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BY TIM McLEOD
Well folks, it looks like one of our favourite times of the year is rapidly approaching. The inter-league trade deadline is just around the corner and — especially for those playing in AL- and NL-only formats — some rather big decisions that will dramatically change the fantasy game will be played out. Friday, the Yankees acquired both Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates. My condolences to those playing in NL-only leagues. The contenders and pretenders will be looking to improve their lot for the stretch run and your fantasy team can either benefit or lose ground rapidly. Just remember this week that if you snooze, you can really lose. If you have the FAAB to spend and it is a difference maker, remember you can’t take it with you. You don’t want to be left saying ‘could have, would have and should have,’ come the last week of September.
In addition to the fun that is the trading deadline, we’ve had a wave of closer-related moves this week, so those seeking saves better pay attention.
Without further ado, let’s look at some of the potential waiver wire pickups heading into the trade deadline.
Fernando Rodney, Detroit, RP: In a rather surprising move, Detroit manager Jim Leyland announced prior to Sunday’s game that Rodney has taken over the closing job from Todd Jones. The Tigers are currently firing on all cylinders, making Rodney a solid acquisition in all formats. Anyone want to place a wager Rodney jumps from his current three per cent ownership level in CBS leagues? Get on this one fast, kiddies!
David Purcey, Toronto, SP: It looks like the Blue Jays are going to try to sort out the future, but demoting Jesse Litsch is just another in a series of baffling moves by the J.P. Ricciardi regime. Is John Parrish the answer heading into 2009? Enter Purcey, a 26-year-old southpaw who was enjoying a very strong season at Triple-A Syracuse. He has posted a superb 2.69 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 117 innings pitched. The key to Purcey’s success has been limiting the free passes to only 34 in 19 starts. If the improved control can be translated to the bigs, Purcey has the potential to be successful down the stretch, making him a decent gamble in AL-only leagues.
Joel Hanrahan, Washington, RP: Another week, another new closer. The Nationals traded Jon Rauch this past week and immediately announced that Hanrahan is their new closer. Given his 65 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings pitched, Hanrahan is dominant enough to handle his new role. Yes, he walks too many, but at this stage of the season is that really going to hurt you in the WHIP category? I don’t think so. If you’re in the market for ten to 15 saves over the balance of the year, Hanrahan could be a solid addition to your bullpen.
Freddy Sanchez, Pittsburgh, 2B: In what has been a very disappointing year, Sanchez is finally starting to heat up. In the past week, he is hitting to the tune of a .467 BA with two homers, seven RBI and nine runs scored. His numbers over the balance of the year should be more in line with his past levels of performance, making Sanchez a solid acquisition in all deep formats and an especially attractive one in NL-only leagues.
Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh, SP: The 26-year-old southpaw is very quietly enjoying a solid year with the Pirates. In the past month, he has recorded two wins, a 2.68 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched. Maholm has allowed a scant five base-on-balls in his past five starts, and is surprisingly still available in most mixed formats. Roster him quick before the rest of your league figures this one out.
Josh Fields, Chicago White Sox, 3B: Joe Crede has finally succumbed once again to the DL with those on-going back woes, so Fields has been called up from the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. If you are in need of a boost in those power numbers and can afford the hit to your batting average, Fields has the potential to be an asset down the stretch. The other option for the White Sox would be Juan Uribe ; need I say more? Fields is a decent acquisition in AL-only leagues and should be on the radar in mixed formats.
Ryan Sweeney, Oakland, OF: For those looking for an outfielder with decent batting average and stolen base potential, Sweeney could be your man. He’s certainly available in most formats with a scant eight per cent of teams in CBS leagues utilizing his services. Over the past month, he is batting .338, with one homer, ten RBI and a couple of stolen bases. Sweeney has moved into the leadoff slot for the Athletics, which should give him plenty of opportunities to score runs. He’s a solid add in AL-only leagues and should be on the radar in mixed formats.
John Grabow, Pittsburgh, RP: The recent trade of Marte to the Yankees has opened up the closer gig in Steel City. Don’t you guys in NL-only leagues just love this move? Grabow is the early favourite for saves, but a bullpen-by-committee can’t be ruled out. When the other option is currently Tyler Yates, who has allowed earned runs in six of his past seven appearances, I’d have to lay my money on Grabow here. The 29-year-old southpaw has posted a solid 3.08 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings pitched this year and should be owned in all formats.
