Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: 3 transactions produce potential sleepers

      December 3, 2013 @ 12:35:42 PDT

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Making a hard turn into the Winter Meetings as Hot off the Wire waves us around....

The Detroit Tigers agreed with free-agent CL Joe Nathan (Rangers) on a two-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Texas Rangers RP Neftali Feliz
Feliz on his way back

As the Fantasy Tip notes, Nathan's declining K rate should give you some pause if you're buying him at the same level as younger, more electric arms like Greg Holland. Nathan, who recently turned 39, has worked to cut his HR/9; it worked even with his Arlington home last year and should continue in Comerica Park.

But he lost almost 2 mph off his four-seamer, per PITCHf/x, and to whatever degree that was intentional, be careful on your bids, as opponents may continue raking him as he relies more and more on location. (Check his liner rate allowed from the last two years.) Expect an ERA in the high 2.00s, at best, and definitely not below 2.00.

Unless they look outside the organization, Texas will decide between Joakim Soria, Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz (recovering from Tommy John surgery) to replace Nathan. Soria and Feliz have the experience, so the focus probably sits between those two, though Scheppers' move to the bullpen proved he could enter such situations consistently, as well. Soria already came back from his TJS, which may give him the first shot.

Plenty of save spotlights will be shined on Texas heading into March.

The Oakland Athletics acquired RP Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles Monday, Dec. 2, for 2B Jemile Weeks, according to a source.

Though expecting Johnson to close would be the most logical guess if you were drafting today, it's not a lock that Johnson will close in Oakland. He possesses non-traditional peripherals for a stopper and they bit him back last season. He often hung too much around the plate, losing his job for a spell before generally rebounding post-break. It seems as if he can't increase his dominance without losing some overall effectiveness.

His new ballpark could save him a few taters, but this salvation might even come in setup duty. The Athletics also have Ryan Cook and even southpaw Sean Doolittle, who carry the fastball and strikeout tendencies more commonly bestowed upon saves candidates. Drafting Johnson as you would a top-10 fireman leaves too much to chance until the Athletics finalize their intentions.

Weeks' new scenery offers plenty of upside. Rickie's younger brother reminded us that he's alive with a serviceable age-26 season at Triple-A Sacramento this past year, and B-more should give him a legit shot to win a keystone battle.

It's a smart speculation for the O's in their search for a long-term Brian Roberts replacement. Weeks' tempered ceiling could yield 20-ish steals and a .280 BA, similar to our desired baseline all these years from a healthy Roberts. Mark Weeks as a last-round throw-in for deep drafters that could pay off significantly.

We'll have more on the O's soon, it seems, as it looks like they're going to try acquiring a stopper instead of relying on their bevy of setup men.

The Tigers traded SP Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals Monday, Dec. 2, in exchange for 2B Steve Lombardozzi, SP Ian Krol and P Robbie Ray.

Fister was a useful middle piece or a back-ender on a fantasy staff even as an American Leaguer. He'll switch to the non-DH circuit and remain in a pitcher-friendly home environment. Expect a slight bump to his mediocre K/9 and K%, but his quick work between pitches should continue making him one of the more efficient arms among the middle tiers.

His new uni will probably jack up his price, though, making his capped ceiling even lower than that of fellow mediocre strikeout teammate Jordan Zimmermann.

As for the three pieces, they're best saved for AL-only rentals. Ray has some LIMA intrigue.

Oh ... and draft Drew Smyly.

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About Tim Heaney

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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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