As we get into the slow(er) part of the MLB offseason there’s still major moves being made that could determine the outcome of the upcoming season. Our format here is simple, I’ll give you the news in a quick “hit” with a local link for further reading and then I’ll give you my “run”down of what it means for the teams involved and how and if it should affect your fantasy baseball team headed into a new season. So from Japan to Arlington with stops in Colorado, Houston, Cincinatti, Philadelphia, and Boston: here’s this week’s edition of the hit and run…
Run: The Rangers posted the high bid by quite a bit over the Blue Jays (who some thought won this earlier in the week). Texas adds a quality arm to its rotation in an attempt to recover from the departure of CJ Wilson for Anaheim. What exactly Darvish is going to be is still unknown since previous Japanese pitchers have been all over the place in how their game translates to the Major Leagues. Darvish is intriguing to be sure with a 93-38 record and 1.99 ERA over seven seasons in the Japanese majors. Darvish is supposed to be have everything needed to be a true #1 ace, and will be looking for a contract that pays him like one. The Rangers now have exclusive negotiating rights for 30 days and the negotiations, like Daisuke’s may take almost all that time. This situation has once again called into question the posting process, and rightly so. Whether you like it or not, the process is what it is for now and the Rangers just dropped a lot of change to use that process to get their new starting Ace. Somebody in your draft will probably reach for him, but I’d be cautious especially in his first season on this side of the Pacific and since he’s got to pitch in the Texas summer heat when balls just fly out of the Ballpark in Arlington. On the other hand, Mike Maddux is a great pitching coach and he may be just the guy to help Darvish shine in the majors. It’s a high-risk fantasy pick, but it could have high-rewards as well which is just what this move is for the Rangers as well, high-risk, high-reward.
Hit: Jimmy Rollins returns to Philadelphia. Phillies Zone
Run: Rollins returns to Philly where he’s played his whole career. He’s shown a marked decline the past few seasons since his monster 2007, but still remains a top 10 fantasy SS to be sure. I would have him just outside the top 4 of Reyes, Tulo, Hanley, and Asdrubel. He may slip because of the off-season uncertainty and end up being undervalued, but if you can get him later in the draft he’ll be a steal as he continues to bat at the top of a very solid Philadelphia lineup in a hitter friendly park.
Run: The Reds see an window in the NL Central and are attempting to seize the opportunity. They cashed in a number of their chips (Edinson Volquez and prospects #3, 4, and 10 according to Baseball America). Latos needs to mature a little, but immediately makes the Reds a contender and their pitching rotation potentially among the best in the NL. Latos isn’t a sure thing and has been up-and-down throughout his career. Don’t worry about him leaving Petco since his road ERA was better than his hom ERA, and with the added offensive support he should have a nice year. Volquez also becomes an interesting late-round pick as his home games will now be in Petco and he’s a flyball pitcher. He’s at least someone to keep an eye on to stream starts with due to his high-K potential. The Reds gave up a lot here, but they’re making a strong move for this year. It’s a classic win-win trade if Latos pans out for Cincy in the short-term and the Padres grow their future potential with the prospects they added.
Run: Melancon is a good back of the bullpen option. I’m not sold on him as the closer but the addition guarantees that the Red Sox won’t be cornered into overpaying out of desperation. The Sox gave up Kyle Weiland who is a 3 or 4 starter in a best-case scenario and Jed Lowrie, the oft-injured utility man who has promise and now may have the opportunity to excel but didn’t have that chance in Beantown. To fill the void left by Lowrie the Sox signed Punto, who cost about the same financially, gives the Sox a little more defensively, is a little more reliable, and is reportedly a great clubhouse guy (where the Sox may need help). He’s a Bobby V favorite and should be a solid utility player although not a fantasy option. If Melancon is the Sox closer he’s top 10, but I think there’s another move coming before Spring Training.
Run: I’m not sure I love this move for Colorado as it seems they overpaid for what they didn’t need (OF) while not addressing SP, but maybe that move is still to come. Cuddyer’s numbers and value as a utility OF, 1B bat are only boosted by moving from Target Field which is a pitcher’s park to the rare-air that is Coors Field. He’s someone to watch for in the mid-late rounds as an impact bat whose HR and RBI numbers should go up with a switch in leagues and a change in home parks.
Run: In a move getting almost all negative reviews, the Backs signed Kubel to fortify their outfield bats. The main reason people aren’t liking this move is that it seems to block Gerardo Parra. Parra struggled at the plate, but his defense gave the Snakes one of the best defensive OF in the league. Kubel will be better (at least short-term, Parra still could develop) at the plate, but much worse in the outfield. If you need HR in the late rounds Kubel makes a good target, since (if healthy) he should benefit from moving to Arizona’s much more hitter-friendly confines. Parra still will play a bunch as a late-inning substitute but will mostly go undrafted at least to start the year. There may be another move coming here as well, since the DBacks seem to be a little overstocked in the OF and may try and land another arm.
Hit: Brewers win post for Norichika Aoki. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Run: Doug Melvin knows what he’s doing. The Brewers pick up an interesting OF prospect here who hits left-handed and may be nice insurance should a-certain-someone not be available for say, 50 games… Aoki has played well in Japan and led the league in hitting in 2010. He’s no sure thing, but a low-cost, low-risk option for the low-budget Brewers trying to build a lineup to go with a above-average pitching staff. He’s not someone you’ll need to draft, but is worth keeping an eye on in Spring Training to see how his game translates.
Hit: Nationals sign Mike Cameron to minor league deal. Washington Examiner
Run: He’s probably not the answer to the black hole that is CF in Washington but his defense is still above average and it’s a low-risk add for the Nats and as good an opportunity as Cameron will get. He’s not a fantasy option at this point.
Hit: Indians sign Jose Lopez to a minor league deal. Cleveland.com
Run: Lopez is a former All-Star who lost his stroke in recent years. He’s no-risk right-handed depth behind the current infield for the Tribe and his versatility (all IF positions but SS) is an added bonus.