Offseason Player Movement Analysis

by Ryan Dodson on January 12, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT

 


The hot stove has simmered, and the dust is clear. One team spent $136 million on a player that will be 38 when his contract expires while another team spent $126 million, the most ever for a pitcher, on a pitcher whose star power exceeds his talent. The Minnesota Twins are very glad they signed the best pitcher in the game, Johan Santana, to a four-year, $40 million deal a couple years ago when mediocre pitchers are making $10 million to $17 million this offseason.

In this report, we'll review the major transactions that took place over this lucrative offseason and analyze them. We'll detail the transaction and dictate the impact the move has on their fantasy value.

Hitters

J.D. Drew, OF, Boston Red Sox

Former Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

Contract: Five years, $70 million

Analysis: Drew used a loophole and opted out of the final three years of his five-year deal he signed with the Dodgers before the 2005 season. He left $33 million on the table, leaving many to wonder why. Drew cashed in after a career year in 2004, but after a decent year, that surprisingly wasn't riddled by injuries, he was able to strike a more lucrative deal with Boston. However, the deal has been stuck at a road block due to concerns of Drew's shoulder. The team wants protection in the form of guaranteeing less money. Drew moves from a pitchers' park to a hitters' park. Last season, he hit .283 with 20 homers and a career-high 100 RBI. Whether he hits in front of designated hitter David Ortiz and outfielder Manny Ramirez or behind them, his numbers should improve. If Drew can stay on the field - which is asking a lot since he's played in 145 games just twice in his nine-year career - he could have another solid season.

Fantasy Impact: Value Increases

Carlos Lee, OF, Houston Astros

Former Team: Texas Rangers

Contract: Six years, $100 million

Analysis: Lee had a monstrous first half last season with 26 homers and 73 RBI at the All-Star break and was traded to the Texas Rangers in July. Many figured that Lee was a shoo-in for 50 homers when he moved into the American League's best hitters' park. Lee only hit 11 homers in the second half. However, his .300 average, 37 homers and 116 RBI in 2006 were enough to convince the Astros to give him the biggest contract in team history. Lee moves into a very friendly hitters' park for right-handed hitters. Minute Maid Park's leftfield wall is just 330 feet away. Lee got off to a hot start in 2005 as well when he hit 22 homers and drove in 76 runs before tailing off at the end of that season. His body frame has been questioned due to his weight, and it's possible he has tired at the end of the last two seasons. However, he should still approach 35 to 40 homers in 2007. Still, is he worth more than arguably the best hitter in the game - St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols?

Fantasy Impact: Value Increases

Julio Lugo, SS, Boston Red Sox

Former Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

Contract: Four years, $36 million

Analysis: After years of trade rumors regarding Lugo while he was in Tampa Bay, he was finally dealt mid-season last year. He had a productive first half but really tailed off once he arrived in Los Angeles. He hit just .219 with no homers and 10 RBI for the Dodgers. The Red Sox weren't worried though, as he got a fairly rich deal. He concludes a revolving door of shortstops since the team traded Nomar Garciaparra midway through the 2004 season. Since then, the team has acquired three other bigger-named shortstops, which haven't panned out as hoped. Lugo is usually good for 10 homers and 20-plus steals. He stole 18 in the first half but just six bases in 11 attempts while with the Dodgers. Lugo, 31, is approaching the age where most base stealers start to experience a decline. This is something to keep an eye on this season. Being the Red Sox's shortstop will probably make owners draft him a little earlier than he should be in fantasy leagues. Don't be one of those owners.

Fantasy Impact: Neutral

Gary Matthews Jr., OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Former Team: Texas Rangers

Contract: Five years, $50 million

Analysis: Matthews had a breakout season with the Rangers last year that catapulted him into financial stability for life. The 32-year-old hit .313 with 19 homers and 79 RBI in a magical season that was probably deserving of a Gold Glove award that eluded him. He put in three good years in Texas and improved each year after being a career journeyman with five different teams. Many believe the Angels made a ridiculous deal here. Maybe Matthews will never repeat his good 2006 season, but he provides an excellent centerfielder to place in the outfield between aging Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero. He hits atop a decent lineup while having the ability to produce around 90 runs and should hit around .280. Altogether, we don't expect Matthews to repeat last season, but we don't feel he will be awful as well. Angel Stadium is a pitchers' park while Ameriquest Field is a premier hitters' park, which could take away from Matthews' power. Look for him in the mid-to-late rounds of your draft.

