- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Put it in the books: The 2013 trade deadline -- the actual, July 31 deadline date, that is -- was officially a dud.
That said, trade season -- which, for these purposes, let's define as the period between the All-Star break and the 4 p.m. ET July 31 deadline -- was a more active one on the pitching side than people might give credit. Three trades included incumbent rotation members, and two others incumbent closers, so the pitching ranks endured a shuffling.
Today, let's recap said trade season, breaking down the "winners" and "losers," fantasy-wise, of these deadline deals. First, here's the full trade rundown, all deals since the All-Star break that included a meaningful fantasy name:
• The Baltimore Orioles acquired SP Bud Norris from the Houston Astros for DH L.J. Hoes and SP Josh Hader. (July 31)
• The Kansas City Royals acquired OF Justin Maxwell from the Houston Astros for SP Kyle Smith. (July 31)
• The San Diego Padres acquired SP Ian Kennedy from the Arizona Diamondbacks for RP Joe Thatcher, RP Matt Stites and a 2014 competitive balance round B draft pick. (July 31)
• The Boston Red Sox acquired SP Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox and RP Brayan Villarreal and OF Avisail Garcia from the Detroit Tigers and sent SS/3B Jose Iglesias to Detroit and Garcia, RP J.B. Wendelken, SP Francellis Montas and SS Cleuluis Rondon to Chicago. (July 30)
• The Oakland Athletics acquired 3B Alberto Callaspo from the Los Angeles Angels for SS Grant Green. (July 30)
• The Atlanta Braves acquired RP Scott Downs from the Los Angeles Angels for SP Cory Rasmus. (July 29)
• The Tampa Bay Rays acquired RP Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox for players to be named or cash. (July 29)
• The Detroit Tigers acquired RP Jose Veras from the Houston Astros for OF Danry Vasquez and a player to be named. (July 29)
• The New York Yankees acquired OF Alfonso Soriano and cash from the Chicago Cubs for SP Corey Black. (July 26)
• The Baltimore Orioles acquired RP Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers for 3B Nick Delmonico. (July 23)
• The Texas Rangers acquired SP Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs for SPs C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm, 1B Mike Olt, and a player to be named. (July 22)
Jake Peavy: U.S. Cellular Field had to have been one of the five worst environments in baseball for a pitcher like Peavy, who regularly sports fly-ball rates north of 40 percent, a point made in this space as long as three years and as little as three weeks ago, so simply escaping the venue was a plus for his fantasy prospects. That said, despite the Green Monster's close proximity to the plate, "The Cell" was still a more homer-friendly environment to left field from 2010-12 than Boston's Fenway Park and remains so in 2013, and the rest of Fenway's confines play much more pitcher-friendly, evidenced by our Park Factors page. Peavy, a strike thrower whose greatest appeal is his reliable WHIP, should see his 4.28 ERA drop, his 3.68 xFIP -- that his Fielding Independent Pitching score with his home run rate regressed to the league average -- generally in line with his numbers from his days with the San Diego Padres. Best yet: His new team, the Boston Red Sox, has averaged 1.30 runs per game more than his former team, the Chicago White Sox. Though wins are largely unpredictable, there's little doubt that his win potential improved as a result of the deal, making him a bona fide candidate for top-25 starter status … if he can stay healthy, that is.
Ian Kennedy: Though the Padres moved in the fences at Petco Park this season, the impact upon pitching statistics have been minimal; a quick glance at their own and their opponents' home run/fly ball rates reveals between a 3-3½ percent increase, or effectively 3-4 additional home runs per 100 fly balls hit there. That's why Kennedy's move to San Diego might serve the saving grace to his season; he has dropped to barely 30 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, due to a 5.23 ERA that ranks fifth-worst among 91 qualifiers. His, like Peavy's, is a ballpark change that matters, with easily greater influence than Peavy's. Some of Kennedy's struggles, too, were the result of misfortune, as his 0.64-run differential between his ERA and FIP is 12th-highest, and 66.5 left on base percentage is sixth-worst, among qualifiers. In San Diego, Kennedy's fantasy prospects improve, and he's at least once again worth the look at a mixed-league streamer.
