Free Agent Signings:
Jason Johnson signs a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers
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.
Johnson was 10-5 on Aug. 10 last season, then sputtered down the stretch, losing his last five games of the season. Part of the reason for his lack of success was a 6.91 ERA in September. Another reason was Baltimore's inability to score runs.
While moving to Comerica (a good pitcher's park) will help Johnson in 2004, he'll receive much less run support pitching for the weak-hitting Tigers (ranked 29th in runs scored in '03). This does not bode well for a pitcher with a career 4.91 ERA.
Even if his ERA does drop in Detroit, he may not be worth drafting in March. Winning 10 games will be a challenge for him, his career WHIP is 1.51 and his K/BB ratio is consistently below average. He's fine as a No. 5 starter in AL-only leagues, but is a risky pick in mixed leagues.
Cory Lidle signs a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Reds
Many people expected big things from Lidle in 2003, but instead got treated to a ghastly 5.75 ERA and 12-15 record. He actually finished the season tied with 21-game loser Mike Maroth with 123 earned runs allowed.
Some people attribute Lidle's second half struggles (he started the season 10-4) to a groin injury. However, his ERA wasn't exactly stellar when he was 10-4 (4.82) and his record probably would have been closer to 7-7 if it were not for Toronto's great run support.
Cincinnati will not help Lidle's cause much. He won't have the same offense backing him and will be pitching in a great hitter's park. On top of that, he could wind up as a top-of-the-rotation starter, meaning he'll often get matched up against other team's top arms.
Lidle should not be in mixed league rotations at the start of the season, but could serve as a No. 5 starter on NL-only teams.
Mike DeJean signs a free agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles
DeJean will serve as a setup man for Jorge Julio in Baltimore, less than a year after being Milwaukee's closer. He could move into the closer's role if Jorge Julio were to struggle, but odds are he'll only pick up a save or two in 2004.
His high WHIP and ERA make him a pitcher whose only value lies in his save potential. Since he'll rarely be on the mound in the ninth inning, pass on him at the start of the season.
Brian Daubach signs a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox
With David Ortiz and Kevin Millar already entrenched at 1B and DH, Daubach will serve as a utility player for the Red Sox in 2004. He also will see some playing time in the outfield when the Sox give Manny Ramirez or Trot Nixon a day off.
No one should be expecting Daubach to return to his 20-homer days with Boston from 1999-2002. He is coming off a season in which he batted .230 with only six long balls. At best he'll see 200-300 at-bats this season, so hitting 10 HR will be a stretch for the 32-year-old veteran in 2004.
Brook Fordyce signs a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Outside of AL-only leagues, Fordyce had little value prior to his signing with Tampa Bay. Now that he'll be backing up Toby Hall in 2004, his value is all but gone.
While he is a solid pickup for the Devil Rays, fantasy owners should avoid him come draft day. If Hall fails to impress Lou Piniella in the early months of the season, Fordyce could see more playing time. Until that happens, he should be sitting on every league's waiver wire.
Brian Jordan signs a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers
Any time you are 37 years old and have suffered through a series of injuries, your fantasy value is going to be quite low. Jordan, a one-time 20-20 threat, can still hit for average (with some power), but is coming off a season in which he hit only six homers and missed over 90 games due to injury.
If he can remain healthy, he should be Texas' right fielder in 2004. Moving from Dodger Stadium to The Ballpark in Arlington will help Jordan, and he could prove to be a big sleeper if he gets 500 ABs this season. He is worth drafting in AL-only leagues and deep mixed leagues.
David Wells signs a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres
Although he was a 15-game winner in 2003 and could be San Diego's Opening Day starter, Wells' off-the-field antics, recent back surgery and age (he'll be 41 in May) make him a risky selection in 2004.
He was passed over in many fantasy drafts last year because of these reasons, but wound up being a great bargain for those who drafted him in the middle to late rounds.
Wells won't have the same run support playing with the Padres, and his back could force him into retirement at any moment. In other words, proceed with caution once again.
Tony Batista signs a free agent contract with the Montreal Expos
Batista's value won't change much with his move to Montreal. He can't hit lefties (.193 in '03) and doesn't get on base much (.302 career OBP), two things that will remain the same no matter where he plays.
His power (26 HRs last year) and RBI potential alone make him a worthy fantasy selection, but anyone taking the two-time all-star must be prepared for the low average that he is going to bring to your team. He hasn't batted higher than .244 in the last three years, thanks in large part to a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio (about 3.5 to 1 in 2003), and it is doubtful at age 30 that he'll ever hit much higher than .250 again.
Batista will be a nice fit to a fantasy team that lacks power but is strong in average. Count on him for 25 homers and 80 RBIs in 2004.
Ronnie Belliard signs a free agent contract with the Cleveland Indians
Belliard will enter 2004 as Cleveland's starting second baseman, something that is good news for a guy who hasn't played in more than 116 games since 2000. Playing in Colorado helped Belliard raise his average back up to a respectable .277 in 2003, but he still didn't show much power, hitting only eight home runs in 447 ABs.
While Belliard does have speed on the bases, he only has 25 career steals in five big league seasons. He has the ability to get on base (.351 OBP in '03), but unless you play in a sabermetric-style league, it's not going to help you much outside of increasing his runs total.
If you miss out on drafting a top 5-10 second baseman in an AL-only league, Belliard is not a bad guy to have on your team. Just don't expect much more than a .265 average, with some pop and speed
Todd Walker signs a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs
The Red Sox lineup packed a mighty wallop in 2003, but by the time the postseason rolled around, the player making the biggest noise wasn't Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra or David Ortiz. It was unheralded journeyman Todd Walker, who batted .349 with five big home runs in the playoffs.
Surprising? Yes... sort of. After all, here was a guy whose 13 homers and 85 RBIs in 2003 represented career-best totals. But if you take a look at his stats, you'll notice that Walker has been a pretty good hitter throughout his eight-year Major League career. With the Twins in 1998, Walker batted .316 with 41 doubles. With the Reds in 2002, he batted .299 with 42 doubles. Walker struggles against left-handers and isn't always reliable in the field, which are two reasons why he hasn't earned a steady, full-time job with one club. But whenever he does play regularly, he hits.
So what does that mean for your 2004 fantasy team? Walker will no longer have the Red Sox brigade backing him up in the lineup, but the cozy confines of Wrigley will help to make up for that. He also spent most of 2000-2002 with the Rockies and Reds, so he's seen plenty of National League pitching. And it appears that he may be hitting his stride in the power department.