Fantasy Impact: Value Decreases

Juan Pierre, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Former Team: Chicago Cubs

Contract: Five years, $44 million

Analysis: Some experts are calling this the worst deal of the offseason. Why? Pierre is nearly a lock to steal 50 bases and hit close to .300. He had an awful start to the season last year, and it was probably all mental. He was in a new place with ruthless fans that he wanted to win over and was pressing. He was off to a similar start in 2003 with the Florida Marlins but picked it up in the second half. Pierre hit just .258 in April and .226 in May last year, but he finished the season with a .292 average and 58 steals. He was the first 40-steal player on a Dusty Baker-managed team since Barry Bonds stole 40 in the late 90s. He has a poor throwing arm, which is the biggest knock on him. However, all his other intangibles make up for his weakness, and he should be a catalyst for a Dodgers team that already has base-stealing shortstop Rafael Furcal. These two should be fun to watch for the next few years.

Fantasy Impact: Neutral

Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs

Former Team: Washington Nationals

Contract: Eight years, $136 million

Analysis: Soriano had a monster season in a very pitcher-friendly home ballpark last season, as he hit .277 with 46 homers, 95 RBI and 41 steals. His 119 runs scored were the most since his breakout season in 2002 with the New York Yankees. If he had hitters behind him that could consistently drive him in, he could have scored 140 easily. He has only hit .300 once, and his 160 strikeouts last year were a career high. There's no denying his talent though. He made himself into a decent outfielder after several early season blunders as well. The team probably overpaid for him. However, when you're a team whose attendance is lacking and you havenít won a World Series in 99 years, you can afford to throw money at players. Soriano, for fantasy owners, has probably vaulted himself back into the top-five range this year despite losing second base eligibility.

Fantasy Impact: Value Increases

Frank Thomas, DH, Toronto Blue Jays

Former Team: Oakland Athletics

Contract: Two years, $18.12 million

Analysis: Something just clicked with Big Frank last season as he pounded out 39 homers and 114 RBI after two injury-riddled seasons. He was awful in April, hitting just .190, and leaving many to wonder if he were going to make it to May. Then he just started mashing the ball and ended the season with 10 homers and 31 RBI in September, as he led the Athletics to the playoffs. He leaves pitcher-friendly McAfee Coliseum for the more hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. Thomas will be 39 in May, and one must wonder if last season was his final wind.

Fantasy Impact: Neutral

Pitchers

Octavio Dotel, CL, Kansas City Royals

Former Team: New York Yankees

Contract: One year, $5 million

Analysis: Dotel, 33, sees the light at the end of the tunnel and has tried extremely hard to catch on as a closer each of the last two years. No one would take the chance when he was coming off Tommy John surgery, so he signed a deal with the Yankees and allowed 12 runs in 10 innings last year for a 10.80 ERA. The Royals were willing to give him the closer's job this season, and he'll have to make the most of it if he wants another chance at closing. Dotel has flamed out in starting and hasn't been a reliable closer in his career. He had 36 saves (and blew nine chances) in 2004 before blowing his arm out in 2005. He threw a ton of innings while with the Astros and didn't get a real good shot to close until it was too late. Dotel can still strike batters out, but his command will dictate where his ERA is. Save chances are few and far between in Kansas City, but if he can harness his control, he could approach 30 saves.

Fantasy Impact: Value Increases

Eric Gagne, CL, Texas Rangers

Former Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

Contract: One year, $6 million

Analysis: Gagne had a whirlwind of injuries that caused his fall from grace the past two seasons. He caught on with the Rangers to try to jumpstart his career again after throwing just 15 1/3 innings the last two years. He was nearly unhittable for three years and logged 152 saves from 2002 to 2004. He exits pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium for hitter haven Ameriquest Field. Gagne still has electric stuff and shouldn't be too far off his dominant pace, if healthy. It's probably asking for too much for him to have an ERA under 2.50. However, we think he can still be effective in the American League.

Fantasy Impact: Value Decreases

Randy Johnson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Former Team: New York Yankees

Contract: Traded from Yankees; Two years, $26 million

Analysis: Johnson was traded back to the Diamondbacks for reliever Luis Vizcaino, shortstop Alberto Gonzalez and pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson. Who? That's right; the Diamondbacks didn't give up much. Johnson is 20 wins shy of 300 for his career and can come close to 5,000 strikeouts before hanging it up. The 43-year-old has 4,544 strikeouts over his illustrious career. While he isn't throwing as hard as he used to, and his slider doesn't buckle knees as much anymore, he can still put up decent numbers. He struck out less than a batter per inning the last two seasons, and he hadn't done that since his first winning season in 1990. Being back in the National League will probably get him closer to a punchout per inning, but do not expect him to return to form. There are 3,798 innings on that left arm, but he can still be a good No. 2 starter.

