Skip to main content
Below is an advertisement.
On the move...
Running fantasy analysis on this offseason's biggest transactions
By Jonathan Mayo, Cory Schwartz and Gregg Klayman
As new players land with new teams, MLB.com's fantasy crew keeps you posted on how the fantasy value of the game's top stars could be affected. Check back every day for new player updates.
Moves: Pudge | Colon | J. Hernandez | Urbina | McGriff | Daal | Millwood | Godzilla | Kent | Estes | Bordick | Byrd | Ortiz/Moss | Durazo | Alfonzo | Tomko | Stanton | Je. Giambi | Thome | Bell | Glavine | Durham | Remlinger | Grissom | Karros/Hundley | Koch/Foulke | Lidle | Hampton/Pierre/Pr. Wilson/Ch. Johnson
Ivan Rodriguez signs a free-agent deal with the Florida Marlins
Wow, talk about a misdirection! While most fantasy players were set to try and figure out what Pudge could do in Camden Yards, he suddenly switched gears and went to the National League and the Fish.
The first thing to tackle is what Pudge will produce with the Marlins. For now, we'll assume it'll be a healthy Rodriguez, who won't have the benefit of "resting" at DH, save for a handful of interleague games. That could mean about 120 games behind the plate. Most players shifting over to the NL see a drop in stats, and the same will likely be true for Rodriguez. Add in the fact that he's going from a very good hitter's park to a good pitcher's park, and drop them a little more. And the Marlins lineup can't even come close to matching the Rangers' offense.
However, Pudge is on a mission to prove that he's got plenty left in the tank, and it's hard to place a value on that. The Marlins' weak offense is highlighted by speed at the top of the lineup. If Castillo and Pierre can get on, Rodriguez will get some easy RBI opportunities. Figure he'll hit close to .300 again (.295 or so) with 20 homers and 85-90 RBIs. His days of stealing 25 bags are over, but with Jeff Torborg, he could hit double-digits, putting him right behind Mike Piazza for NL catching supremacy.
Now, a quick note on the other catchers this affects. In Baltimore, Geronimo Gil can stop worrying about losing his starting job. Gil really wore down in the second half of his rookie year. With that experience under his belt (and he did still manage 12 homers), he could pick it up and jack about 15 out of the park, although the average will never help you much.
It's not as good news for Mike Redmond and Ramon Castro. Redmond was finally poised to take over as the No. 1 catcher after hitting over .300 in two straight seasons as a backup. Now the only chance that happens, and him becoming a fantasy factor, is if Pudge gets hurt again. Otherwise, he'll probably only play in about 50 games, tops. Too bad, because he would've been an excellent fantasy sleeper. Castro could've platooned with Redmond, but once again he's the No. 3 guy. Out of options, he'll either rot on the Marlins bench or get traded. Unless he goes somewhere that needs a regular catcher, he shouldn't be on the fantasy radar in 2003.
Bartolo Colon is traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a three-team deal. El Duque, Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer go to Montreal. Antonio Osuna lands with the Yankees.
Colon finally has a new home back in the AL Central. When you're dealing with a pitcher this good, it doesn't really matter where he's going to play. Count on a good ERA, decent WHIP and good strikeout total, no questions asked.
He's going to get his wins as well, it's just a question of how many. The White Sox scored the third highest amount of runs in the AL last year, and that high-octane offense should help Colon a tad. The bullpen was decent -- a 3.83 ERA -- and should be OK in 2003 (although expect a few blown wins courtesy of Billy Koch). In the end, the projections should be about the same: 20 wins, 1.30 WHIP, a 3.00 ERA and 200 K's.
What about the other starters in this deal? El Duque's value gets a boost from this trade, even though he goes from the Yankees to the Expos. Why? Pitchers tend to do a little better going to the NL, and Hernandez' sneaky delivery will likely throw off the less familiar hitters in the NL. Plus, he'll definitely be in the rotation, something that might not have occurred in New York. If he can stay healthy, and that's a big if at this point, an ERA in the threes with a 1.25 WHIP to go along with 12-14 wins is probably the most you can ask for.
Biddle is only 26 and rebounded from surgery fairly well as a swingman on Chicago's staff. His walk rate will hurt his WHIP, but he could give you a sub-4.00 ERA and a handful of wins, especially if he sticks in the rotation all year.
Antonio Osuna's days of closing ended when Chicago traded for Billy Koch. With the Yankees, he'll be another setup man in a very deep pen. It's hard to imagine a scenario where he'd get more than an odd save or two (Rivera and Karsay will take care of the rest). But he'll put up a decent ERA and WHIP with a few strikeouts for the end of your pen.
Finally, there's Liefer, a guy who often looked like someone who could hit if given a chance. Now, the outfielder/first baseman is getting it. He had a dreadful 2002, but you try pulling out of a slump in only 204 at-bats. In 2001, he hit 18 homers in 254 at-bats. The lefty swinger will probably face mostly lefties, but in 400 ABs, could hit 20 homers and might not be a bad filler at the end of your draft, particulary in deep NL leagues.
Jose Hernandez signs a free-agent deal with the Colorado Rockies.
Anyone who owns Hernandez in a keeper league has been salivating since he signed with Colorado on January 19.