Detroit Tigers pitchers: Yes, Jose Iglesias' defense at shortstop is that good. Granted, his numbers this season don't show it -- he has 0 Defensive Runs Saved and a 1.3 Ultimate Zone Rating there -- but let's point out that he has played only 240 innings there, as the Red Sox have dabbled with him at third base recently. Iglesias is a brilliant defender -- just watch him play and you'll understand -- and he's joining a team that, since the beginning of last season, have minus-34 Defensive Runs Saved from their infield. Should Jhonny Peralta be subject to a Biogenesis-related suspension in the coming days, Iglesias would take over every day at shortstop, improving the team by a notable amount. That's a plus especially for ground-ballers Doug Fister (57.2 percent) and Rick Porcello (56.8 percent).
Matt Garza: Too much has been made of Garza's Wrigley Field success, as well as the probability that leaving it would harm his fantasy value. While it's true that Wrigley treated him well -- he had a 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his 28 career starts there -- the fact remains that Garza has always enjoyed substantially greater success in his home ballpark than in his road assignments. Take a look: Garza has a lifetime ERA more than a run higher on the road (4.26) than at home (3.31), and in each season from 2008-12 he had a road era more than three-quarters of a run higher than at home. This isn't to say that Rangers Ballpark is a friendly environment for a pitcher; it's to say that Garza's ERA and WHIP shouldn't go through the roof, not in a division featuring the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. He's also much more likely to get the run support necessary in Texas to maintain his current 7-wins-in-13-starts pace.
Jim Henderson: He was "Wally Pipp-ed." Henderson effectively lost his closer's job because he picked an unfortunate time to land on the disabled list; Francisco Rodriguez snuck in and rattled off a comparably hot streak to Henderson's to begin the year. With Rodriguez gone, however, and with all indications being that John Axford won't get another crack at closing, Henderson got another ninth-inning chance. Frankly, he deserved it. In 22 appearances since his return, Henderson has a 3.00 ERA, 26.7 percent strikeout rate (that going by batters faced; it's 10.29 per nine innings), four holds and five saves, including four consecutive successful conversions. Back in the role in which he thrived in April and May, Henderson could be a sneaky-good top-20 fantasy save-getter.
Joaquin Benoit: Be happy that Jose Veras landed in Detroit, because had it been Francisco Rodriguez, he of the 304 career saves, or Jonathan Papelbon, who has 277, today Benoit might be back in the eighth inning. There has been much made about the Tigers' lack of interest in having Benoit close, but in his defense, he's a perfect 8-for-8 in save chances with a 0.53 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 18 appearances since taking over, even chipping in two holds during that span. That's the reason Veras will set up Benoit as well as provide "closer insurance" initially -- keep that in mind, handcuff-seekers -- and with Benoit's understated amount of success the past year and a half, there's no evidence the Tigers will need it. Remember when the Tigers once claimed they preferred not to use Benoit on back-to-back days? He has done so on eight occasions already this year.
You think he 'won,' but…
Bud Norris: Upon closer inspection, Norris isn't as good a pitcher as people seem to think. He lacks an "out" pitch to use against left-handed hitters -- they're batting .306/.365/.494 against him this season -- and as such is matchups-susceptible, and his strikeout rate has plummeted this year, to a professional career-worst 16.6 percent. He's the kind of pitcher who could benefit from a more competitive environment, but whose skills don't back it up, and who now lands in a situation where his fantasy owners will still need to scrutinize his matchups. Look at the Baltimore Orioles' final 16 scheduled regular season games (home and home series with Boston and Toronto, and a 4-game series at Tampa Bay); would you start Norris in any of them? Granted, Norris' streamer appeal gets a boost by going from a team averaging 3.75 runs per game with the majors' worst bullpen ERA (5.16) to one averaging 4.71 with a 3.67 relief ERA, but the fact remains that his move to Baltimore didn't really result in a substantial value boost.
