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Houston Astros acquire INF Jed Lowrie, SP Kyle Weiland from Boston Red Sox for RP Mark Melancon
The BoSox would appear to have their closer. In 2011, Melancon, who'll be 27 next season, recorded eight wins and 20 saves, with a 2.78 ERA, a 7.99 K/9 and a 3.15 BB/9. He's somewhat familiar with the AL East, having spent a little time in 2009 and 2010 (20 1/3 innings combined) in a New York Yankees uni.
Lowrie has more fantasy seasoning
Melancon's fastball-cutter-curveball arsenal induces a heavy dose of ground balls, which will certainly aid him in Boston. He pitches to contact a fair bit more in comparison to the stereotypical fireman, which leaves him at the mercy of the BABIP gods a bit more as well.
The righty has the stuff to succeed against stiff competition. If he remains prone to occasional bouts of hittability - seemingly likelier in that division - he's going to blow a few, however. It's not even a lock that Beantown brought him aboard to close. If that was Boston's intent, Melancon is roughly a No. 2 closer, although some fantasy baseball gamers may overvalue him because of his new club.
In 2012, if Daniel Bard doesn't make the transition to starter, it's not outside the realm of possibility that, at some point, he's in the mix for saves. In very deep leagues, Bard still warrants flier draft interest.
Lowrie, 28 next season, escapes a potential playing-time nightmare and moves to a probable playing-time daydream. It would make sense to assume that he takes over as the club's everyday shortstop, but Houston could entertain the idea of moving the athletic Jimmy Paredes to the 6 and playing Lowrie at the hot corner. The latter has the ability to handle his glove in the hole, but he's been sounder defensively at third, with fewer mental lapses.
Regardless, Lowrie is a virtual lock for 500 or 600 plate appearances - if he remains healthy. In the past three years, he's dealt with a variety of maladies. He mashes southpaws, but in general his offensive ceiling is modest. In deep mixed leagues, he'd be an appropriate starting MI.
Generally, evaluators have considered Weiland's ceiling to be that of a mid-rotation or backend starter. His hard sinker is his best pitch, and Baseball America notes that he's improved the rest of his quiver, too.
He'll mostly likely compete for a rotation spot this spring and definitely deserves consideration in NL leagues as an end-gamer. The 25-year-old could stand to shave a full walk from his control rate but has some modest upside with the switch of divisions.
SP Dallas Braden, Oakland Athletics avoid arbitration with one-year deal
In the past few seasons, this crafty southpaw has experienced his fair share of health issues, notably with his foot and - the latest - a torn capsule in his shoulder that required major surgery in mid-May. The $3.35 million deal shows that the A's are happy with Braden's progress. He's been deemed ahead of schedule and hopes to be ready by spring training, but that's not a given.
Rotisserie players shouldn't expect a contribution from the 28-year-old in the early portion of 2012. If he avoids major setbacks, he could become a fantasy factor by the All-Star break, however. Braden doesn't generate a hefty rate of swings and misses, but he avoids hurting himself with walks. The fly-ball pitcher stays in a suitable environment, so if he's healthy, he could prove to be a fine AL-only stash on the cheap.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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