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Sept. 12: Cutting Bait

Knowing when to cut bait on a disappointing big-name player is never easy. Earlier in the year, many opted to drop such "underperformers" as Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg (.229-21-53) and Cardinals southpaw Mark Mulder (6-7, 7.14 ERA), accurately predicting that the growing losses would outweigh the potential future benefits.

Which begs the question:

With just three weeks left in the season and every roster spot serving some purpose, which high-profile player is worth releasing in standard 12-team mixed-league action?

Cory Schwartz Director of Stats and Fantasy 411 co-host

Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
We're past the point of the season when names and reputations matter more than performance, so no one is safe. First-half studs like Edgar Renteria, Chone Figgins, Hank Blalock, Magglio Ordonez, Jose Contreras, Josh Beckett and Brad Penny have done little to carry their weight since the All-Star break, so depending on your league and format, you might be able to replace them at this point in the season. And if there's a name player who is definitely or probably is out for the season, like Travis Hafner, there's no reason to hang onto him in a non-keeper league. But if you've really got guts, and you're feeling desperate, take a long look at Ichiro Suzuki. His 11 steals since the break are nice, but with a .272 average, one homer, SEVEN RBIs and only 23 runs over that span, he's been barely more valuable than no-names like Chris Duffy and Nick Punto. Last time I looked, those guys were staples on the waiver wire.

Mike Siano Fantasy 411 co-host

Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati Reds
It pains me to say it, but Jr. is a guy I wouldn't be surprised to see on the wire in the coming weeks. He could be back any day now from a toe problem, but if you look at his stats over the past 30 days, they are hurting. He has played in just 20 games with only seven extra-base hits, three homers and four doubles. Basically, Junior has not produced when healthy lately, so he's a candidate to be cut this week to make room for a hot bat like Cody Ross or Connor Jackson.

Alex Cushing Fantasy Writer

Brad Penny, Los Angeles Dodgers
Cutting ties with someone is one of the hardest things a human being can do. But you can't let emotions get in the way of making objective fantasy decisions (serious business), even when a player consistently disappoints time and time again.

Take Brad Penny, the National League's starting pitcher in this year's All-Star Game. Yes, he went 10-2 with a 2.91 ERA in the first half. Sure, he pitches for a successful Dodgers team in the midst of a pennant race.

But Penny clearly isn't the same shiny pitcher who outclassed hitters before the break. Over the last month, the burly right-hander sports a penniless 8.31 ERA and 1.88 WHIP, numbers that speak volumes considering that most of that damage came against the light-swinging Giants and Padres. Since the Midsummer Classic, Penny has gone 5-6 with an equally poor 6.46 ERA, a lower strikeout rate, a higher walk rate, an .869 opponents OPS and -- most glaringly -- a home run rate that doubles his first-half pace.

Taking all the downward-trending market indicators into account, Penny has regressed into a dime-a-dozen fantasy starter no longer worthy of a firm roster spot.

Dean Chiungos Fantasy Writer

Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox
At the start of 2006, it seemed as if health was all that stood between Josh Beckett and a Cy Young-caliber breakout regular season. But 30 injury-free starts later, it's time to cut bait on the former Marlin.

Forget about his "ace stuff" for a minute, and consider the sobering facts:

• After finishing the first half with a 4.75 ERA and an unfathomable 26 home runs allowed in 110 innings over 18 starts, Beckett is 3-6 with a 5.59 ERA over 12 second-half outings. Though he's allowed only seven home runs in 74 innings since the All-Star break, he's still tied for second in the Majors in that category.
• It's only getting worse. Beckett is 1-5 with a 5.82 ERA, a 1.47 WHIP and an equally troubling 35/26 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings over his last nine starts.
• The hard-throwing right-hander is on track to finish the season with career worsts in K/9 IP (6.9), H/9 IP (8.46) and K/BB (2.07).
• Even if he's still the big-game pitcher who captured World Series MVP honors in 2003, it doesn't matter now, as Boston has been all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Ben Heller Fantasy Writer

Mike Piazza, San Diego Padres
Once upon a time (for a long, long time), Mike Piazza was the best hitting catcher in baseball. Sadly, that time is not now. In the last four weeks, the future Hall of Famer is hitting just .229 with two homers and three measly runs scored. The Washington Nationals have a backup backstop named Brandon Harper. He, too, has a pair of homers in that span, only in about 40 fewer at-bats. Even Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin, the Reds' second- and THIRD-string catchers, have gone deep twice in that span. Yikes.

