July 24, 2012

The Major League Baseball trade deadline has yet to pass, but a number of players have already been sent packing. SI's Fantasy Roundtable analyzes some of the biggest moves so far.

1. What impact will Ichiro's trade to the Yankees have on him and the New York lineup?

Will Carroll: This is an interesting one. On the one hand, Ichiro is a perfect replacement for Brett Gardner. Ichiro might not be the Ichiro! we all loved watching when he first came over and seemingly played a different game than everyone, but he's still a solid enough player to be a good rental. He's been worth almost two wins so far this season, even with the lower batting average and on-base percentage. In 2011, Gardner was about 3.5 wins. Ichiro's been better on the road, so maybe getting out of Safeco will help him some. If he's energized by being back in a race and by not being so much the focus of the team, even a slight bump in production would make him a great pickup.

Eric Mack: It is tough to stay motivated on the worst team in the league. Ichiro is going to do a lot more for the Yankees than he was doing in Seattle. We're looking at hitting .300-plus with 15-plus steals here on out. Unlike Seattle, a tough place to hit, Yankee Stadium will re-ignite a bat that still has hits in it. If you're an Ichiro owner, this is a best-case scenario for a second-half revival. You're finally going to get the Ichiro you drafted now. This was a brilliant move by the Yankees.

David Sabino: In his infinite wisdom, Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra once said "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical." While the math might be off a tad, the sentiment is spot on for Ichiro's current situation. For years he was the focal point of the baseball world both in the Pacific Northwest and in Japan, and until very recently handled it with élan. But losing and playing with teammates a decade younger than him began to take an obvious mental toll on him as his slumping numbers have shown. Certainly, age (38) can be a factor in the alleged slowing of his bat speed, but for someone of his abilities to simply stop hitting there is more to the story.

Playing in New York will be the medicine he needs. While being a Yankee sometimes puts players under the microscope, it also will allow Ichiro to blend into a roster full of stars and desperate for someone with his skill set following the announcement that Brett Gardner will miss the remainder of the season. Ichiro will give the Yankees exactly what they expected from Gardner: great defense, speed on the bases, the ability to get on base (current .288 OBP not withstanding) and occasional power. The short porch in Yankee Stadium likely will prove quite tempting to Ichiro, whose batting practice home run exhibitions are legendary. The thrill of a pennant race, a packed house every night at home and on the road, teammates who are not only his contemporaries, but are also his peers, and being able to blend in a little in New York will make him one of the better table-setters of the stretch drive. I'm wholeheartedly buying.

2. The Braves appear to be on the verge of adding Ryan Dempster. Is there any upside with the move for him?

Carroll: The Braves were supposed to be thick with pitching, so much so that they gave away Derek Lowe. Instead, they lost a couple guys to injury, saw a couple of regressions and haven't seen any of the vaunted prospects make the jump up. Dempster gives them a solid enough pitcher at a reasonable cost, but he's hardly a difference maker. The Cubs got a great return from a guy who was left for dead, rebuilt by Tim Kremchek, and went through more makeovers than HGTV.

Mack: It depends on the point of view. Dempster cannot be any better than he has been, but in a pennant race on a contender that will win games, Dempster can be as surprisingly productive as he has been. While his ERA and WHIP should be expected to fall no matter where he pitches in the second half, the potential for victories makes him a pitcher to trust in all leagues here on out.

Sabino: If the trade to Atlanta indeed does happen (which at the time I'm writing this isn't a foregone conclusion) Dempster, currently the major league leader in ERA and eighth in WHIP will be moving from a team currently in fifth-place in the NL Central and 13 games out of a Wild Card spot to a team in second place in the East and a mere half game behind the Pirates and Dodgers for a place in the postseason tournament. The only disappointments about Dempster's fantasy performance this season have been his trip to the disabled list with tightness in his back that cost him three weeks of action and his win-loss record, which stands at a pedestrian 5-4. Moving from Wrigley Field to Turner Field is a mixed bag, park-effect-wise as more runs are scored at Turner but more home runs are hit at Wrigley. And Braves starters have gotten decisions in 71 of 96 games (74 percent), so if he continues his early pace in Atlanta, the wins should pile up, so yes, there would be a decided advantage to playing in Atlanta.