Fantasy Impact: Value Increases

Ted Lilly, SP, Chicago Cubs

Former Team: Toronto Blue Jays

Contract: Four years, $40 million

Analysis: The left-handed Lilly has been a decent pitcher over the last five seasons but never really put it all together. He went 15-13 with a 4.31 ERA last season in a bounce-back year from 2005's 5.56 ERA. The 31-year-old has been pretty durable, making at least 31 starts in three of the last four seasons. His 7.93 strikeouts per nine innings were the most of his career as a full-time starter. Lilly moves to an easier division as far as offense goes, and he is one of the few impact lefties in the National League. The Cubs haven't consistently scored runs this decade. They have brought pieces in to do that, but until they do it, Lilly's run support is in question. Altogether, switching leagues is a good thing for him, and it's possible that he could have an ERA around 3.50.

Fantasy Impact: Value Increases

Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Boston Red Sox

Former Team: Seibu Lions - Japanese League

Contract: Six years, $52 million

Analysis: Matsuzaka comes to America with a 95 mph fastball and his acclaimed "gyroball", which should fool most hitters. Most foreign pitchers come to the bigs, and their uncertainty allows them to dominate for a stretch. Matsuzaka has staying power though. He went 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 186 1/3 innings last season in Japan. Fenway Park is favorable to hitters, and we don't know how he'll hold up under the pressure of the AL East. His hype will cause him to be drafted as one of the top pitchers in fantasy baseball, but his uncertainty makes him valued between the eighth and 10th round in most formats.

Fantasy Impact: Neutral

Andy Pettitte, SP, New York Yankees

Former Team: Houston Astros

Contract: One year, $16 million

Analysis: Pettitte had a down year in 2006 after a great year in 2005. He went 17-9 with a 2.39 ERA and 171 Ks in 222 1/3 innings in '05 while slumping to 14-13 with a 4.20 ERA last season. He had a great second half last year when he went 7-4 with a 2.80 ERA and 86 Ks in 93 1/3 innings, which gives him hope for this season. He turns 35 in June and is unsure how much longer he wants to pitch. He has run support now, though. This was something that plagued him while he was in Houston. Expecting him to win 15 games with an ERA around 4.00 is acceptable, and anything more than that really is a bonus. There isn't a lot of buzz surrounding him right now, so he could fall in some drafts.

Fantasy Impact: Value Increases

Jason Schmidt, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Former Team: San Francisco Giants

Contract: Three years, $47 million

Analysis: Schmidt remains in the NL West as he comes to the divisional-rival Dodgers. He has had plenty of injury concerns over the years, but he has pitched no fewer than 172 innings the last five years. Something to be concerned about is his 7.59 strikeouts per nine innings, which was his lowest rate since 2000. At 34 on opening day, Schmidt will be backed by a better offense in a similar ballpark. After winning 18 games in 2004, he won just 23 games the next two years. The improved offensive attack should inch him closer to 15 wins. He's still a good pitcher, but he is exiting his prime years. He went 0-2 last year in Dodger Stadium but had good numbers. He had a 2.25 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and struck out 16 batters in 20 innings. In his career, he's 4-4 with a 2.93 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 86 Ks in 89 innings in his new home.

Fantasy Impact: Neutral

Barry Zito, SP, San Francisco Giants

Former Team: Oakland Athletics

Contract: Seven years, $126 million

Analysis: Zito signed the richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history as the Giants came out of nowhere to nab Zito. Zito, who turns 29 in May, has a career record of 102-63. Many scouts said he has lost some speed on his fastball, but he still has a knee-buckling, overhand curveball that will fool a lot of National League hitters seeing it for the first time. His 6.15 strikeouts per nine innings last season was the lowest since 2003, but it should increase this year due to the unfamiliarity of the hitters with his stuff. His ERA has been under four runs every season but his down year in 2004, and he could have another good year this season. He needs to cut down on the career-high 99 walks he allowed last year though.

Fantasy Impact: Value Increases

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About Ryan Dodson

Dodson is a KFFL Contributor and has been with KFFL since 2002.


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