2016 Fantasy Baseball: AL East Roster Moves
The last week before the season is an intriguing time for fantasy baseball players. Most people have had at least one draft before that time, but there are always surprise moves in the last week before the season starts that rock the fantasy world. Okay, maybe they don’t quite rock the fantasy world, but they do cause some serious ripples that can have lasting effects on the season. Whether it be the increasing amount of money in the sport or general managers and managers getting bolder, teams are not allowing big contracts to get in the way of putting their best team on the field.
This could clearly be seen in the AL East where a couple of teams made some big decisions on players with fairly hefty contracts. It can be scary to admit that you’ve made a mistake and it can be doubly scary to admit it as early as these teams, but it can pay off in the long run. For one thing, you should win more games and that can’t be discounted in what should be a tightly contested division. Secondly, it is important when you are trying to build a culture of winning. Of course, the downside for fantasy owners that draft early is that they may have committed draft picks for some of these guys.
Hyun-Soo Kim signed a two-year contract this offseason to become the Orioles newly printed left fielder. It seemed like a good move at the time. For his career, Kim has a .318/.406/.488 slash line in Korea. No one really expected him to produce those numbers in the big leagues, but they hoped he could at least be an average performer for a relatively reasonable rate (two years, seven million). If you can get league average performance for 3.5 million per season, it’s a steal.
Both ZIPS and Steamer projected reasonable numbers for Kim. Each had him producing OPS totals between .750 and .770 with varying rates of playing time. On a full time schedule, that would translate to around 20 home runs with 60 or more runs and RBI. Obviously, there were some fantasy owners out there that were willing to make him their fourth of fifth outfielder. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. The Orioles would like to send him down to the minors, but his contract says he has to give them his consent. He isn’t doing that. As of this writing, he still might make the team, but he certainly isn’t going to be the regular left fielder.
Verdict: It appears as if the Orioles are going to go with a committee approach in left field until someone holds down the job.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox threw caution to the wind when they signed Pablo Sandoval to a five-year, 95 million dollar deal. After all, he had had weight issues before and bouts with inconsistency in the past. Still, he was coming off of a brilliant performance in the playoffs. In fact, for his career, he has a .344/.389/.545 slash line in his career during the postseason. So, I suppose it made some sense for a perennial playoff contender to bet on him. Unfortunately, his 2015 season saw him produce a paltry -0.9 WAR according to baseball-reference.com.
Still, a player making 19 million per season usually gets extra chances to prove himself and there were a number of fantasy players willing to bet on a comeback season. I suppose anything is possible, but the Red Sox seem to be moving on. They’ve inserted Travis Shaw in at third base and are putting Sandoval on the market. There is a rumor that the Padres might have some interest and they might be willing to deal James Shields in exchange.
Verdict: Sandoval owners should monitor this situation in case he gets dealt. Shaw has some experience, but they may be willing to go back to Pablo if Shaw struggles.
Tampa Bay Rays
Even a small market team like the Rays are getting in on the action. They signed James Loney two years ago to a three year, 21 million dollar deal. It seemed excessive at the time and it became more excessive as his offensive production went down. Last year, he produced a .680 OPS. He has always been teetering on the edge of replacement level performance for years. He used to be a plus defender, but that stopped in 2014. The Rays decided to either cut him or trade him before the beginning of the season.
Naturally, the loss of James Loney is not a loss for fantasy owners. It is the ripple effect that makes the big difference. Pulling Loney from the lineup opens up Logan Morrison to play first base. That opens up Steve Souza to play right field and Corey Dickerson to become the designated hitter. So, the move makes each a little more valuable in fantasy terms because each will get more playing time.
Verdict: James Loney may get some run with either the Pirates or the Padres, but both will wait for him to clear waivers.