3. The White Sox just added Brett Myers to their bullpen. Who should be more worried: Addison Reed owners or Myers owners?

Carroll: You don't trade for a setup man unless you have a lockdown closer. Reed's good, but he's not so good that people have given him a nickname or rallied around him. He's just another reliever with good secondaries. Myers will end up the closer when Reed has the slightest bobble ... unless Robin Ventura is a secret sabermetrician. There's no evidence that Ventura is that, or that he's anything aside from disinterested and much quieter than Ozzie Guillen. The Sox really just lose money, and given the injuries, I'm surprised more teams didn't inquire about Myers.

Mack: Myers owners lose their save chances for as long as Reed can hold down the last-inning role. Reed's talent suggests he can, and perhaps will, be buoyed by Myers' addition. Solid setup work makes life a lot easier on a closer. So, rather than being worried right now, Reed owners should feel a bit better about their situation. Myers can help keep the messes slightly less messy to clean up in the ninth. Myers is merely worth stashing in deeper leagues where saves are at a premium. There is a good chance he might not help at all in the saves category anymore.

Sabino: Since earning his first save of the season on May 5, Reed is sixth in the AL with 16 saves. Yes, he's blown three, including two since the All-Star break, but none of those have been of the implosion variety. His ERA is high (4.11) but most of the damage came in a non-save situation on May 13 when he coughed up six earned runs in a third of an inning against the Royals. Coincidentally, Myers also blew up against Kansas City in a non-save situation, surrendering five earned runs in two-thirds of an inning on June 18. Otherwise, he hasn't allowed more than one earned run in any contest and was 19 for 21 in save chances for the last-place Astros. With the White Sox in the thick of a pennant race, Reed will be on a short leash, but Robin Ventura, Don Cooper & Co. know that in the long term Reed is their man, so removing him from the closer's role would be a serious move with potential future ramifications in terms of Reed's confidence and ability to pitch in big games. So while Reed owners should be slightly concerned, I can see him comfortably holding onto the job the rest of the season and beyond.

4. What deal are you anticipating might have the greatest fantasy effect.

Carroll: Depending on if Justin Upton moves and where he lands, he could carry a huge effect. The downside is he's owned in every league that involves conscious owners. Whatever pitcher the Rangers get will be a nice pickup, but again, we're likely to see it be a well-owned name like Josh Johnson or Zack Greinke. The other side of that, likely to be Mike Olt, is probably available. I like him, but given his relative inexperience, it's hard to say he'll jump up and be an immediate impact player. I'm curious about what players could get surfaced by deals on bad teams -- Cubs, Astros, Royals, Rockies. Those guys could end up with opportunities. You never know where you might find the next Bryan LaHair.

Mack: The trade deadline is always an exciting time and heavy on news and speculation. We have already seen a flurry of moves made more than a week out. But it is mostly just random noise. Rarely do deals at the trade deadline dramatically alter the fantasy landscape. A Greinke deal would be a blockbuster, but he is already a must-start in all leagues and anyone he is dealt for will be a questionable option that will take weeks to build up enough value to be trustworthy in mixed formats. The biggest area of potential change always comes with the changes in the closer situations, so watch that. While all of the talk and rumors are intriguing -- namely a Hanley Ramirez potential blockbuster -- it historically winds up being more fluff than substance.

Sabino: If the Marlins are able to trade Hanley Ramirez it could have the biggest impact on fantasy races. Ramirez, a former top overall pick, has been disgruntled all year after having switched positions from shortstop to third base and he's let it effect his performance on the field and his comportment off of it. A move to Boston would be great for him, especially since he's the kind of player that Bobby Valentine and his motivational tactics could work wonders with. No matter where he moves, of the players rumored to be dealt in the coming week, Ramirez would have the greatest potential to improve his fantasy numbers.

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