But it's not like you couldn't see this coming. As the leaves change, so does Piazza. Throughout his illustrious career, the vet has a .293 batting average and an .895 OPS in September. Nice numbers, indeed, but September happens to be the lone month in which Piazza is without a .300 average or a .900 OPS, and he hasn't batted better than .235 in that month since 2002. There are plenty of catchers out there who can help push you toward a league championship, but Piazza likely isn't one of them. Hall of Fame name. Waiver-wire stats.

Cara Pitterman Fantasy Writer

Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Because the Mariners have a strict limit of 200 innings for Felix Hernandez this season, it's really not a terrible idea to drop the 20-year-old right-hander. It's already been announced that Hernandez will miss Friday's start against the Royals, and it's not worth holding onto him for what could amount to only two more starts. And for all the potential King Felix obviously has, he's been pretty inconsistent. Over his past seven outings, he's managed to alternate between quality starts and six-plus-run efforts, with only one win to speak of. Clearly he has talent, but if you're not in a keeper league, there's no harm in replacing him on the roster. Now's the time to pick up a hot player who can actually contribute to your quest for a fantasy championship.

Gregg Schwartz Fantasy Writer

Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox
There are several high-profile players who are currently occupying valuable roster spots even though it's likely that they will be shut down for the remainder of the season. Jonathan Papelbon, who has been sidelined since Sept. 1 with a shoulder injury, is one of those players.

Let's face it: There is absolutely no reason for the rookie to pitch again this season, especially since the Red Sox are no longer in contention. The club is going to play it safe and not risk its prized possession's future over the final three weeks of the season.

Now, it's very difficult to replace a guy with 35 saves and a 0.92 ERA, but there are several closer options on the market. Pittsburgh's Salomon Torres (6 saves, 0.96 ERA since the All-Star break) and Cleveland's Tom Mastny (5 saves, 2.70 ERA) will continue to close out games, while the Yankees' Kyle Farnsworth (3-4, 4.50 ERA) and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (2-1, 2.99 ERA) could see save opportunities with Mariano Rivera and Jason Isringhausen sidelined.

Tim Ott Fantasy Writer

Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies
It's tough to give up on a slugger like Pat Burrell, especially since his overall numbers appear to be solid at first glance. Look a little more closely, though, and you'll see that Pat the Bat has been falling apart in recent weeks: After posting a .259 average with two homers and 15 RBIs in August, Burrell has just two singles, one double, one RBI and nine strikeouts in 26 September at-bats. Nagging injuries are most likely to blame here (Burrell has been playing with a sore foot for most of the year, while an old wrist injury flared up in August), but there could also be some lingering resentment from the Phillies' attempts to get rid of him by the trade deadline. Whatever the reason, Burrell has the look of a man playing out the string as he waits for the season to end, and there's no reason to hold onto his lifeless bat with plenty of promising outfielders available on the waiver wire.

Jamie O'Grady Fantasy Writer

Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox
Release the hounds! Or in this case the dog that has saddled your fantasy team with mediocre production since late August. My pick to kick to the curb is none other than first-ballot Hall of Famer Manny Ramirez! Troubled by a sore knee, Man-Ram has amassed just 16 at-bats thus far in September, and the numbers aren't pretty: .125 batting average, no homers and one RBI. In fact, Manny has hit just one home run since Aug. 10! His seven strikeouts in 16 at-bats this month are also cause for concern, as is the fact that the Red Sox are 10 ½ games out in the AL East standings. What motivation does Boston have in playing an injured Manny now that its season is lost? Save yourself from worrying about if and when Manny will be in the lineup, take advantage of this rare chance to outright release a guy hitting .318 with 34 jacks and 101 RBIs, and tell your friends that it's just "you being you."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.