We're just a week away from the trade deadline in Major League Baseball. A couple minor deals have signaled the beginning of what should be an interesting 7-10 days of activity. The rumor mill is churning about loads of big names: Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Billy Wagner, Alfonso Soriano. Aside from a smallish list of untouchables, there's probably at least one rumor for any player you can name.
There's also tons of injury information to pass along and our weekly look-in on league activity. Let's see what's on the radar in Fantasy Baseball This Week.
- Is the charmed season for the Nationals in jeopardy? Livan Hernandez, winner of 12 games and the anchor of the staff, has been bothered all year by discomfort in his right knee. The latest reports have the right-hander contemplating surgery that would end his season. Is this just a temper tantrum after a couple losses or is he really done? Time will tell.
- It's bad news again for the Cubs rotation, as Kerry Wood was forced to leave his Wednesday start after three innings with stiffness in his shoulder. Dusty Baker told The Chicago Tribune: "He said it was similar inflammation to spring training. We just have to see how he comes out of this." An MRI will be forthcoming as the week draws to a close.
- Staying in Chicago, Dustin Hermanson has been experiencing back spasms that made him unavailable to Ozzie Guillen. For several days, my inbox was bombarded with questions about Guillen's sanity as Cliff Politte worked out of the closer role. Owners feared a repeat of the Shingo Takatsu demotion. Not to worry folks; Hermanson really is injured. Results of an MRI were negative and Sox trainer Herm Schneider has Hermanson as day-to-day. That said, it would be wise for Hermanson owners to add Politte or Damaso Marte to their bullpens as insurance.
- Milton Bradley appears ready to rejoin the Dodgers after collecting a couple of hits and a stolen base in a rehab assignment. He may be activated for this weekend's series against the Mets.
- Travis Hafner has been held out of the lineup with a concussion since getting hit in the face by a Mark Buehrle pitch over the weekend. The Indians are optimistic that he'll be back in the lineup over the weekend, but if he can't shake the persistent dizziness, a trip to the DL might be in order.
- Reggie Sanders will miss 4-6 weeks with a hairline fracture of his right leg sustained during a collision with Jim Edmonds. John Rodriguez has been called up to take his roster spot.
- Looking for a boost in the stolen base category? The Reds finally activated Ryan Freel from the DL. With the move of one or more players in the crowded Reds outfield imminent, Freel should get a fair share of playing time. His lengthy DL stint caused many owners to send him back to the waiver wire.
- Ramon Hernandez has returned to the field, but still experiences pain in his wrist. There's talk that he might have surgery to repair the issue, which would shelve him until late in September.
- The A's learned that they'll finish the season without last year's team RBI leader, as Erubiel Durazo will undergo Tommy John surgery this weekend. Dan Johnson and Scott Hatteberg will continue to see the bulk of at-bats at 1B and DH, with newly acquired Jay Payton, Nick Swisher and Bobby Kielty figuring into the mix.
- Brandon Lyon owners should find some encouragement in that the Diamondbacks anticipate a rehab assignment for their closer next week. He threw 45 pitches in the bullpen before Sunday's game and showed no ill effects. No timetable has been set for his return to the D-backs, but this is a start.
- Though it's not an injury, owners in AL-only leagues will need to make do without Runelvys Hernandez for awhile. The hurler was suspended 10 games for his part in the bench-clearing brawl with the Tigers over the weekend. More disciplinary action is sure to follow.
- And finally, Troy Percival is expected to miss the duration of the season with a partial tear in his right forearm. Brawling Kyle Farnsworth, who has mastered the Ultimate Fighting takedown and will certainly face some disciplinary action for his part in that melee, will serve as the Tigers closer.
- Jason Giambi, 1B, NYY: With two more bombs in Wednesday's game against Texas, fantasy owners are finally starting to believe in his resurgence. He's hitting a smoking .391 in July with eight homers and 14 RBIs.
- Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, Bal: The new 3,000-hit club member is enjoying a fantasy renaissance. Armed with a 10-game hitting streak, during which he's hit five home runs and driven in 13 runs, fantasy owners are beginning to add the veteran 1B for the stretch run.
- Geoff Jenkins, OF, Mil: Jenkins has strung together a 13-game hitting streak. During that stretch, he's hit four home runs, driven in 14 runs and raised his batting average 26 points. Jenkins has six multi-hit games during his streak.
- John Patterson, SP, Was: While Livan Hernandez contemplates season-ending surgery, Patterson has been lights out for the Nationals. He's allowed two or fewer earned runs in five straight starts. Though he has only a 1-0 record to show for it, he did strike out 37 hitters in 32 innings pitched and lowered his ERA to a smallish 2.69. Patterson has been lights out at RFK, where he holds a record of 4-0 with an ERA of 1.95 and WHIP of 1.08.
- Greg Zaun, C, Tor: Owners in need of help behind the plate are taking a shot at the streaking Zaun. He's hit safely in eight of his past 10 with one homer and three RBIs. During this stretch, he raised his average 18 points.