The 33-year-old shortstop has belted 25 and 24 home runs respectively the past two years, numbers you would expect to increase in Colorado. Though he most likely will play third base in Colorado, with Juan Uribe already at short, Hernandez will still be eligible at short in most leagues. He topped all NL shortstops in homers last year, and should again, barring a major injury or a resurgence from Rich Aurilia.
Hernandez, an All-Star in 2002, is best known for his mammoth strikeout totals. Playing in Colorado won't help his plate discipline dilemmas, as he is sure to be swinging for the fences more often than he did in Milwaukee. In other words, expect his average to drop from his career-high of .288 back down to the .250-.260 range.
For those of you who were counting on Greg Norton to have a breakout season, you'll have to hope Uribe continues to struggle at short and Hernandez moves back to his old position. Don't spend more than a buck or two on draft day for Norton's services.
Ugueth Urbina signs a free-agent deal with the Texas Rangers
UU had a strange 2002 season. He did save 40 games, but he also blew six saves and had an ERA of 3.00, a big high for a top-notch closer. Then again, if you paid top-notch closer prices for Urbina, that's your own fault. He's likely to put up similar numbers with the Rangers in 2003 -- an ERA of 3.00 or slightly higher, a handful of blown saves, a home run rate that makes you wince. But how many saves he compiles may have more to do with how many times Rangers starters can hand over a lead to the bullpen. Pencil Urbina in for 30 saves, but don't spend too much for those 30.
Bats/Throws: R/RMore info:
The Rangers' pen should be stronger with Urbina there, giving Texas two strong set-up men -- Jeff Zimmerman and Francisco Cordero -- who are capable of closing. Tough luck for those of you who thought Cordero would be a nice sleeper in 2003 after saving 10 of 12 games in 2002. Both he and Zimmerman won't be worth a ton (never try to predict relief wins) now that they won't be in position to rack up saves.
Fred McGriff signs a free-agent deal with Los Angeles Dodgers
Fred McGriff has hit 30 homers and driven in 100 runs in each of the last two seasons. Expect the streak to end in 2003. That's not to say he won't be somewhat productive, but just don't rank him that high on your 1B list. Why the downward projection? There are a couple of reasons. One is age, although Crime Dog has already shown that isn't as big an issue with him. Still, he's 39, and eventually the skills will diminish. Do you want to be stuck with him when that happens?
The second and more important reason is his new home park. In 184 career at-bats at cavernous, pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium, McGriff has hit just .250 and slugged only .370 (he's got a career .514 mark). At this stage, he might even sit a little more vs. tough lefties. Look for him to cash in on the extra games he'll play at Coors Field and get the 22 homers he needs to reach 500, but that's about it. Another plus: He'll get a few more cracks at hitting one out at the BOB, one of the few parks he hasn't homered in.
Omar Daal signs a free-agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles
Yes, Daal won 11 games and had an ERA under 4.00, making him a pretty good value in 2002. Now he'll be going from pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium to the American League and Camden Yards. Two words of warning: Buyer beware. In general, pitchers going from the senior to the junior circuit see a rise in ERA, so you can kiss a sub 4.00 mark goodbye. Plus, Daal, imploded in September with a 6.65 ERA and 1.83 WHIP. What will happen when he's only a starter all year and the innings start to pile up? I'd rather not find out. Even if Daal somehow manages to reach double-digits again in wins, the ERA and WHIP won't be worth the risk.
Phillies acquire Kevin Millwood from the Braves for Johnny Estrada
Spurned by free agents Tom Glavine and Jamie Moyer, and unable to land Bartolo Colon or Javier Vazquez in a trade with Montreal, the Phillies found the front-line starter they were seeking in a deal with an unlikely partner.
Acquired from NL East rival Atlanta for catcher Johnny Estrada, Kevin Millwood moves to the head of a youthful rotation that also includes 2002 All-Star Vicente Padilla, Randy Wolf, Brandon Duckworth and Brett Myers.
The 28-year-old righty recovered from an injury-plagued 2001 season to post an 18-8 record in 2002 with a 3.24 ERA in 34 starts. He was spectacular in the second half, going 12-3 with a 2.65 ERA after the All-Star break as his fastball and curveball regained the snap that enabled him to total 35 combined wins in 1998 and 1999.
Millwood is a fly-ball pitcher who can at times be homer-prone, so he may miss the spacious outfield of Turner Field and the defensive greatness of Andruw Jones as he moves to Veterans Stadium. But the Phillies are, on the whole, a solid defensive club and improved their offense over the winter with the acquisitions of Jim Thome and David Bell to replace Travis Lee and Marlon Anderson. Their bullpen is average but not great, which could cost Millwood a few wins over the course of the season.
Look for Millwood to put together another solid season in 2003, although probably not up to his 2002 level. A safe expectation would be 15-16 wins with a 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He's a solid No. 2 starter in NL-only leagues.
The Braves, meanwhile, were forced to dump Millwood's salary after Greg Maddux accepted arbitration on the heels of the acquisitions of Russ Ortiz and Paul Byrd. In return, they acquired a player who, at best, will be a platoon catcher.
Estrada is a defensive specialist with some pop, but does not project as an everyday player. He may hit .250 with 10 homers in a platoon role, but that's an optimistic upside. He's strictly a No. 2 catcher in NL-only leagues and is a non-option in any mixed league.
