The Winter Meetings and the week or two following the annual get together is usually the time when most of the MLB Hot Stove action takes place, but a funny thing happened this year. Apparently, several teams were tired of waiting, opting instead to get an early start on their off-season shopping. This is certainly a viable strategy. Strike now before the supply of available players, whether free agents or trade targets, thins out to the point where asking prices significantly rise. Sure, the elite free agents will take their time before choosing their 2017 homes, but November signings and trades often turn out to be the most cost-efficient moves. These players might not be All-Stars, but strong contributors? Absolutely.
On that note, let's take a fantasy-angled look at some of the notable big league players who have changed teams this month, and I have a feeling that there will be a lot more to discuss very soon.
Jean Segura - Even before the trade to the Mariners, I was wary of drafting Segura this year, figuring that his cost would be inflated by last season's 20 home runs, a feat that he was unlikely to repeat. Now he moves from a home run-friendly park in Arizona to a pitcher-friendly environment in Seattle. His 2017 home run total will be closer to 10 than 20, and though he should remain helpful in the batting average department, I'm thinking more like .280 than .319. You're drafting Segura for his speed. I'll be turning to cheaper stolen base alternatives.
Taijuan Walker - Although changing addresses from Safeco Field to Chase Field cannot be seen as a good thing for any pitcher, Walker is talented enough to develop into an ace, irrespective of home ballpark. The longball has been an issue, and this is a little scary considering his new scenery. Walker doesn't hurt himself with walks and has the stuff to strike out roughly a batter per inning. Draft him in the late rounds as a fifth or sixth starter in mixed leagues. This might be the last time you will be able to get him for that price.
Ketel Marte - Coming off a largely disappointing 2016 campaign, Marte enters 2017 as somewhat of a post-hype sleeper. He just turned 23 last month and offers 25-plus stolen base potential if given regular at-bats. Think of him as a fine fallback MI option in deeper mixed leagues.
Brian McCann - We all saw this coming, as it didn't make a whole lot of sense for the Yankees to use McCann as their everyday DH in 2017. So the Yanks get a pair of intriguing pitching prospects and the Astros get their new starting catcher, a guy who has slugged at least 20 homers in each of the last nine seasons. McCann's fantasy value doesn't change one bit. He remains a safe top-10 backstop.
Kendrys Morales - Boasting averages of 26 home runs and 100 RBI over the past two seasons with the Royals, Morales now enters a favorable hitting situation with the Blue Jays. Even if Toronto doesn't bring back Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista, their lineup, led by Josh Donaldson, is still dangerous. Don't overlook Kendrys on draft day. Bank on at least 20 homers and 90-plus RBI and you won't be disappointed. Another factor to keep in mind is that if Encarnacion does indeed sign elsewhere, Morales could see some time at first base, enough time to regain 1B eligibility.
Cameron Maybin - Staying healthy has always been Maybin's biggest challenge, and 2016 was no exception. He did post a stellar .315/.383/.418 slash line with 15 swipes in 94 games. Maybin is a career .259 hitter, so don't pay much attention to last year's .315 mark. Still, the new Angels left fielder could provide solid late-round mixed league value with 25-plus steals...if healthy.
Danny Valencia - Valencia may have a tough time finding enough at-bats to make a mixed league impact in 2017 as he's expected to split first base duties with Dan Vogelbach while providing insurance at third base behind Kyle Seager. The new Mariner is best left for deeper mixed leagues or AL-only formats.
Howie Kendrick - Kendrick once carried star potential, but that was a long time ago. Now, the 33-year-old fits under the "better in real life than in fantasy" category, and he's coming off his worst offensive season to date. The Phillies will hand him everyday playing time and Kendrick is entering a contract year. But that's about it in terms of positives. Stay away.
Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey - The key number here is 85, that is the combined age of these two hurlers. I guess one ancient starter wasn't enough for the Braves. At this point, it seems like Colon will remain a serviceable back-end of the rotation mixed league starter as long as he is still playing, perhaps even into his Senior Citizen years. I'm not nearly as confident in Dickey, though maybe a move back to the NL East, where he won a Cy Young award while with the Mets, will help. Regardless, we're looking at strictly an NL-only option.
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