By Sam McPherson
When the Oakland Athletics traded reliever Tyler Clippard to the New York Mets last Monday, many fantasy baseball owners throughout the world groaned. A solid closer for his old team had just been relegated to set-up man on his new team, leaving fantasy owners scrambling for a replacement source of saves. Some owners got lucky by picking up Edward Mujica, who the A’s strangely named their closer despite his MLB trade value. Others gambled on Fernando Rodriguez, the more logical choice for Oakland’s new closer—and lost.
It’s a tricky situation right now, on August 1, to assess the trade landscape and figure out if any of your roster’s players are in better or worse situations than before they were traded by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. If you still owned Tim Hudson, for example, he’s now become even more worthless than before as the San Francisco Giants acquired Mike Leake to replace him in the rotation. If you owned Joakim Soria, you’re feeling sorry that he won’t be closing anymore for Detroit. Like Clippard, he’ll be setting up someone else for saves with his new team (the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Players who gained the most are the ones who replace departed guys on their old teams, like Mujica (still a risk to be traded, however, because of his salary, his experience and his impending free agency), or Detroit’s new closer Bruce Rondon. If you had those guys on your roster already, good for you. The Cleveland Indians traded two outfielders this week; find out who the replacements are and whether or not they’re worth adding to your roster.
This is yet another fun time of the fantasy baseball season where bad fortune can drop an inactive owner in the standings. With two months left in the season, now is not the time to fall asleep at the helm of your club!
Players to Get Into Your Lineup Now
1. Ken Giles, RP, Philadelphia Phillies: He’s the new closer for the worst team in baseball, but Giles is a good pitcher in his own right. He may not get a lot of save opportunities, but he also won’t hurt your team. He’s just 24, and Giles has a career 1.48 ERA in the majors over 91 1/3 innings with 120 strikeouts. Just remember how bad the Phillies are; Giles may only get 10-12 save chances for the rest of the season.
2. Mike Leake, SP, San Francisco Giants: Recently, the Giants have a knack for turning unproductive, mediocre veterans in sudden overnight success stories after trading for them. Think Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro, Jake Peavy, et al. Something in the water in AT&T Park since 2010 makes average players into sudden fantasy studs. Leake could be the next in line: He’s given up more hits than innings pitched in his MLB career, which is never a good sign, but Leake’s pitching in a big ballpark in San Francisco. He won’t get you a lot of strikeouts, but Leake should be in line for some wins down the stretch with the Giants.
3. Arodys Vizcaíno, RP, Atlanta Braves: Scouts have been raving about this guy’s stuff for years, but injuries have held him back. Thanks to a freak injury to Jason Grilli and a trade of Jim Johnson, Vizcaíno should be the Braves new closer now. He’s thrown just over 30 innings in his MLB career, missing all of 2012 and 2013, but this is the role he’s always been groomed for in the big leagues. Grab him.
4. Mat Latos, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: He will add some fun fuel to the L.A./S.F. rivalry, as Latos was on the 2010 San Diego Padres and the 2012 Cincinnati Reds, two teams that inexplicably lost to the Giants down the stretch or in the postseason. He was mediocre for Miami this year (3-7, 4.48 ERA), but Latos’ career numbers say more about his abilities (3.43 ERA, 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings). The move to Dodger Stadium and a pennant race will energize him.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Drew Storen, RP, Washington Nationals: Giles (above) benefitted from the trade of Jonathan Papelbon to the Nationals, while Storen did not. He’s been very good this year closing for the Nats, but he’s now Papelbon’s set-up guy. Remember, Storen blew the save in Game 5 at home in the 2012 National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Clearly, the Washington brass didn’t think he was the answer come October time. His attitude may determine whether or not he continues to pitch well in a different role, but even so, he’s only gathering holds now—not any more saves in 2015.
2. Tyler Clippard, RP, New York Mets: He’s an excellent set-up man if your league counts holds, as Clippard has always been miscast as a closer. He was decent enough in Oakland this year, but now he’s back in the NL East. He will be good; he just may not be able to help your team out any more in 2015.
3. Billy Butler, DH, Oakland Athletics: His decline is complete, and you should stop hoping for a Country Breakfast comeback. Butler is barely hitting his weight—seriously (.244 average, 240 pounds), and he’s totaled just 18 HRs in 2014-15 combined. Butler averaged 18 HRs a year during his 2008-13 peak. Just because the A’s are stuck with this contract through 2017 doesn’t mean you need to be stuck with him on your fantasy roster.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.