Melvin Mora, Baltimore, 3B: Since the break, Mora has been on fire. In the past month, he has hit five homers and driven in 25 while batting .310. He is also currently available in about 50 per cent of all leagues. If Mora is still sitting on waivers in your league add him. In deeper formats, ride the hot streak and look for other options if and when the inevitable cooling off occurs. Either way, he’s an excellent addition for those in deep leagues requiring a middle-infield slot, AL-only and H2H leagues.
Eugenio Velez, San Francisco, 2B: The trade this past week of Ray Durham to the Brewers has opened the door for Velez to see increased playing time for the Giants. This would be the same Velez that led all players with 16 thefts in only 84 at bats in the 2008 preseason. If speed is your need, there’s definite potential here, so Velez should be acquired in NL-only leagues and deeper formats where the ten to 15 stolen bases could be a difference maker.
Adam Lind, Toronto, OF: In the past month, Lind has entrenched himself in the Blue Jay lineup by hitting .351 with four homers and 20 RBI. He’s hitting everything hard right now and with the Jays currently playing for pride and Ricciardi’s future, Lind should get plenty of playing time over the balance of this year, making him a solid acquisition in all formats.
Willie Harris, Washington, 2B/3B/OF: Okay, let’s be honest here, did anyone see this one coming? Harris currently owns the lead-off spot for the Nationals and is on fire. Over the past ten games, he has amassed three homers (urine test, please), ten RBI and a gaudy .459 BA. Toss in the stolen base and runs scored potential hitting at the top of the order and you have a great, albeit probably short-term acquisition in H2H formats and NL-only leagues.
Jerry Hairston, Jr., Cincinnati, 2B/SS/3B/OF: Hairston, placed on the DL July 14 with a hamstring strain, was batting .351 in 188 at bats this year with 15 stolen bases. He is looking at a return August 1 and will probably be resuming his successful lead-off role for the Reds. Expect more of the same solid numbers down the stretch. Hairston is currently owned in only 19 per cent of CBS leagues, a somewhat surprising number based on his solid performance in 2008. If you have the need for speed, he’s a great acquisition.
Chris Carpenter, St. Louis, SP: Manager Tony LaRussa has announced that Carpenter would be activated off the DL and start Wednesday against the Braves. Carpenter has been out since Opening Day 2007 and is coming off Tommy John surgery. In what would appear to be his final rehab start, he went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two earned runs while striking out five. It looks like the control is coming around nicely as he threw 53 of 78 pitches for strikes. Just remember that Carpenter is returning from a very serious operation, so temper those expectations somewhat. The dominating Chris Carpenter will probably not resurface until next spring. That being said, even an average final two months out of him could be a difference maker in all formats.
Steve Pearce, Pittsburgh, OF: The trade of Nady to the Yankees has opened up a window of opportunity for Pearce. He’s had a disappointing campaign and the clock is ticking for Pearce with Andrew McCutcheon and those 26 stolen bases waiting in the wings down on the farm. This year at Triple-A Indianapolis, Pearce hit 11 homers, with 54 RBI and a .258 BA. He’s a decent grab in NL-only leagues and the deepest of keeper formats, but again, be wary that if he doesn’t produce, the Pirates do have other options.
Kaz Matsui, Houston, 2B: Since returning from his latest stint on the DL with a strained right hamstring, Matsui has been slotted back in the lead-off spot for the Astros. For those looking at filling a rather weak position, and who need help in both the runs scored and stolen base categories, grab him now before the inevitable next trip to the DL.
Anthony Reyes, Cleveland, SP/RP: The Cardinals finally tired of Reyes’ under-achieving ways and constant headbutting with pitching coach Dave Duncan , shipping the enigmatic Reyes to the Indians this past week. Reyes never fulfilled his huge potential with the Cards, but at just 26 he is still young enough to make us forget those past struggles. This year, in ten starts at Triple-A Memphis, he went 2-2 with a 2.83 ERA and 41 Ks in 47 2/3 IP. Reyes has been teasing fantasy owners for years now and with the Indians rebuilding, it could be time to see if he has the potential to step up his game or if he’ll continue to be the consummate Quad-A player he has been to date. Reyes makes for a decent gamble in deep keeper formats and AL-only leagues.
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