Yankees bring Godzilla to New York, sign Hideki Matsui
After weeks of rumors and speculation, the Yankees finally signed Japanese superstar Hideki Matsui to a three-year contract. He will take over in 2003 at one of the team's corner outfield spots.
Nicknamed "Godzilla" in honor of his status as Japan's most destructive hitter, Matsui was named Central League MVP after narrowly missing the league's triple crown. He topped the circuit with a career-high 50 homers and 107 RBIs, while ranking second with a career-best .334 batting average. He also drew 114 walks against 104 strikeouts in 500 at-bats.
Matsui, who will turn 29 next summer, hit .304 with 332 homers over his 10-year career in Japan, and he hit at least 34 homers in each of the past seven seasons. However, he is an unknown commodity in the U.S., so how do fantasy owners evaluate him for 2003?
Recent statistical analysis suggests that the quality of play in the Japanese Central League is comparable to the AAA International League, so while Matsui was not facing truly Major League caliber opposition on a regular basis, he was the dominant player at the next best level of talent. Matsui hit just .161 (5-for-31) and was held homerless during the recent MLB tour of Japan, but fans such as Jason Giambi felt the performance was not a true indication of his talent.
There will be certainly some cultural shock for Matsui, but his left-handed power swing goes with Yankee Stadium like rice with sushi. And, of course, hitting in a lineup with Giambi, Williams, Jeter, Soriano, Posada and Ventura should afford plenty of run-scoring and RBI chances for Matsui.
Matsui will be a risky pick on draft day, but one with tremendous upside. Translating his Japanese League stats to the Major Leagues suggests he will be a .280-.290 hitter with 30-35 homer power and solid plate discipline, somewhere at the intersection of Steve Finley, Jim Edmonds and Pat Burrell. His poor performance during the MLB tour of Japan will be enough to keep his price tag affordable on draft day, making him a great gamble in 2003 for fantasy owners looking to complement an established offensive core.
Jeff Kent signs a free-agent deal with the Astros
The surprise acquisition of the winter thus far, the Astros inked free-agent slugger Jeff Kent to a two-year contract with an option for a third season. Kent will join incumbent mashers Lance Berkman and Jeff Bagwell to form one of the most formidable 3-4-5 trios in all of baseball, regardless of the order in which they hit.
In leaving San Francisco, Kent will be losing the lineup protection afforded by Barry Bonds, but will instead join a solid lineup that features Bagwell and Berkman, as well as a solid supporting cast of Craig Biggio, Darryle Ward and, if healthy, Richard Hidalgo. Also in Kent's favor is that he will be leaving PacBell park, a truly unforgiving environment for right-handed hitters, for the cozy dimensions of Minute Maid Park, where he has hit .382 (21-for-55) with two homers as a visiting player.
The 2000 NL MVP, Kent recovered from a preseason wrist injury in 2002 to hit .313, bash a career-high 37 homers and drive in 108 runs, adding 42 doubles and 102 runs. He has topped 100 RBIs in each of the last six seasons, averaging 29 homers, 115 RBIs and nine steals per season over that period.
Kent may end up playing third next season in Houston depending on other lineup moves, and although he hasn't played the position since 1996, he has stated he will play any position that will help the team. But as of this moment he is the premier offensive force among NL second basemen, and would rank with Scott Rolen as the top option at third base, too.
In either case, it's entirely reasonable to expect that Kent will put up a season consistent with his recent performance -- at minimum, a .300 average, 30 homers and 110 RBIs -- and his upside is in the neighborhood of a .320 average, 40 homers and 130 RBIs. Outside of Todd Helton, he's the most valuable roto infielder in the NL and should produce more than enough in 2003 to justify a premium auction salary or draft pick.
Shawn Estes signs a free-agent deal with the Cubs
The Cubs signed free-agent lefthander Shawn Estes and will add him to an Opening Day rotation featuring Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano. Of the five, mark down Estes as the one least likely to finish the season in the rotation.
Known for his respectable fastball and nasty sweeping curve, Estes struggled to a 5-12 record and 5.10 ERA in 2002 in a combined 29 starts for the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds. Surprisingly, he was brutal against lefties, allowing them a .302 average and .838 OPS for the season.
Estes went 19-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 1997, but is only 50-57 for the rest of his career due to poor control. Estes has walked over 100 batters in three separate seasons, and averages 4.72 walks per nine innings over his career.
New Cubs pitching coach Dick Pole was the Giants' pitching coach in 1997 when Estes enjoyed his career season, but that is the only reason for optimism for Estes in 2003. He's worth a dollar gamble as a fifth starter in NL-only leagues, but stay away in mixed leagues.
Mike Bordick signs a free-agent deal with the Blue Jays
The Blue Jays fortified their bench when they signed veteran shortstop Mike Bordick to a one-year contract.
Bordick will most likely back up youngster Chris Woodward at short. He could take over if Woodward struggles, or could handle the position to allow the versatile Woodward to cover another spot on the diamond if another Jays infielder struggles or is injured.
Bordick had a career year with 20 homers only two seasons ago, but he has hit only 15 dingers in the two seasons since and has never been much of a factor stealing bases. In other words, Bordick's offensive value is very limited if not playing every day. In 2002, he hit .232 with eight homers, 36 RBIs and seven steals in 367 at-bats, and that is a realistic expectation for him in 2003 as well.
