Your fantasy baseball draft isn't far off. KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove surveys free agency, trades, salary arbitration and injuries that will affect your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league. You're cleared for your MLB offseason program: The Arizona Fall League, Baseball Winter Meetings, Rule 5 draft and more will shape your fantasy baseball rankings.
OF Carlos Beltran agrees to two-year deal with St. Louis Cardinals
Lance Berkman, another masher with shaky knees that St. Louis took a chance on, moves to first base with Beltran taking over in right field, at least initially. The subsiding of Beltran's chronic knee issues, which crippled his 2010 production and bothered him into 2011 camp, helped Beltran regain some of his old thump.
Nats had what it took for Gonzalez
Though double-digit steals are a reach, you can expect something close to 20 homers. He probably could've done more if he weren't stuck in the New York Mets' and San Francisco Giants' lineups and didn't have to deal with a sprained right wrist that sapped his August power. His harder contact supports that he'll hit near .300 again. Playing for another contender will help keep him interested, too.
You shouldn't buy another 520 at-bats in his age-35 season. Though Beltran proved he could overcome his environments last year, Busch Stadium, like his 2011 home parks, suppresses dingers and won't rescue him if he noticeably slips in skills. He's a middle-rounds pick that, like Berkman, has less upside than before with a more palpable downside.
Maybe Beltran will shift to center field when Allen Craig (knee surgery) returns, but if St. Louis decides Beltran should stay in right, Craig will have to scrounge for at-bats, which would diminish his already chipped value. Still, Craig's pop and ability to play multiple positions justify an NL-only bid and a deep mixed stash made with his likely shortened season in mind.
Jon Jay, St. Louis' current 8, showed some pop against righties last year but still relies on batting average for the majority of his value. Stay tuned to Craig's recovery and what St. Louis decides for Jay's playing time.
Washington Nationals acquire SP Gio Gonzalez from Oakland Athletics for four prospects
Gonzalez has improved his control in each of the last two years, though his 2011 rate dip wasn't as drastic as the one from 2009 to 2010. Though he can induce grounders at a decent rate and noticeably improved his BB/9 in September, he'll hover around four per nine in a full season. He's safer to deliver an ERA of the high 3.00s than the low.
Nationals Park's factor is generally neutral, so Gonzalez will miss the pitcher-shading O.co Coliseum. Though overall serviceable, his ERA was nearly a run higher on the road, and his road WHIP was 1.42 compared to 1.23 in Oakland. At least he'll have a more helpful offense to go along with the typically favorable league switch. The southpaw's K's give him the upside of a fantasy ace, but he'll struggle to become more than a No. 2 or 3 in mixed leagues while his BB/9 plagues him so.
Right-hander A.J. Cole, who'll turn 20 in January, arguably holds the biggest upside among Oakland's acquisitions. The lithe launcher (6-foot-4, 191 pounds) has some room to fill out, which should happen over the next few years. Cole fanned 108 in 89 frames at Washington's Single-A Hagerstown last season against older competition; his fastball touches 98 mph, and he gained a better downward plane after streamlining his delivery, per Baseball America.
He'll need to tinker with his off-speed stuff to capture his frontline starter ceiling. Don't expect significant fantasy contribution until 2014, but Cole could arrive in the bigs the year before that if his progress escalates; Oakland hasn't shied away from aggressively promoting tykes in recent years.
Brad Peacock, Baseball America's highest-ranked member of this haul, boasts a similar ceiling and arsenal, with a four-seamer that reaches 97, and he'll earn rotation consideration as a 24-year-old sometime this coming season. See his spectacular 2011 (177 K's, 47 walks combined between Double- and Triple-A). Though he might need to spend minors time gaining consistency with his curveball, the right-hander ranks as a potentially productive AL-only draft flier and would be a deep mixed addition when he comes up.
Catcher Derek Norris' power is his most stable asset. His plate discipline isn't yet reflected in his batting average but could make him a .260 hitter, at minimum, in the bigs. Along with his 20 homers at Double-A Harrisburg, his 18.2 percent walk rate makes Billy Beane - and OBP fantasy players - smile. Kurt Suzuki will eat most of Oakland's backstop ABs sans injury; his deal runs through 2013 with a 2014 team option. Turning 23 in February, Norris remains an intriguing long-term fantasy hold with a low-clip caveat.
Left-handed starter Tom Milone has polished control (155 K's, 16 walks in Triple-A Syracuse last year). The 24-year-old's high K rates on the farm might not translate to the bigs because of his low-90s heat, but he still boasts a makeup that could benefit mixed fantasy players in a back-of-the-rotation capacity for the long haul. Now, he'll have friendlier confines in which to fulfill that promise.
Chicago Cubs also net OF Dave Sappelt, INF Ronald Torreyes from Cincinnati Reds for RP Sean Marshall
Sappelt, the Reds' Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2010, earned a promotion last August following a .317/.377/.458 stretch for Triple-A Louisville. He's not a toolsy player but makes hard contact and has some swiftness on the base paths that could translate to swipes with playing time. He's widely viewed as a fourth-outfielder type without much power potential, but he might be Alfonso Soriano's successor in a hitter-friendly environment. Throw Sappelt on your NL-only speculation list for this year and beyond.
Torreyes, who mostly mans the keystone with cameos at third and shortstop mixed in, is only 19. He hit .370 over three levels in 2010, his first professional season, and .356 at Class A Dayton. With his 5-foot-9, 140-pound build, it's hard to imagine much power developing, but he looks like a skilled contact stick and a future source for stolen bases. Keep a long-term eye on him.
INF Mark DeRosa joins Washington Nationals
He'll serve as Washington's backup first baseman while also making appearances at second base, third base and the outfield. This might strip some at-bats from Adam LaRoche and Mike Morse, but not enough to be concerned for their jobs just yet. DeRosa has seen his reps and offense sapped over the last two seasons thanks to various complications with his wrist. He's an NL-only tuck-away for potential playing time and warrants monitoring to see if he regains punch at the plate.
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.