Trade season is in full swing around MLB and we've already seen a couple of significant deals over the past few days. I'll get into my thoughts on the Joakim Soria-Tigers trade in the meat of the column below, but I wanted to spend a little time here to talk about the ramifications of Chase Headley going to the Yankees.
We've heard Headley-Yankees speculation for a couple of years now, but the Padres ended up having to sell insanely low on him. In addition to his production taking a major dive since his breakout season in 2012, mostly due to injury, he's due to become a free agent this winter. Chances are he'd accept a qualifying offer off another down year (a one-year contract likely in the range of $15 million), so the Padres ultimately had to take what they could get. That turned out to be early-season sensation Yangervis Solarte and prospect right-hander Rafael DePaula. By the way, I'm pretty confident that we have already seen the best of Solarte. Making the move from Yankee Stadium to PETCO Park doesn't help his chances of returning to fantasy relevancy.
With rumors of a trade swirling, I recommended stashing Headley in this very space two weeks ago. Landing in Yankee Stadium is obviously pretty ideal from a fantasy perspective. The 30-year-old has also seen better results since returning to the old (and odd) grip on the bat. He's hitting .324 (23-for-71) with seven extra-base hits (including one home run) and 10 RBI over 15 games. 2012 is probably the outlier here, but I could see him finishing his walk year on a high note. As I said in our weekly Rotoworld chat on Tuesday, something like .260 with eight homers and 30 RBI sounds like a reasonable baseline the rest of the way. He's also capable of stealing a few bags. Owned in 43 percent of Yahoo leagues, his arrow is definitely on the rise as a CI (corner infielder) option. Putting the fantasy angle aside, don't forget that he's also a big upgrade defensively for the Bombers.
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Shane Victorino OF, Red Sox (Yahoo: 48 percent owned)
This has been a frustrating year on the health front for Victorino, as a lingering hamstring issue and a back injury have limited him to just 25 games, but he finally returned from the disabled list over the weekend and has hit safely in each of his first four games. The 33-year-old batted .294/.351/.451 with 15 home runs, 61 RBI, 21 stolen bases, and 82 runs scored over 122 games with the Red Sox last season, so we know he's capable of being a valuable five-category contributor if he's finally near 100 percent. I suspect he'll get regular rest during the second half in order to stay fresh, especially if the Red Sox end up being sellers, but he should be owned in leagues where he was dropped.
Stephen Vogt C/1B/OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 40 percent owned)
I was a bit worried about Vogt's playing time with Josh Reddick coming off the disabled list, which is why I didn't mention him in Waiver Wired last week, but Athletics manager Bob Melvin indicated Monday that he's still planning to give him at-bats against right-handed starters. That's all I needed to hear. The latest diamond in the rough for the Athletics, Vogt is batting .355 with 10 extra-base hits (including four home runs) and 18 RBI over 132 plate appearances so far this season. He has punished righties to the tune of a .944 OPS. We're still talking about a small sample here, but Vogt has been a productive hitter in the minors for a long time and deserves a longer look. That catcher-eligibility is pretty handy in deeper formats.
Danny Salazar SP, Indians (Yahoo: 45 percent owned)
Salazar was victorious in his return to the majors Tuesday night, allowing one run on six hits over five innings against the Twins. The outing was a bit of a mixed bag, as he struck out six batters and showed improved fastball velocity than earlier in the year, but he also walked a tightrope by walking the bases loaded in the second inning. The 24-year-old right-hander didn't completely fix his control issues during his time in Triple-A, walking 17 batters in 22 2/3 innings over his final four starts, but he also missed plenty of bats. I'll be honest, Salazar isn't someone I'd be rushing to the wire for in shallow leagues, as he could really hurt your ratios. However, if you want to roll the dice with an upside play, you could do far worse.
