


with nothing to play for let the young kids loose earlier than do contenders.
The further out of the race Baltimore falls, the sooner we’ll see their prized
trio of pitching prospects: Chris
, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta. The more ground Milwaukee
loses in the NL Central, the more playing time will be doled out to
infield prospects Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar. Will the last-place
Indians move Victor Martinez over to first and play uber-prospect Carlos Santana behind the dish? When
will Matt LaPorta be back up?


the difference between buyers and sellers also pays off at the Trade Deadline.
We’ve already seen Nate McLouth go
to Atlanta, opening the door for the exciting Andrew McCutchen in center field. Are Matt Holliday and Roy
headed to more favorable surroundings?


If the
Rockies are out of the playoff hunt, there are a number of players who could be
changing addresses. With Carlos Gonzalez,
Seth Smith, Ian Stewart and Eric Young
waiting in the wings, it may be in the team’s interest to part with Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, Todd Helton
or Clint Barmes, all of whom rely
heavily on Coors Field for offensive support.


closer situation always takes on a different look when the Trade Deadline
passes. Will the Rockies deal fireman Huston
to a team in need of a setup man? Will George Sherrill still be finishing games come Aug. 1? If the Rays
find themselves a full-time closer, will they cut short J.P. Howell’s ninth-inning run? With Tony Pena now in the South Side bullpen, will the White Sox trade Octavio Dotel or Scott Linebrink to teams looking for fill-in closers? If there were
ever a time for fantasy owners to trade saves, it’s now.




summertime, and the living is easy for hitters. Studies have shown that balls
fly further when the temperature is warmer, so going after home run hitters is
one way to ensure yourself of a strong second half.


–Alex Cushing, MLB.com