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Friday 15th Dec 2017

Trade deadline time is such a blast, and as usual, the universe tricked me.

While I thought the possibility of more teams potentially having playoff chances with the expanded playoff Wild Card format would mean less trades, it seems like the opposite has occurred. Lots of trades, and though only a few really inovled impact players, and similarly just a couple with interleague implications, there were some players dealt who could indeed make a difference this season.

Of course names like Omar Infante and Marco Scutaro are not of the same stature as Zack Greinke or Hanley Ramirez among the recent chattel swapped, but that does not mean they will not have a fantasy impact in deeper NL/AL only formats. But, ultimately, as everyday players, almost anyone can help in such a format.

If you are in an NL format, you also might want to take a look at Stephen Fife, the newest member of the Dodgers rotation. I actually was at ATT last Friday for the right hander's second start against the Giants. Fife was hardly dominant, skating through a rugged first two innings where he allowed four hits and two walks, but just one run. Though Fife did hit the gun at just 90, he was not overpowering although he did hang with one of those performances that are often deemed "gritty." Basically, it boiled more down to the Giants inability to put Fife away when they had the chance. The Dodgers are suddenly hot with the return of Matt Kemp and addition of Ramirez--who banged the game winning homer of Sergio Romo that night--but I would be cautious of Fife's overall ability. I like Nathan Eovaldi, whom the team swapped for Ramirez, a lot better.

Perhaps the most exciting advancement of the week belongs to those tenacious Pirates who advanced sterling prospect Starling Marte, who belted the first pitch he saw as a major leaguer for a homer last Thursday. Signed as a free agent in 2007 out of the Domincan Republic, Marte has performed well moving up the Buccos chain, going .332-12-50 last year at Double-Altoona, then performing well this year at Indianapolis (286-12-62 over 99 games). With overall minor league totals of .304-39-240, with 101 doubles, 31 triples, and 131 swipes over 463 games, Marte is clearly a potential offensive force. There were questions about his durability prior to last year, with hamate and groin injuries affecting Marte's playing time, but the youngster has been an everyday presence the last two seasons. He is more than worth a gamble--and future ownership--in any format, especially that of NL only.

Looking at a couple of interesting middle infielders, the Rockies seem to have handed the keys to Josh Rutledge while Troy Tulowitzki is recovering. Promoted after a fine year at Tulsa (.304-13-50 with 14 swipes), the 22-year old middle infielder has adjusted nicely to his jump to the Show from Class-AA by hitting .370-1-6 with three swipes since his call-up. Picked in the third round of the 2010 draft out of the Univeristy of Alabama, Rutledge hit .348-9-71 at Modesto in the California League last year, with a fine .931 OPS (.414 OBP/.517 SLG). With Scutaro now off at ATT, Rutledge will likely shift to second when Tulo returns. He is another guy more than worth a crap shoot grab this year, and as a fine future investment in keeper leagues.

Another place holding shortstop is the Dodgers Luis Cruz, now playing with Dee Gordon on the DL. Playing sice he was 17-years old in 2007, after signing with the Red Sox, Cruz is really just a journeyman bench player pressed into a starting role. He did hit a fine .318-8-46 at Albuquerque this year before moving to Dodger Stadium, and has responded well to his promotion hitting .256-2-14 over 21 games this year in the Bigs, Cruz has shown a decent eye with just one whiff to no walks over his first 78 at-bats, in fact his totals at Triple-A this year were 13 walks to just 34 strikeouts over 304 plate appearances, all good. But, Cruz also has a career minor league OBP of .296, so I would be wary. Cruz does seem to have learned to get the bat on the ball to his credit, but he is only worth a flier in an NL only situation where you have a gaping hole.

Oakland is hanging so tough, and it is truly fun being at the O.co Coliseum these days. In fact, it is almost as much fun as working across the bay at ATT (come on Athletics ownership: get behind a new stadium near City Hall in Oakland. Close to BART, such a stadium would rejuvinate downtown much like the South of Market locale is the hot spot in San Francisco. Anyway, Oakland has been playing good ball with struggling Kurt Suzuki, augmented now by Derek Norris, behind the dish. Norris broke in with a bang, and is a little hotter of late, but the swap to the Brewers for  George Kottaras was a good one.

Owner of a killer .409 OBP despite a poor .209 average (.209-3-12 over 116 plate appearances), Kottaras possesses a career line of .221-18-65 over 222 games and 507 at-bats. Kottaras also bats left-handed which gives them some flexibility behind the dish should the team decide to keep Norris and "Zuk" with a three-catcher option. Kottaras is a #2 catching option in an AL only format.

By the way, the essentially awful Brewers bullpen likely has John Axford insurance with their acquisition of Fautino De Los Santos as the reciprocation of the Kottaras deal. With 46 strikeouts over 34.1 minor league innings, de los Santos can deal at close to 100 MPH. Look to a couple of other ex-patriot Oakland flame throwers, like Santiago Casilla and Henry Rodriguez, to chart the future path of the 26-year old. Closer in waiting, somewhere, de los Santos is.

With Justin Smoak demoted, and Ichiro swapped, both Trayvon Robinson and Carlos Peguero get a chance to establish themselves and earn an everyday slot. I have written about both a few times, in fact I have--or do--own each in a couple of leagues this year. Peguero has enormous power, but also strikes out an incredible amount As a major leaguer, Peguero has 73 strikeouts, and seven homers over 181 at-bats, but just nine walks.

Robinson does have less power, but is a more complete package with .281-73-344 numbers over 754 minor league games. Robinson also has 169 steals, and though he too is prone to the whiff (304 strikeouts to 784 walks), he also makes better contact. The Mariners actually acquired Robinson--a tenth round selection by the Dodgers in 2005--Robinson went to Seattle last year at the deadline deal that sent Erik Bedard to Boston, and the aforementioned Stephen Fife to L.A.  I think he is a better long term bet.

My mate Perry Van Hook will accuse me of having a mancrush on the Twins Danny Valencia, and the truth is I may be enamored, but that was largely based upon the third sacker's good hitting and on-base numbers as a minor leaguer (well, up until this year). Valencia had never hit below .285-14-70 line Valencia accumulated in 2009 split between Double-and Triple-A. And, based upon his pretty good .246-15-72 last year with the Twins last year, I looked to Valencia to step into the role of being a major leaguer this year. I was clearly wrong, with the third sacker struggling in the majors (.192-1-12) he went to the minors and did not fare that well either (.250-7-37). Playing for the injured Trevor Plouffe, I do think Valencia is better than his numbers this year by a long shot, and has what it takes to be a .270 hitter in the majors as a starter. That said, I have a hard time endorsing him until he begins to really fulfill my prophecy.

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