All of this could add up to a big season for Walker. His success will ultimately hinge upon two main factors -- hitting left-handers and wielding an adequate glove -- but Walker should thrive if he is able to keep himself in the lineup everyday. Consider adding him to your list of top 10 fantasy second basemen, especially if you can count on getting steals elsewhere.
Shane Reynolds signs a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks
Reynolds was a top-notch fantasy pitcher in the late 90s, when he won 35 games and struck out over 400 batters between 1998-99. Since those two seasons he has battled injuries (back surgery) and a rising ERA.
Despite going 11-9 in 2003, Reynolds tallied his highest career ERA (5.43) and WHIP (1.50), as well as his worst strikeout-to-walk ratio ever (94 K/59 BB). Since he does not have overpowering stuff (an upper 80s fastball), Reynolds must throw strikes if he wants to succeed. If he does not improve on his numbers in 2004, it is unlikely he'll post a winning record with Arizona this season.
At best, he is a No. 5 starter in deep NL-only leagues. Fantasy owners are better off waiting to see how he looks this spring before investing a pick on the 36-year-old righty.
Javy Lopez agrees to a free agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles (pending physical)
Lopez is coming off an unexpected huge season that saw him top all Major League catchers in virtually every offensive category. He tallied career highs in batting average (.328), homers (43), RBIs (109), runs (89), hits (150), OBP (.378), SLG (.687) and OPS (1.065).
All of this came following three seasons where his career appeared to be on the decline. In 2002 he batted .233 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs, while posting an ugly .299 OBP. Many people assumed his days as a top catcher were over heading into 2003, and he dropped to the later rounds at many fantasy drafts.
Lopez proved that, at 32, a catcher who has played over 1,000 games shouldn't necessarily be planning his retirement. Now a year after being grouped with the likes of Kelly Stinnett and Jason LaRue, Lopez will be one of the first catchers selected in 2004.
It is unlikely that he will come close to replicating last year's numbers with Baltimore in 2003. Even if he puts up half the stats he had last year, he'll still have better numbers than most AL catchers. Assume he'll hit 20-25 homers, and pay or draft accordingly if you plan on selecting him.
Ben Grieve signs a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers
Grieve has never been the same hitter since he was traded to Tampa Bay before the 2001 season. The 1998 AL Rookie of the Year has watched his batting average plummet in each of the last three seasons, and has battled a series of obscure injuries that have limited his production. He has always excelled at getting on base, but unless you play in a league that counts OBP, he has been of little use to fantasy owners since 2001.
He will get a fresh start in Milwaukee, and at 28, still has time to get his career back on track. If Grieve has a solid spring and becomes the Brewers starting right fielder, he'll still be a risky option, even in NL-only leagues. Then again, if you can grab him for a buck or two on draft day, he does have the potential to be a big sleeper if he ever regains his old form.
Kenny Lofton signs a free agent contract with the New York Yankees
At 36, Lofton is still a top basestealer, especially in this age when anything more than 30 steals in considered a lot. While his days of getting on base 40 percent of the time are gone, he still reaches base at an above-average rate (.352 OBP in 2003).
Batting in a lineup overflowing with offensive talent, Lofton has the opportunity to approach .300 and score 100 runs. However, Joe Torre might not let Lofton run as freely as he's done in other cities due to the plethora of All-Star hitters batting behind him. The last thing the Yankees want to do is make outs on the bases when they have so many players who can hit the ball out of the park.
Lofton's value will rise slightly with this signing and he'll make a decent fifth outfielder option in 2004.
This move should also signal the end of Bernie Williams' days as a starting outfielder. If the Yankees have Hideki Matsui, Lofton and Gary Sheffield patrolling the outfield, Williams might find himself as the regular DH for most of 2004. This also means that Jason Giambi, if healthy, will play first base every day, and the Yankees will probably not pursue another first baseman. Giambi has always hit better when playing first, so this is good news for anyone holding onto the former MVP in a keeper league.
Pokey Reese signs a free agent contract with Boston
Reese has seen his popularity and fantasy value dwindle since his breakout 1999 season, but his move to Boston could lead to a career revival. Like most right-handed hitters, he should reap the benefits of the Green Monster. No, he won't be lofting many shots into the newly-installed seats, but he'll see plenty of his medium fly balls bounce off the wall for easy doubles. He'll also get the benefit of hitting in a murderous lineup, which means more opportunities to pad his runs total.
And then there's the question of steals. The Red Sox aren't exactly a running team, but Johnny Damon has stolen at least 30 bases in each of the two seasons he's been with the club. If the Sox bat Reese in the nine hole, they could attempt to execute a little small ball with the two speedsters in the lineup. If Reese stays healthy (he played in just 37 games in '03 due to a thumb injury) and is able to beat out Mark Bellhorn for the starting 2B job, he could get his average back into the mid .200s and contribute 20-30 steals. It's not quite Soriano-like, but it's enough to move him back onto people's fantasy radar screens.
Tom Gordon signs a free agent contract with the New York Yankees
Gordon's value takes a hit with his move to the Yankees. With Mariano Rivera entrenched in the closer role, Gordon will be used as a setup man. He will be first in line to close if Rivera is forced to miss any time, and should also pick up a handful of saves along the way on days Rivera is not available to pitch.
Pitching out of the Yankees pen could also net Gordon some relief wins, but odds are the Yankees will have plenty of options come April, so those wins will probably be divvied up between four or five relievers.
If you are a Rivera owner and play in a league with a deep bench, make sure to include Gordon on your roster in 2004. Otherwise he's a risk because there is no guarantee he will get more than 3-5 saves this season, and his other numbers aren't good enough to warrant a spot on your pitching staff.
Paul Quantrill signs a free agent contract with the New York Yankees
After two solid seasons in '01 and '02, Quantrill established himself as one of baseball's top setup men in 2003. His 1.75 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 77.1 IP made him a valuable fantasy asset, despite his lack of saves (1).
In New York he'll move into one of the most crowded and talented bullpens in baseball. He is unlikely to get many save opportunites with Mariano Rivera and Tom Gordon standing in his way, so taking Quantrill in a mixed league is not advised for now. However, AL-only owners should consider drafting him, for ERA and WHIP purposes alone.
