Given that today is the Major League trade deadline (until 4 pm ET), today’s Xpert Eye will focus solely on the trades that have occurred in the past 24 hours and the rumors as of this afternoon. The Eye will be updated throughout the day as news about trades is announced. Be sure to check back later, as I will break down each trade to give the expected Fantasy Baseball impact for the rest of this season.
John Lackey Goes to the Cardinals for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig
The Red Sox continued their pitching fire sale, sending right-hander John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-hander Joe Kelly and 1B/OF Allen Craig. Lackey expressed an interest in being traded once it became clear that the Red Sox were throwing in the towel on 2014 and selling off their primary trade assets. Kelly has been injured for most of the 2014 season with a severe hamstring strain while Craig has struggled to hit for all but one month this season.
The Cardinals gained a solid big game pitcher in Lackey, someone they can count on to take the ball every five days and pitch six or seven strong innings. Lackey has returned to form the last two seasons after several years of elbow injury driven struggle leading up to Tommy John surgery in 2012. This season, Lackey is 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP; he is striking out 7.60 batters per nine innings and only walking 2.10 per nine. He had a similar season in 2013. The move to the National League could lead to even better strikeout numbers and lower his ERA further. NL-only league Fantasy players will want to jump all over Lackey and mixed leaguers who already own him can look forward to solid numbers during the next two months.
Joe Kelly gives the Red Sox a young arm they can control for the next four years with the flexibility to either start or work out of the bullpen. He’s primarily a groundball pitcher with four pitches he can throw for strikes. He doesn’t have swing and miss stuff and profiles better in relief than as a starter. Since the Red Sox have moved three of the pitchers in their starting rotation, Kelly is likely to be a starter over the next two months as long as he’s healthy. Fantasy owners should take a wait and see approach with Kelly, with the best course of action being to avoid him if your team is in contention.
Allen Craig represents a gamble for the Red Sox and Fantasy owners alike. He has not hit well for most of the season, but his numbers have actually been in decline for a few years now. Craig is 30 years old and we could be seeing the beginning of his decline phase as a big bodied player. It is also possible that he is nursing an undisclosed injury of some sort that is hampering his performance at the plate. The change in leagues could be a problem, but he will be playing half of his games in hitter-friendly Fenway Park. All told, the Fantasy outlook for Craig will depend on whether he can climb out of the slump he’s been in all season. The smart money says he won’t, but next year may be a different story.
Jon Lester Traded to the Oakland A’s for Yoenis Cespedes
The Red Sox announced that starting pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes were traded to the Oakland A’s for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Red Sox will also receive a 2015 competitive balance pick from the A’s in the deal. The Red Sox recently broke off trade negotiations with Lester when it became apparent that they were going to be unwilling to meet his demands for both years and compensation. However, with Lester headed towards free agency at the end of the season and the Red Sox out of contention at the trade deadline, dealing him now makes sense; they may try to re-sign him again during the offseason.
Lester is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP this season and his peripherals are in line with his 2010 numbers, his best statistical season to date. He’ll get much better run support from the A’s, whose offense leads the major leagues at 5.00 runs per game. The Red Sox only offered 3.75 runs per game to Lester and they scored three runs or less in 10 of his 21 starts this season. The additional run support should help Lester garner more wins, and he should continue to be a top line Fantasy starter in Oakland’s pitcher-friendly home park.
Jonny Gomes gives the A’s another platoon player on a team built around using platoon advantages to win ball games. As a right-handed hitter, Gomes crushes left-handed pitching. This season he is slashing .302/.400/.431 against southpaws and for his career he owns a .279/.379/.495 line against them. He will likely split time with Brandon Moss on the short side of a platoon, playing almost solely against lefty pitching. As such, his value remains limited to deep AL-only leagues and those with daily moves.
Yoenis Cespedes gives the Red Sox a right-handed power hitting outfielder, something the team sorely needs. This season, Cespedes is slashing .256/.303/464 with 17 HRs 67 RBIs and 62 runs scored. He’s only played six games at Fenway Park, but his numbers there are comparable to his typical production. He should greatly enjoy playing half of his games there; he is very likely to bounce balls off the Green Monster on a regular basis. His counting stats will take a bit of hit this year, though, because of the shortcomings of the rest of the current Red Sox lineup. However, he should still come quite close to, or even exceed, last year’s production (.240, 26 HRs, 80 RBIs, 74 runs).
