Becker: Francisco to pick up Rangers saves

August, 25, 2008
Eddie Guardado is headed out of the Texas heat and into the heat of a baseball pennant race, but he's leaving his fantasy owners in the lurch. Guardado, traded to Minnesota for a minor leaguer on Monday won't close for the Twins unless Joe Nathan needs a day off, so it's entirely possible his save Aug. 16 will stand as his last of the season.

So to whom should those desperate for saves turn? With Guardado out of the picture, the Rangers' bullpen shapes up with Frank Francisco as the guy with the best "closer stuff." The 28-year-old has 65 strikeouts in 52 1/3 and has a nifty 1.24 WHIP, but he is prone to walking more batters and surrendering more home runs than you'd like from your closer. He'll be on a short leash, but there aren't many other pretenders to the Texas closer throne, such as it is. Jamey Wright is the most experienced arm left in the bullpen and theoretically would be next in line for saves should Francisco falter, but that's not a palatable fantasy scenario any way you slice it.

Deadline? What deadline? I'm not sure why Greg Maddux wasn't traded from the Padres to the Dodgers before July 31, when everyone was prepared for it, but now that Brad Penny is done for the season, it appears the move was finally made a few weeks later. Maddux would join the Dodgers late in the season for the second time in three years, and his arrival would mean the team doesn't have to move oh-so-valuable Hong-Chih Kuo, Chan Ho Park or anyone else from the bullpen. The impact for fantasy owners, however, is relatively minor.

Maddux is owned in a mere 28 percent of ESPN standard leagues, despite sporting a competitive 3.99 ERA and strong 1.22 WHIP. Hmm, what could be the reason so few people want to own Maddux? Oh, maybe the fact he has fewer wins than 98 other pitchers has something to do with it. Maddux recently found a way to win three straight starts, doubling his season total. This was nice and got his ownership up again, but before that he didn't win in 14 consecutive outings, even though he was pitching well. Blame the Padres' woeful offense, which gave Maddux 3.99 runs of support per game, matching his ERA. Only 12 pitchers among the 120 who had pitched 100 or more innings have received less support. Also, Maddux isn't exactly a big strikeout guy; there were 93 pitchers, including reliever Carlos Marmol, who began Monday with more K's.

The new Manny Ramirez-led Dodgers offense would help Maddux a bit, but let's remember this is not Roy Halladay by any means. Maddux doesn't go deep into games, though he does boast 15 quality starts. No Dodgers pitcher has more. Then again, Maddux averages fewer than six innings per start, and there's little reason to expect this will change. This also costs Maddux potential wins.

Another factor to watch here is Maddux's dependence on Petco Park; in 14 home starts this season, his ERA was 2.62, and in 12 road outings his ERA was 5.75. But Chavez Ravine isn't Coors Field by any means. Checking the ESPN Park Factor page, we see Petco Park ranks dead last for runs scored, and Dodger Stadium is right there with it at No. 29. Basically, nothing changes. Maddux had made only one start at Dodger Stadium this season, allowing two hits and no runs over five innings in April, and over the previous three seasons his ERA at Dodger Stadium was 2.68 over eight starts. Other than some added run support, this isn't a move that would really change Maddux's value much.

As for the Padres, they'd be left with a not-so-gaping hole on a staff that went from leading the majors in ERA a season ago to No. 16 now. It's possible Clay Hensley would get a chance to start again, or maybe Wilfredo Ledezma. Fantasy owners can do better. In September, fantasy owners might get a chance to see top prospects Will Inman or Wade LeBlanc, but knowing the meager run support they would get, we'd preach caution with them in fantasy.

Grey: Dunn won't suffer moving to Arizona

August, 11, 2008

Although Adam Dunn can't replace Orlando Hudson at second base, the D-backs acted quickly to fill the loss of Hudson's bat in the lineup, and the way things shake out will be interesting.

It appears the plan will be for Dunn to take over right field for now, a position he can pass at given his offense, despite the fact he hasn't played it in a couple of years. The acquisition could also be a slight hedge against Justin Upton not coming back strongly from his oblique injury. Upton is due to start his rehab assignment this week.