Denard Span OF, Nationals (Yahoo: 23 percent owned)
After a quiet June, Span has picked things up this month by hitting .357 (25-for-70) with 14 runs scored over 17 games. The 30-year-old has also swiped four bases and is now up to 17 for the year, just three away from his total for all of last season. He has only been caught twice, so the efficiency could lead to more chances down the stretch. Span isn't going to provide much punch or drive in many runs, but he's sitting atop a dangerous lineup and has benefited by scoring 61 runs. Only 14 players in MLB have more. He's currently on pace to reach 100 for the first time in his career. Those who recently lost George Springer or Starling Marte to the DL should look in his direction.
Neftali Feliz RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 24 percent owned)
Now that Joakim Soria has been traded to the Tigers, it appears that the Rangers will give Feliz a chance to reclaim his old role. Of course, Feliz isn't the same pitcher that he once was. His velocity now sits in the low-to-mid 90s as opposed to the high-90s, but he has only allowed three earned runs over his first 10 1/3 innings of work since his promotion earlier this month and his swinging strike rate has been above the league average even if it hasn't reflected in strikeouts yet. I'm skeptical about his chances for success, but the last-place Rangers don't have much to lose at this point. Steve Tolleson and Neal Cotts are also worth stashing in case Feliz stumbles and/or the Rangers end up using a committee approach.
Danny Santana 2B/SS/OF, Twins (Yahoo: 24 percent owned)
Santana has picked up where he left off since returning from the disabled list last week, going 6-for-20 (.300) with a double, a triple, and three runs scored over six games. The 23-year-old rookie is now batting .325/.362/.448 with 14 extra-base hits (including two home runs) 16 RBI, six stolen bases, and 22 runs scored across 44 games with the Twins this season. He has speed and multi-position eligibility working in his favor and should continue to get opportunities out of the leadoff spot, although the Twins used sudden on-base machine Sam Fuld there on Wednesday. Santana is a fine addition in deeper leagues if you need help in a MI (middle infielder) or outfielder spot.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in under 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Andrew Heaney SP, Marlins (Yahoo: 7 percent owned)
Yes, Heaney was a bust in his first taste of the majors. After tossing six-innings of one-run ball in his debut against the Mets on June 19, he allowed nine runs over just 14 2/3 innings before being demoted to Triple-A. His biggest issue was the home run ball, as he gave up five of them in just 20 2/3 innings. Still, it's far too soon to throw in the towel on 23-year-old lefty. While he scuffled in his first two starts back in the minors, he flirted with a perfect game on Tuesday night, eventually giving up one run on two hits and two walks over seven innings to go along with eight strikeouts. This wasn't a pushover lineup, as he was facing the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate, featuring the likes of Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. It shouldn't be long before Heaney gets another chance in the majors and still there's every reason to believe that the best is yet to come.
Josh Rutledge 2B/3B/SS, Rockies (Yahoo: 8 percent owned)
Another year, another injury for Troy Tulowitzki. Sigh. While the Rockies' season has officially hit dumpster fire status, the Tulo's left hip flexor strain opens the door for Rutledge to see regular playing time at shortstop for the next two weeks. While the 25-year-old was a disappointment for fantasy owners in 2013, he has played well in a small sample this season, batting .302/.358/.484 with three home runs and 12 RBI over 138 plate appearances. The plate discipline is still an issue -- in fact, his strikeouts are up and his walks are down from last year -- but he's an intriguing stopgap option in mixed leagues.
Nick Franklin 2B/SS, Mariners (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
Here's a name to keep in mind with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaching. Franklin has only appeared in 17 games with the Mariners this season, but he could get an opportunity to shine down the stretch if he's moved in a trade. While the 23-year-old hasn't enjoyed much success in the majors thus far, he showed some power/speed potential last season and owns a quality .294/.392/.469 batting line with nine homers and eight stolen bases over 66 games this season in Triple-A. Keep an eye on him at the very least. He could have some value as a MI (middle infielder) option if he lands elsewhere in the coming days.
Stephen Drew SS, Red Sox (Yahoo: 9 percent owned)
It's taken a while, but Drew might finally be hitting his stride. While he came into Thursday's action with an ugly .173/.254/.336 batting line for the year, he's hitting .333 (8-for-24) with two home runs, one double, one triple, six walks, and seven runs scored over his past seven games. At the very least, he's improving his trade value if the Red Sox decide to sell off a couple of pieces. Remember that Drew didn't have a normal spring training since he signed so late into the season, so it would be understandable if he needed a little bit of time to get his bearings. This is someone who has proven useful in mixed leagues before, hitting .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBI over 124 games with the Red Sox last season, so he's capable of being relevant as a MI (middle infielder) option in mixed leagues the rest of the way.
Dale Thayer RP, Padres (Yahoo: 2 percent owned)
Chances are Joaquin Benoit has already been picked up in your fantasy league following the Huston Street trade, but it's not a bad idea to consider a potential replacement if the Padres end up dealing him too. Thayer could be the one who ends up benefitting the most. The mustachioed 33-year-old has a 2.04 ERA and 39/11 K/BB ratio over 39 2/3 innings this season and has previous (albeit limited) experience in the closer role. The Padres might not win many games the rest of the way, but every save matters at this time of year. It might even be worth it to stash away rookie Kevin Quackenbush in case Bud Black goes in a different direction.
Noah Syndergaard SP, Mets (Yahoo: 5 percent owned)
We originally thought that Syndergaard would be in the majors by now, but a flexor pronator strain in his right elbow and a sprained (non-throwing) shoulder have pushed back his timeline. The good news is that he's back to full health now and had his best outing since late April on Wednesday, allowing just four hits and three walks over 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball while notching five strikeouts. His 5.34 ERA isn't impressive on the surface, but he's averaged 9.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Also, don't forget that he's pitching in a hitters' league in a hitter-friendly ballpark with a less-than-stellar defense behind him. There's been some speculation that the Mets could now wait until 2015 to bring him to the major leagues, but there's a chance he could get a sneak preview down the stretch if Bartolo Colon is dealt. Stash in deeper leagues if you have the roster flexibility. Arizona's Archie Bradley is another prospect to keep an eye on if he continues to make progress in the minors.
Corey Knebel RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Neftali Feliz is expected to get a chance to reclaim the closer job in Texas following the Joakim Soria trade, but don't forget about who the Rangers got in return from the Tigers. Knebel was selected No. 39 overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and has posted a dominant 1.26 ERA and 84/27 K/BB ratio over 64 1/3 innings in the minors. Featuring a mid-90s fastball and a power curveball, he has allowed six runs on 11 hits and three walks over his first 8 2/3 innings in the majors, but he has also notched 11 strikeouts. Considered a future closer by many, he could get his first shot later this year if Feliz stumbles.
Francisco Cervelli C, Yankees (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
With Mark Teixeira potentially headed for the disabled list due to a mild lower lat strain and Kelly Johnson sidelined with a left groin strain, Yankees manager Joe Girardi plans to go with high-priced catcher Brian McCann as his primary first baseman. This opens the door for Cervelli to get regular playing time behind the plate, at least for a little while. The 28-year-old has missed most of the season with a strained hamstring, but he owns a .273 batting average and a .342 on-base percentage for his career. Don't expect much pop, but he could have some short-term value.
Darin Ruf 1B/OF, Phillies (Yahoo: 1 percent owned)
The Phillies haven't released Ryan Howard yet, but it's increasingly clear that his playing time will be diminished down the stretch, possibly as part of a platoon. Ruf has started each of the last two games at first base and figures to benefit the most from this situation. The 27-year-old has struggled in the minors this year and isn't a good bet to hit for average, but he had 14 home runs and an .806 OPS in 73 games with the Phillies last season. His pop is well worth a flier.
Jordany Valdespin 2B/OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 0 percent owned)
Second base has been an area of flux for the Marlins all season and now Valdespin is the latest player to get a shot. The Mets cut the 26-year-old loose over the winter, but he earned his way back to the majors after batting .270/.374/.437 with eight homers and 15 stolen bases over 61 games with Triple-A New Orleans. It might not be long before he wears out his welcome, but his power-speed combo could be useful in NL-only leagues. By the way, his former teammate Wilmer Flores will be worth an add if the Mets end up placing Ruben Tejada on the 7-day concussion disabled list.