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Big Rotowski: Deal Points

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I've already waxed rhapsodic about the increased fantasy values of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle, as well as my opinion that Carlos Lee, Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero all gain value as a result of the Texas/Milwaukee swap last week. But who else benefits from getting dealt (or not dealt) before the July 31st trade deadline? And whose fantasy value gets gutted? Oh, you'll see lots of assessments of which major-league team did the best and worst (hint: Yankees and Pirates, respectively), but we want to give fantasy players what they really need: a roundup that assesses individual value gained or lost. So here we go.

Players Who Gained Value
Lastings Milledge, NYM, OF
Our first gainer – and I'd argue outside of Bobby Abreu and Carlos Lee our most important – is a guy who didn't change organizations. That, in itself, speaks well for Milledge's fantasy value, because in New York he's got the chance to be in a lineup more powerful than a string of Mel Gibson epithets – And that's powerful. Best of all for Milledge owners, the Mets dealt away Xavier Nady (see below) and didn't acquire another corner outfielder, clearing the way for Milledge to come back to the majors and play most every day. For now, Endy Chavez may get some extra time, and may even platoon a bit when Milledge comes back from Norfolk. But make no mistake: trading Nady was a vote of confidence for Milledge. The future is now.

Eddie Guardado, Cin, RP
I'm still not a big believer, but when an ex-closer gets dealt to the inferior league and his new team removes the "ex" from his title, it's certainly a boost in fantasy value. As the lead fireman in a revamped bullpen on a team that's supposedly making a playoff push, Guardado's a must-own in all formats. That he's pitched 13 innings and given up three earned runs, and recorded 14 strikeouts, four walks, a win and six saves since he's been with Cincinnati speaks well of his chances for the rest of '06. Also remember that because Seattle dealt away Guardado, J.J. Putz – who was already just about secure as a closer can be – tightened his grip on the Mariners closer's role even further.

Ryan Freel, Cin, OF
The primary beneficiary of the deal that sent Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to Washington was supposed to be Chris Denorfia, and while Denorfia should also be on the "benefit" list, he's started four times in the 16 games since the big trade. In the meantime, Freel has started 10 games since then, and only missed the first six contests after the trade because of a sore shoulder. He's a fixture in Kearns's old right-field spot, and has hit .318 with 2 HR, 6 RBI and 3 SB as the unquestioned RF starter – he's up to 23 steals on the year. Those in search of reliable speed and roster versatility – in Yahoo! games, Freel qualifies at 2B, 3B and all outfield positions – need look no further.

Ryan Shealy, KC, 1B
Finally. Shealy has been stuck behind Todd Helton for what seems like three decades (all right, it's been a year-and-a-half), but he's a very good prospect who hit .330/.413/.473 in 91 at-bats in Helton's absence in '05. He also slugged 29 and 26 homers in the '04 and '05 minor-league seasons, and drilled another 14 in 222 Triple-A at-bats so far this year. The Royals gave up on one decent pitching prospect (Denny Bautista) and one former closer (Jeremy Affeldt) to get Shealy, and plus dealt away Matt Stairs. All signs point to Shealy getting a fair shake with the Royals, which makes him a very good AL-only play for the rest of '06.

Sean Casey, Det, 1B
Casey is certainly a big-name acquisition, and he'll step right in and play most games as the first baseman on the team with the best record in baseball. But the ballpark in Detroit is certainly less hitter-friendly than his old digs in Cincy or his temporary digs in Pittsburgh, and Casey hasn't exactly lit it up this year no matter where he's played: it's August 1, and the dude's hit three homers and driven in 29. Granted he missed half of April and all of May with fractured vertebrae, but still. He has had 213 at-bats, folks. Bump Casey up a little because the team around him is good, expect a few more RBI and runs scored, but that's about it.

Greg Maddux, LAD, SP
I know, it's harsh to list Maddux this low on a list of impact acquisitions, and getting himself the heck out of the poisonous Cub confines can't do anything but help. The problem is: I just don't think Maddux has much left in the tank. His 5-0 start was clearly the same sort of charlatan act that allowed Ed Burns to make The Brothers McMullen and then follow it up with She's The One. Now Maddux smacks of Tom Seaver circa 1986, when the Red Sox traded for him looking for a jumpstart. There's no league change here, so batters won't be baffled by Maddux's junk, and the "new" strike zone – read: where umpires are required to actually call balls off the plate, y'know, balls – doesn't exactly work in his favor either. I don't blame the Dodgers for getting him, but don't expect much fantasy improvement.

