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08/08/07 12:51 PM ET
Ask Rotoman: One and done
With 19 homers and 17 stolen bases, Arizona's Chris Young has an outside shot at a 30-30 season. (Getty)

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Question 1: CHOOSE

Dear Rotoman,

I am down to my last transaction, so I can only pick up one player for the rest of the season in a points league.

Free-agent pitchers: Joel Zumaya (RP), Kerry Woods (RP), Jose Contreras (SP), Jamie Walker (RP) and Jon Rauch (RP).

Free-agent hitters: Jason Giambi (1B), Tadahito Iguchi (2B), Frank Thomas (UTIL), Chris Young (OF), Luis Gonzalez (OF), Kevin Mench (OF), Khalil Greene (SS), Akinori Iwamura (3B), Lastings Milledge (OF), Franklin Gutierrez (OF), Ryan Theriot (2B, SS) and J.J. Hardy (SS).

"One And Done"

Dear Done:

This is the time of year when things really start to settle. The standings don't change every day, and rarely does a team jump or fall more than a place or two each week. Happening to have Jason Jennings on a given day might not wreck your team, while conversely, when Vlad Guerrero finally gets hot, it may not be enough to save you.

That doesn't mean you don't try. When I despair, I remember some years ago (2002) when improbably spectacular finishes by Joe Crede and Karim Garcia (!) lifted my moribund (10th place at the All-Star break) Bonemen into fourth place in the American Dream League. In a money league, that is the difference between zilch and breaking even. It can happen to you.

You don't share your needs, so let's take a more general look at those free agents.

The pitchers

My first reaction is there is nothing here. For a few days, Jamie Walker was the Orioles' closer. He did a fine job, just as he has in the setup role for the past few months, until Tuesday night, when he gave up three runs without getting an out. Joel Zumaya is throwing simulated games right now, rehabbing from a torn tendon in his middle finger of his pitching hand. Jose Contreras has struggled mightily since May. Kerry Wood will probably be effective in middle relief as long as he's healthy.

Jon Rauch has won seven games and pitched well in middle relief, which makes him the choice among pitchers. Relief wins can't be counted on, however, and middle relievers don't have much value in mixed leagues, so my first reaction was right. For maximum impact, you should take a hitter.

The hitters

My first reaction here is that Frank Thomas is the guy, but let's go through them all quickly. Maybe someone will surprise.

Jason Giambi (1B): Was activated Tuesday after being on the disabled list for a bit more than two months with plantar fasciitis. Should be primary designated hitter for the Yanks and is always dangerous but gets docked a notch because his health is unproven. Grade: B-

Tad Iguchi (2B): He got off to a hot start in Philadelphia, but his overall numbers look depressed because of his down April and May on the South Side. His power/speed combo and middle-infield eligibility make him very useful, but what about his playing time when Chase Utley gets back? Grade: B+

Frank Thomas (UTIL): It looks like a year of decline for Thomas, though he's stayed healthy and continues to get on base at a good clip. Should be more productive than Giambi, but at his age, a decline is a possibility, too (old guys on non-contending teams tend to sit more). Grade: B

Chris Young (OF): His batting average leaves a lot to be desired, but he's getting on base, hitting for power and stealing bases, not to mention coming off a hot July. Grade: A-

Luis Gonzalez (OF): Old guys don't get the benefit of the doubt, so his struggles in the second half (.521 OPS) count against him strongly. Grade: C+

Kevin Mench (OF): He's no Chris Young, and he's not having a good year. Grade: C

Khalil Greene (SS): Only if you need a power-hitting middle infielder and can take the hit in batting average. Grade: B-

Akinori Iwamura (3B): Has no power and has had little success on the basepaths, but he has scored runs. Not much of a fantasy selection, but he may be helping the Devil Rays. Grade: B

Lastings Milledge (OF): He's showing signs that his potential is becoming production, but he's not assured of regular playing time when Carlos Beltran comes off the DL. Grade: B

Franklin Gutierrez (OF): He's showing potential for power and speed when he plays, but those opportunities have been limited. As is the case with Milledge, this isn't his year for a mixed league, but he's been helpful as a pickup in AL-only leagues. Grade: B

Ryan Theriot (2B, SS): The nice batting average looks like an illusion created by his spectacular July, but his speed is for real. If you need steals, he's your guy. Grade: A-

J.J. Hardy (SS): His numbers are now in line with what an optimist might have hoped for at the start of the year. The problem is that he's been dismal since early June and is showing no signs of coming out of it. I'm an optimist. Grade: C+

In sum, while you might get some production out of the B-rated guys like Milledge, Gutierrez, Thomas and Giambi, playing-time issues give precedence to Young (HR and SB but low BA) and Theriot (SB), with Iguchi (HR, SB) being a guy who might have a better batting average. Guys who play more tend to accrue more value.