Armando Benitez signs a free agent contract with the Florida Marlins
Benitez's value took a huge hit last year when he was traded to the Yankees and made only nine appearances out of their bullpen as a setup man. He was then shipped to Seattle and failed to pick up a save in 15 games, getting only one opportunity.
People have quickly forgotten that Benitez saved 117 games from 2000-02, and had 21 saves before he left the Mets last season. While many would guess that his ERA was somewhere in the 4.00s last year, it actually was only 2.96.
In Florida, he will again have the opportunity to close out games, and this time without the pressure of the New York spotlight shining down on him. He is only 31 years old and there is no reason to think that 35 saves is out of the question this season, especially from a guy who still throws heat and does not allow a lot of hits (59 in 73 innings in 2003).
While it would be a stretch to say he will return to his former sub-2.00 ERA self, Benitez should still go before many lower-level closers at fantasy drafts this spring.
Jeromy Burnitz agrees to a free agent contract with the Colorado Rockies
Burnitz will take over left field duties for the Rockies in 2004 and will most likely bat toward the middle to end of the order (seventh?).
For a guy who has hit 31 or more homers in five of six seasons, playing 81 games at Coors Field every year could be huge. Burnitz's downside is that he strikes out much too often and hits for a low average (.227 combined the last two seasons). He'll be 35 this season and odds are his average won't get much better as his career winds down. Over the last few years, his K/BB ratio has gone from less than 2-to-1 to almost 4-to-1 . The lack of plate patience is not a good indication of the direction Burnitz is heading in. Plus, the added temptation to swing for the fences in Colorado could make that ratio worse in 2004.
If he is able to stick in the Rockies everyday lineup, he should reach 30 homers once again. Just don't count on much else from Burnitz this season. At best he should be a fourth outfielder in NL-only leagues.
Arthur Rhodes agrees to a free agent contract with the Oakland A's
Rhodes is slated to be Oakland's closer in 2004, something that transforms him from a $3-5 fantasy player to one worth at least $15 on draft day.
He has never closed in his 13 seasons, and has only 17 career saves to date. Rhodes does have the makeup of a closer and has averaged more than a strikeout per inning during his big league tenure. He has excellent control, does not give up a lot of longballs and is equally dominant against righties and lefties, all things that should help him rack up the saves in 2004.
It will be interesting to see where he is selected in fantasy drafts come March. Most likely he'll go somewhere between the old reliables (Mariano Rivera, Keith Foulke) and closers who pitch for sub-.500 teams (Francisco Cordero, Lance Carter). He'll make an excellent selection if you are able to get him at a bargain price or in a later rounds.
Gary Sheffield signs a free agent contract with the New York Yankees
Coming off the best offensive year of his career (.330-39-132), Sheffield has an excellent chance to post identical numbers in the Bronx in 2004. He'll be surrounded by a ton of talent and will be moving into the heart of one of baseball's deadliest lineups.
The ideal situation for fantasy owners would have Sheffield batting third, behind Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, ahead of Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui. In that spot, he'll be a lock for 100 runs, 100 RBIs and should hit .300 for the seventh straight season, but anything more than 35 homers should not be expected. The last Yankee right-handed hitter to swat 40 homers
in pinstripes was Joe DiMaggio in 1937, so Sheffield owners should not be counting on any increases in his power production in 2004.
He just turned 35 this November, but as Barry Bonds has proved, the upper-30s can be a player's prime, so anyone who tries to write off Sheffield as being over the hill is foolish. Expect him to remain in the top tier of fantasy outfielders once again in 2004.
Ismael Valdes signs a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres
Valdes is coming off a terrible season that saw him post a ghastly 6.10 ERA in Texas. It is amazing to think he went 8-8, considering he had a 1.54 WHIP and only fanned 47 hitters in 22 starts.
Pitching in the NL again should help him somewhat, although Valdes is going to need a lot to resurrect his career at this point. He hasn't had a winning season since 1998 (11-10) and hasn't had an ERA under 3.98 since 1997.
Valdes should not be on your fantasy team in 2004 unless he wins a rotation spot and performs well in April. Even then, he should only be a No. 5 starter in NL-only leagues
Scott Spiezio signs a free agent contract with the Seattle Mariners
Spiezio will shift over to third base in 2004 on a full-time basis, but will still qualify at first base in most leagues (played 114 games at 1B in 2003). He will not see time in the outfield (10 games in '03) with Seattle, so he'll lose his eligibility at that position.
As a third baseman he'll have more value in the fantasy baseball world. A .265 average with 16 homers and 83 RBIs looks a lot better if it is coming from third base than first base. His versatility combined with his ability to put his bat on the ball makes him a nice addition to a strong Mariners lineup. Spiezio's numbers could take a slight hit from playing at Safeco Field, but he still is a worthwhile option at third in AL-only leagues for 2004.
The arrival of Spiezio signals the end of Jeff Cirillo's days as the Mariners third baseman. Following a disappointing season that saw him hit just .205, Cirillo's name had already fallen off most fantasy 3B lists.
Rondell White signs a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers
White bounced back from a terrible 2002 to post solid outfielder numbers last year in San Diego and KC. Few people expected him to hit 22 homers and drive in 87 runs after his struggles in New York, and he wound up being a valuable pick-up in many leagues.
His biggest problem throughout his career has been his inability to stay healthy. He has only played 140 or more games once in his 10 seasons in the Majors. Combine that with the fact he'll be batting in a weak lineup that plays in a pitcher's park, and White is not a very safe outfield selection in 2004. He should be nothing more than a fifth outfielder or utility player in AL-only leagues at the start of the season.
Jose Cruz signs a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
There are a couple of reasons to think that Jose Cruz's fantasy value will improve with his move to Tampa Bay. He'll no longer be hitting in spacious Pac Bell Park, for starters. And with speedsters like Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli batting ahead of him in the lineup, he'll have the opportunity to drive in a fair share of runs.
That being said, you have to remember that this is a lifetime .251 hitter who has never really lived up to expectations. Cruz was a 30-30 man in 2001, but in the two seasons since, he's accumulated a combined 38 home runs and 12 steals. There is still a chance that the 29-year-old can turn things around, but don't let yourself get burned by the promise of his 2001 numbers. As of now, he's late-round fantasy material.