- Yhency Brazoban, RP, LAD: Brazoban's status as the Dodgers closer is now shaky, at best. He's taken the loss in three of his past four outings, allowing six earned runs in 2.1 innings of work. Duaner Sanchez and Giovanni Carrara are two middle relievers who could see an opportunity to close a game as Jim Tracy contemplates Brazoban's future.
- C.C. Sabathia, SP, Cle: Sabathia's earned just one victory in his past six outings and has watched his ERA rise over 1.25 runs to 4.63. He has pitched more than five complete innings just once during that stretch (7.2 innings of one-run ball against Baltimore in his lone victory in that span).
- Justin Morneau, 1B, Min: Morneau last homered on July 3rd and has gone hitless in his past 19 at-bats. Fantasy owners expected a power surge from Morneau and instead have watched a two-month power outage. He's also hitting just .213 since May 1st.
- Daryle Ward, 1B/RF, Pit: To say that Ward is in a funk would be a gross understatement. He's hitless in his past 30 at-bats, causing a 27-point free fall in his batting average. Perhaps the most frightening part of that hitless streak is that he's struck out only six times.
- Kerry Wood, SP, ChC: Owners aren't even waiting for the results of an MRI or official word of his status to jettison him to the waiver wire. Wood has been released by thousands of owners after surrendering three gopher balls to the Reds in three innings and then leaving with shoulder stiffness.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Todd Walker, 2B, ChC
Walker had his 12-game hitting streak snapped on Wednesday, but he still offers solid power production for a middle infielder. He hit his fifth homer in his past 10 games on Thursday and has driven in 11 runs over that period.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Mark Redman, SP, Pit
Perhaps Redman is thinking that pitching horribly over long stretches will get him traded? He has lost six straight starts and watched his ERA rise from 2.80 to 4.24. On the whole, the 4.24 isn't terrible. But over the past month, he's compiled an ERA of 8.33 and a WHIP of 1.74.
HOT AND COLD
David DeJesus, OF, Kan: DeJesus had a solid week against AL Central rivals Cleveland and Detroit. He hit two home runs, drove in six and hit .407 (11-for-27) in that seven-game stretch. Expanding the review of his achievements, DeJesus has a 12-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 16 of his past 17 games.
Juan Pierre, OF, Fla: With his name mentioned in a number of trade rumors, Pierre is certainly doing a tremendous audition for potential suitors. He hit .344 over the past week (11-for-32) and stole five bases. For the month of July, he's hitting .319 with 10 thefts after hitting just .244 over the two-month period of May and June.
David Wells, SP, Bos: Seemingly always the subject of trade speculation (possibly rejoining the Padres?), Wells has pitched two gems in a row against the Yankees and Devil Rays. He allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings of work and walked only one hitter.
Javier Valentin, C, Cin: Look at the power numbers on this guy! In his past three games, he's slammed five homers and knocked in 11 runs. Ride the hot hand if you're getting no support from behind the plate, as the Brewers visit Cincinnati this weekend.
Daniel Cabrera, SP, Bal: Cabrera has won his past three decisions and has allowed three or fewer earned runs in seven straight starts. He's dropped his ERA by nearly a full run during that stretch and has boosted his strikeout total.
Brandon Webb, SP, Ari: Webb was battered for eight earned runs on 10 hits against Florida on Wednesday. He's lost four of his past five starts and watched his ERA rise over three-quarters of a run. Webb's WHIP during this down stretch is a brutal 1.67.
Juan Uribe, 2B, 3B, SS, CWS: After a huge 2004 (23 HR, 74 RBIs, 9 SB and .283 average), Uribe has been one of the weak links in an otherwise solid White Sox team. Though he hit one homer and knocked in five in the three-game set against Detroit, Uribe hit just .130 this week (3-for-23). He endured an 0-for-21 stretch before the three-game set against Detroit.
Aaron Sele, SP, Sea: He's lost five straight starts and has been battered by opposing hitters, watching his ERA rise almost 1.5 runs during that stretch. In his last start against Toronto, he allowed six earned runs on six hits with three walks in a mere three innings of work. If you were expecting a turnaround based on early season bad luck and lack of offensive production, it's time to stop deluding yourself and let him go.
Garrett Atkins, 3B, Col: Quick, get this man back to Colorado! He's in a 0-for-16 funk during the Rockies' road trip. Taken further, he's hitting just .158 over his past 10 games (6-for-38).
Luis Gonzalez, OF, Ari: Gonzo has just one homer in the month of July and has only one RBI in his past 10 games. During that 10-game stretch, he's hit .121 (4-for-33) with zero extra-base hits and watched his batting average fall 16 points.
Jason Isringhausen, StL, RP
Why he's being dealt: Izzy has converted 27 of 30 save opportunities and is being sought after by teams saddled with struggling or demoted bullpens. They're on the market in search of power pitching, sluggers and speed.
What you're getting: Isringhausen has been the subject of a slew of straight up deals this week. He's been dealt for Carlos Delgado, Scott Podsednik, Rich Harden, Todd Helton, Morgan Ensberg and John Smoltz.
Jim Thome, Phi, 1B
Why he's being dealt: Current owners are diving off, expecting the elbow and back problems to continue and render him a marginal contributor for the stretch run. Buyers are hoping that the time off has him ready to mount a September assault.