Feel free to pick up Bordick for a dollar as a backup for your AL-only team, and you might get some value if he replaces Woodward at least on a semi-regular basis. But any bid more than a dollar is a waste, as he figures to spend at least half of what should be his final Major League season, as a backup.
Paul Byrd signs a free-agent deal with the Braves
Anytime a pitcher goes from a second-division club like Kansas City to a team such as Atlanta, you have to expect better things from him. Byrd had the best season of his career in 2002, winning 17 games for a ballclub that lost 100.
His new surroundings at pitcher-friendly Turner Field will help him even more in 2003. On top of that, Byrd's family lives in the Atlanta area, and his desire to return home led to him turning down lucrative offers from several other clubs. So the fear of him not being comfortable with a new club is non-existent.
Some people are suggesting that the 32-year-old right-hander may have had a career year in 2002, and that he is a risk this season. The last time Byrd put up solid numbers (1999: 15-11, 4.60 ERA), he followed it up with grotesque ones (2000: 2-9, 6.51) before a shoulder injury sidelined him in late July.
However, it is tough to ignore the 1.5 walks per nine innings he posted in 2002. Anytime a pitcher with that type of control lands on a team with the pitching success of Atlanta, fantasy owners should assume similar or better numbers. However, don't go overboard and decide he is a lock for 20 wins. Byrd will make an excellent 3rd starter on your squad in 2003, but don't count on him to be your ace. Expect 15 wins and an ERA around 3.50 if he can stay healthy.
Braves trade Damian Moss to the Giants for Russ Ortiz
In a move that may signal the end of Greg Maddux's career with the team, the Braves shipped Damian Moss and a minor leaguer to the Giants for workhorse righty Russ Ortiz, who could take over the mantle as the No. 1 starter in a rotation featuring Kevin Millwood, Mike Hampton and Jason Marquis.
Ortiz is a big, durable man who has averaged 33 starts, nearly 210 innings and 16 wins over each of the past four seasons. His career ERA is a shade over 4.00 and his control has improved considerably in the past two seasons to the point where he should maintain a WHIP around 1.30. However, his strikeout ratio dropped for the second straight season in 2002, to a career-low 5.75 K/9 mark, raising serious concerns that his heavy workload may be wearing on his arm.
Assuming he is in fact fully healthy, Ortiz should offer more of the same in 2003 as in recent seasons. Although the Braves are not as potent offensively as the Giants, they do provide decent offensive support to go with a strong overall defense and a deep bullpen, not to mention a home ballpark that is favorable to their pitchers. Ortiz turns 29 during the season and should perform at his established level for at least two or three more seasons.
Moss enjoyed a stellar rookie season in 2002, with 12 wins, a 3.42 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 33 appearances, including 29 starts. While fans of the Aussie lefthander rave that he allowed only 140 hits in 179.0 innings, his skeptics point out his frightening 111-89 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As with Ortiz, the change of scenery should not impact Moss' fortunes too greatly, and he will slot into the Giants' rotation behind Jason Schmidt, Livan Hernandez and Kirk Rueter.
Unlike Ortiz, though, Moss does not have a strong track record to give his roto owners confidence for 2003, and his K/BB ratio is a very dangerous indicator. Roto owners in mixed leagues should be wary of Moss in 2003 unless he shows improvement in this area.
Erubiel Durazo joins the A's in a four-team deal
Billy Beane finally acquired his "Holy Grail," and roto owners will finally get the chance to see what Durazo can do in everyday playing time now that he has been freed from part-time duty in the desert.
A lefthanded hitter with the magic combination of power and patience, Durazo has been extremely productive in his four-season career but never earned more than 222 at-bats in a season despite his career .918 OPS. Pro-rate his career production over 550 at-bats, and you have a hitter who should produce 35 homers, 110 RBIs and 90 walks, although he will also strike out 130 or more times. In short, Durazo is Jim Thome Lite at a fraction of the cost.
There are concerns about Durazo, though. Most notably, lefthanders have eaten him like a breakfast burrito over his career, including a .570 OPS last year, although his proponents retort that he's never had more than 54 at-bats in a season to prove what he can do against lefties. He has also been injury-prone, with hand and rib injuries hampering him last season. And he's no artist with the glove, handling first base only competently and staring primarily at DH duties in Oakland.
However, in the final analysis, Durazo's best position is batter's box and the A's will send him there often next season. As a lefthanded hitter, he'll be in the lineup for at least 400 at-bats even if he falls into a platoon role. Batting sixth behind Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez and Jermaine Dye, Durazo should drive in plenty of runs and rank in the top five among AL roto first baseman.
Edgardo Alfonzo signs a free-agent deal with the Giants
The Mets let Alfonzo walk away amid concerns over his age, health history and salary demands, but their loss is the Giants' gain. Alfonzo is a complete ballplayer who is above average defensively at third base or second, draws walks, hits for average and can put up solid power numbers.
After an injury-plagued 2001 season, Alfonzo gradually returned to form last season and managed 135 games. Although he drove in only 54 runs in the offensively challenged Mets lineup, he posted a solid .850 OPS, and proved his back was in good health by pounding out 12 homers in only 52 games after the All-Star break.