Justin Masterson Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals
The Indians traded starting pitcher Justin Masterson to the Cardinals for outfielder James Ramsay the day before the trade deadline expires. Masterson will report to the Cardinals on Friday and is penciled in to start Saturday’s home game against the Brewers. Ramsay will report to the Indians’ Triple-A Columbus team.
Masterson was having a rough season with a record of 4-6, a 5.51 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP. Control has been an issue for Masterson for most of the season, as seen in his walk rate of 5.19 BB/9 IP. That translates to 12.4 percent of batters faced, the second worst such percentage among starting pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched. (Ubaldo Jimenez is the worst at 13.7 percent). Masterson’s 4.08 FIP and 4.05 xFIP both indicate that some positive regression can be expected for the 29-year-old free agent to be, and the move to the National League and the Cardinals organization should both help Masterson improve his lot.
Masterson is an extreme groundball pitcher; his fastball/slider repertoire generates a groundball rate of 58.5 percent, the second best such rate among starters with 90 innings pitched this season. He is moving from the worst defensive team in MLB to what is arguably the best, as the Cardinals are among the league leaders in nearly every defensive metric. Better defense will go a long way towards improving his very unlucky .350 BABIP since fewer batted balls will find holes to squeak through. If Masterson’s knee is finally healthy and he can regain some of the velocity he’s lost this season, he could be an excellent find for the Cardinals and a much better Fantasy pitcher. We should see a rise in strikeouts and the Cardinals run support and better bullpen should garner Masterson a few wins down the stretch.
Ramsey was selected 23rd overall in the 2012 draft out of Florida State by the Cardinals. He was in the midst of his second season in Double-A this year, where he’s slashed .300/.389/.527 with 13 HRs, 36 RBIs, 47 runs scored and four stolen bases. Ramsey has good raw power but like most power hitters he strikes out quite a bit; his 23.5 percent strikeout rate is improved over last year (26 percent), so there is hope that he’ll continue to develop. However, Ramsey turns 25 in December, so he is getting a bit old to expect a dramatic change.
Felix Doubront Traded to the Chicago Cubs
The Boston Red Sox traded pitcher Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later. Doubront was unhappy with his role as a long relief pitcher and spot starter; he requested a trade last week after stating that he no longer wished to work out of the bullpen. As a starter this season, he is 2-4 with a 5.19 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and batters hitting .263 against him in 50.1 innings of work. In relief, Doubront has pitched nine innings with an ERA of 11.00, 2.00 WHIP and batters hitting .375 against him.
The Cubs will likely give Doubront an opportunity to work as a starter, though they have not yet announced whether that will be in the major leagues or with one of the their minor league affiliates. The Cubs may trade (or release) Edwin Jackson (5-11, 5.76 ERA) before the trade deadline to make room for Doubront. Doubront was brought into the Red Sox system by current Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein, so their history probably played a significant role in the trade. It’s unlikely that Epstein would bring Doubront to Chicago without some plan to give him what he wants. As a starter for the Cubs for the rest of the season, Doubront’s Fantasy value remains unchanged; zero!
Tommy Milone Traded to the Twins for Sam Fuld
The Twins are always on the lookout for cheap starting pitching from the fringes, and they took advantage of the A’s desire to add a complementary player to the roster. Tommy Milone was recently demoted to the minors by the A’s when they acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. He immediately registered his displeasure with the demotion and requested the trade. Sam Fuld heads to his fourth organization in seven big league seasons.
Milone is a back of the rotation starter who doesn’t strike out many batters (5.70 K/9 this season) and relies on a deceptive delivery to get batters out. Over his career he is 32-22 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He isn’t likely to make any more of an impact with Minnesota than he did with the A’s. In fact, the Twins have already assigned him to their Triple-A affiliate. If he gets back to the majors this season, he won’t have much value outside of very deep AL-only play.