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Adam Dunn
Nick Doan/Getty ImagesDunn is gonna be making his home games at Chase Field now.

When Upton returns to the big leagues, things could shake up if the team were looking to get as much offensive punch as possible. There's at least a possibility that the club slides Mark Reynolds over to second base, a position he played in the minors. Chad Tracy would then move back to third, Upton would be back in right, and Conor Jackson and Dunn would then man left field and first base (or vice versa), with Augie Ojeda back on the bench.

The other scenario would be Upton on the bench the majority of the time, with Ojeda staying in the lineup, particularly with Brandon Webb on the mound. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if the D-backs shuffled positions, giving Reynolds and perhaps Dunn some extra position flexibility for their fantasy owners.

As far as Dunn's offensive output goes, it shouldn't change all that much. Though Chase Field's park factor this season favors hitters overall more than any other in baseball (with Great American ranking 18th), Dunn's old park was slightly more favorable for homers. The park effects should be negligible.

For the Reds, they will likely fill Dunn's spot in the lineup with Jerry Hairston, as it appears that his hamstring may have healed enough for him to return to the lineup this week. It should ensure that Jeff Keppinger and Corey Patterson continue to see regular playing time the rest of the season, although the Reds could take a chance and see what Chris Dickerson, a 26-year-old outfielder with a .384 OBP and 26 steals at Triple-A this season, has to offer. They could even use the wayback machine and call up Rob Mackowiak. Still, the best bet is for Patterson and Hairston to hold down the left and center spots, with Andy Phillips may start here and there.

In order to get Dunn for an end-of-season rental, the D-backs gave up 23-year-old right-hander Dallas Buck, a third-round pick in 2006 out of Oregon State. Buck underwent Tommy John surgery last August, and has thrown 50 innings at Class-A this season in his return, but is not full strength yet. When healthy, Buck has shown a good low-90s sinker, a quality changeup and a developing slider, and could be an interesting starting pitching prospect when his arm strength returns. He's likely at least a couple of years away from the big leagues. The Diamondbacks will also part with two players to be named later, presumably a couple of low-level minor leaguers.

Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.

Spin: Yanks pick up Pudge

July, 30, 2008

Stop the presses! The Yankees have acquired Ivan Rodriguez from the Detroit Tigers for Kyle Farnsworth. This is a potentially major deal for not only real baseball, but fantasy too, and it might end up helping both teams, maybe like the Josh Hamilton-Edinson Volquez deal. Well, we're exaggerating just a bit.

The headline writers will likely spin this as the "Yankees acquiring Pudge," but the truth is from a fantasy angle the big news here is a likely declaration from the Tigers that they needed to get a closer, and Farnsworth is it. Remember, Farnsworth has played for the Tigers before. In February 2005 the Cubs traded Farnsworth to the Tigers in a deal that included former first-round pick and current Orioles farmhand Scott Moore, and Farnsworth had a 2.32 ERA and saved six games. The Tigers then dealt him to the Braves the night of the July trade deadline, and he was Atlanta's closer into the playoffs. It didn't go so well in October, but in baseball there are always second chances.

That was the last time Farnsworth was officially a closer, but with the current mess in Detroit's beleaguered bullpen, look for a change in the ninth inning. Todd Jones struggled in July and lost the job over the weekend to Fernando Rodney, but Rodney has been erratic since then, and sports an ERA worse than 5.00. Joel Zumaya is walking people, and hardly trustworthy. While it's possible the Tigers will have dealt for Farnsworth and use him as an eighth-inning guy, like the Diamondbacks have done with recent addition Jon Rauch, fantasy owners should be proactive and sign Farnsworth now, just in case. And really, he's had a fine July, going more than three weeks without allowing a baserunner until Friday. Besides Farnsworth, Joel Hanrahan is one of the popular additions in fantasy during the past week. He's the Nationals closer, in case you didn't know, and anyone who gets saves is valuable in our game.