Jose Guillen signs a free agent contract with the Anaheim Angels
Guillen's fantasy value heading into '04 is perhaps the most difficult to predict for any of this offseason's free agents. He is coming off a career year, but lacks the proven track record that would make someone comfortable drafting him this spring.
Anaheim will be Guillen's sixth team in six years. Up until last year, he was a player who never lived up to his potential and was barely mentioned at fantasy drafts. After hitting 24 homers combined the previous four seasons, Guillen erupted, hitting 23 homers with Cincinnati before getting dealt to Oakland (where he added eight more). By the end of the season he ranked as one of the top five biggest surprises in all of fantasy baseball.
Getting out of Oakland's pitcher-friendly park is a nice thing for any hitter, although Anaheim isn't exactly a hitter's paradise either. Jose could turn into the Guillen of old and hit 10 homers while batting .240. Or he could hit near .300 with 25-30 homers. The safest approach is to assume his numbers will land somewhere in the middle and draft him based off those projections.
Reggie Sanders signs a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals
Sanders has consistently been one of the most underappreciated players in baseball. Every year he drops to the later rounds of fantasy drafts, despite his 30-homer potential. Part of the reason is that he tends to follow good seasons with mediocre and sub-par ones. He's in his mid-30s and most experts love to write annually that his career is on the decline.
In a time when power rules, Sanders' numbers from '03 barely stand out (.285, 31 HRs, 87 RBIs). Yet, they are just as good if not better than Dave Winfield's stats from 1980 (.276, 20 HR, 87 RBIs), the year before he signed a huge free agent contract with the Yankees. Sanders' signing went virtually unnoticed by most of the baseball world, despite his big offensive season.
Since few people even realize that he was a handful of at-bats shy of finishing in the top 15 in slugging percentage (.567) in 2003, he'll end up dropping to the later rounds once again. There is always the chance that he'll have a down year, but 20 homers and 15 steals wouldn't be the worst thing to settle for from a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Jeff Suppan signs a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals
After nine Major League seasons, Suppan owns a 62-75 record and a 4.90 ERA. It's hard to get excited about those numbers, but Suppan deserves some slack for pitching in hitter-friendly ballparks (Fenway Park, Kauffman Stadium) and for some mediocre clubs (Royals, Pirates). If the right-hander does what he has been doing for the past five seasons -- that is, make 30 starts and log over 200 innings -- then an explosive Cardinals offense could allow him to reach a career high in wins.
Don't expect Suppan to post career-best numbers in the other relevant categories, though. He lacks a dominant out pitch, which means he'll give up more hits than innings pitched and strike out 130 batters at best. Still, you could do worse than having this guy as your No. 5 starter in mixed leagues.
Carl Everett signs a free agent contract with the Montreal Expos
Everett will take over for Vladimir Guerrero in the Expos outfield in 2004. While no one can expect him to come close to putting up Vlad-like numbers, Everett is coming off an All-Star season that saw him bat .287 with 28 homers and 92 RBIs. He'll play every day, and hitting behind the likes of Nick Johnson and Brad Wilkerson, two players who excel at getting on base, will give Everett plenty of chances to knock in runs with the Expos.
Throughout his career, Everett has been a very up and down player. In 1999 and 2000, he combined to hit .313, with 59 homers and 216 RBIs. The following two seasons, he hit .262 with 30 homers and 120 RBIs. So anyone counting on another big year, needs to be prepared for the possibility of a letdown. Everett should be your third outfielder in an NL-only league and your fourth or fifth in a mixed league.
Roberto Hernandez signs a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies
Hernandez's days as a valuable fantasy player ended last season when he signed with Atlanta. His only value in 2002 came from the 26 saves he picked up as the Royals closer. When he became a setup man for John Smoltz, there was no reason to draft a guy with an ERA above 4.00 and an ugly WHIP.
Pitching in Philadelphia will do little to raise his value. Billy Wagner is closing, Tim Worrell will take over if something happens to Wagner, and Rheal Cormier is an excellent setup man who could grab a few relief wins. Hernandez will not see any save opportunities and will probably never be used in tight situations. Pass on him in 2004 and beyond.
Miguel Tejada signs a free agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles
A year after winning the AL MVP, Tejada's numbers fell off in 2003, as the super shortstop slumped early in the season. Tejada batted just .161 in April and was hitting .245 at the All-Star break. He rebounded in the second half, batting .326 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs to finish the season with a .278 average, 27 homers and 106 RBIs.
Leaving Oakland's pitcher-friendly confines is always a good thing for a hitter, and there is no reason to think that Tejada won't continue to put up big numbers as an Oriole. He has averaged more than 30 homers a year since 1999 and has knocked in 100-plus runs in four straight seasons.
With few power hitting shortstops around, Tejada will continue to rank second or third on most draft lists at his position (below A-Rod and just about even with Nomar Garciaparra). His signing with Baltimore does little to change his value as one of baseball's top shortstops. He should still be an early-round selection or warrant $25-30 on draft day.
Mike Cameron agrees to a free agent contract with the New York Mets
Cameron hopes to rebound in New York after a disappointing season in
Seattle. His 18 home runs, 17 steals and 74 runs were his lowest totals
since becoming an everyday player with the Reds in 1999. He only hit
.253 and had his worst RBI output (76) in his four years with the
Shea Stadium isn't exactly the best place to turn your career around if
you are a hitter, so anyone thinking that a change of scenery will get
Cameron back on track is too optimistic. He has never batted over .267
or hit more than 25 homers in his big-league career. Cameron hasn't
shown any improvement at the plate over the past two seasons and he'll be
moving into a weaker lineup in '04, hurting his RBI and run
Cameron still has 20-20 potential and will make a good selection if he
drops past the middle rounds of your draft. But anyone picking him too
early is taking a risk, especially when there are plenty of solid
outfield options available.
Keith Foulke signs a free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox
Foulke was the top closer in the American League in 2003, and the move to Boston should do little to affect that status. Instead of closing games for Oakland's Big Three, he'll be finishing up for an equally formidable rotation headed by Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. Furthermore, the explosive Boston offense guarantees that the Sox will be ahead more often than not by the ninth inning -- and ready to hand the ball over to Foulke.
Of course, the improved run support may prove to be a double-edged sword. The anemic Oakland offense struggled to score runs last season, and the A's often inserted their closer into tie ballgames in the eighth or ninth innings -- that's why Foulke racked up a career-high nine wins. There's no way he'll approach that number this year. Another factor to note is that Fenway Park is much more of a hitters haven than Network Associates Coliseum, so you should expect Foulke's ERA to rise from the stellar 2.08 mark he posted in 2003.
