Ah, the smell of a new clubhouse! This week marks our favorite time of year: where winning MLB teams acquire great players to make their championship runs, and where losing teams sell their top players for minor leaguers nobody will see until 3 years from now [stares at Simeon Woods-Richardson]. If you’re a fan of a team that’s buying, congrats! I hope you get a Juan Soto in your “Christmas in July” stocking that hangs over the fire pit. For the rest of us that sing the praises of teams who are classic “selling” teams, may your up-turned cocktail glasses bring you solace.
Let’s check in on the deals and rumors!
Luis Castillo: Two weeks ago, I said the only thing a fantasy manager could want out of Castillo was some Wins. Luis, it’s time to get a Starbucks gift card and pull up one of those Adirondack chairs at SEA-TAC because you’re going to a winning team: the Seattle Mariners! Well, sort of winning. Maybe, just, winning more than the Reds? At the time of writing, the Mariners clung to the second AL Wild Card spot, with basically no chance of catching the division leaders, the Houston Astros. Castillo’s fantasy value improves dramatically: the Mariners want to win, giving Castillo a shot at that fantasy category that has eluded him so far. Additionally, the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati is the third-worst ballpark for pitchers in 2022, whereas Seattle’s T-Mobile park is ranked 18th worst, which I suppose normal people would call 12th best. ENYWHEY. Those of you who held on to Castillo could see him surge into the top 20/30 pitchers to finish the year. Congrats! And because Castillo is still under team control, Mariners fans benefit from this trade for years to come. Or, at least, one more year until Castillo hits free agency. Save your Starbucks points!
Chris Martin: I love Coldplay! Martin is a Roleless Rob without any of the W benefits, mostly because he played for the Cubs. Now he’ll play for the Dodgers. It’s pretty ridiculous to try and predict what a team like the Dodgers would do with Chris Martin, other than pair him with Imagine Dragons and charge $600 per ticket. Don’t acquire.
Wow, that was so exciting! On to the rumors!
This article was submitted Sunday night (7.31.22).
Shohei Ohtani: Rumors, rumors, rumors. So far, the Los Angeles Angels of Annapolis, Maryland have declined all trade offers. Apparently the same is true for the Anaheim-based Angles team. Still, in the past week, we learned that the Angels’ star outfielder Mike Trout has a chronic inflammatory condition that will affect his back and cause him to take extended and unpredictable trips to the IL. Could this revelation lead the Angels to start a rebuild? The Angels could trade Ohtani for the entire Pirates team at this point…which would then make them the Pirates + part-time Mike Trout. Is that any better? As a Minnesotan, I lived through the 2007 Kevin Garnett for 3/4 of the Boston Celtics trade that brought another championship to Bean Town. Meanwhile, out here in the corn fields, the Wolves did nothing with their trade assets and failed to break .500 until the 2017 season. Are you listening, Angels management? Ohtani’s fantasy value would skyrocket if traded — I mean, he continues to top the Player Rater despite having guys like Luis Rengifo batting behind him. Ohtani becomes arbitration eligible in 2023 and a free agent in 2024. There are GMs out there who are absolutely gnawing at the bit to acquire Ohtani and make him a half-billion dollar man (source: my imagination). Imagine Ohtani ending up in Yankee Stadium, or batting alongside the Blue Jays hitters. Those teams wouldn’t need to pay him until 2024 even. Whew, I’m getting sweaty. No news is bad fantasy news: for now, Ohtani’s staying in Anaheim.
Carlos Rodon: NBC reports that the San Francisco Giants are thinking about trading Rodon, which would signal — most likely — that the Giants are packing in the season and not aiming for the playoffs. Rodon’s been one of the best pitchers in MLB this year, and moving to a more competitive team could buffet those Wins and give fantasy managers a top 10 SP for the rest of the season. Rodon’s guaranteed money runs out after the season and reports indicate that Rodon isn’t interested in staying in the Bay Area, so he could be an acquirable asset for just about any team out there for a reasonable price.
Frankie Montas: The Athletics are giving up on their Moneyball pursuit and going straight dumpster fire. Montas will likely be traded in the next few days. MLB Trade Rumors reported that the front-runners in the Montas trade market are the Cardinals, Yankees, and Blue Jays. Montas has basically replicated his 2021 campaign, which earned him a respectable SP22 finish. Thing was, in 2021, Montas notched 13 Wins. In 2022, Montas has 4 Wins. Yeesh. The Cardinals would be the obvious fantasy best-landing for Montas (do you want to pitch in the AL East?). Regardless of the landing spot, Montas should stay on your roster — he’s not a fantasy sell, unless he ends up on a dark horse team like the Rangers or something.
Tyler Mahle: Same story as Castillo above — moving out of the Great American Ballpark will do wonders for Mahle. Since May 29, Mahle has a 2.83 ERA, 10+ K/9…and 3 Wins in 9 Games Started. Yeesh. Like Luis Castillo, Mahle is still under team control, meaning that potential suitors will likely need to pay beaucoup bucks to land the 27-year-old starter. That said, if you’re a GM of a team that’s 2-3 years from contending, I’d love to employ Mahle. In the past 3 years, Mahle has notched over 330 IP, good for 26th most in MLB, basically tied with Charlie Morton, Logan Webb, and Brandon Woodruff. In the similar cohort of SP, Mahle is 9th overall in K/9, ranking ahead of the likes of Yu Darvish and Luis Castillo. Mahle’s 3.93 ERA sits in-between Aaron Nola and Lucas Giolito, and his 3.75 FIP is just behind Dylan Cease. Fantasy managers — cross your fingers. Mahle on a winning team — or just a competent team — could be a top 15 SP for the rest of season or even next year.