Roberto Hernandez, NYM, RP
Hernandez's days as a true fantasy factor lie somewhere in his murky past, where it's alleged he was once a closer for teams as divergent as the White Sox, Devil Rays and Royals. In his 15th major-league season, the 41-year-old Hernandez looked to be on his way out, posting a woeful 1.63 WHIP and .264 BAA with the Pirates. However, the trip back to New York to replace the injured Duaner Sanchez could be good news for Hernandez owners, especially those who participate in leagues that use Holds as a category. Hernandez suddenly finds himself on the National League's best team, where leads are plentiful. Remember, as a setup man on a far worse Mets team in '05, Hernandez posted a 1.22 WHIP and a .228 BAA.

Kyle Lohse, Cin, SP
Well, it's better than pitching in Rochester, right? I'm not saying run out and sign this guy no matter what, because he was just dealt from the homer-friendly Metrodome to run-friendly Great American, but Lohse is the possessor of a very strong right arm, and if someone could get inside that funky goatee of his (or the cranium to which it's attached), he could be a decent pitcher. Hey, he's a flier: he posted a 7.07 ERA in 63.2 innings in Minnesota, along with a 1.65 WHIP and a .308 BAA. But the Reds have had luck converting AL starters into NL stars (see Arroyo, Bronson), so there's a value increase here.

Nelson Cruz, Tex, OF
The Carlos Lee trade made a lot of sense for Texas only because they finagled Cruz out of the Brewers, so giving up Mench and Cordero doesn't only result in an eight-week rental of Lee. Cruz isn't going to be a stud by any means, but he featured a .902 OPS at Triple-A Nashville with 17 steals this year. If Lee leaves in '07 (and he will), Cruz can be a just-about-average regular in right field. For this year, for now, he's the right-handed-hitting part of a complicated platoon system that involves Mark DeRosa and Brad Wilkerson. Oh, yeah, and Matt Stairs. Cruz's value increases here because he stays on a major-league roster and probably plays against most lefties. But let's not go crazy.

Joel Guzman, TB, SS
Great. Just what the Devil Rays needed: another elite prospect with questionable character. Guzman is still only 21, but as one of the game's best prospects – at either shortstop or third base – he got tagged with a "lazy" label over the past year or so, and it became clear that the Dodgers soured on him a bit. That's almost certainly why they were willing to trade what used to be their No. 1 overall prospect for a two-month Julio Lugo rental. I was tempted to actually give Guzman a slight fantasy downgrade because of this move; the Rays don't need anymore "can't-miss" kids, they need guys who can play right now. But the rumor seems to be that Tampa is giving strong consideration to bringing Guzman to the big club at the same time they give B.J. Upton another try, and perhaps play Guzman at first or in the outfield for the time being. If they do, you have to grab him, because he's got elite power potential.

Cesar Izturis, ChC, SS
He moves from a utility role to the Cubs' starting shortstop – with Ronny Cedeno likely moving to second – so in that regard, yes, his value increases. Do you want to race right out and get him, expecting anything resembling offensive production? No. You don't.

Shawn Chacon, Pit, SP
Chacon qualifies for this list only because he was buried in New York, and now he's taken over Kip Wells's rotation spot in Pittsburgh. Is it possible Chacon winds up being worth a very light investment in NL-only leagues? I suppose. Is it likely? Um …

Other Players Whose Values Go Up: Endy Chavez, NYM; David Dellucci, Phi; Shane Victorino, Phi; Joe Randa or Jose Hernandez, Pit; Bill Bray, Cin

Players Who Lost Value
Chris Shelton, Det, 1B
Ouch. Shelton went ahead and pulled a Dan Johnson, except at least Johnson doesn't have a newly acquired former All-Star (and Mayor) ahead of him. The guy everyone was talking about when he hit nine homers in the season's first 13 games has hit seven since, and now because the Tigers traded for Sean Casey, Shelton finds himself demoted to Triple-A Toledo. Unfortunately, there probably isn't a way out of this for Shelton owners; because Detroit didn't trade any of its "excess" outfielders (read: Craig Monroe), Casey's arrival means that reserve at-bats are already going to be precious. I don't expect Shelton to get many of them for the rest of '06.