Francisco Rodriguez: His is the classic tale of closer-turned-setup-man-via-deadline-deal, as Rodriguez, 10-for-10 in save chances for the Milwaukee Brewers this season, dropped to "just another arm" in the Baltimore Orioles bullpen. SSS (small sample size) caveat applies, but in three of six games since Rodriguez's arrival the Orioles have held the lead entering the seventh inning, and in none of those contests did he appear. He pitched games in which his team trailed, in fact, by five and four runs when he appeared, while Darren O'Day and Tommy Hunter occupied the higher-leverage spots, something especially relevant to those in holds leagues hoping to recoup some value from Rodriguez in Baltimore. If Rodriguez is a seventh -- not even eighth -- inning guy, it's appropriate; he routinely walks about 10 percent of the batters he faces (10.5 percent career) and that puts him at greater WHIP risk than O'Day or perhaps even Hunter. Rodriguez's "closer experience" could catch manager Buck Showalter's eye in the case of catastrophic injury/performance decline by Jim Johnson, but beyond that possibility it could be argued fantasy owners will squeeze more value out of O'Day going forward.
Clay Buchholz's fantasy owners: The reason this is directed at Buchholz's fantasy owners rather than the Boston Red Sox right-hander himself is that the team's Peavy acquisition doesn't impact Buchholz's role at all; the Red Sox would find room for Buchholz in their rotation once the inflammation in the bursa sac area of his right shoulder heals. With Peavy on board, however, "if" might be an appropriate substitute for "once" in the previous sentence; certainly his arrival validates Buchholz's own July 23 admission to the Boston Globe that his aim is to return with only 4-5 starts remaining in his regular season. That's what Buchholz's fantasy owners are looking at: 4-5 starts at best, no guarantee of anything close to the 1.71 ERA or 2.46 FIP he had before getting hurt, plus added reason for the Red Sox to end his season at the first hint of setback.
Jose Veras: Like Rodriguez, Veras suffered a substantial drop in fantasy value as a result of his trade to the Tigers, dropping back into a setup role, but at least in his case the scent of saves is stronger. He's next-in-line in a bullpen that's a little weaker in the middle frames, and Benoit does have a past injury history -- a more distant past, mind you -- that weighs. Still, here's a comparison that merits discussion:
Jim Johnson's 2012-13: 122 games, 116 1/3 innings, pitched consecutive days 35 times
Joaquin Benoit's 2012-13: 116 games, 114 innings, pitched consecutive days 31 times
Anyone care to argue that the Orioles have shown a tendency to lean considerably more on Johnson than the Tigers have on Benoit now?
Those who overrate the Houston Astros' eventual closer: Jose Cisnero might be an exciting add for AL-only owners, but before you race to the wire to scoop him up in a shallow mixed league, first consider his -- or any other Astros reliever's -- fantasy prospects. Though this is an Astros team that helped Veras to 19 saves in 103 team games, it's also one that has won just six of its past 29 contests, not to mention one that had Veras on a mere 30-save pace at the time of his trade. I've recited the stats of pitchers on all-time-bad teams, so if you're among those who believe they'll struggle to win more than 17 of their remaining 57 games, there's not a lot of saves potential for Cisnero, or Wesley Wright, or Josh Fields, or … gosh, who else would you really want from this bullpen? AL-only owners can freely speculate -- you're drawing from a pool of 15 closer jobs -- but mixed leaguers might prefer to pass.
TOP 150 PITCHERS
Note: Tristan H. Cockcroft's top 150 pitchers are ranked for their expected performance from this point forward, not for statistics that have already been accrued. For position-specific rankings, see the "Pos Rnk" column; these rankings can also be seen split up by position.
Tristan H. Cockcroft breaks down the fantasy winners and losers at the MLB trade deadline.