Tucker Davidson: For whatever beat writers are worth, Atlanta Braves writer Mark Bowman noted this week that he thinks the Braves trade two prospects for Tyler Mahle. He lists Kyle Wright and Tucker Davidson as intriguing prospects. I doubt Wright gets moved now — he’s clearly figured it out and he’s under team control until the Forward Party decides a political platform. But Davidson? He’s still got a lot to prove. It’s not like the Great American Ballpark is a great place to prove yourself — see Mahle and Castillo — but opportunity is king. Davidson needs an opportunity, and if the beat writers are name-dropping, it pays to listen.
News and Notes
Brady Singer: I left Singer off of last week’s update because it was getting way too long. Singer’s K/9 had been nearly as blistering (in a good way, like sunburn) as other top pitchers, but at 2K words, I decided to call it a week without a Singer sighting. Then Singer goes for 10K against the Yanks, with an insane 15+ K/9 over his last two outings. Yes, pickup Singer if he’s available. His fastball velocity is up 2 MPH over the past few games, and we’re seeing enough clues of changes that merit Singer entering fantasy relevance for 2022. Just don’t be terribly disappointed if Singer turns into a pumpkin again — his 4.30 ERA matched his 4.20 FIP for the first two months of the year, and he’s only sustained 9+ K/9 one time in his career — a short burst in 2021, where he also had a 6+ ERA and nearly 5 FIP. Fingers crossed Singer can hit the high notes to finish 2022.
Alex Cobb: 10+ K/9 with a near 2.00 ERA over his last three starts. He’s always coming back from injury, and it looks like he’s back on track. Hasn’t allowed a barrel in his past 4 games. Acquire and start.
Braxton Garrett: Seems like he’s learning at the Sandy Alcantara School of Pitchcraft and Whiffery. [thinks about fan fiction] Garrett was pretty bleh when he arrived in MLB, with a K/9 in the 7ish range and an ERA of 4.30. Over his last three starts, Garrett learned his Whiffyarmus spell, with a K/9 exceeding 13.0 and his FIP sitting in the 2.00 range. Admittedly, two of those games were against the Pirates and one against the Reds…but a Whiffer has to start somewhere, right? Acquire, start, but be ready for trolls.
Bailey Falter: Has been picking up slack in the Phillies’ rotation throughout the year, but his 11+ K/9 and 2ish BB/9 over his last 4 starts is intriguing. His BABIP is near .350, meaning teams have been getting overly lucky on contact; the launch angle of nearly 25 degrees doesn’t help. Could be an intriguing arm for deep league managers or those looking for NFBC spot starts — high risk, high reward.
Jose Berrios: Ah, schadenfreude. As a Twins fan, I miss Berrios. Then, as a Twins fan, I secretly had a twinge of satisfaction when Berrios struggled out of the gate in 2022 — not as a hate on Berrios, but more as a satisfaction that I wouldn’t be reliving another instance of “Departed Twin becomes Hall of Famer for another team.” So, Berrios’ first half of 2022 was utter trash and a lot of people gave up on him. But Berrios’ past 5 starts? 11+ K/9, sub 2.0 BB/9, 3.41 ERA/3.20FIP. Is Berrios back? Maybe. He still needs to get more whiffs — his swinging strike rate is massively variant, ranging from 5% to nearly 20%. But, you don’t care when Sandy Alcantara does that, right? More interesting about Berrios is his .364 BABIP over that period. BABIP can be driven by multiple factors, but two primary factors are 1) luck (hit it where they ain’t) and 2) line drives (can’t field what zooms past you). Berrios’ line drive percentage is a nice 18% over the past 5 games, which indicates that we’re seeing more damage done from “bad” luck than the quality of hits. With this evidence in hand, I’m happy to say: start Berrios from here on out. [Siri, remind me to delete this article if Berrios breaks bad again]
Spencer Strider: Just about every week, people ask me, “Are you actually confident in your Spencer Strider ranking?” I mean, I’m confident of nothing. Just ask my friends about my self-image. But, the reason I make this weird little equation is to try and figure out which pitchers are going to do well in the near future. Since Strider debuted atop my rankings after my vacation in June, the rookie has notched a 13.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 2.20 ERA/1.90 FIP, and 2 Wins while racking up 32 IP. His swinging strike rate has topped 20% multiple times, and his barrel rate is a paltry 6% (5 barrels allowed in his last 7 starts). Strider is now SP30 on the year, and his fantasy value lags only because of his lack of W — he has the fewest Wins of any SP in the top 30 (Strider is the only negative value Win SP among the top 30 SP). Now, any player can turn into a pumpkin at any time — that’s just the nature of the game. But right now, Strider’s showing us all that he’s deserving of an elite ranking for the rest of the year.