Pointedly,
Rotoman

Question 2: DEAL

Dear Rotoman:

My week spot is BA. I'm near the top in everything else.

If I tried to get Ichiro, what two players would be a fair trade?

I'm not looking to low-ball anyone for fear that they won't want to deal at all. Thanks in advance.

"Average Looking"

Dear Looking:

The problem is finding the right player on another team who will help you in the way you need, while helping that other team in the way they need.

In your case (looking at your roster), Carl Crawford is that guy. He's coming off an AL Player of the Week award, which shows that his hurting wrist isn't an impediment, runs as much as Suzuki and will generally have a lower batting average. It's actually in this last that the fit isn't perfect. Crawford is a .300 hitter, and while Ichiro is better than that, when trying to raise your average, you'd like to replace someone who is actually hurting you.

Still, Ichiro should get plenty of at bats, which is the best way to raise your average. And mark my words: No one is ever insulted when you offer Crawford. They might even be willing (and probably should) throw in something extra to make such a deal.

Unless, of course, they have no use for Crawford. Then you'll have to look elsewhere.

Alternately,
Rotoman

Question 3: THE BIG ONE

Rotoman:

What's happening with your team in Tout Wars?

"The Emperor's Tailor"

Dear ET:

After the Tout Wars NL draft, I posted my team to the Ask Rotoman discussion board (talk.askrotoman.com), as I usually do. It's not a heavily trafficked site, but I'm honored that some very sharp fantasy baseball minds hang out there far more than I do.

The reaction was pretty much universal; I should take a mulligan. I was surprised. I thought I'd collected a bunch of mid-level hitters who were on the verge of either breaking out or bouncing back. And I had the NL starting pitcher anchor with a potentially rich staff of potential aces and workaday arms backing him up, and a decent risky but cheap closer.

A little analysis did show that I'd dumped stolen bases (intentionally) and batting average (not intentionally), but you can never really dump BA. All it takes is a couple of hitters to have better-than-expected years, and you can rise up into the middle in that category.

Stunned by the reaction, I applied Ron Shandler's projections to my team (my own would have reflected my warp thinking) and discovered that this roster would have finished fourth in Tout Wars in 2006. Knowing this, I was confident that my contrarian choices would at least have me in the running, unless disaster struck.

Player
$Spent
$Earned
M. Olivo66
C. Snyder55
C. Wilson6-4
M. Giles187
S. Rolen2214
J.J. Hardy1221
T. Walker3-4
J. Loney87
P. Burrell1817
A. Kearns2010
A. Dunn2232
R. Church1112
A. Ethier1115
Dm. Young625
C. James1212
C. Carpenter30-6
A. Benitez83
A. Wainwright138
Z. Duke7-13
C. Hensley7-9
J. Jennings6-9
C. Villanueva28
A. Heilman710

Which it did on Opening Day, when Chris Carpenter went down. A crazy offense led by J.J. Hardy and Dmitri Young kept me out of the basement for the first half of the season, but in recent weeks, the whole team has sagged. Someone gets hot (think James Loney), and another crashes and burns (think Marcus Giles) until another gets hot (Pat Burrell) and someone else (Loney) joins Giles.

I don't think anyone wants to hear the whole sordid saga. If you do, please write in and maybe I'll make it a blog post. But I thought it might be instructive to see how preseason expectations turn into a last place team by comparing the prices paid with the prices earned thus far.

The net results?

Hitting: Spent $178, earned $163.

Pitching: Spent $92, earned $4.

I'll leave it to you to decide just how bad this team was coming out of the draft. Clearly, losing Carpenter wasn't the whole game, though if I had him it would have been easier to bail on Duke earlier.

The instructive thing for me is to realize that the problem wasn't James or Wainwright or even Giles (though the damage he inflicts continues to get worse). Much of it rests in those rag arm starters, who are so delightful when they work out, and disastrous when they don't.

Until next time,
Rotoman

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Ask Rotoman appears weekly on MLB.com. For more insight, go to http://www.askrotoman.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.