Still, when you add it all up, the lowered value in wins and ERA will be offset by the fact that Foulke has a chance to record 45-50 saves for a team ready to make a run at the World Series. He's one of the top two fantasy closers in his league, and maybe the fifth best overall when you factor in the big guns from the National League.
Naturally, this pretty much squashes Scott Williamson's chances of picking up saves, unless he resurfaces with a new team. And in Oakland, the closer position is now up for grabs. The A's could elect to give an established setup guy like Chad Bradford or Ricardo Rincon (if re-signed) a chance, but it's likely that GM Billy Beane will now turn his attention toward a free agent reliever who has closed games before.
Miguel Batista signs a free agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays
In his second season as a starter, Batista improved by posting a solid 3.54 ERA and a much better K/BB ratio (142/60) than in 2002. He won only 10 games in 2003, but pitched for a team that ranked 21st in the Majors in runs scored. Having Toronto's explosive offense (3rd in 2003) supporting him his season should lead to more wins for the 33-year-old righty.
SkyDome is a hitter's park where groundball pitchers have had more success than flyball pitchers (just ask Roy Halladay). Batista's GO/FO ratio last season was an impressive 2.04 and he only allowed 13 home runs all season. So while a pitcher like Ted Lilly will probably see his ERA rise in Toronto, Batista shouldn't be as affected. The big question is whether his arm can hold up as a full-time starter. Last year, Batista won only three games after July 18 and had an ugly 6.67 September ERA.
Assuming Batista sticks in the rotation all season, he has the ability to win 12 to 14 games. He'll make a solid No. 4 starter in AL-only leagues and a good fifth pitcher in mixed leagues.
Andy Pettitte signs a free agent contract with the Houston Astros
Despite the fact that Pettitte is moving to a great hitter's park, there are a number of reasons to be optimistic about his future.
For one, Pettitte is a groundball pitcher and won't have to worry about flyballs sailing out of Minute Maid Park the way other pitchers do. He's allowed an average of one homer every two games during his career and will now have the advantage of facing weak-hitting pitchers every game as opposed to power-hitting DHs. Expect only a slight increase in home runs allowed.
Like most pitchers switching leagues, he'll have the early advantage of facing many hitters who have never seen his stuff before. In addition, Pettitte's pick-off move is probably the toughest to run against in baseball, and it will take a while for NL base thieves to figure him out (just remember Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo heading back to first on every Pettitte pitch in the World Series).
Houston's bullpen situation is a little shaky following Billy Wagner's departure, but the Astros do have the likes of Octavio Dotel and Brad Lidge to help secure Pettitte's wins. He'll also be pitching in front of a defense that ranked seventh in fielding percentage in 2003 (the Yankees placed 21st).
While all of this should help Pettitte, there are a few other factors to take into consideration before handing him the NL Cy Young. For one, he has thrived in the New York spotlight and has always had better numbers at Yankee Stadium, a park built for left-handed pitchers. He'll also be leaving a team that has scored 220 more runs than the Astros have over the last two seasons. So success away from NY isn't a guarantee.
What does all this mean? Pettitte's fantasy value shouldn't change much in 2004. He could go for a buck or two less than he did last season, but should still be near the top of your pitchers list on draft day. Expect 16 to 18 wins and an ERA around 4.00.
Vinny Castilla signs a free agent contract with the Colorado Rockies
Castilla makes his return to Colorado, four years after he last suited up for the Rockies in 1999. During his time at Coors Field, Castilla became one of fantasy's top players, routinely hitting 40 homers and driving in 100 runs.
His offensive production has fallen off since his glory days, but at 36, a move back to Colorado could be huge for a power hitter like Castilla. He now has the potential to hit 30-plus homers and drive in 90-100 runs. While hitting .300 is not likely, Castilla will garner more attention at fantasy drafts in 2004 than he has in the past few years.
He shouldn't be grouped with the likes of Mike Lowell, Hank Blalock or Eric Chavez just yet, but he'll make a great selection if you miss out on drafting a top-tier third baseman.
Benito Santiago signs a free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals
Santiago will begin his 19th big league season as a member of the Royals. While the 39-year-old catcher is on the decline -- as any catcher his age should be -- he'll still retain some fantasy value in 2004.
He surprised many in '02 by hitting 16 homers (his most since 1996), driving in 74 runs and earning his first All-Star selection since 1992. Last season, his totals dipped a bit, but he still managed to hit .279, ranking eighth among catchers with 300+ ABs.
Playing in Kansas City won't do much to boost his stats, but he will be the Opening Day catcher and will see ample playing time. He is worth selecting in AL-only leagues after top-tier catchers such as Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek are gone, but shouldn't go for more than $5 or $6 bucks in AL auction leagues.
Brad Fullmer signs a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers
Fullmer moves to a team where he'll have more RBI opportunities than a year ago, and to a stadium well suited for left-handed power hitters. He'll bat somewhere in the middle of the lineup (fifth or sixth), and according to manager Buck Showalter, will play against both righties and lefties.
All of this is great news for Fullmer, who missed more than half of last season with a torn patella tendon. He'll primarily serve as a DH, but will also see time at first, giving him much-needed position eligibility in some leagues. If he gets 500 at-bats, he should hit 30 homers and drive in about 100 runs.
Guys like Fullmer, who may not qualify at a fielding position in some leagues, tend to fly below the radar on draft day. Keep an eye out for him if he is still around come the middle to late rounds, but make sure to monitor his health throughout the spring before selecting him in 2004.
Fernando Viña signs a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers
Viña battled through hamstring injuries and played only 61 games with St. Louis in 2003. As a result, he posted the lowest average (.251) and steals total (four) of his career (in a season with 250-plus at-bats).
He has always been a three-category fantasy player (AVG, R, SB). Moving to Detroit will hurt his numbers, as he will now be part of an offense that ranked 29th in 2003. While he will probably hit second, in front of Dmitri Young or Bobby Higginson, it is unlikely that even a healthy Viña will come anywhere close to scoring 90-100 runs. He also has no power and will not get many RBI opportunities during the season.
At 35, coming off injuries, drafting Viña in a mixed league is not advised. He should only be picked to fill middle infield slots in AL-only leagues.