There are some questions about where Alfonzo will play in the field and bat in the order for the Giants, but the likely scenarios have him playing third, which should help his back, and hitting either second or third in front of Barry Bonds. Although Alfonzo has enough power to hit lower in the order, new manager Felipe Alou would be wise to utilize Alfonzo's on-base ability batting in front of Bonds.
Assuming he bats 2nd or 3rd, Alfonzo should hit .300 or better with 20 or more homers, at least 80 RBIs and 100 or more runs scored. If fully healthy, Alfonzo could take advantage of the lineup presence of Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia and Bonds and put up stats reminiscent of his 1999 career year with the Mets: .308 with 27 homers, 108 RBIs and 123 runs. Just don't look for more than two or three steals in this lineup.
Scott Rolen is at the head of the class of NL third basemen, but Alfonzo should be in the second tier in 2003.
Brett Tomko is traded to the Cardinals
Rescued from Lou Piniella's doghouse in Seattle, Tomko put up a solid season for the Padres in 2002 and should do much of the same for the Cardinals in 2003. He made 32 starts and logged 204.1 IP, compiling a 4.49 ERA and winning 10 games despite poor offensive support and little relief from the Padres bullpen.
Tomko was erratic at times in 2003, twice giving up four homers in a start but also posting 11 starts in which he gave up zero or one earned runs. Never a big strikeout pitcher, he instead lowered his walk ratio to a career-best 2.64 per nine innings and in turn posted a solid 1.83 K/BB ratio. In addition, he got more ground ball outs than in previous seasons, a promising trend given the Cardinals' Gold Glove-laden infield defense.
Tomko will fit in nicely as the Cardinals' No. 3 starter behind Matt Morris and Woody Williams, and may have a few short stretches of brilliance throughout the season. His win totals should improve thanks to better run support, defense and bullpen work, all of which should also lead to a small drop in his WHIP from last year's respectable 1.33 mark. However, he has been homer prone throughout his career and Busch Stadium is not as favorable to pitchers as was Tomko's last home, Qualcomm Stadium.
Look for Tomko to produce 12-14 wins in 2003, with an ERA around 4.25 and a WHIP around 1.30, and you won't be disappointed.
Mike Stanton signs a free-agent deal with the Mets
Stanton posted a fine season in 2002 as the Yankees' primary lefthanded setup man, and he'll resume a similar role with the crosstown Mets in the first year of a three-year contract. Setting up Mariano Rivera, Stanton notched seven wins, a 3.00 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 78 innings, and picked up a half-dozen saves in part-time closer duty while Rivera was sidelined with shoulder problems.
Stanton closed full-time for the Braves in 1993, a distinction that has helped him earn a handful of save situations each season since, and he'll be in the same position with the Mets in 2003 as the primary left-hander in front of closer Armando Benitez. He averaged five wins and three saves over his six seasons with the Yankees, with ERA's ranging from 2.57 to 5.47 and a WHIP between 1.23 and 1.43.
The major concern with Stanton is his strikeout rate, which plummeted to a career-low 5.08 K/9 last season, only two seasons removed from his career-best 9.93 K/9 ratio in 2000. However, his control remained solid, he continued to handle righthanded hitters as well as he does lefties and Shea Stadium is a very favorable environment for fly ball pitchers of his ilk, so the warning flag is not yet cause for alarm.
Look for another solid season from Stanton in 2003, with a half-dozen wins, an ERA in the low to mid 3.00's and a WHIP around 1.30. How many saves he gets depends on Benitez, but don't expect more than a few or you'll end up overpaying for him.
Red Sox acquire Jeremy Giambi from the Phillies for RHP Josh Hancock
He may not be the roto-stud his brother is, but Jeremy Giambi does have some skills that are worth taking note of. The Red Sox were enamored with his on-base percentage, and for good reason. Giambi has a .381 career mark in that stat.
That probably doesn't mean much to you, unless you're in some hardcore league that counts OBP. But his ability to take pitches will help him to avoid prolonged slumps, help him be a better run producer and put him on base more frequently to score runs.
Giambi hit a combined 20 homers last year in under 400 at-bats. He could get as much as 500 ABs in the Red Sox lineup in 2003, most likely in the six or seven hole. Considering the Sox have Nomar, Manny and possibly Cliff Floyd hitting 3-4-5, that could mean ample RBI opportunities for Giambi. Don't go nuts over Giambi come draft day, but he could be a very nice fit as your corner guy, and 25 homers and 80 RBIs are not out of the question.
Josh Hancock was recently considered a pretty good prospect in the Sox system. He is coming off surgery, so he won't be making any roto impact immediately. But store his name in the back of your mind, possibly for 2004. He could join an already impressive list of young pitching talent in the Philllies rotation.
Jim Thome signs a free-agent deal with the Phillies
Will Thome suffer the league-switch funk that plagued Tino Martinez and Roberto Alomar, or will he follow the path of Robin Ventura? My guess is he'll lean more towards Ventura, who had a phenomenal season when he first joined the Mets. Look for Thome to slump early as he adjusts and possibly even presses. But once he gets locked in, the pure power and patience that has given him seven straight 30-home run seasons (101 over the past two years) and .400-plus OBP two years running will take over. Flanked by Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell, the RBI opportunities will be there as he'll have plenty of protection. Look for his batting average to be closer to his career average of .287 than the .304 he hit last year. A .285, 40, 110 season sounds about right.
