Owners in NL-only leagues almost had to make do with Brad Fullmer as the deadline's big prize. Almost. But Nomar Garciaparra's arrival in Chicago, months after he was rumored to be heading to the city's other team, certainly adds a little spice to the waiver wire in those leagues. Seemingly having slipped below the elite status of (fantasy) shortstops like Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada, Garciaparra answered critics by hitting .386 with four home runs and 12 RBI in July. Clearly, he isn't done at 31 years old.
Comeback aside, owners can't ignore the fact that Garciaparra hit .343 at Fenway the last three seasons and just .266 on the road. Wrigley is obviously a good hitter's park -- although the stats say otherwise this season, thanks in part to excellent pitching from the home team -- but it's not clear if enough of Garciaparra's doubles to left and left-center at Fenway will clear the fence at Wrigley to make him a better fantasy hitter.
Are age, injuries and park factors legitimate reasons to question Garciaparra's future as a top fantasy player? Absolutely, but at a position as thin as shortstop in the National League, he's clearly worth the top waiver pick or your full acquisition budget. In combined leagues, a move to Wrigley is the best you could hope for and keeps Garciaparra as a top-30 talent.
Orlando Cabrera is a curious acquisition for a Red Sox team that has a shortstop in Pokey Reese, though currently hurt, who is capable of filling in for Garciaparra. But perhaps afraid of having to hand Mark Bellhorn a glove every day, the Sox now have three players for two positions. And that's always a recipe for fantasy disaster. Overrated by just about everyone after hitting .297 with 17 home runs and 80 RBI last season, Cabrera has regressed to numbers more in line with his career averages. His best fantasy asset is probably his stolen base potential, but the Red Sox don't run.
With Reese likely out until the middle of August, Cabrera will get a chance to prove himself. And there's no doubt his fantasy value gets a big boost from both the confines of Fenway Park and the sheer number of runners the Sox put in scoring position. He's absolutely worth a look if you're still counting on guys like Jack Wilson or Juan Uribe, but don't expect miracles. There is a reason he's a career .267 hitter.
If the Sox choose to play Reese at second base and Doug Mientkiewicz at first base once Reese returns, they could have the best defensive right side on the infield in baseball ... and the worst fantasy right side of the infield. Mientkiewicz knows how to get on base and could score a fair number of runs in Boston, but even the Green Monster and Pesky's Pole won't do much to boost his slugging percentage. Even worse, Mientkiewicz at first base means Kevin Millar and David Ortiz eat up any at-bats that might have gone to fantasy sleepers Gabe Kapler or Trot Nixon (when healthy).
The best thing you can say about Alex Gonzalez's fantasy value is the Expos don't have a lot of quality shortstop prospects in their minor league system. A .242 career hitter who has hit better than .253 exactly once in 11 seasons, he remains worthless in all but the deepest of combined AL/NL leagues. Even if he bats in the middle of the order, he'll likely see fewer RBI opportunities than he had batting seventh or eighth for Cubs.
No, not that Diamondback. For the same reason that Randy Johnson would have vaulted right through the roof of the FLB Player Rater with a move to Dodger Stadium, Steve Finley's relocation isn't good news for fantasy owners. Dodger Stadium is an extreme pitcher's park, and Adrian Beltre's performance this season notwithstanding, a miserable place for power hitters.
Already struggling of late -- hitting just .184 in July -- the notoriously streaky Finley must deal with the disadvantage of a park that yields the third-fewest runs in baseball. Currently 25th among outfielders on the Player Rater, Finley could easily slip out of the top 35 by the end of the season. Juan Encarnacion's departure opens up one outfield spot, but Finley's arrival, coupled with the necessity of playing Shawn Green in the outfield following Hee Seop Choi's arrival is bad news for Jayson Werth.
Of the players heading to Arizona in return for Finley, catcher Koyie Hill may be the closest to making a fantasy contribution. Hill hit .286 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI for Triple-A Las Vegas and should at least push Juan Brito for playing time as the Diamondbacks attempt to reload for next year. Lefty pitcher Bill Murphy, joining his third team of the weekend, could also make an appearance in September. Murphy had a 4.08 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 103.2 innings for Florida's Double-A affiliate.
Yankees and White Sox swap struggling starters
On the surface, there's little reason to think either Esteban Loaiza or Jose Contreras will take on vastly different fantasy appearances in their new homes, but you can bet plenty of fantasy owners will gamble on the old cliché of a fresh start. Loaiza goes from a team that wins a lot and scores a lot of runs to a team that wins a lot and scores a lot of runs. But unless he finds some of the strikeouts that made him a fantasy star last season -- but never materialized at any other point in his long career -- he's still going to post an ERA somewhere between 4.00 and 5.00. Expect slightly better win potential than he enjoyed for a White Sox team struggling to overcome the loss of both Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez, but Loaiza is still not a great fantasy buy.
And while Contreras could benefit from getting out of the New York pressure cooker, he's still pitching in a pennant race and still needs to quit giving up home runs at a staggering rate. The good news is opponents are hitting just .250 against him and he has 82 strikeouts in 95.2 innings, so his 5.64 ERA is bound to improve. The bad news is that's been true for many weeks. Available in more and more fantasy leagues, Contreras is a decent investment but not a great one.
Unless the Red Sox have suddenly decided to change their entire offensive philosophy, Dave Roberts arrives as little more than a glorified pinch runner. Adding Doug Mientkiewicz to the mix pushes Kevin Millar to the outfield on an almost full-time basis, putting Roberts squarely on the bench.
Ismael Valdez's home ERA: 3.03. Valdez's road ERA: 8.08. Valdez in Florida? Thanks, we'll pass.