Bartolo Colon signs a free agent contract with the Anaheim Angels
Colon's move out west won't change his fantasy value much. He's moving to only a slightly better pitcher's park in Edison International Field, and he won't have any notable differences in run support in Anaheim as compared to Chicago.
The most significant advantage will be Anaheim's bullpen, which was much more reliable than Chicago's in 2003. Having Troy Percival finishing out Colon's games could help tack on an extra win or two in 2004. Regardless, Colon is still one of the AL's top fantasy pitchers and should be one of the top 10-15 pitchers taken in any draft.
The trade could also mean the end of Jarrod Washburn or Ramon Ortiz's days in Anaheim, so make sure to follow any trade rumors if you own either of these players in an AL-keeper league.
Tim Worrell signs a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies
Anytime a closer becomes a setup man, his fantasy value drops considerably. When that player is setting up a guy like Billy Wagner, who has a stranglehold on his job, his value drops even more.
Worrell could have signed with a weaker team and continued to close, but instead chose Philadelphia where he will be the top right-handed setup option. Anyone planning on holding onto Worrell in keeper leagues should let him go now.
He'll still have value in NL-only leagues for his ERA and WHIP, but should not see time on many mixed league staffs in 2004. Worth a few bucks on draft day, nothing more.
Eddie Guardado signs a free agent contract with the Seattle Mariners
After posting 86 saves over the last two seasons, Guardado might have trouble reaching five saves as a member of one of baseball's most talented bullpens. Kaz Sasaki is still the closer in Seattle, until further notice. Shig Hasegawa, who picked up 16 saves in '03, could reassume the role if Sasaki falters or has more injury problems. Julio Mateo is another solid option out of the pen, who could pick up some vulture saves during the season.
Guardado is a much better pitcher than in his setup days of 1993-2000, but without the saves, he is just another middle reliever with a good WHIP and ERA. In other words, Guardado will not be a $25-30 pick this year, and will fall to the later rounds in straight drafts, unless news comes out that he is taking over Sasaki's role. Unless that happens, his only real value lies in AL-only or deep mixed leagues.
With this signing, Rafael Soriano has a better chance of winding up in the Mariners rotation, due to an overcrowded bullpen. He started eight games for Seattle in 2002 and 10 games for Triple-A Tacoma in 2003, but made all his appearances out of the pen while in the Majors. He pitched well as a starter in the Dominican League this offseason and will get a chance to compete for a rotation spot in March. He could be an excellent sleeper for '04.
John Thomson signs a free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves
Talk about the ideal situation for a pitcher. Moving from a ballpark that has wreaked havoc on pitchers the last few years to a city where pitchers almost always thrive raises Thomson's value considerably.
A 13-14 record and 4.85 ERA in Texas could translate into 17-10, 3.80 in Atlanta, especially when you're working with the likes of Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Thomson will be on a better team, with better pitchers surrounding him, and he'll be playing in a much better pitcher's park than he did in Arlington.
While you shouldn't empty the bank for Thomson, he'll definitely go for more than the $3 or $4 he would have if he remained in Texas. Grab him as your fourth or fifth pitcher if he's still available in your draft.
Kazuo Matsui signs a free agent contract with the New York Mets.
Matsui has a nice combination of speed and power for a middle infielder. Last year, Matsui hit .305 with 33 homers and 13 steals for the Seibu Lions. The 1998 MVP has twice led the Pacific League in steals, and has also been a seven-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner.
Despite all of his success, the switch-hitting shortstop is only 28 years old. He'll become the Mets' everyday shortstop, pushing young phenom Jose Reyes over to second.
It is likely that Matsui's power numbers will fall off somewhat in the Majors. Godzilla blasted 50 homers in 2002 in Japan, but hit only 16 in his first year in the Majors. Ichiro averaged 17 homers a season from 1994-2000, but averaged fewer than 10 in his first three seasons with Seattle. However both players have shown they can hit for average in the Majors.
While projecting Matsui's average is difficult, assume somewhere in the .270-.290 range with 10-15 homers and 20 steals. He'll probably go higher on draft day than he deserves because of the success of Ichiro and Godzilla, so make sure not to pay too much or take him with an early round pick.
Reyes' value goes up with this signing because he will likely qualify at both 2B and SS in most fantasy leagues.
Chicago Cubs sign LaTroy Hawkins to a free agent contract.
After the best year of his career in 2003, Hawkins had a shot of becoming the Twins closer in 2003 if Eddie Guardado were to leave town via free agency. But before finding out Guardado's fate, Hawkins decided to leave Minnesota for Chicago.
With his move to the Cubs, Hawkins is all but guaranteed to be setting up Joe Borowski at the start of 2004. In fantasyland, that is never a good thing.
His signing puts pressure on Borowski to perform like he did last year, when he saved 33 games for the NL Central champs. If Borowski fails to close out games, Hawkins would be first in line to take over his job. Hawkins has closed games before, but with little success. He saved 28 games in 2001, but blew nine saves and posted a putrid 5.99 ERA and 1.92 WHIP.
Hawkins' numbers from the last two seasons alone make him worth drafting in 2004, even if he isn't piling up saves for the Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs trade Damian Miller to the Oakland A's for a player to be named later
Miller is a consistent mediocre fantasy catcher at best. Since 1999 he has hit between 9-13 homers and has driven in between 36-47 RBIs each season. He has no speed and in the past two seasons has hit below .250.
Playing in Oakland will do little to help his offensive production, so Miller should only be a starting option in AL-only leagues in 2004, or deep mixed leagues that require you to play two catchers. He'll probably get between 300-375 ABs, and will split his time with Adam Melhuse. Don't count on anything more than .260-11-40 from the 34-year-old catcher this season.
Florida trades Mark Redman to Oakland for Mike Neu
Redman is coming off his finest big league season, going 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA. He posted a career-high 151 strikeouts in 2003 while holding the opposition to a .239 batting average. The biggest reason for his success was an improved K/9 IP ratio -- from 4.83 in '02 to 7.13 last year.
With his arrival in Oakland, Redman's fantasy value jumps up a bit, primarily due to the new ballpark factor. He will be the No. 4 starter, pitching behind Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder, and will have the advantage of facing other teams' end-of-rotation starters.
If he is able to avoid another late season slump (he had a 4.80 ERA the last two months of '03), Redman can win 15-16 games in 2004. He should be a No. 3 or 4 starter in AL-only leagues and a fourth or fifth pitcher in mixed ones.
