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How deadline trades impact hitters and their fantasy values

Manny Machado won't be the only hitter traded this season, so what should fantasy managers do when their players get dealt between MLB teams? Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

When Manny Machado was traded from the Orioles to the Dodgers over the All-Star break, the move kicked off a flurry of action on AL- and NL-only leagues -- and with good reason. Those fantasy managers in NL-only formats were right to empty out the FAAB vault in an effort to grab what should be the most talented hitter to come over to the league before the July 31 trade deadline. Meanwhile, those in AL-only leagues with Machado on their roster were now left with a glaring hole that was unlikely to be filled with anything close to equal value.

In both those instances, immediate action was required. However, in mixed-league formats, Machado's real-life move should have made few ripples in terms of the fantasy waiver wire. Those fantasy lineups that had Machado in them the day before the deal still had him after all the paperwork got its approval. Sure, there were some guys (Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Danny Valencia, Jace Peterson) who were going to see some impact to their playing time as a result of the deal, but on the whole there was "much ado about nothing" with this move.

Nobody expects Machado to be a deadline-deal "bust" by completely forgetting how to hit in his new home. That said, the jury is still out as to whether Machado's personal performance will actually increase, decrease or remain essentially the same with a far better supporting cast around him in Los Angeles.

So far, while the sample size is certainly small, I'd say Machado's performance has dipped slightly. Because I focus on points leagues, I like to use wOBA as a shortcut for approximating fantasy value in that format. With the Orioles, Machado's wOBA sat at .399. In his 10 games with the Dodgers, it's .357. That's still terrific, but it is far closer to the tail end of the top 50 in the majors than it is to being in the top 10.

With the deal came a little dip -- and I started to wonder if that's more the norm than the exception. Mike Moustakas had a .330 wOBA in Kansas City this season. Over the weekend, after being traded, he went 2-for-9 (both singles) in a rather uneventful two games with the Brewers. Should we expect something closer to this from Moose going forward and trade him ourselves in fantasy, or should we remain confident that players typically don't change all that much with a change in scenery?

While every case is different, and certainly much of this evidence can be dismissed as being anecdotal, the stats nevertheless bear out that -- at least since 2015 -- the expectation of players dealt away in the last two weeks of July should be that they, like Machado thus far, will see a slight decline in value with their new club.

In the 40 instances of "deadline deals" in the last three seasons involving hitters who received a significant amount of playing time both before and after their trade, 65 percent of them saw a wOBA decline. Some declines were significant (Curtis Granderson, 55-point drop in 2017), while some were minimal (Aramis Ramirez, 1-point drop in 2015). What's telling is that very few of these traded players improved their wOBA post-trade and for those who did, there are some notable observations to make.

Taking away those with minimal a increase in wOBA, which could be considered "statistical noise," we're left with only a dozen cases where players surged in wOBA. Four of those involved trades to Colorado (Jonathan Lucroy), Texas (Lucroy again and Carlos Gomez) or Arizona (J.D. Martinez) -- the three stadiums with the highest offensive park factors over that time.

In addition to Lucroy -- whose post-deal wOBA surge in 2017 was 90 points, much greater than his 14-point increase the year prior -- several other players who saw a surge had previously dealt with the personal upheaval involved with an in-season swap.

Yoenis Cespedes, whose wOBA dipped in 2014 when he went from Oakland to Boston, found himself far more able to cope with the circumstance of moving from Detroit to the Mets in 2015. The result was a 42-point increase in Flushing. Similarly, last season Eduardo Nunez improved his wOBA by 54 points when going from San Francisco to Boston. In 2016, that stat dropped 11 points when he went from the Twins to the Giants. Michael Morse also saw a big surge in wOBA when he went from Miami to Pittsburgh in 2015 -- a far different story than his disastrous move from Seattle to Baltimore in 2013.

It should also be noted that while Jay Bruce saw drops in wOBA both when he was dealt in 2016 (Reds to Mets, 43 points), and 2017 (Mets to Indians, 11 points), his production seemed to be far less impacted by the trade after he'd been through the experience once before.

That leaves us with only a handful of players with wOBA improvement after a deal. Two of those, Tim Beckham (2017) and Brandon Guyer (2016), were sent packing from Tampa Bay -- a lineup notorious for day-to-day fluctuation. Matt Kemp (2016, Padres to Braves, 32 points) and Todd Frazier (2017, White Sox to Yankees, 18 points) both saw a park upgrade that likely helped contribute to their upticks in value. That leaves Brandon Moss (2015, Cleveland to St. Louis, 28-point jump) as the lone outlier, or perhaps the "exception that proves the rule."

Again, nothing is certain and I'll continue to monitor these deadline deals and the relationship to wOBA going forward. Nevertheless, if any bats are moved before 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, I'm going to assume they're due for a slight dip in value, unless they're ticketed for a significant park upgrade, if they're fleeing the Rays, or if they've been through this rodeo before -- and I'll act accordingly based on this assumption.