2016 Fantasy Baseball: NL East Roster Moves
Sports Illustrated has picked my hometown Houston Astros to win the whole thing this year. The Chicago Cubs are prohibitive favorites to win the NL pennant for the first time since baseball has appeared on television. Between the two of them, they have popularized a new strategy in baseball. The idea is that if you aren’t going to compete then you might as well suck and stockpile your farm system. Now, four teams in the National League are copying that formula. Two of them exist in the National League East.
Part of playing that strategy is paring down your payroll to the point where you are paying peanuts. Why spend money on a roster that might not even get to 65 wins? The Phillies already have this year’s number one overall selection and the Atlanta Braves have already traded away Shelby Miller for last season’s number one overall selection (the Phillies also acquired a former number one overall selection). In the National League East, it could be a race to the bottom this season.
When multiple teams are rebuilding, it often pays to take a slightly different route back to contention. The Braves have traded away more players, but instead of getting a ton of prospects in return, they have aimed to clear the books following 2016. The idea was to trade as many players with contract obligations after 2016 for as many good assets as they could get. When that didn’t work, simply getting toxic assets that would expire following this season would suffice. The Braves are moving into Suntrust Stadium next season and want to shed as much payroll as possible so they can reload this next offseason.
We could write a whole article about this plan, but suffice it to say, it had them acquire Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher because their contracts expire following the season. Those players became free agents sooner than they expected as they were both cut before the end of Spring Training. Seeing them go means almost as much money will be going to players not on the Braves as currently on the roster. Naturally, their departure means little in fantasy terms directly, but has the ripple effect of giving opportunities to other players. Jettisoning Bourn in particular opens a full-time slot for Hector Olivera. He is one of the several players acquired during their purge. As an older and more accomplished prospect (30) he should produce sooner rather than later. He could end up being a decent waiver wire pickup in some leagues.
Verdict: Both Bourn and Swisher should land somewhere, but they will likely be bench performers and not worth your time.
There isn’t a whole lot going on in Miami, but they did suffer a little bit of bad luck early on in Spring Training. Carter Capps was a player featured prominently on our relief pitching podcast earlier in March. Perhaps we’ve become something of a jinx because he ended up having Tommy John surgery on March 8th. Those procedures typically take a year to recover from, so he will be out for the season. He was set to battle A.J. Ramos for the closer’s role, so that role belongs to Ramos for this season.
Verdict: A.J. Ramos owners can breathe a little easier now.
The other lovable losers arguably did a better job of procuring talent than the Braves. The Cole Hamels and Ken Giles deals alone brought in nearly ten prospects for the team to chose from. As exciting as those deals were, they still have plenty of holes to fill. The club added Will Venable in training camp to fill a huge void in right field and it seemed to make sense that he would be the guy to take over. Instead, they surprisingly released Venable and went with Cedric Hunter. This is where most of the fantasy baseball world reflexively asks, “who?” I had to do a little research myself.
He had six plate appearances for the Padres back in 2011. You can almost picture him taking the role of Crash Davis on the bus during Bull Durham. Yep, he was in the show. The minor league numbers show a guy with double digit home run power and double digit steals consistently over the years. He may be a place holder, but he may be a decent waiver wire add at some point if he gets consistent at bats.
Verdict: Hunter might be a guy to keep an eye on for fantasy owners that are desperate for quality depth.