What you're getting: Thome has been dealt straight up several times this week for Mark Mulder, Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte. In package deals, Thome has been paired with closers such as Bob Wickman and Yhency Brazoban to return healthy sluggers such as Ken Griffey Jr., Todd Helton and Mike Sweeney.
Victor Martinez, Cle, C
Why he's being dealt: Though he's picked his game up of late, Martinez owners are still salty about his feeble first half. Therefore, they're looking for other options at the position and help in the middle infield.
What you're getting: Most deals that include Martinez involve multiple players. He's been packaged on several occasions with infielders Craig Biggio and Julio Lugo and pitchers such as Francisco Rodriguez, Pettitte, Brian Fuentes in exchange for catchers Johnny Estrada or Ramon Hernandez and middle infielders such as Tadahito Iguchi and Placido Polanco.
Morgan Ensberg, 3B, Hou
Why he's being dealt: Huge power numbers from the 3B slot has Ensberg owners selling their late-round draft pick high. Buyers are banking on a deal to shore up the middle of the Astros lineup and provide Ensberg even more pitches to hammer.
What you're getting: Power for power. Ensberg is being dealt primarily straight up for powerful outfielders and power arms. Recent deals have seen Ensberg exchanged for Adam Dunn, Jeff Kent, Roger Clemens and Jake Peavy.
Coors Field Factor:
The Rockies return home on Monday and welcome the Mets for a three-game set. The series will mark the first meetings of these teams in 2005. Let's take a quick look at the past successes or failures of current Mets at Coors …
- Cliff Floyd may be one of the few hitters who doesn't enjoy the Rocky Mountain air, at least from a batting average perspective. Floyd owns a career .247 mark at Coors with six homers and 23 RBIs in 26 games.
- Mike Piazza owners are anticipating a boost from the catcher position during the three-game set. Piazza holds a sizzling .388 batting average with 16 homers and 52 RBIs in 41 Coors appearances. He missed the Mets' visit in '04, but had seven hits in 11 at-bats (3 HR, 6 RBIs) during their 2003 series.
- Tom Glavine has solid career marks in 10 starts at Coors. He owns a record of 3-1 with a respectable ERA of 3.34, despite the fact that Rockies hitters have a .305 batting average against in those outings.
- Carlos Beltran has just 13 career at-bats at Coors, but will be itching to get back in the box. In 2003, he went 5-for-13 with three extra-base hits and four RBIs during a three-game series.
The A's visit Arlington for a four-game series beginning on Thursday night. The Rangers will face young star Rich Harden in the series finale, but will miss the red hot Barry Zito (1.45 ERA in his last five starts).
- Eric Chavez is a career .248 hitter at Ameriquest Field with 12 homers and 33 RBIs in 53 games. He's gone hitless in seven career at-bats against Kenny Rogers and is 3-for-6 lifetime against Chris Young.
- Mark Kotsay sees the ball well in Texas, to the tune of a .347 average (17-for-49). He's logged five extra-base hits and seven RBIs in 11 career games at the ball yard.
- Rich Harden and his miniscule 2.11 ERA will take the mound for the A's in the series finale on Sunday. It will mark his third outing against the Rangers this season. He won one and lost one, hurling two complete games and allowing just one earned run in 18 innings of work. He's started two games at Ameriquest in his career, recording one loss and allowing eight earned runs in 10 innings pitched.
Matchups to watch:
- In his second start for the Yankees, Al Leiter will take the hill against John Lackey and the Angels. Leiter was brilliant on Sunday against the Red Sox, allowing one earned run in 6.1 innings pitched. Can he come up with another big effort against a division leader?
- With Kerry Wood possibly going back to the shelf and Greg Maddux defeated by the Cincinnati Reds, Carlos Zambrano will try to keep the Cubs over .500 when he faces Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals on Friday. Carpenter has won six straight starts and has allowed either one or zero earned runs in each of those outings. His ERA stands at a smallish 2.34.
- The Nationals are trying to hold off the NL East, and Tony Armas will take to the hill on Saturday to do his part. He left his last start early after experiencing dizziness and dehydration, but will be ready to take to the hill this weekend. Armas (three wins in his past four decisions) will face Brandon Backe and the surging Astros. Backe has won two of his past three starts and has settled down since three straight miserable outings in mid-June.
- Two pitching stars of the future face off on Sunday when Kyle Lohse of the Twins takes on Jeremy Bonderman and the Tigers. Lohse has pitched reasonably well of late, despite recording two losses and a no-decision in his past three starts. Bonderman was an All-Star snub and struggled in his first second-half start against the Royals. He then came back and pitched three-hit ball over eight innings against the division-leading White Sox.
IT'S A FACT
Greg Maddux struck out four hitters in his Thursday start against Cincinnati, leaving him two short of becoming the 13th pitcher to achieve 3,000 career strikeouts. It seemed a virtual lock for Maddux to reach the hallowed mark, as the Reds average nearly eight whiffs per game. There's a stat for owners eyeing spot starters in head-to-head leagues.