Neu will be used in middle relief by Florida and has little value in any style league.
Colorado trades Mark Bellhorn to Boston for a player to be named later
Bellhorn is about as versatile as it gets, he can play almost any position and is a switch-hitter. While position flexibility is a nice thing in fantasy leagues, so is owning a player who has a career average above .230.
In 2002, Bellhorn came out of nowhere with the Cubs, hitting 27 homers in 445 ABs. After many fantasy owners invested middle round picks on him last year, he responded by hitting .221 with two homers and 26 RBIs. Making matters worse was that he failed to hit a home run in 110 ABs with the Rockies.
Since it is not certain if he will get the chance to start at 2B for Boston in '04 (he'll compete with Pokey Reese for the job), he is not worth more than a few bucks at this moment. He turns 30 this season and odds are he'll be more of a one year wonder than a productive player in the future. However, if he sticks in Bostons' everyday lineup, he has the chance to put up decent fantasy numbers, so follow his progress in the spring.
The Chicago Cubs acquire Michael Barrett from Oakland
Barrett may have set the record for shortest tenure as an Athletic, getting dealt to Chicago a day after Oakland acquired him from Montreal.
After a miserable 2003 with the Expos, Barrett will get a chance to start over in Chicago. A converted shortstop, Barrett noticeably struggled on the defensive end last year. It didn't help that he batted a career-low .208, either. He'll have to swing the bat a heck of a lot better if he hopes to be Chicago's everyday catcher. A lot of that will also depend on if Paul Bako produces at the plate.
Barrett is actually a better hitter than his 2003 numbers indicate. He batted .293 in 1999, and cracked double digits in home runs in each of the last two seasons, despite limited playing time. If he wins the starting job, Barrett is capable of being a top 10 NL fantasy catcher. He won't put up spectacular numbers, but he could reasonably hit north of .250 with modest power.
Los Angeles trades Kevin Brown to the New York Yankees in exchange for Jeff Weaver and two minor league prospects
Brown's fantasy value will never be the same after two injury-riddled seasons in 2001 and '02. Fantasy owners will always look at him as a risky selection, no matter how well he pitched the previous season.
For this reason, Brown could be a great steal at any fantasy draft next spring. He'll have a ton more run support in NY than he did in LA (the Dodgers ranked last in the Majors in runs scored) and that alone could help him add an additional four or five wins. He probably would have won 18 games last season had his team scored any runs for him.
At 39, he can still strike out hitters and dominate games. Moving out of Dodger Stadium is never a good thing for a pitcher, but Yankee Stadium isn't exactly Coors Field either. A healthy Brown will rank among the elite pitchers in the American League next season and should win 16-18 games with an ERA in the lower 3.00's. While he is a bit of a risk, he won't last past the middle rounds in your draft.
Jeff Weaver is coming off a horrific season in New York and has the opportunity to rebound in LA. He has always had a ton of potential, but with the exception of the first half of 2002, has never posted stellar numbers. At 27, he could still become a solid middle of the rotation starter, but he should still be viewed as a big fantasy risk in 2004. Take him late if he's around and you have some open bench slots, but don't expect anything too special from him this season.
Toronto sends Mark Hendrickson to Tampa Bay (and a player to be named later to Colorado), Tampa Bay sends Joe Kennedy to Colorado and Colorado sends Justin Speier to Toronto
Hendrickson was impressive in his 16-game rookie stint (3-0, 2.46 ERA) in 2002, but the sophomore slump nailed him last season. The Devil Rays believe he'll pitch better now that he's not working half of his games at Toronto's SkyDome, and that's probably true -- his road ERA (4.16) was significantly better than the one he produced at home (7.67) in 2003. Then again, Hendrickson won't have the kind of offensive support that Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells helped to provide when he was north of the border. And, as an athlete who once played in the NBA, Hendrickon is still learning the nuances of pitching at the advanced age of 29. He should improve upon the 5.51 ERA he compiled last season, but he is still a .500 pitcher who should get 10-12 wins at best.
On the other side of the deal, the Rays sent Kennedy to Colorado. The young left-hander is more talented than his 3-12 record and 6.13 ERA from 2003 would indicate, but it's hard to imagine that he'll be able to realize his potential in the Mile High City. At the risk of stating the obvious, here's a fantasy player you might want to avoid in 2004.
Speier, on the other hand, is somebody you should keep your eye on. Aquilino Lopez saved 14 games for the Jays in 2003, but the closer position isn't set in stone. If Lopez slumps, then Speier -- who recorded nine saves for the Rockies last season -- could get a shot at finishing games. Of course, he'll be competing for the spot with former closers Kerry Ligtenberg and Cliff Politte. There are no guarantees that Speier will be anything more than a setup man in 2004, but he could be a valuable free agent pickup if you pay careful attention to the box scores.
Houston sends Geoff Blum to Tampa Bay for Brandon Backe
Blum had a solid -- if unspectacular-- season for the Astros in 2003, though his playing time was cut short once Morgan Ensberg took over the hot corner duties. With the Devil Rays, Blum is likely to get a full season's worth of action. Even if he doesn't beat out Damian Rolls for the third base job, his versatility in the field and switch-hitting ability should enable him to find a spot in the lineup somewhere. Of course, he'll no longer be playing half of his games in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park, so don't expect a major jump in his numbers. Something like 15 home runs and 60-plus RBIs shouldn't be out of the question.
A flyball pitcher, Backe probably won't enjoy playing in Minute Maid Park very much. But, as a middle reliever, he's not really somebody who's going to make much of a fantasy impact one way or another.
Florida trades Juan Encarnacion to Los Angeles for a player to be named later
Playing 81 games in Los Angeles will not help Encarnacion's numbers in 2004. He is unlikely to hit 20 home runs playing in one of baseball's best pitcher's parks and won't have as many RBI and scoring opportunities batting in a lineup that ranked 30th in baseball in run production in 2003.
Encarnacion slumped after last year's All-Star break, batting .250 with seven homers and four steals. While his 20-20 potential always makes him a nice fantasy selection, it will be difficult for him to reach those numbers as a Dodger.
Don't expect anything more than a .280 average, 15 homers and 20 steals. He'll still make a nice fourth or fifth outfielder, but his value definitely takes a hit with this trade.
