Consider this the silly season in fantasy baseball. You already have more than a few teams out of the race in your league, the stretch run is coming up, and the playoffs will follow. The problem is the players and teams don't have your fantasy interests in mind.
Case in point this weekend: Albert Pujols (plantar fasciitis) is shutting it down and might be done for the season. He is just the first of many that will enter Operation: Shutdown -- which was so immaturely coined by the Pirates' Derek Bell over a decade ago.
The good news is as you lose players for the season -- injury and suspension -- the competition for waiver pickups wanes. Fewer teams are left in the hunt, and the ones with waiver priority (and likely the bulk of the free-agent acquisition budget dollars) aren't going to be challenging you for the flavors of the week.
Here are a few quick pieces of advice on how to handle the season's final two months in fantasy:
This week's baseball prep: Weekend Primer | Weekly Planner | Waiver Wire | Pitching Report | Roundtable | Stat Focus | Trade Tips | Prospect Watch
Keep your ear to the news: This is especially pertinent to this week with the trade deadline approaching. When players swap teams, there are going to be opportunities created and destroyed. If you're in deep leagues, you need players rising out of the woodwork, and there should be a number of them in the coming days.
Beware of the ax: Biogenesis news has finally come to a boil and claimed Ryan Braun's season, so you can be sure more dominoes are going to fall this week and beyond. If you have one of the Biogenesis guys like Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera, sell, sell, sell! (If, and only if, someone is buying.) Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon are probably the two that started this whole mess, so they might be able to skirt more punishment because of de facto "double jeopardy."
Follow the pennant races: You need to bank on players with something to play for down the stretch. Those are the ones that are going to play through injury, and they are also the ones with the most productive supporting casts.
Prey on the weak: This is a bit unethical, but we are not asking you to live like a saint here. You're out to win a fantasy league. The teams that are out of the race -- or better yet, at desperation or on the cusp of the playoffs -- are the most likely to give you value for your depth. The trade deadline tends to bring out the inner GM in everyone, so there will be more fantasy owners inclined to make a deal this week than during any other point of the season!
And now for the rest of SI.com's Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner:
Player of the week
OF Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals -- The team's season has gone south, but Werth's renaissance has been a bright spot. The power is back -- he hit five homers this past week -- and he's finally performing up to a level close to his contract. You should get him active in all leagues now, something we thought we might have never been able to say for him again.
Player of the weak
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees -- You know the season has really gone down the tubes when you cannot even get this guy to perform. Sabathia was due for a disappointing season in a career full of consistency, we suppose. It is easy to say his days as an ace are over, but we are more inclined to claim this as a lost season for him. Consider him a decent buy-low candidate in keeper leagues.
2B/SS Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners -- This is one of the burgeoning gems of midseason. He had another two-homer game Saturday and is providing some potentially elite pop for a second-base position that historically needs it. Consider him a must-start in mixed leagues when he is going well and a top-10 candidate for the position next March.
RP Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates -- Jason Grilli's loss is Melancon's gain. The Red Sox castoff has had a great rebound season and is a must-add closer because he is pitching for a contender. Own him in all leagues. He is still available in over 40 percent of CBSSports.com formats and has the type of ERA and WHIP than can make him a just-as-good substitution for someone in Grilli that was pitching like one of the elite closers of fantasy.
1. SS Junior Lake, Chicago Cubs -- The trade of Alfonso Soriano has opened up playing time for him, and he will be a regular starting outfielder now. He is not quite as good as this hot start, but you can take a flier on him just in case. He is a big guy whose power should develop.
2. OF Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins -- It should take some time for the power to come, so if you were using Marcell Ozuna, you should be adding Yelich. He is here to stay, if only because the Marlins are determined to give him a long look.
3. SP Alex Wood, Atlanta Braves -- If you can look past his mediocre start, you might want to take a chance on him in a two-start week. The matchups are not overwhelming for him, and he is a lot better than he showed against the Mets.
4. SP Scott Kazmir, Cleveland Indians -- You cannot be sure he will hold up, but his last start is a sign he can be useful in all fantasy leagues for as long as he does. He is a must-add in leagues where you stream two-start pitchers -- even over Wood.
5. OF Marlon Byrd, New York Mets -- Sometimes fantasy is inexplicable, just look at this 35-year-old's brilliant season. Byrd is on pace for almost 30 homers and 100 RBI, a career year. You cannot expect this to continue, so sell if anyone is buying.
1. SP Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves -- That gruesome injury knocks him out for the season and might end his career. He can be dropped in all leagues.
2. OF Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers -- In hindsight, he might have gotten the best deal possible. He wasn't healthy or able to produce his numbers anyway. Count on him coming back strong next year, though.
3. SP Jason Marquis, San Diego Padres -- If you were getting mileage out of him in fantasy, consider yourself lucky. The elbow injury ends his season and perhaps his career.
4. SP Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves -- His rotation spot was on thin ice anyway, but if he can prove himself healthy and effective again before the end of the season, he will make some starts and perhaps impact fantasy leagues.
5. SP Martin Perez, Texas Rangers -- The past three starts have been less than stellar, but you had to expect some streakiness. He will prove useful in all leagues in the second half -- if only in spurts.
Most viewed (Rotoworld):
1. OF Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees -- He is an instant hit in New York, and you have to love this move for him, outside all NL-only leagues that are forced to cut players traded to the other league.
2. 3B Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees -- You have to be getting the sense A-Rod is getting closer to the end of his baseball career than your starting lineup. You can stash him, but you cannot expect anything at this point. The Yankees don't even want to play him (read: pay him).
3. OF Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers -- You cannot use him until next week in fantasy, but his promising first game back last Sunday gives you hope for the season's final two months.
4. SP Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox -- He is going to be traded somewhere in the coming days, and the signs point to teams in the AL West right now. It is good news for his fantasy owners. Keep him active in all leagues.
5. SP Matt Garza, Texas Rangers -- There have been some that said he is not a game-changer. Baloney. He has won six consecutive starts and is pitching at a Cy Young level, if even just for a few months of the season. He is going to be a must-start fantasy ace down the stretch with the Rangers.
Most traded (CBSSports.com):
1. SP Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers -- This is just not his year. You cannot trade him if you own him, and if you don't, you might as well try to acquire him under value. BUY
2. OF Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers -- Ouch. Some took a gamble and were snakebit. If you're dealing for him in keeper leagues, you probably made a pretty favorable deal. He is going to be a first-round-caliber outfielder again (if his health holds up). HOLD
3. OF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers -- The luster has to wear off at some point, right? Well, he can carry this stretch for the final two months and the NL Rookie of the Year award. HOLD
4. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees -- Nothing has gone right for the Yankees. There still could be some faithful out there. Trading pitching for hitting this time of year is always the thing to do. SELL
5. OF Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- If he can stay healthy, you should count on him picking up for the loss of Albert Pujols. He is better than he has shown. BUY
Tout Wars moves
Taking a flier on Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets -- The right-hander has a great arm and is coming off an eye-opening first start against the Braves. He warrants a pick-up in mixed leagues and his next start against the Marlins is a favorable one.
My daily lineup
If you play in those daily fantasy leagues, here are the players by position that yours truly will be going with for Monday's games. If you want to challenge me, hit me up on Twitter @EricMackFantasy:
SP -- A.J. Griffin, Oakland Athletics
SP -- Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs
C -- Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies
1B -- Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians
2B -- Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres
3B -- David Wright, New York Mets
SS -- Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
OF -- Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
OF -- Josh Hamilton, L.A. Angels of Anaheim
OF -- Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
DH -- Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals