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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

So begins the fantasy baseball draft day scheduling portion of the year, a rigorous test in patience and compromise that isn’t fun at all for owners like me who play in a number of leagues (five to be exact). Last season, I was forced to abandon my longstanding rule prohibiting me from doing two drafts within a five-day span.

That was wishful thinking.

This season, I might just have to draft two teams in back-to-back days. Or maybe even in the same day. But then again, I do call myself a fantasy madman, so the least I can do is live up to the title.

The 15-team mixed league slow mock draft that Lawr, Todd, a dozen other fantasy luminaries and I are participating in is inching towards the finish line with less than two rounds to go, so next week I’ll write up a full recap. For now, I figured I’d delve into some of the more notable signings and trades that were made since my last column.

Felix Hernandez signs 7 yr/$175 million extension with Mariners

The deal makes King Felix the highest paid pitcher in big league history and kind of caught me off guard. I mean, Hernandez was under contract through 2014 anyway and we all know about the risks involved in committing long-term to pitchers. But I guess M’s ownership wanted to make a statement to their fan base that they care about their team, and they certainly did that. And if you are going to gamble that a starting pitcher will both continue to dominate and stay healthy for a seven-year period, there are few better options than Hernandez, who is coming off yet another Cy Young caliber year and has tossed at least 190 innings in each of his first seven full big league seasons. For fantasy purposes, he’s a no-brainer top-5 SP and probably belongs in the top-3, behind only Verlander and Kershaw, which means that there’s a 99% chance I won’t be owning him in any of my leagues because, well, I don’t like to spend $25-30 on a starting pitcher.

Travis Hafner signs with Yankees for one yr/$2 million

A nice low-cost investment for the Bombers considering that Pronk posted a solid .798 OPS versus right-handed pitching last year and should benefit from the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. But what the Yanks really needed was a right-handed outfield bat, so why they went out and signed a left-handed hitter who can’t play the field is just another head scratcher in what has been a puzzling off-season for this team. If he manages to stay healthy (a big if), I can see Hafner hitting 20 homers as the Yankees’ primary DH against righties, which makes him worth taking a flier on in AL-only leagues. In mixed leagues I’d pass, especially considering that he will clog up your Utility spot, which is very annoying.

Joe Saunders signs with Mariners for one yr/$6.5 million

Saunders was looking for a decent multi-year contract but considering that he’s a league average, low-strikeout pitcher, he ought to be fairly pleased with this deal. He’ll give Seattle innings and maybe an ERA around 4.00, but that’s about it. And with the fences moving in at Safeco, you can’t even say that he’s moving to an extreme pitcher’s park. He should be relegated to AL-only leagues for the most part, though you might want to spot-start him in mixed leagues when he faces an especially poor offense, like the newest member of the AL West, the Astros.

A’s acquire Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez from Astros for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi

Lowrie launched a single-season high 16 homers in just 340 at-bats last year, but the move to the Coliseum in Oakland puts a real damper on his power upside. The good news is that since he can play multiple infield positions, playing time shouldn’t be an issue. But while I expect Lowrie to receive close to everyday at-bats and appreciate the multi-positional eligibility, I just don’t see much mixed league value here. He doesn’t hit for average and doesn’t run, so if his HR total falls to the 10-12 range, why bother? As for Carter, keep him in mind as a cheap source of power in AL-only leagues. 16 homers in 218 at-bats for Oakland last season is pretty impressive, and he’s likely to get first crack at earning the Astros’ regular DH job. And don’t forget that he’ll now get to play his home games at a much more hitter-friendly ballpark.

Luke Scott re-signs with Rays for one yr/$2.75 million

Scott missed a significant amount of time due to injury last year but still managed to smack 14 home runs in a mere 314 at-bats. I’m very high on him as an under-the-radar power contributor, especially in AL-only leagues. This is a guy who averaged 25 home runs per season from 2008 through 2010. A fully healthy year could easily result in 20-plus homers for Scott, who is slated to serve as Tampa Bay’s DH versus right-handed pitching.

Kelly Johnson signs with Rays for one yr/$2.45 million

Honestly, I’ve lost all of my patience with Johnson, but if you want to roll the dice on him in the last couple of rounds of your deep mixed league draft due to his 20/15 potential, go right ahead. At least it sounds like he’ll be the Rays’ starting second baseman on Opening Day with Ben Zobrist moving to the outfield. Who knows, maybe he will surprise us. I’m not betting on it.

Matt Capps (CLE), Jon Rauch (MIA), Kyle Farnsworth (TB), Brandon Lyon (NYM)

I’ll lump together these four middle reliever signings but to me, Lyon is the most intriguing one. As if Frank Francisco’s ninth inning job security wasn’t dicey enough with Bobby Parnell in the picture, Lyon now provides the Mets with another closing option. Yeah, he has a terrible track record as a closer, but he is coming off a strong bounce back campaign. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he sees a few save chances at some point during the season. Whether or not he succeeds is anyone’s guess. You’re probably better off steering clear of Lyon in all but the deepest of NL-only leagues, but the Mets’ closer situation will be worth monitoring throughout the year. Personally though, I’m steering clear of this entire Amazin’ mess. Closer drama will not be a part of my 2013 fantasy season.

Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

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