Said Brewers GM Doug Melvin, after pulling a deal that landed C.C. Sabathia from Cleveland, "We're going for it …" In addition to Wrigleyville, St. Louis and the rest of the cities home to NL contenders, Melvin's words should resonate with fantasy owners as well. We're more than halfway through the season. If you have deals that need to be made, it's high time you figure out how to make them as opposed to waiting for some pre-determined August fantasy trade deadline. Melvin understood that if he was going to make a move for an ace, he might as well make it sooner rather than later to enjoy as much of the positive impact as possible. In fantasy, there's few problems that can't be fixed (assuming you have talent to deal) if you can make a move by mid-July. But waiting an extra month on top of that backs you up pretty firmly against the wall.
Let's take a look at July's movers and shakers before I heed my own advice and go look for some deals to make in a couple of my leagues:
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• Adam Jones, Bal, OF
Judging by his four percent ownership in Y! leagues, not too many have noticed that Jones has been on a tear since June 1, hitting .339 in the 33 games in that stretch. Fourteen of those games have been multi-hit efforts, and he's been particularly hot in his past 10 games – 18-for-40 (.450). Jones' 25-30 home run upside hasn't kicked in yet, as he's homerless in his past 27 games. But he's doing a decent job of driving in runs (19 RBI in past 33) and scoring runs (17). O's manager Dave Trembley points to better pitch recognition as the reason behind Jones' recent surge. As Jones continues to figure things out at the plate, you can bet a significant bump in power in the second half is coming.
• Johnny Cueto, Cin, SP
Cueto, owned in 43 percent of Y! leagues, is finally on track after posting a 5.40 ERA in each of the first two months of his Reds' career. In his past seven starts, he's 4-3 with a 3.53 ERA in 43.1 IP. He's also starting to curb the long ball problems. He served up 18 home runs in his first 14 outings (79.2 IP), but he's allowed just one home run in his past 25.1 IP. We often see talented rookie pitchers get it together after the All-Star break (see Tim Lincecum in '07). If he can continue to limit the deep shots, Cueto looks poised for a nice second-half run.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
Francisco Liriano, Min, SP (ETA – late July/early August)
The Twins are enjoying success with their current rotation (Livan Hernandez, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins), but given the overall youth and, well, Livan Hernandez, something has to give eventually. Hernandez leads the team with nine wins, but his ERA is at 5.19. Rookie Perkins has quality starts in four of his past five outings, but he has luck to thank for much of his 5-2 record and 4.27 ERA – opponents have hit over .300 against him, he's allowing 1.4 HR per nine innings and his WHIP is at a lofty 1.48. Be it an injury or a turn for the worse on the production side, something is likely to occur in the next few weeks to allow an opening for Liriano, who has it going on right now for Triple-A Rochester. In his past two starts, Liriano has produced a line of 13 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 16 K. He's logged eight quality starts in his past 11 outings and has fanned at least seven hitters in six of his past eight starts. He's also pounding the strike zone once again – one walk or less in 10 of his past 11 starts. The Twins can afford to be patient for now, but Liriano's resurgence also allows them the luxury of not having to be too patient if they encounter bumps in the road with their rotation.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Cody Ross, Fla, OF (9 percent owned) – After a 10 home run binge in May, Ross is making RBIs his July specialty. In his past four games, Ross has 15 RBIs to go with a .600 BA (12-for-20), two home runs and six runs.
Andre Ethier, LAD, OF (16%) – Ethier has launched four home runs in his past 10 games and is hitting .444 in July (six games).
Adam LaRoche, Pit, 1B (35%) – LaRoche's April/May shortcomings have been well-chronicled in fantasy circles. But, for his career, LaRoche has an OPS that borders .900 after the All-Star break. That's why it comes as little surprise to see the Bucs' first baseman breaking out over the past week – 10-for-22 (.455), two home runs, eight RBIs, five runs in his past seven games.
Rick Ankiel, Mil, SS (81%) – Ankiel has provided his own fireworks this July, exploding for four home runs, 10 RBIs and seven runs in his past nine games.
Grant Balfour, TB, RP (15%) – Part of the closer committee while Troy Percival observes his DL time, the Aussie Balfour has dominated for the Rays out of the bullpen since getting called up on May 31. He's the No. 23 ranked pitcher in the Y! game for the past month and has allowed a run in just one of his 13 appearances. He's also sporting a 27:7 K-to-BB ratio in 17.2 IP.
Andy Sonnanstine, TB, SP (28%) – The Rays' control specialist is 4-0 over his past seven starts, walking just seven batters in 40 innings. He also hasn't allowed a home run or more than three earned runs in any of his past eight starts.
Chan Ho Park, LAD, P (8%) – Park has looked positively '97 over his past four outings – 2-0, 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings. He's also kept the walks down – 23:5 K-to-BB ratio.
Manny Ramirez, Bos, OF – Man-Ram has struck out in 13 consecutive games and has homered just once in his past 22 contests.
Orlando Cabrera, ChW, SS – Cabrera is just 3-for-22 (.136) in July, and has gone 10 straight games without a steal.
Jose Guillen,KC, OF – After hitting .345 in June, Guillen has pulled a 180 in July – 3-for-22 (.136). He also has gone 12 straight games without a home run.