Sam Fuld is a speedy player with sound defensive skills and not much of a stick. The A’s acquired him as insurance for the oft-injured Coco Crisp. Fuld will be the fourth/fifth outfielder on this team and his primary role will be as a pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement. He could be a source of some cheap steals in deep AL-only leagues, but that’s about it.
The Brewers acquire Gerardo Parra for two minor leaguers
The Brewers have acquired outfielder Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks for minor league right fielder Mitch Haniger and Single-A lefty pitcher Anthony Banda. The Diamondbacks are clearly looking ahead to next year and beyond with this deal, while the Brewers have bolstered their defense by adding Parra, who will likely be platooned with Khris Davis.
As a left-handed batter, Parra hits right-handed pitching well, .286/.335/.425 over his career and .271/.304/.389 this season. Since he struggles against lefties, Khris Davis will likely be his platoon partner, as he crushes southpaws; he’s batting .319/.357/.604 against lefties this season. Where Parra is likely to make the biggest impact is on defense. Paired with Carlos Gomez in center, Parra gives the Brewers pitchers a much stronger defensive lineup to pitch in front of. Davis loses some Fantasy value since he’ll be on the short end of the platoon. Parra loses at bats but will likely see his average rise a bit since he’s protected from exposure to left-handed pitchers. The Brewers’ offense is also much better than the Diamondbacks’ this season
Mitch Haniger is batting just .255 with 10 homers and a .732 OPS in 67 games at Double-A. He was one of the Brewers’ better prospects, but he projects as more of a fourth outfielder type at this point. Anthony Banda is a 20-year-old left-hander with a 3.66 ERA and 83/38 K/BB ratio in 84 Single-A innings. Both prospects are several years from Fantasy significance.
David Price to the Tigers in a Three Team Deal
The Detroit Tigers have acquired David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade involving the Seattle Mariners. Austin Jackson goes to the Mariners, who will send SS Nick Franklin to the Tampa Bay Rays. Drew Smyly goes from Detroit to Tampa Bay to complete the deal.
Price goes to a Detroit team that is now positioned to make a serious run at the postseason. Between the addition of Price to a rotation that features Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, and the earlier acquisition of Joakim Soria to the bullpen, the Tigers have created a strong pitching staff built to go deep into October. Price’s Fantasy value gets a boost with Detroit’s strong offense providing plenty of run support. The Tigers are producing 4.88 runs per game versus the Rays’ 3.88. Price (11-8) has a 3.11 ERA and 1.05 WHIP to go with his league leading 189 strikeouts in 170.2 innings this season.
Austin Jackson has been a disappointment for the Tigers, who were expecting more than the.270/.330/.397 line he’s produced this season. Those figures are in line with Jackson’s past production, though, his power numbers are definitely down this season, as he’s only hit four home runs to date. Detroit will now go with Rajai Davis as their primary centerfielder.
Davis is batting .295/.337/.432 this season with 25 stolen bases in 82 games, mainly in left field. As an everyday player, Davis is now a threat to steal another 10-15 bases over the next two months. J.D. Martinez becomes the everyday left fielder with this trade, boosting his value as well. Martinez is batting .320/.357/.591 with 13 HRs in just 244 plate appearances. He’s gone from Astros throwaway to Fantasy stud this season.
Jackson will be the everyday centerfielder for the Mariners. Given his lack of power and the Mariners’ fairly lame offense, Jackson’s value is somewhat diminished by the move.
Drew Smyly replaces Price in Tampa Bay’s starting rotation. This is the first season he’s been used exclusively as a starter, and he’s responded with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. His strikeout rate of 7.8 K/9 is acceptable for a Fantasy starter and his Fantasy value remains steady in this deal. Tampa Bay won’t provide as much run support, but they are better defensively and have a stronger bullpen than the Tigers, which neutralizes the lack of offense.
The Mariners gave up on Nick Franklin’s potential, which could finally be realized with the change of scenery. As a Fantasy commodity, Franklin’s value remains low since he may have to fight for playing time with the Rays, who don’t really have a starting role for him right now. Tampa Bay also received minor-league SS Willy Adames, who is a solid defensive player but has several years of development to go before he’s a factor.