Throughout January and February, we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.
New York has basically treated the Yahoo! ultimate free agent tracker like a grocery list. The Yankees print money, and they throw it at brand-name talent. Let's review...
CC Sabathia, signed for seven years, $161 million
Sabathia will be the first American League pitcher taken in your draft, and rightly so. His current Mock Draft Central ADP is 34.8. Over the past two seasons, he's delivered astonishing ratios -- particularly in Milwaukee (1.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) -- while pitching 494 innings. Sabathia's K-rate has been on a multi-year upward trend, too. The Yankees aren't likely to push him beyond the 240-inning mark again, not in the first year of a nine-figure deal. For that reason, his '09 fantasy value takes a small hit. And of course you can't expect Sabathia to repeat the Dead Ball Era rates he put up with the Brewers. And yeah, he's a high-mileage 300-pound pitcher.
But there are disclaimers with everyone. CC is still the best fantasy option among AL starters. The run support will be plentiful and Sabathia will be handing leads to Mariano Rivera. It's an outstanding situation.
Mark Teixeira, signed for eight years, $180 million
The switch-hitting Teixeira is the 14th overall pick in an average draft at MDC, and he's typically the fourth first basemen selected (behind Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Howard). Few players are more reliable. He's had at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in each of the past five seasons, and he's a career .290/.378/.541 hitter. He's also in his prime. The Yankees 2-3-4 hitters will be Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira, possibly in that order. The run and RBI totals should be obscene.
If you pass on Teixeira with the turn picks in Round 1 and 2, you're not going to get Lance Berkman (ADP 15.6), Justin Morneau (20.0) or Prince Fielder (24.3) in Round 3. The position might seem deep, but the high-end talent flies off the board very early. Teixeira is a perfectly reasonable pick in the 10-15 range, although hardcore positional scarcity fetishists will disagree.
AJ Burnett, five years, $82.5 million
Most Burnett discussions begin with these words: "When healthy..."
We know, of course, that Burnett can be an outstanding fantasy starter. His K-rate is excellent (9.4 K/9), and he's finished with sub-4.00 ERAs in four of the past five seasons. He still has the mid-90s fastball and the huge, occasionally troublesome curve. Burnett has been pitching in the AL East for the past three seasons, so there's no league adjustment to fear. The worry is health. Burnett has made 30 starts only twice, and he's coming off career highs in innings (221.1) and total pitches (3650). You have to expect that over the course of a five-year deal, there could be a lost season or two.
He's still a risk worth taking in fantasy drafts. Burnett's current ADP is 96.8, so you don't have to reach too early to acquire his services. If you're the sort of fantasy owner who waits until Round 8 or 9 to select your first SP, then this is your guy.
Nick Swisher, acquired via trade
We'll look at the other side of this deal when we get to the White Sox. For now, we're just considering Swisher. It's possible that we're going to have to discuss him a second time, too, because the Yankees are shopping him. When New York signed Teixeira, there wasn't really a place left for Swisher. Hideki Matsui will DH, and Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady occupy the corner outfield spots.
That's not to say that Swisher can't be moderately useful to someone, somewhere. If he gets at-bats, expect him to be better than he was in 2008. He had miserable luck last season (.251 BABIP) despite posting the best line-drive percentage of his career (20.9). It's unlikely that he'll hit .219 again, although he's still going to remain a liability in batting average. You generally look for a nice OBP from Swisher, modest power, lots of Ks, and 80-plus runs scored...but not if he spends the season as a part-timer.
OK, you'll notice that we somehow made it through four player blurbs without posing this ridiculous question:
"How will _____ handle the pressure of playing in New York?"
In sports, lots of inane things are routinely presented as legitimate analysis. Nothing annoys me as much as the NYC pressure debate. We're expected to believe that certain elite athletes -- after enduring years of public scrutiny and excelling at every level -- are capable of achieving greatness anywhere on Earth...except in New York, the world's 13th largest city.
That's total nonsense, but you can understand why it persists. It's no doubt a source of great pride for New Yorkers and media members. It's also a spectacular excuse if you're the general manager of a New York team. There are no mistakes; there are only players who can't deal with the spotlight.
You're free to use the comments section to discuss the relative pressure-resistance of various players, of course. On Monday we'll move on to another contender from the AL East.
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