Come to think of it, the tail end of the MLB off-season is a lot like the latter stages of a fantasy draft. Sure, it’s nice to be able to build your fantasy squad around Ryan Braun, but it’s even nicer to draft Chase Headley for $1 and watch him post a .286-31-115-95-17 line. Sure, it’s nice to sign Zack Greinke to a $147 million contract, but it’s even nicer to do what the Rays did last January, inking Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $1.75 million contract with a team-friendly club option for 2013. All Rodney did last season was put together arguably the finest season by any reliever in big league history.
OK, the blockbuster Justin Upton trade that was finalized on Thursday doesn’t quite fit into the bargain basement theme. But there were a few other moves made this week that carry huge profit potential.
Alright, enough buildup. Let’s get on with it.
Finally! At last, all of the rumors have turned into reality. Even though J-Up is coming off a disappointing season in which he let down a lot of owners who used a first-round pick on him (myself included), I’m fairly confident that he’ll bounce back. He proved in 2011 just how dominant of a fantasy force he can be, and it’s not like he completely fell off a cliff last year. Note that he batted .287 with 10 homers, eight steals and a .817 OPS in the second half, which isn’t too shabby. The move from Chase Field to Turner Field might cost him a few homers, but his solid across the board production makes him well worth a top-20 pick, at the very least. I wouldn’t be surprised if he performs at a top-10 level.
As for the rest of the players involved, Johnson has some pop but should only be considered in NL-only leagues or as a last resort CI in deep mixed leagues. Playing time will probably be an issue as he figures to platoon at third base with Juan Francisco. Prado will likely serve as Arizona’s everyday third baseman and should continue to be a quality all-around fantasy contributor, particularly in the AVG department. His multi-position eligibility adds to his appeal. Delgado was erratic in 18 appearances for the Braves last year but will be only 23 on Opening Day. A spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation to begin the season is no guarantee as he will need to beat out Tyler Skaggs, but in an NL-only league there are far worse mid to late-round gambles.
Delmon Young signs with Phillies for one yr/$750 K
As long as Young can avoid any major off-field incidents, I love this move for the Phillies as they’re getting a quality hitter for a dirt cheap price. Young burned me in Mixed Tout last year so I’m personally done with him from a fantasy standpoint, but if Delmon is still available in the last few rounds of your mixed league draft, feel free to take a shot on him. With regular playing time in a hitter-friendly park (and it sounds like the Phils will give him an opportunity to be their everyday right fielder), 20 homers and 85 RBIs isn’t a stretch.
Scott Hairston signs two-year contract with Cubs
Hairston could reportedly earn up to $6 million if he reaches all of his incentives. I was somewhat surprised by this move, as it’s not like the Cubbies are in any position to contend this season, but homer-happy Wrigley Field is a nice fit for Hairston, who managed to hit 20 home runs in just 377 at-bats for the Mets last year. Nate Schierholtz will steal some playing time from Hairston, specifically versus right-handed pitching, but he should still get more than enough at-bats to carry fantasy value in deeper mixed leagues.
Shaun Marcum signs with Mets for one yr/$4 million
Incentives are included in this deal as well. Despite the injury history, I expected there to be a lot more interest in Marcum, and this move makes a lot of sense for both parties. Marcum gets to re-establish his market value on a one-year deal and the Mets get a very underrated starter who will have the opportunity to pitch half of his games at Citi Field. The only risk you’re taking on by drafting Marcum in the latter rounds has to do with his health, but he will come at a significant discount, and I’m a big time fan of any starting pitcher who holds a 3.06 K/BB ratio over his last three seasons. Marcum is one of this year’s prime examples of a low-cost SP who can help you win your league.
Now that would be nice!