The acquisition of Thome makes Travis Lee extremely expendable, which he may have been even if the Phils didn't ink Thome to the long-term deal. The Phillies will try to find a taker for Lee. If he lands somewhere like Atlanta, he could have a somewhat productive year, but not one for which you should pay heavily.
David Bell signs a free-agent deal with the Phillies
What David Bell did in 2002 is about all you could ever expect from him. It might be even more than you can expect. Changing teams isn't going to alter that. He's not going to kill you at third, especially considering how weak a position it is, particularly in the National League, but it's unlikely he'll hit any higher than .260. Watch where he hits in the lineup. If he's in the two-hole, and your league counts runs scored, he could provide some value hitting in front of Abreu, Thome and Burrell. If he backs that threesome up, he'll fall into some RBIs. That being said, if you get 15-20 homers and 70-75 RBIs, you should feel very fortunate.
Tom Glavine signs a free-agent deal with the Mets
It doesn't really matter where Tom Glavine pitches, unless he went to an awful team. Yes, the Mets were awful last year. No, I don't think they will be again. Projecting Glavine's success has more to do with whether age will ever catch up to him, and odds are it won't, at least not in 2003. Shea Stadium is a good pitchers' park and Glavine's got a 3.07 career ERA there in 17 games. Assuming the Mets defense isn't as porous as it was in 2002, an ERA right around his Shea Stadium career mark isn't out of the question. As for wins, they're always hard to predict, but 15 wins from Glavine is about as close to a sure thing as there is. With Glavine as the ace, expect an up-tick from Al Leiter on down the rotation, if for no other reason than Leiter will match up with the opponent's ace much less than he has the last couple of years.
Glavine's departure from Atlanta could open up an opportunity for another young starter, if the Braves don't sign any free agents (including Greg Maddux). Millwood, Hampton, Moss and Marquis are the top four. Keep an eye on Trey Hodges, especially if you're in an NL-only league. Hodges went 15-9 with a 3.19 with Triple-A Richmond last year and impressed Bobby Cox during a September cup of coffee. As a No. 5, he could be a nice cheap end-of-rotation filler for you in 2003.
Ray Durham signs a free-agent deal with the Giants
It still is a little unclear to me why Durham's free agent status didn't cause more of a stir. How many bona fide leadoff hitters are there? We're talking about a guy who's scored 100-plus runs for six straight years and has stolen at least 25 bases in six of the past seven seasons. Throw in 15 homers and you've got a pretty well-rounded roto stud. That's not going to change in San Francisco. Even if the Giants don't sign Jeff Kent, Durham will be on base plenty of times in front of that Bonds guy, and will rack up the runs for those of you in leagues that count that stat. Even if you scale down the projection slightly for the league switch, you're still looking at .275, 15, 60 RBIs and 20 steals, not bad for your second baseman. And even if he moves to the outfield to make room for Kent, he'll be eligible at second in most leagues next season.
Mike Remlinger signs a free-agent deal with the Cubs
It's not often a left-handed reliever warrants roto attention, but Remlinger is too steady to ignore. Getting a guy who can give you a 2.00 or lower ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 70 innings or so can help you build a strong fantasy staff. Backing a talented, but young, starting rotation, Remlinger should have plenty of opportunities to pitch in pressure situations, and while you should never, ever count on wins from a reliever, it appears Chicago will be a good place for him to nab some. A strikeout an inning doesn't hurt either. And keep this in the back of your head come draft day: With the Cubs' closer job in disarray, Remlinger could very easily slide in and hit double-digits in saves.
Marquis Grissom signs a free-agent deal with the Giants
Grissom had a bit of a renaissance in LA last year, and may have even been a valuable fill-in for many roto teams out there. But he only had 343 at-bats for a reason. Grissom is best suited to be part of a platoon these days. If the Giants plan for him to be their every-day center fielder, he won't continue to produce under the wear-and-tear.
Either way, his days of being a power-speed combo are gone and likely will be a free agent pick up for you at best next season.
Cubs send Todd Hundley and Chad Hermansen to the Dodgers for Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek.
From a fantasy perspective, how this deal affects players not involved in the trade is more important than those who were swapped. Because let's face it, none of the above-mentioned players are going to lead you to a fantasy championship.
But with due diligence in mind, here's a quick note on the foursome. Once upon a time, Eric Karros was a steady, if unspectacular, first baseman. As long as you got him late and didn't overpay, he wasn't bad as a second first baseman. But after topping 30 homers in five of six seasons, he's fallen short of 20 the past two seasons. I don't see him getting there again in 2003, mostly because he won't get the bulk of the playing time, at least not at first. The best you can hope for at the start of the season is a platoon. Which means, you should look elsewhere for a first baseman.
Back in his Expos days, Mark Grudzielanek was a terrific fantasy sleeper, a shortstop who would help you cheaply with some steals. Those days are long gone. Now he's a second baseman with a tiny bit of pop who doesn't run anymore, and like Karros, could be an expensive backup in 2003. Even if he's a supersub or ends up as the starter at second, he's still not worth pursuing.
