Padres trade for Edmonds
Here's one of those moves more interesting from a pure baseball perspective than from a fantasy angle: On Saturday, the Padres acquired Jim Edmonds from the Cardinals in exchange for minor league third baseman David Freese.
Edmonds slides into the Padres' center field role, left vacant by free agent Mike Cameron's departure, and he's actually an ideal fit -- defensively speaking -- for Petco Park's spacious outfield. Edmonds, an eight-time Gold Glove award winner, had a range factor of 2.74 in 2007, ninth in MLB among players with 800-plus innings in center field. To put that into perspective, he had a higher number than Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand and Grady Sizemore, three noted elite defenders. In each of the past two seasons, in fact, Edmonds finished higher in the category than either Hunter or Rowand.
For fantasy, though, it's a player's bat that has us most interested, and there couldn't be a worse place for Edmonds to land than San Diego. He's a great opposite-field power hitter, sure, but Petco's outfield fences are tough to reach from any angle, especially for a 37-year-old coming off his worst season since 1994, in terms of OPS (.728). Edmonds is a .226 hitter with one home run in 31 career at-bats at Petco, and it's not unthinkable he won't be much better than that given 81 games there. He's really not much better than the player he was the past two seasons, and that's before the ballpark factor is considered.
Call Edmonds merely a spot-start type for mixed owners; a play-him-at-Coors type, if you will, though there are other times to use him, too. In NL-only leagues, he's more a fourth outfielder type, with more downside than upside.
So what's the excitement with Edmonds in terms of real-life value, then? His defense should help noted fly-ball pitchers Randy Wolf (0.89:1 career ground ball-to-fly ball ratio) and Chris Young (0.59:1). That might not mean much than a little help for each in ERA/WHIP, but it's worth taking into account when considering them at the draft table.
Dodgers sign Kuroda
Looking to find the "next big thing" among Japanese imports, the Dodgers signed Hiroki Kuroda to a three-year, $35.3-million contract on Sunday. He continues the team's tapping into that steady pipeline of Japanese pitchers; the Dodgers in the past have found success, to varying levels, in both Hideo Nomo and Kazuhisa Ishii.
I look at Kuroda's numbers in Japan, though, and can't help but feel this might be another Ishii, rather than a Nomo or Daisuke Matsuzaka. Kuroda had a 3.69 ERA and 1.27 WHIP for his career in Japan, and most troubling is that he generally assumed a swingman role, shuffling between the rotation and bullpen, while only once posting an ERA better than 3.11 (1.85 in 2006). He's not overpowering, averaging 6.65 strikeouts per nine innings, and will instead need to rely on deception to have an advantage over hitters in the States.
Scouts, though, seem to feel Kuroda has third/fourth starter upside in MLB, as he's a command specialist who should be able to pitch to contact and keep the ball low in the strike zone. In other words, he sounds like a more polished, higher-upside version of Carlos Silva or Jake Westbrook, so I'd treat him accordingly for fantasy. Kuroda could easily be a matchups type, a guy susceptible to streaks, as Ishii was, or he could be something not far off what Matsuzaka offered in 2007. Don't expect ace numbers, but if you use him right, Kuroda could be a nice value to shuffle in and out of the back of your rotation.
Of course, spring training should help us get a better grip on Kuroda's stuff, so watch him closely in March. His value could swing a great deal either way depending on how he looks.
Rays ink Floyd
How disappointing is this one for fantasy? The Rays, who traded potential franchise player Delmon Young to the Twins in late November, signed his probable replacement in right field -- or at least the guy who figures to get the bulk of the at-bats there -- on Monday, agreeing to a one-year, $2.75-million contract with Cliff Floyd.
Granted, by calling Floyd the "regular," I'm effectively admitting I'm not convinced Rocco Baldelli will be healthy enough to man that spot regularly, but that's no surprise considering he has played in a total of 127 games the past three years combined. Still, even in the best-case scenario for Baldelli, Floyd will get his at-bats against tough right-handers in either Baldelli's or Jonny Gomes' place, and that's about right for his role these days, both in terms of real-life value and that for fantasy baseball.
Floyd batted .281 with a .791 OPS against right-handers in 2007, and in the past three years combined, he's a .281/.840 hitter against that side, .219/.699 against left-handers. The Rays would be smart to sit him against all left-handers, and at age 35, Floyd is much more the deep AL-only league, spot-start type for fantasy. He's not a bad guy to slot in when the matchup calls, but even in the event Baldelli doesn't play a single game in 2008, if you're counting on Floyd as more than a fourth AL-only outfielder, you're asking for trouble. He's a perfect slot-him-in type in daily formats, little more.
One bit of good news for Floyd, though: Among current American League East starters -- from my projections -- only three left-handers seem guaranteed spots, Erik Bedard, Jon Lester and Andy Pettitte, and both Bedard and Lester have been the subject of trade rumors. Thus, there could be a decent handful of spot-start opportunities in Floyd's future.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.