By Sam McPherson
There’s a lot of noise this week about upcoming trades in Major League Baseball. For example, by the time you read this, the New York Yankees may have traded their closer Aroldis Chapman. That means saves in the bullpen for the Bronx Bombers now could be in the hands of relievers Andrew Miller or Dellin Betances. The smart fantasy baseball owner has to anticipate trades like these and look for solutions before the other owners in the same league.
Even on the Yankees, it’s not just about Chapman. The team could also trade outfielder Carlos Beltran, leaving a lot of plate appearances behind for reserve player Aaron Hicks. There are similar scenarios for a lot of under-performing MLB teams this year, and the July 31 trade deadline is right around the corner. Watching the news reports and anticipating trades could be the key to success or failure for your fantasy baseball team.
Every season about this time, fantasy owners are impacted by the real MLB trades made by contending teams trying to improve rosters. Remember when the Oakland Athletics had the best record in the sport two summers ago? They didn’t stand pat: Billy Beane traded for Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija to give his team a nasty starting rotation, but when the A’s bullpen fell apart, Oakland faded and ended up losing the American League Wild Card Game in Kansas City. When those trades were made, players for the A’s, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox all changed roles and saw their fantasy value diminish or improve.
Watch the news this week, and don’t let your team get the short end of the fantasy stick when it comes to losing playing time. It could make a huge difference come September when your league title is still up for grabs.
Players to Get On Your Roster Now
1. Steve Pearce, UTL, Tampa Bay Rays: He is 33 years old, but Pearce should see plenty of playing time for the rest of the season with the last-place Rays if he doesn’t get traded to a contender this week. Depending on your league rules, he also could be eligible at four positions right now (1B, 2B, 3B, OF), and Pearce is hitting .318 with 10 home runs in only 215 plate appearances so far. If you’re counting at home, that’s 46 HRs over his last 250 games in MLB since 2014. Pearce can hit and help almost any roster.
2. Carlos Estevez, RP, Colorado Rockies: No, this is not some sort of spoof from “Major League”, as this is a real ballplayer (and not Charlie Sheen, who shares his birth name with this new Colorado closer). Ignore the ERA right now (4.08), and focus on his saves (eight) and strikeouts (40 Ks in 35 1/3 innings). Estevez has half his saves and a 2.25 ERA since the All-Star break, and he is entrenching himself nicely in the closer’s role. He’s young, so the Rockies aren’t going to trade him. If you need saves, he’s your guy to grab right now.
3. Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians: This has nothing to do with the trade deadline, as the Tribe is competing for the AL Central Division title. But Naquin is taking starts away from Rajai Davis, so it’s time to give him a look. Naquin is hitting .322 with 12 HRs right now, and with more playing time, the counting stats are going to go higher and higher. If you have Davis on your roster, it’s a smart move to grab Naquin now. He won’t replace Davis’ steals, but Naquin can swing the lumber.
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies: Another cheap power source, Joseph has taken over the position from former MVP Ryan Howard, and as a rookie, the Phillies will commit to him long term now. He’s hit 13 HRs in just 52 games this season, which means he could be good for 15 more dingers between now and the end of the regular season. Philly is not a good team, so the RBI may not be plentiful, but Joseph is going to get as many as he can with his .529 slugging percentage.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Prince Fielder, DH, Texas Rangers: If you still were hoping for Fielder to have a strong second half, it’s time to let it go as his neck injury has flared up again. He could miss the rest of the season, so there’s no point into holding on to Fielder now. This is a similar injury to the one that cost Fielder most of the 2014 season, and while he recovered to have an All-Star campaign last year, it’s been another ugly season for him in 2016. We’re sorry your faith has not been rewarded with Prince.
2. Hyun-jin Ryu, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: He’s an injury risk now, period, which is sad for fantasy baseball. Ryu won 28 games with a low 3.00s ERA in 2013 and 2014 combined, but he’s made just one start this season after missing all of 2015 due to injury. He’s not making a comeback this season, so it’s time to just release him and see if he gets any better by spring next year. If you’ve been stashing Ryu on your disabled list or bench all summer, the gamble just hasn’t paid off for you.
3. Jake McGee, RP, Colorado Rockies: The downside to Estevez’ rise is the fall of McGee, who has saved 41 games for the Rays and the Rockies in recent seasons. He wasn’t pitching super well for Colorado before he got hurt, and now that he’s back from his injury, McGee still isn’t throwing well. Even if he improves, Estevez has the closing job for now with the Rockies. McGee’s numbers (5.79 ERA, 1.500 WHIP) don’t even warrant stashing him on the bench, as the Colorado bullpen has guys with better numbers than that right now in case Estevez falters.
4. Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians: After an All-Star year in 2014 and a great follow-up season in 2015, it’s been a lost effort for Brantley in 2016. If and when he comes back from his latest injury, the Tribe will use him as a backup player and depth insurance. Brantley isn’t going to rake like he did the last two seasons, when he hit 90 doubles combined with 35 HRs and 38 SBs. Like Ryu, the gamble just has not paid off this summer, so release him and find better value elsewhere.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.