The Mailbag: What's Freel's Deal?

Ryan Freel's playing time, Rickie Weeks' spot in the batting order and Chad Tracy's weak supporting cast are just some of the topics that have been extracted from my inbox. Let's dive into the mailbag and take a look:

Just wanted to point out it seems to me that when Ryan Freel plays the Reds win. So why can't they let him play more so my fantasy team feels better about starting him. – Shawn, Baltimore, MD

Shawn, your theory holds some merit. The Reds are 7-3 in games Freel has started through Tuesday. And Freel has seen increased playing time, starting seven of the team's past eight games. His versatility is going to get him in the lineup, and he's going to play a lot in centerfield while Ken Griffey Jr. is on the disabled list. After that, he'll go back to sharing time with Tony Womack at second, and he can fill in at third base for Edwin Encarnacion, if needed. All this said, there is really only one reason to play him, and that's for the steals. If you aren't in dire need of padding your SB numbers, you might want to think about dealing Freel in a week or so. By then he'll have had a good run of regular playing time, and you are likely to be able to land a decent price for him from someone needing speed. And when Griffey returns, it'll no longer be your problem where and when Freel plays.

I'm worried about the production of Rickie Weeks. I drafted him pretty early based on what I saw last year, but now he's been bumped to sixth in the order. The leadoff and the No. 2 spots seem fairly solidified in the Brewers lineup and I'm wondering if you think Weeks can put up numbers batting in the sixth hole. – Mark, College Park, MD

Mark, I think you're ultimately going to be rewarded for picking Weeks, who is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak. One of the likely benefits of hitting further down in the lineup for Weeks, who has good speed, is that he's probably going to run more often. At the top of the lineup, hitting in front of power hitters like Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Lee, the likelihood is that he'd be held back a little more to make sure the big bats have a chance to hit with a man on base. Last year, Weeks averaged a SB attempt about every 24 at bats from the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. When he hit No. 6 or No. 7, he ran about twice as often (every 12 at bats). So far, Weeks leads the team with three stolen bases. As far as his plate production, he's striking out more than you'd like to see (16 Ks), but he's managed to sustain a decent batting average (.273) and he's scoring plenty of runs (11) with Prince Fielder behind him. He only has two extra-base hits, but we know from the 13 HRs he hit in 96 games last season, that his power should come around. I'd still bet on a 20/20 season, with a .275-plus batting average.

I have Chad Tracy in two out of my three teams and I am getting edgy. Tracy hasn't showed me much. His lineup stinks and every time he seems to have a good game he has three 0-fers right after. Can this kid mash or what? – Andy, New York, NY

Andy, I think your expectations may be too high. After all, Tracy is hitting .315 and he has a couple home runs in 13 games played, which is a 25-HR pace. Tracy now owns a .298 batting average in more than 1,000 career at bats. I think that's a healthy enough sample size to conclude that this guy is an above average major league hitter. I'll agree that Arizona's offense is on the soft side, and it's very possible that he'll wind up on the shy side of 100 Runs and RBIs despite hitting in the No. 3 spot. I think you should just get comfortable with a guy that will push .300 with 25-30 HRs, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 Runs and RBIs. Considering he can give you those numbers from 1B, 3B or OF, I really don't see how you can gripe too much about him.

I have a competitive team, but I'm getting killed by early season injuries. The league was set up with one DL spot per team and I presently have four guys on the DL. What's your advice on holding onto players on the DL? Is it worth keeping the likes of Rocco Baldelli, Sean Casey, Nomar Garciaparra and Aubrey Huff on the bench, or is it time to cut my loses? – Chris, Toronto, Ontario

Chris, boy, do I ever feel your pain. In two of my more competitive leagues, I, too, am stuck with four DL players. Push came to shove recently when I started falling in the standings. On both teams, I actually have Garciaparra, and I have Huff on one of them. Both players are still with me, but I did recently let go of DL guys Ian Kinsler – his bat was hot, but he didn't have much run production, and a thumb injury could mean he'll struggle to get right for a while after he returns – and Todd JonesDavid Weathers was available, and I figured a closer (albeit a shaky one in a semi-committee) in the hand was better than Jones, who I don't see supplanting Fernando Rodney anytime soon.

In the case of Garciaparra, I refused to cut him loose when he's so close to a return. Like me, you drafted him and held him for this long. You owe it to yourself to see what he's going to do when healthy. As for Huff, he was struggling, but he always struggles in April. His lifetime BA in the first month of the season is sub-.240. Now eligible at 3B, he's going to offer nice roster flexibility (3B, 1B, OF), and I'm willing to bet he'll start mashing come June, or sooner. I've generally tried to add replacement offensive parts at the cost of letting go of expendable pitching. I had to make tough cuts in my 12-team leagues of Freddy Garcia (I felt better when I read that he was having a hard time getting his fastball above the mid 80s) and Rafael Soriano (whose buzz will only grow louder with each failed save attempt by Eddie Guardado). Pitching should be easier to make up throughout the season, but it's ill-advised to fall too far behind offensively.

I have Barry Bonds and would like to deal him. What do you think I can get for him? I was offered Griffey but feel he will end up on the DL soon. Is that a deal I should make? Thanks for taking the time to answer my question! – Chris

Prince Fielder; Torii Hunter; C.C. Sabathia; Moises Alou; Carlos Guillen; Jason Varitek; Ken Griffey Jr.; Francisco Rodriguez; Pedro Feliz; Aramis Ramirez; Matt Murton – These are some of the players that have been traded straight up for Bonds most recently in Yahoo! leagues. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. With the exception of Aramis Ramirez and Francisco Rodriguez, Bonds is not bringing back top 50 talent, and rightfully so. Elbow chips, a bum knee, a grand jury investigation, opposing fans throwing stuff at him, and so and so on … it's a lot to deal with, especially for a 41-year old. While Bonds is hitting just .214, he's still getting on base at .511 clip, thanks to 15 walks. But only a minority of leagues use OBP, so the walks take away from his chances to swing the bat and make something happen. Is Bonds going to start swinging a hotter stick? It's certainly possible, but it's probably just as likely that further injury woes could set in as he continues to put regular stress on the elbow and knee. I don't own the guy, and I'd advise taking Griffey in return, if you still can. Griffey's knee injury (inflamed tendon) is not considered serious, and the Reds were simply being overly cautious with Griffey this early in the season. When he returns, he's going to be an everyday player, and Bonds is going to have a hard time matching that kind of playing time given all the factors surrounding him.

I was interested in trading Randy Johnson and David Ortiz for Derrek Lee and Pedro Martinez. Is this a good trade? Is Pedro too risky, and will Lee live up to the hype?

I don't really see the point of the deal. What do you have to gain? You wouldn't be trading to satisfy a need in this deal, since the players involved offer similar returns. What you are gambling on here is that Pedro is going to hold up better than the Big Unit will. You will get an extra 10-15 SBs from Lee, but the two sluggers are both going to post big-time power numbers. If it comes down to the pitching, Martinez, with that toe issue, is probably the bigger question mark. But, that said, he has managed to make at least 29 starts in 10 of the past 11 years even though he's often tagged with the "fragile" label. Johnson got roughed up by Toronto on Tuesday and he was forced to deny that he was injured to reporters after the game. Catcher Kelly Stinnett said that he believes Johnson is going through a dead arm period. Regardless, if you want to make this deal, it's probably not going to hurt you, and you might make out if there turns out to be anything to make of Johnson's recent struggles – he lasted just five innings in his previous start because of stiffness in his shoulder, which he deemed as fatigue.

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