Thor Nystrom

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It’s Trading Season

Sunday, July 27, 2014


The Giants nabbed veteran starter Jake Peavy from the Red Sox on Saturday morning for pitching prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree. The former National League Cy Young Award winner was available so cheaply after languishing through a rough summer, posting a 1-9 record and 4.72 ERA in 20 starts. San Francisco was desperate for rotation fortification after losing Matt Cain to an elbow injury, and will roll the dice on a pitcher with a great history of success in the NL West as a member of the Padres.

 

It’s a worthwhile gamble for a playoff contender no longer forced to use Yusmeiro Petit as a starter, and no longer locked into sending Ryan Vogelsong out in the playoffs. Peavy’s fantasy value spikes in the move back west. The veteran right-hander has lost velocity and movement in recent years, but still has great control (13 straight outings walking three or fewer batters). That strength will translate well into a larger park against weaker competition and a pitcher’s slot in the opposing lineup. And this isn’t just a home park improvement; we’ll discuss the substantial park factor differences between the NL West and AL East in the Chase Headley section below. The long ball has destroyed Peavy’s 2014 campaign, and he’s moving into a park that swallows would-be homers like Dimetapp.

 

Escobar, a recent participant in the Futures Game, is San Francisco’s No. 2 prospect but doesn’t have a huge ceiling owing to mediocre secondary offerings without the necessary heat on his fastball to make up for it. He’s a back-end-of-the-rotation lefty type. His inclusion in the trade stinks of San Francisco believing he doesn’t have the goods to be a long-term contributor. Hembree, meanwhile, is a potential future closer who can’t seem to stay healthy.

 

  • The Yankees kicked off the busy week of MLB trading on Tuesday by acquiring Chase Headley from the Padres for infielder Yangervis Solarte and pitching prospect Rafael De Paula. New York circled Headley for years, and finally found a perfect spot to buy low. Indeed, with a .229 batting average and .651 OPS, the 30-year-old’s trade value had never been lower. Since coming in fifth in the NL MVP voting in 2012 (.286/.376/.489 with 31 homers and 115 RBI), Headley gave San Diego a highly disappointing .243/.330/.384 line. It’s fair to suggest the third baseman isn’t capable of replicating his ridiculous second-half production (23 homers, .978 OPS) from that summer.

 

Fortunately, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism: Petco strangled Headley’s bat to the tune of a .244/.331/.372 slash line with 35 home runs over 1,588 career at-bats, but homeboy has always been All-Star caliber outside of San Diego, slashing .286/.360/.444 with 58 homers in 1,708 at-bats.

 

So Headley probably felt like Justin Verlander when Kate Upton said “yes” to his first date request when he heard the news he was New York-bound. Yankees Stadium is an offensive paradise and one of the league’s most generous power venues. Petco, of course, has had the effect of Samson’s scissors on power since its 2004 inception. And don’t forget that Headley also benefits from escaping an atrocious San Diego offense, as well as moving to the AL East, where he’ll enjoy hitting in Fenway Park, Camden Yards and the Rogers Centre (Tampa Bay is the only team in the division that calls a pitcher's park home, but the Yankees only have to play there six more times this year). Headley, who will cut into the playing time of Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts, has been called a second-half sleeper so often in the past five days that he might no longer be one, but I am also betting on a jump in production.

 

As for the Padres’ haul, long-term utilityman Solarte should receive everyday at-bats through the end of the year. He’ll never have a two-month run like April and May again (.865 and .809 OPS, respectively), but is a must-own in NL-only formats. De Paula has a bazooka arm and generates a ton of velocity with a loose arm and a great downward plane. On the downside, he is a fastball-slider pitcher who doesn’t possess a good enough changeup or enough control to comfortably project as a major league starter.  In addition, the 23-year-old’s stuff plays up with increased velocity in short bursts. It’s possible San Diego identified him as Huston Street’s delayed successor, and De Paula could have a superb fantasy career as a closer in Petco. There’s a long way to go in his development, however.

 

  • Twins GM Terry Ryan pulled the plug on the 39-game Kendrys Morales experiment on Wednesday, shipping him back to the Mariners for towering reliever Stephen Pryor. Morales and the Mariners have the type of unhealthy relationship their friends are too uncomfortable to confront them about: Morales sat out the first three months of the season instead of accepting Seattle’s arbitration offer, while the Mariners flirted with no-bat, bat-first floozies like Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. Jack Zduriencik figured out a way to get Morales back without his consent, and I’m going to end the metaphor right there, thanks. I’ve wanted to see Morales’ bat in a hitter’s park for years (between the Angels, M’s and Twins, he’s never played in one), but I’ll have to wait until 2015. His fantasy value remains the same for now. The big winner in this trade is Chris Parmelee, who gets another shot at full-time at-bats and should thus be owned in AL-only leagues.