Todd Hundley had to get out of Chicago. That much was clear. And the last success he had was in LA. But, again, there's no clear role for him. Right now, he'll likely backup Paul LoDuca and could possibly end up playing a bunch at first if the Dodgers don't make any other moves to replace Karros. He can't be as bad as he was the past two years, and even as a part-timer might make a half-way decent end-of-draft, I'm desperate for a second catcher kind of guy. But that's about it.
Now on to the important figures in this deal: the prospects who are now blocked, or are now getting the opportunity to play. Let's start in Chicago, where before the trade it seemed like Hee Seop Choi and Bobby Hill would be the full-timers at first and second, respectively.
The Cubs still say they'll get first crack, with Karros and Grudz providing insurance and some competition. But with Dusty Baker's reputation for playing vets, how long will that last? And that could put a serious crimp on those of you who were looking to those two as cheaper prospects to fill out your squad.
Choi has nothing left to prove in the minors, especially after hitting .345 in the AFL. There's a chance this trade could help Choi, with Karros giving some rest against tough lefties. In a platoon, this might work and allow Choi to come along slowly. Just keep that in mind when drafting: Expect 400 ABs, not 500 from Choi and watch what happens early on to determine how the playing time will work out.
Hill got a chance to win the job in 2002, but failed. The Cubs also weren't thrilled with Corey Patterson, another reason why they may shy away from handing the right side of the infield to rookies. But Hill rebounded by playing well in Triple-A. He can run, and he knows how to get on base. I think he'll end up winning the job and playing most of the time. Don't go nuts with him, but around 15 steals sounds right to me.
The real opportunity arising from this trade comes in Los Angeles. With Grudz gone, second base belongs to Joe Thurston. And this is a name to remember. Thurston hit .334 in Triple-A last year, with double-digits in homers and more than 20 steals. Now, it'd be unrealistic to expect that in his rookie season, especially in that stadium. But he might be a very good option at second later in the draft, after guys like Roberto Alomar, Luis Castillo and Jose Vidro are gone.
A's send Billy Koch and two minor leaguers to be named later to the White Sox for Keith Foulke, Mark Johnson and Joe Valentine.
The only two players that really need in-depth fantasy analysis are the two closers who were swapped. Let's start with Koch.
On the field, Koch can sometimes be maddening. He blew six saves and his WHIP (1.27) and ERA (3.27) are a tad high for a top-notch closer. But the 11 wins notwithstanding, he has saved 30-plus for four straight seasons and even threw in a strikeout per inning, for those of you in leagues that count K's.
Now, Chicago isn't Oakland. The White Sox may have some young talent up-and-coming, but they're not ready to win 103 games next year. And with no Hudson, Zito and Mulder to keep things close consistently, I can't imagine Koch will get 50 save opportunities with this team.
He can pitch frequently, so his innings pitched might be higher than most closers. But that's not necessarily a good thing, considering Koch's penchant for escalating ERAs (it is good for the K's, however). I'd pencil him in to return to his Blue Jays numbers, around 35 saves and an ERA above 3.00.
It's no wonder Foulke was ecstatic about this trade. After struggling mightily in May, Foulke lost his job as Chicago's closer to Damaso Marte and Antonio Osuna. Very few people noticed when Foulke completely turned it around and posted a 0.74 ERA after the All-Star break. He gave up just one earned run over his final 20 games, including 15 scoreless frames in September. Even with the "struggles," he still finished with a nifty 1.00 WHIP.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, now Foulke will not have to worry about whether he's the closer. He's it for this season. And it's a contract year for him. With that starting rotation, there's no reason Foulke won't return to being one of the nastiest closers in the game. Move him to the top of your AL list in 2003. Expect 40-plus saves, an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP right around or under 1.00.
A quick note on some of the players "indirectly" involved. Assuming Koch stays with the White Sox, the values of Marte and Osuna plunge faster than NASDAQ. Both hit double-digit saves last year. Neither will come close, and thus shouldn't be on the radar, in 2003. Mark Johnson is a backup catcher. The only thing he'll do fantasy-wise is increase Ramon Hernandez' value because Hernandez will be able to avoid fatigue more readily.
And finally, there's Valentine, a bona fide prospect. He's just 22 and hasn't pitched above Double-A, but he saved 36 games in the Southern League to go along with a sub-2.00 ERA and struck out more than a hitter an inning. With a great spring, he could fill in for the injured Jim Mecir as the A's right-handed setup man next year. But more realistically, keep him on your fantasy radar for 2004, when the A's might be looking for a new closer after Foulke leaves via free agency.
Cory Lidle goes from Oakland to Toronto. Two prospects you don't have to worry about go from Toronto to Oakland.
This is a terrific deal for the Blue Jays, who desperately needed an inning-eater to join Roy Halladay at the top of the rotation. But what does it mean for you fantasy-wise?
Lidle went 8-10 in an up-and-down season with the A's in 2002, showing you just how unpredictable wins can be. Even when erratic, Lidle will still give you close to 200 innings of decent ERA and WHIP (1.20 last year), but there are a couple of things to consider:
1. SkyDome vs. Network Associates. Lidle is moving from a pitching-friendly park to one that favors hitters slightly. On the flip side, Lidle has pitched well in Toronto, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in four career starts there.
2. Team offense. The Blue Jays finished just ahead of the A's in runs scored, 813-800. In other words, their offenses were basically about the same. No real difference in value there.
