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Welcome back to the Baseball Challenge! Saturday is the final chance for teams in the major leagues to make trades without having to go through the waiver process, which in most cases means if a player hasn't been moved by this weekend, odds are he won't be moved at all. But those of you in the Baseball Challenge are under no such restrictions. You don't need anyone's permission to trade the players from your roster. All it takes is a few clicks of the mouse and voila! As long as you pay attention to the salary-cap restrictions, you are free to swap for any player you wish.
As for my team this week, I've opted to take heed of the old adage, "You only get one chance to make a good first impression." I'm loading up on players who have been affected by the trade deadline wheelings and dealings. For those who have been playing well up until now, the hope is they'll continue to do so, living up to the expectations and justifying the prospects given up to acquire their services. For those who may have been struggling, the hope is that a change in scenery will bring with it a change in fortune. At the very least, they should see at-bats out of the gate. You don't buy a new toy and not play with it.
In the case of the players I am selecting who perhaps were rumored to be on the move, yet stayed put, I'm hoping that without any clouds of uncertainty hanging over their head, their play will become equally gloom-free. With all that explanation out of the way, I present to you my lineup selections for the upcoming week of play in the Baseball Challenge. Enjoy!
C: Ivan Rodriguez, Washington Nationals, 3.9 market price (@ARI-4, @LAD-3): At 38 years of age, the end is near for Pudge. The Nationals certainly confirmed as much by trading Matt Capps away for catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Still, whether this is indeed a last hurrah, or a chance to audition for next season's "mentor" spot on the roster, there's still some life left.
1B: Jorge Cantu, Texas Rangers, 3.8 (@SEA-3, @OAK-3): Chris Davis didn't work out for the Rangers and Justin Smoak was sent away in the Cliff Lee deal. You know that Texas must be impressed with Cantu, since the Rangers traded for him in spite of his going 0-for-10 against them in interleague play earlier this season.
2B: Ryan Raburn, Detroit Tigers, 3.7 (CWS-4, LAA-3): Raburn was given several consecutive starts this past week as a showcase, and had a hit in three straight games versus the Tampa Bay Rays. If he does get moved, kudos to him for making himself so desirable, and if not, he's just about the only Tigers hitter getting on base.
3B: Miguel Tejada, San Diego Padres, 4.3 (@LA-4, @ARI-3): No matter where he ends up in the Padres' infield, he's bound to give that lineup a bit of a lift. Sure, the power numbers won't be there, but if he can come close to replicating his .325 June numbers, he'll be just what the doctor ordered.
SS: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees, 5.1 (TOR-3, BOS-3): Don't worry, Jeter isn't going anywhere. Every team needs an anchor, and he's clearly it. While Alex Rodriguez continues to draw the attention while seeking his milestone home run, Jeter just goes about his business, hitting, scoring and driving in runs.
LF: Scott Podsednik, Los Angeles Dodgers, 4.7 (SD-4, WAS-3): His 15-game hitting streak came to an end in his first game with his new team, but he stole a base -- and did so easily -- against the Padres. As long as Manny Ramirez continues to be unable to perform, we should continue to see stats from Podsednik.
CF: Marlon Byrd, Chicago Cubs, 4.5 (MIL-3, CIN-3): With the Cubs so far out of the playoff hunt, we're surprised Byrd's name hasn't surfaced in trade rumors. He's hitting .321 so far in July, and continues to keep that batting average above .310 for the season. It does not appear he's going to go away, so I'm finally hopping on board.
RF: Jeff Francoeur, New York Mets, 3.7 (@ATL-3, @PHI-3): Francoeur was rumored to be on the block, and may still sneak through waivers in August, but for now with Jason Bay hurt, he'll stick around and play more often than not. This week, he goes to two parks where he has already homered in 2010.
DH: Jose Guillen, Kansas City Royals, 4.2 (@OAK-3, SEA-3): Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, there are Royals running to all parts of the major leagues. It's probably preferable for Guillen to remain in the American League, where he doesn't have to wield a glove, but once he knows for sure where he's spending the rest of 2010, hopefully he can finally relax and make a push toward 30 home runs.
Pitching staff: Philadelphia Phillies, 6.2 (@FLA-3, NYM-3): Allow me to be the first to dub this rotation The Phlood, overflowing with H2O in the form of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. With at least one of these guys scheduled for two starts each week going forward -- it's Halladay's turn this coming week -- things are looking up for this staff in a big way.
As for the particulars of the schedule ahead, here's the weekly crib sheet for the period of play running from Aug. 2-8:
Home Cooking: Looking to see which teams get to showcase their new looks in front of the home crowd? For better or for worse, depending on whether or not they were sellers or buyers, here are the lineups who will hear it from their fans all week long: Orioles, Tigers, Yankees, Athletics, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Braves, Cubs, Marlins, Dodgers and Pirates.
Frequent Flyers: Here are the lineups that will spend the entire week far from the comforts of home. In the case of teams who did not pull the trigger on any deals, or who sent fan favorites away at bargain-basement prices, perhaps it is a good thing for there to be a cooling-off period: White Sox, Royals, Angels, Twins, Rangers, Reds, Astros, Mets, Padres, Giants and Nationals.
Lucky Sevens: Extra at-bats are always welcome in the Baseball Challenge. These teams will give you more bang for your imaginary bucks, and those of you in daily transaction leagues won't have to worry about any guaranteed zeroes that come with a dreaded DNP: Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Twins, Rays, Diamondbacks, Braves, Dodgers, Pirates, Padres and Nationals.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can follow AJ on Twitter or e-mail him here.