By Paul Forrester
April 18, 2013
Tim Lincecum's comeback campaign is off to a poor start thanks to a frightful 5.63 ERA.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Starting pitching is a little like one of those $15 overstuffed sandwiches in Manhattan. It arrives perfectly wrapped, but without fail it eventually falls apart. It's still a savory meal, but it's a bit of a mess.

Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg aren't on the menu for all fantasy teams. Still, many dig deep into their pockets for a Cole Hamels or a Jered Weaver or an R.A. Dickey, none of whom have sated their owners thus far. In some cases, owners try to make a meal out of former prime offerings who now look more like leftovers. So if you're carrying a leaking Tim Lincecum sandwich, is it time to cut bait? Let's assess the current trade market:

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? Jayson Werth, Nationals: Lost in the glare of Bryce Harper's spotlight: a nice bounce-back campaign from Werth, who is taking full advantage of batting near the top of a loaded Washington lineup. The last time Werth hit in a lineup this good (Philadelphia), his owners could count on a .270 batting average, 25-plus home runs and a steals total in the teens. If Werth stays healthy, there's no reason he can't approach those numbers again. (Of course, health is no guarantee.) As things stand, Werth is worth adding to a fantasy outfield.

? Neil Walker, Pirates: Walker is an underrated commodity. After Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips and Chase Utley (assuming good health), the keystone position offers little but questions. Can Danny Espinosa steal enough bases and club enough homers to make up for his poor batting average? Is Josh Rutledge the real deal? Will the stench of bad baseball in Houston derail Jose Altuve's potential? Instead of dealing with those doubts, go with a tested commodity. Walker has hit at least 12 homers in three consecutive seasons, he's a career .278 hitter with a respectable .759 OPS and he's stolen 16 bases over the previous two seasons. In a field of what-ifs, those numbers are comforting, especially when you add a dash of 27-year-old breakout potential, as my colleague Eric Mack noted this spring. After starting the year with a .234 average, Walker may come cheap. Grab him straight up or as part of a larger deal.


? Tim Lincecum, Giants: After shelling out $19 for the former Cy Young winner in an NL-only auction league, I've spent hours trying to figure out a way to explain why Lincecum is a keeper. I can't find one other than this: He has to rebound, right? An elite hurler doesn't just lose it at age 27 without suffering some sort of significant injury. But take a look at the facts: a 5.18 ERA last year and 5.63 mark so far in '13; 12 walks surrendered in 16 innings this season; a move to the bullpen in last year's playoffs, when, y'know, a team tends to want its best pitchers on the mound for as many innings as possible. The fact that Lincecum throws for a team as good as the Giants promises some value in wins and a long leash to get back on track. But as colleague and smart baseball observer Lorenzo Arguello astutely diagnosed, Lincecum's problem may be in trying to stay consistent with his unorthodox delivery. There are so many moving pieces to Lincecum's windup, which means that if one isn't in rhythm, none are. If you got Lincecum in the middle or late rounds, try to ship him off for comparable draft value to someone who still believes a turnaround is imminent.

? Roy Halladay, Phillies: Yes, Roy Halladay is Roy Halladay, but the last time I checked, name recognition didn't count as a fantasy stat. It can, however, work in an owner's favor when trying to make a deal. Halladay has looked like a shell of his former self this season, posting a 2.00 K/BB ratio, a decline in velocity and only one solid outing (against the mail-it-in Marlins) to date. Pack his bags while his name still carries some cache in fantasy circles.


? Matt Kemp, Dodgers: What am I missing? Why is one of the 10 best players in fantasy among the most traded over the past week? Oh, the .185 average? The four RBI? The zero homers and zero steals? Yes, all are irksome to those owners hoping for a fast start from the first-round pick. But the career .293 hitter, who still managed 23 homers in 106 games last season, deserves a little patience. Kemp has been done in by a .125 average against right handers this year, a group he has hit .277 against over the past three seasons. At age 28 and healthy, Kemp should be able to find his stroke, and soon. If Kemp is on the block in your league, make an offer now while the price is as reasonable as it will ever get. If you have Kemp, keep calm and know that better times are coming.

? Carlos Gomez, Brewers: After hitting 14 home runs and stealing 26 bases after the All-Star break last season, Gomez was supposed to become a full-season star in 2013. Should someone tell Gomez the season has started? Despite a slow beginning on the base paths, his skills have not disappeared, and over the past three games he has raised his average to .300. The speed will arrive. If you have Gomez, you're better off waiting until he gets into gear and then trying to sell him than you are attempting to deal him based on potential, which is never as valuable in a slow-starting veteran as it is in an unproven rookie.

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