3. Team bullpen. Obviously, pieces of a bullpen can and will change from one year to the next. But in 2002, the A's posted a 3.87 relief ERA, compared to the Blue Jays' 4.43 mark. This is something to consider, although it shouldn't sway you too much in either direction. But a stronger bullpen could mean a few more wins here and there (although, again, never ever count on wins).
4. Ground ball to fly ball ratio. Cory Lidle is a ground-ball pitcher. His 1.49 GO/AO ratio was sixth in the American League. Now he has to pitch on turf for half of his games, rather than the natural stuff he used to his advantage in Oakland. And keep in mind the Blue Jays' infield defense is not as strong as the A's.
So what does all this mean? In the end, Lidle will probably be a decent starter for you, much like he was in Oakland. Maybe the vote of confidence as the Jays' No. 2 guy will help him become more consistent. More likely, though, is that you'll see a slight drop in his numbers because of the aforementioned factors, meaning you should probably drop him on your lists just a tad.
Mike Hampton goes from Colorado to Florida to Atlanta. Tim Spooneybarger goes from Atlanta to Florida. Juan Pierre goes from Colorado to Florida. Preston Wilson and Charles Johnson go from Florida to Colorado.
There are some other names in this trade, but these are the ones to worry about for the time being (Pablo Ozuna could enter the fantasy picture if he ends up as the Rockies' second baseman). Lets start with Hampton.
Obviously, Hampton was a fantasy disaster for the past two years. He wasn't even a Rockies starter you could insert into your lineup when the Rox were on the road -- he was equally awful away from Coors Field. Chances are, he wasn't on anyone's roster by the end of the 2002 season.
Now he's gotten out of pitching purgatory and moved to seemingly better grounds in Atlanta. Can he shake the Coors hangover? With Leo Mazzone to help, and a much nicer pitchers park in the Ted, I think that's a pretty safe bet. I wouldn't necessarily draft him or bid on him like he's the pre-Colorado Hampton -- those scars will be hard to get rid of completely -- but with a good team in a good park, he could win 15 games. Remember, Darryl Kile wasn't pretty in Colorado, and he won 20 in his first year in St. Louis, so anything can happen.
Now for those of you in deep NL-only keeper leagues, there's a chance you had Hampton filling a slot in your rotation. Maybe you got him for a $1 risk pick on draft day and you were so far out of it, you never got rid of him. Well, your inaction could be your gain in 2003. If you can keep him at the salary you got him for, or even a modest increase, you could have fallen into one of the best bargains in the NL.
OK, now on to the other pieces. I'm a big fan of Tim Spooneybarger's, and not just because of his name. That guy has nasty stuff, even if the Braves think he has an attitude to match. Watch what he does in Spring Training with the Marlins. Vlad Nunez did a nice job as the more-or-less full-time closer (sorry, Braden Looper fans). But Spooneybarger gives manager Jeff Torborg another option, if he so chooses. And Spooney has that kind of stuff. So if you see him closing a lot of games in the Spring, his value could go up (and Nunez' value could go down).
Juan Pierre's second full season may have been a disappointment to many -- he dropped 40 points in batting average and 20 RBIs -- but that's likely not why you had him. He still stole 47 bases, one more than his impressive 2001. In Florida, where they like to run, that number could even go up. He and Luis Castillo (assuming he sticks around) could push each other over the 50 plateau. But his on-base percentage and strikeout-to-walk ratio drops could be troubling signs. And remember, he hit nearly 80 points lower away from Coors Field last year. I'd expect the average to stay around .280 or so, and the steals to stay or improve. And if you're in a league that counts runs scored, he won't score nearly as often in the Marlins offense. One caveat: If he ends up batting at the bottom of the order, then knock down that steals total a bit.
Now onto the hitters going to Coors Field. The Rockies feel they have their first bona fide No. 1 catcher. I wouldn't be so sure. Yes, Charles Johnson will be better than the .217 he hit last year. But I don't think he'll be as good as the power hitter he proved to be the previous two years. If he stays healthy, I'd split the difference, maybe hitting around .270 with 15 homers or so. But that's a big if. Personally, I'd stay away because plenty of others will go overboard bidding on/drafting him because he now plays in Colorado.
One of two things could happen to Preston Wilson. He could return to his 2000 numbers (30-30) or even better, taking advantage of the thin air to boost those power numbers. Or he could become so conscious of hitting there, he'll strike out even more (if that's possible) and not be able to hit on the road after altering his swing at home. My guess is that it will be somewhere in the middle, edging closer to 2000 than continuing his descent.
Remember, even with his off year in 2002, Wilson still was a 20-20 guy. I think he has to fall into 10 more homers just because of the better ballpark (from his standpoint). And I'm not too worried about the strikeouts. Yes, it'd be great for him to show a little more discipline. But in 2000, when he hit 31 homers and stole 36 bases, he whiffed 187 times. So close your eyes to the K's, and draft according to the HRs and SBs.
Jonathan Mayo, a senior writer for MLB.com, is the 2001 American League LABR league champion.
Cory Schwartz is the Manager of Stats for MLB.com and has been competing in roto baseball since 1989.
Gregg Klayman is the Manager of Fantasy and Interactive Games for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.