As for the Yankees, it's not surprising they decided they needed an upgrade behind the plate from the underwhelming Jose Molina/Chad Moeller platoon, now that Jorge Posada is done until February, but is Pudge even close to the player he used to be? While he's hitting .295, he has only five home runs and six stolen bases. Look for him to likely bat ninth -- yes, even after Melky Cabrera -- and while his numbers shouldn't change much, we should remember the Yankees have a more consistent lineup than the Tigers. The Tigers score runs, but one night it's 19 runs, the next they get shut out by Paul Byrd. That generally doesn't happen with the more patient Yankees. Rodriguez is owned in 91 percent of ESPN standard leagues, which might be a bit much, but he is safe for batting average and should knock in more runs on his new team. From a defensive aspect, Rodriguez remains a standout thrower, but so is Molina.

How about the guys left behind? For the Yankees, recent addition Damaso Marte will inherit the eighth inning duties, but he had probably usurped the role from Farnsworth anyway. For the Tigers, Brandon Inge is already catcher eligible, and while this should result in more playing time, that might not be such a good thing. Inge is a major batting average liability, hitting .227 this season, and the extra few home runs aren't really worth it. The Tigers can call up Dane Sardinha to help out, but the Honolulu native is no prospect at 29, and not much of a hitter.

As for the ever-important keeper league angle, I would say nothing has changed. Rodriguez is a free agent next season, so he won't stand in the way of Posada's return, though the Yankees might consider bringing him back anyway as insurance. Regardless, Rodriguez is a borderline top-10 catcher, but relatively safe. Farnsworth is also a free agent, but if he can excel as the closer he can put himself in a good situation for future saves, at least in theory.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for fantasy. You can e-mail him here.

Spin: Tex headed to the Angels

July, 29, 2008

For those of you in fantasy mascot leagues, the Rally Monkey just got an upgrade. With Mark Teixeira's going to the Angels in exchange for Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek, Big Tex's value sees a nice increase. He's very familiar with Angel Stadium and the AL West from his days in Texas. In 16 games during the past three years at Angel Stadium, Teixeira has six home runs and 13 RBIs and hit .273. He should immediately help give some protection for Vladimir Guerrero.

Teixeira is owned in every league except in AL-only leagues. But this trade makes him an even more attractive trade target for you in your league. He has struggled somewhat this year, but that's to be expected. He's a career .277 hitter before the All-Star break, but a .296 hitter after. Then you remember what he did last season after he was traded to a contending team. Once he joined Atlanta, he hit .317 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs in 54 games for the Braves.

Keeper leagues might want to take a look at Juan Rivera. Now that Kotchman is out of the picture and Teixeira will be a free agent, Rivera could be the Angels' starting first baseman on Opening Day 2009. With Guerrero, Garret Anderson, Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews Jr., the Angels already have had a crowded outfield, and Rivera did play at first base once this year. Longtime uber-prospect Brandon Wood is another option, as is Big Tex if the Angels re-sign him.

For Atlanta, Kotchman will become their starting first baseman, and he'll continue to be what he has been in his career: a good average, decent-power first baseman who's among the middle tier of fantasy options. A corner infielder for ESPN's standard mixed leagues. He has hit better than .300 the past two seasons after the All-Star break, so expect that to continue. I project he'll hit .305, eight home runs and 35 RBIs the rest of the way.

Given Atlanta's success with young pitchers, Marek becomes an interesting name for deep NL-only leagues and keeper leagues. A former starter, Marek is a 6-foot-2 right-hander who has been used in the bullpen this season and has two wins and three saves this year. Marek has a 57-to-21 strikeout-to-walk rate and a 3.66 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 46.2 innings.

In an AL-only league, now is when you blow all your free-agent budget or use your No. 1 waiver pick. No one better than Big Tex is coming over. And if you are in a NL-only league and didn't get Sabathia or Harden, you should use your budget or No. 1 waiver pick on Kotchman. No one who would be a significant upgrade over Kotchman is coming over, so make the play now.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price.

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