What does the MLB trade season mean to you?
It is the part of the baseball season when good players go from the dredges of the league to contenders. Where top-tier prospects get swapped and get their chance at big league jobs with bad clubs and minor moves make all the difference when it comes for a chance at October glory.
It is also one of the last opportunities for fantasy owners to make roster changes for the final push at the coveted league title.
Owners who have players like Cliff Lee, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt are satisfied that the marquee pitchers on their rosters have moved on to greener pastures. When it comes to fantasy, the hope is that what real-life general managers did in July (and into the waiver season of August) translates into a couple extra wins, strikeouts, runs or home runs for fantasy owners.
That is the perception at least.
It does not always work out like that though. Lee is obviously worth more to the Rangers (and to fantasy owners) than he was for the Mariners. Through 13 starts in Seattle this season, Lee was a 3.0 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) pitcher, posting and 8-3 record with a 2.34 ERA through 103.2 innings. The Mariners are dead last in the majors this year in runs scored so it would figure to benefit Lee to move over to a Texas team that historically been known for its pop and sits at sixth in the league in the scoring department.
So it is with baseball. What seems like a no-brainer outcome – better team, better offense, more wins – is no sure thing. In Lee’s 13 starts with the Mariners the team scored a respectable 4.8 runs per game for him (slightly above the league average of 4.7). The Rangers in six starts thus far?
A tick above 2.4.
That leaves Lee at 2-2 early in his Texas career. His ERA is higher that it was in Seattle at 2.63 while his home run rate has raised from .4 per nine innings to .7 and his strikeouts per nine has decreased from 7.7 to 6.5 (his career rate is 6.8).
This will even out, to a certain extent. So far Lee’s WAR in Texas is 1.7, a little more than half of what he had in Seattle in about half as many games. Yet, The Ball Park at Arlington (or whatever it is being called these days) has never been a friendly place when it comes to pitchers and home runs, so Lee’s ERA is probably not going to drop back down the 2.00 level, no matter how much Nolan Ryan or Chuck Greenberg compel him or how many carrots are promised in his next contract. Texas is just not friendly to pitchers. Of the nine home runs that Lee has given up this year, four have come with Texas, all at home (with three coming against Baltimore in his first start in a Rangers uniform).
Lee has perhaps 10 starts left with the Rangers this year. It is a fair assumption that Texas will start scoring more than 2.4 runs per each of his starts but it is not a foregone conclusion. If he wins eight of those starts, it will be a minor coup.
So, what is the fantasy conclusion for Lee now that he is in a Ranger uniform? Trade him now. Trade him to a pitching-needy team that is willing to pay for the perceived promise of those eight wins and make them overpay for a potential Cy Young winner. If you cannot extort a fair sum from your opponent you can keep him on the roster and know that he will not be hurting you down the stretch.
Let’s take a look at some of the early returns of big name pitchers changing teams.
With Arizona – 21 starts, 141 innings, 7 wins, 8 losses, 4.60 ERA, 1.348 WHIP, 9 K/9
With Los Angeles – 3 starts, 20 innings, 0 wins, 2 losses, 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.2 K/9
Analysis – If you are in a keeper league, you should be very happy that Haren is out of the Arizona desert and into the California one. Yet, the Angels this year are not exactly a “good” team and Haren moves to the tougher league. So far his peripheral numbers look a little better than with the Diamondbacks but all you can really count on Haren for is strikeouts. Fantasy analysis? Keep him stashed away at the bottom of your rotation and let him help you in his one reliable category.
With Houston – 20 starts, 129 innings, 6 wins, 12 losses, 3.42 ERA, 1.109 WHIP, 8.4 K/9
With Philadelphia – 2 starts, 12.1 innings, 0 wins, 1 loss, 4.38 ERA, 1.297 WHIP, 6.6 K/9
Analysis – Oswalt was motivated towards the end of his Astros career and his 8.4 K/9 (over a 7.4 mark through his career) was evidence of that. As such it appears that he is going through a bit of a “dead-arm” period right now with the Phillies and his numbers has suffered the short-terms effects of that correspondingly. Good for keeper leagues but trade him now if you can.
Matt Capps –
With Washington – 47 appearances, 46 innings, 3 wins, 3 losses, 26 saves, 2.64 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 7.4 K/9
With Minnesota – 5 appearances, 5 innings, 1 win, 0 losses, 2 saves, 1.80 ERA, 1.400 WHIP, 14.4 K/9
Analysis – There is no reason to think that Capps cannot get it done in the Twin Cities the way he was getting it done with the slightly-less-than-awful-than-usual Nationals. He is a fair candidate to make an attempt to trade for as Minnesota battles for its playoff life.
Dan Rowinski is a Fantasy Baseball Columnist for Rotoinfo.com. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at Dan_Rowinski.