 

  • Dave Dombrowski turned up the heat on incumbent closer Joe Nathan when he swapped a pair of Texan pitching prospects (Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson) to the Rangers for Joakim Soria on Thursday. Nathan has responded with three straight shutout appearances, striking out five and yielding only one hit and no walks. He’ll remain the ninth-inning man unless he strings together a few train wreck performances in a row. Much has been made of Nathan’s blown saves and hide-the-women-and-children 5.73 ERA (6.23 prior to his last three outings), but his peripherals, including a 3.99 FIP, suggest he’s pitched far better (“far better” being a relative designation, of course). With a reasonable $7 million club option for next year, Soria might be the favorite to close games for Detroit in 2015. In Texas, meanwhile, Neftali Feliz has taken over the vacated closer’s gig and must be owned in all formats. He hasn’t been the same since Tommy John Surgery, and I fully expect Knebel to put up a huge fight for the closer’s job next spring if Texas doesn’t bring in a veteran.

 

  • Troy Tulowitzki hit the disabled list on Tuesday with a thigh injury everybody was hoping was minor. It’s a disappointing development for my first-half NL MVP, but no Tulo owner out there deluded themselves into thinking the shortstop was going to avoid the disabled list this year. “With where we are right now [in the standings], we think this is the best move so I can get healthy," Tulowitzki told the Denver Post. That’s an ominous quote: Colorado isn’t going to the playoffs, so they won’t rush their stud shortstop back, nor will they trot him out in September if the thigh issue lingers. It’s possible we’ve seen the last of elite 2014 fantasy production from Tulowitzki. Owners will have to cross their fingers on his body’s regenerative powers. Replacement Josh Rutledge is riding a six-game hitting streak and has posted multi-hit games in five of them. He’s ownable in mixed leagues if you need a shortstop.

 

  • The Cardinals granted your wish of seeing A.J. Pierzynski in one last October (okay, just mine) by signing the veteran and designating George Kottaras for assignment. Pierzynski will be a usable NL-only and two-catcher mixed league piece until Yadier Molina returns from injury in September.

 

  • I’m going to end this week’s column by wetting your greedy beaks with trade rumors (we don’t have the space to add citations to each, but click the player’s name to link to his news page if you like): Even after acquiring the immortal duo of Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano, the Yankees aren’t done shopping for starting pitching; they’re reportedly chasing Colorado’s Jorge De La Rosa. Across town, the Mets have thus far been non-receptive to trade interest in second baseman Daniel Murphy. They would love to trade Bartolo Colon, however. Boston appears open to trading Jon Lester if the lefty won’t agree to an extension in the $100 million neighborhood. It might be best if he doesn’t: Lester says he’s open to re-signing with the Red Sox this winter even if he’s traded; he’d fetch a very attractive package of prospects to add to an already stacked Red Sox system. The Indians are in buyer/seller no-man’s land, and you can sense the confusion from media reports. Asdrubal Cabrera is reportedly being shopped (which would open the door for stud prospect Francisco Lindor to take over at shortstop), but the Indians are also interested in acquiring a starting pitcher and a right-handed hitting outfielder. One option is to keep Cabrera and headline a gigantic David Price package with Lindor, but that would be a huge leap of faith for a .500 team that has scuffled recently. The Phillies and Cubs are willing to eat big portions of Ryan Howard and Edwin Jackson’s contracts, respectively, to dump them, but suitors figure to be sparse. Philadelphia should have more luck trading closer Jonathan Papelbon, but interest has been lackluster, despite the Phillies’ willingness to include cash to offset the $18 million Paps is still owed (a $13MM vesting clause for 2016 doesn’t help - thanks Ruben Amaro!). Speaking of paying straight cash to ship a player out of town, the Dodgers have received interest from five teams for Matt Kemp. The Mariners aren’t done shopping, and have checked in on Colorado’s Drew Stubbs. The Reds are interested in Marlon Byrd, who has an $8 million club/vesting option for 2016. Minnesota’s trade of Morales was just the beginning, and the club is reportedly open to moving Kurt Suzuki (on whom there are conflicting reports; Ken Rosenthal says an extension is possible) and Josh Willingham (as well as Kevin Correia, if they can locate a sucker at the table).

 

  • Enjoy Thursday’s trade deadline, and I’ll be back next weekend, same time and place, to recap the bloody aftermath.


Thor Nystrom is a Rotoworld contributor on the MLB and NFL Draft sections. Follow him on Twitter @thorku.
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