St. Louis trades J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero to Atlanta for Jason Marquis, Ray King and Adam Wainwright
With Gary Sheffield on the way out, the Braves tapped Drew to be their new right fielder. Though he has yet to prove that he can produce the kind of numbers that Sheffield usually posts, Drew has a powerful left-handed swing that could allow him to thrive in Turner Field. Then again, the question isn't really about talent or ballpark factor -- it's whether or not Drew can stay healthy for a full season. In six years of Major League service, the 28-year-old has yet to play in more than 135 games. We know what he's capable of when injury-free (27 HR, .613 SLG in 2001), but you'll be rolling the dice if you jump the gun and grab him in an early round.
Marquis took a step back in 2003, but he should get a chance to realize his potential if the Cardinals allow him to compete for a rotation spot. A groundball pitcher, Marquis should see plenty of his offerings swallowed up by the gloves of Scott Rolen and Edgar Renteria -- and maybe a fresh start with a new team will be just the spark he needs.
King finished third in the Majors with 80 appearances last season, but unless you play in an NL-only league, he's not somebody who will have much of a fantasy impact one way or another. Jason Isringhausen will get most of the saves for the Cardinals, and King isn't the kind of dominant setup man who racks up a ton of strikeouts or a low ERA.
Marrero, who will mainly back up catcher Johnny Estrada in Atlanta, won't have much fantasy value unless he grabs a starting spot. Wainwright, the Braves' top pick from the 2000 draft, is a big, hard-throwing 22-year-old with no Major League appearances. He's an intriguing prospect who will get a chance to compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training, but may be another year away from sticking in the bigs.
Montreal trades Javier Vazquez to the New York Yankees in exchange for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate.
Vazquez's only problem the last two years has been a lack of wins. Now with one of baseball's most potent offenses giving him run support, the 27-year-old righty has an excellent chance to become a 20-game winner.
He went 13-12 with a 3.24 ERA last season, striking out 241 in 230 2/3 innings for the Expos. Vazquez is a power pitcher and features a strong arsenal of pitches including a sinker, slider, cutter, curveball and changeup. His control is excellent and his K/BB ratio has been 4:1 or better every season since 2000.
Vazquez is also an innings eater, throwing over 220 innings in each of the last three seasons. His ability to pitch seven or eight innings consistently will help the entire Yankee pitching staff, giving the bullpen rest and taking some of the pressure off the likes of Andy Pettitte (if he re-signs) and Mike Mussina to go deep into games.
Fantasy owners in AL-only leagues should rank Vazquez right near the top of their lists in 2004.
Johnson gets on base, can hit for power and drives in runs. In Montreal, he will not get the kind of lineup protection he did in NY, and will not have as many RBI opportunities as he did in 2004. Johnson will, however, get the opportunity to play an entire season at first, and assuming he is able to stay healthy for once, he'll see 600 plate appearances for the first time.
His value decreases with this trade, but he still should hit .300 with decent power in Montreal. While he won't rank up there with the Todd Helton's of the world, he is still a solid option at first, especially in NL-only leagues.
Jason Giambi will now be the Yankees regular first baseman in 2003, barring another trade or signing. This could be both good news and bad news for Giambi owners. Giambi has historically hit much better when starting at first as opposed to DHing, but playing the field on a daily basis could reaggravate an already ailing knee.
Rivera will start in Montreal's outfield in 2004, and given 500 ABs, could develop into a 20-25 home run hitter very soon. He's a solid fifth outfield option in NL-only leagues.
Choate had a 7.36 ERA in five relief appearances last season, and has no fantasy value.
Minnesota trades Eric Milton to Philadelphia in exchange for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto and a player to be named later.
Milton has always been a pitcher with a lot of potential, but has never had that one breakout season people have waited for the past six seasons. While he did win 41 games from 2000-02, his ERA over that time was in the mid-4.00 range. Milton missed most of the 2003 season after undergoing surgery to have torn cartilage removed from his left knee. He returned in September and looked healthy in three outings.
If Milton can stay off the DL this season, he has an excellent chance to win 15 games, with an ERA right around 4.00. He has above average control and will help a fantasy team's WHIP and K totals. He also will benefit from pitching on a deep starting staff in Philadelphia (Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Brett Myers and, maybe, Kevin Millwood) and could see a lot of matchups against other teams' Nos. 4 and 5 starters
While there is always some risk involved when drafting a pitcher with a recent injury history, Milton should be selected, if available, in the mid to later rounds of your draft. He should make an excellent No. 4 fantasy pitcher in 2004.
Silva will probably serve as a middle reliever for most of 2004, and although he could wind up in the Twins rotation at some point, he'll have little fantasy value when the season starts.
Punto has some speed, but should not be on any fantasy team unless he sees more playing time in the Majors.
Arizona trades Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay, Junior Spivey, Chad Moeller, Chris Capuano and Jorge de la Rosa to Milwaukee for Richie Sexson, Shane Nance and a player to be named later.
While Sexson will be hitting in a better pitcher's park next season, he'll also be hitting in the middle of a stronger lineup (Luis Gonzalez, Shea Hillenbrand and Steve Finley). He is a great power hitter and should be expected to hit 40 homers no matter where he plays, so his value doesn't change much at all with this trade.
Spivey did not put up the All-Star caliber numbers people were expecting last year after his breakthrough 2002 campaign. A change of scenery could be a good thing for any player looking to bounce back from a down year, but he'll have to battle Keith Ginter for playing time at second base. On top of that, prospect Rickie Weeks is waiting to take over the Brewers 2B job in 2005. Unless Spivey winds up in another trade this offseason, his value drops with this deal.
Overbay is another player who had a disappointing time in 2003. The first base job will be his to lose now in Milwaukee, and he should find himself batting in the middle of the lineup for most of the season. His sleeper value increases with this trade, but until he starts putting up solid numbers, there are plenty of better first base options.
Moeller can hit for a decent average and has some pop in his bat. He should be Milwaukee's primary catcher in 2004, making him a good option in NL-only leagues or any league that requires two starting catchers.
Counsell will most likely be nothing more than a utility player and will have little value in any type of fantasy league, unless he moves into a full-time role. Capuano may get a shot at a rotation spot next spring, but is nothing more than a $1 pick in auction leagues for now this season.
Other players who could benefit from this deal are Arizona's Matt Kata, who will take over as the starting second baseman, and Robbie Hammock, who should see increased time behind the plate for the D-Backs this season.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.