Derrick Turnbow, Mil, RP
The nutty Brewers management can go on and on as much as it wants about how Turnbow is their man, and acquiring Francisco Cordero wasn't a shot aimed across Turnbow's bow. Whatever. The kid has blown four of his past five save opportunities, and did his darnedest on Sunday to screw up a 4-2 lead, whereupon Cordero had to come in and bail him out. For as long as Milwaukee thinks it's in the wild card race, the Brewers have to consider using Cordero in Turnbow's place, because amassing a 21.32 ERA in 11 July appearances isn't getting it done. Cordero gives the team a different option.

Julio Lugo, LAD, SS
Unless the Dodgers know something they're not telling us about Jeff Kent and/or Nomar Garciaparra, trading away a potentially elite talent like Joel Guzman for two months of a guy who couldn't get arrested (well, yeah he could) when he played for Houston smacks of some seriously stoned GM'ing. Kent and Nomar are on the DL, but each is expected back within a week or two, at which point Garciaparra goes back to first, Kent to second, Rafael Furcal plays short and, one assumes, the recently acquired Wilson Betemit stays at third. That leaves Lugo to DH. Uh, except this is the National League. Listen, Lugo can run, and he's not suddenly going to lose all his fantasy value in Chavez Ravine. But if the two older stars are healthy, I'm trying to come up with a scenario where Lugo doesn't lose at-bats. I'm still looking.

Craig Wilson, NYY, OF
Not that Wilson was exactly setting the fantasy world on fire in Pittsburgh – he was hitting .267 with 13 HR and 38 RBI – but at least he'd amassed 255 at-bats. He'll be lucky to get 55 in New York playing for the Yankees. With Abreu in right and Bernie Williams needing to see at-bats, I'd imagine we're going to see quite a lot of Jason Giambi at first for the time being, and that's to say nothing of the logjam if/when Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui come back. Oh, yeah, and there's Andy Phillips to contend with. Whatever fantasy value was there with Wilson is long gone and hard to find.

Alfonso Soriano, Was, OF
Yeah, that's right, I said it. Soriano would've been more valuable in any number of other cities, playing for any number of other clubs. Instead, he's stuck for another two months in that mausoleum they call RFK. I grant you, it hasn't exactly hurt Soriano's numbers to this point – .286, 32 HR, 64 RBI, 26 SB – but it sure would've been sweet to see him bat at the top of, say, the Angels lineup. Before the hate mail starts: I'm not saying get rid of Soriano. I'm just saying Jim Bowden's apparent stubbornness cost Soriano a chance for an even further bump in value. If the Nationals don't re-sign Soriano, Bowden should be fired on the spot.

Todd Walker, SD, 2B
Walker will move from playing second with the dreadful Cubbies to playing third, some of the time, with the much-better Padres. The problem is that San Diego (rightly) doesn't trust Walker against left-handed pitching, and since Bruce Bochy will have both Mark Bellhorn and Geoff Blum lying around the dugout gathering dust, it seems unlikely that Walker will see much time against southpaws, whereas in Chicago Walker was a full-time guy. Fewer starts mean less fantasy value.

Matt Stairs, Tex, OF
Not that a ton of championship-contending fantasy teams were relying heavily on Stairs, but AL-only owners of his probably want to look elsewhere. By moving from Kansas City to Texas, Stairs gets a really nice bump skyward in terms of home-ballpark potential, but a massive slide downward in playing time. Like Craig Wilson, Stairs is heading into backup country on a team whose depth is actually rather extraordinary. He's a pinch hitter and one-day-a-week starter now.

Kip Wells, Tex, SP
If you got lured into Wells ownership by his most recent three decent outings – after which his season ERA went from 12.42 to 6.69 – time to fall in love elsewhere. Wells jumps into a Rangers rotation where mediocre pitchers go to die, and is a health risk besides. Ask Kevin Millwood how he feels about Ameriquest Field sometime.

Other Players Whose Values Go Down: Bernie Williams, Aaron Guiel, Bubba Crosby, NYY; Blum and Bellhorn, SD; John Rheinecker, Tex; Joe Inglett, Cle.

Players Who Kept Value Around The Same
Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, Was; Aubrey Huff, Hou; Xavier Nady, Pit; Wilson Betemit, LAD; Ronnie Belliard, StL; Hector Luna, Cle; Oliver Perez, NYM; Jeremy Affeldt, Col; Scott Dohmann, KC; Gary Majewski, Cin; Royce Clayton, Cin; Rheal Cormier, Cin; Bryan Corey, Bos.