With MLB free agency back in full swing and the trade market active, we’ll be tracking all the fantasy relevant moves. Fred Zinkie provides analysis on the most important transactions — check out all the latest!
Braves say bye to Freeman and hello to Olson
Fantasy managers and Braves fans were shocked on Monday, when Atlanta abruptly ended the Freddie Freeman era by trading for Matt Olson, who gets a small uptick in fantasy value via this transaction. Olson was likely going to a contender at some point in 2022, but getting the move over early is best for his fantasy potential, as he joins a Braves lineup that will be among the best in baseball when Ronald Acuna Jr. returns from injury. Olson should approach the 40-homer plateau and easily top the century mark in RBIs. I gave the 27-year-old a slight bump in my rankings, inserting him at 42 overall, up from 47.
The departure of Olson is another step in the A’s fire sale, and further ensures that Oakland regulars such as Sean Murphy, Matt Chapman and Ramon Laureano will be part of a below-average lineup this season.
Yankees and Twins swap sluggers
From the Yankees perspective, the March 13 trade with the Twins makes plenty of sense, as the club moves on from an inconsistent relationship with Gary Sanchez and fortifies their lineup with Josh Donaldson. This trade represents a positive shift in the fantasy value of Donaldson, who gets an upgrade in both home ballpark and supporting cast. While injury potential will continue to limit the 36-year-old’s draft value, he has a Yahoo ADP of 210 overall and should now be selected near pick 150. The trade also appears to open up playing time for Kyle Higashioka behind the dish, but my guess is that the Yankees will make an additional move to fortify the catcher position rather than handing a No. 1 role to a 31-year-old with a lifetime .619 OPS.
This trade is more of a head-scratcher on the Twins side, although there is speculation that the team has dealt Donaldson to clear space for a free-agent acquisition. For now, Gio Urshela and Luis Arraez both have full-time roles at the hot corner and second base respectively. Arraez continues to be waiver-wire fodder but Urshela is a fine late-round pick in 12-team leagues. For Sanchez, the negative park and lineup switch should be offset by getting a fresh start in Minnesota. Still, I recommend that fantasy managers avoid drafting Sanchez due to a projected batting average in the range of .210.
Carlos Rodon signs with the San Francisco Giants
Once a top prospect, Carlos Rodon bounced back from several underwhelming and injury-impacted seasons to be one of the best starters in baseball (2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 12.6 K/9 rate) on a per-inning basis last season. And the left-hander is now poised to continue his dominance after signing a two-year contract with the Giants. San Francisco has been among baseball’s best organizations in terms of getting the most out of their pitchers in recent years, including ranking third in the Majors last season in ERA by starting pitchers (3.44) despite not being blessed with anyone who was revered as a true ace. Backed by a winning team with a pitcher-friendly home park, Rodon should collect his share of wins and post ratios in the vicinity of a 3.00 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.
Of course, durability concerns will not leave Rodon’s profile, no matter which jersey he wears in 2022. The southpaw dealt with shoulder woes during the second half of last season and did not record a start of more than five innings after July 18. In fact, Rodon has logged IL time due to some variety of left-arm injury for six consecutive seasons. The Florida native should meet the expectations of fantasy managers who limit their expectations to no more than 140 excellent innings. I have moved Rodon up to No. 28 in the 2022 SP rankings and am now comfortable drafting him near his current Yahoo ADP (94 overall).
Twins trade for Sonny Gray
Sonny Gray fared well in three seasons with the Reds, posting a 3.49 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and a 10.6 K/9 rate. Not surprisingly, he fared best during that three-year stretch when working away from Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly home park (3.25 ERA). The move to Minnesota should be a positive one for Gray, as this is a favorable park switch and the Twins seem more intent than the Reds on competing this season. With a slight rankings upgrade, Gray now squeaks into the top-40 starters and top-120 overall players in my 2022 rankings.
This trade is also indirectly good news for the fantasy value of Luis Castillo. The Cincinnati fire sale is in full swing, with Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez being dealt on Monday, and Castillo should be the next pitcher who is traded to a contender.
Nelson Cruz moves to NL
Although the good news is that Nelson Cruz has chosen to continue his impressive career at age 41, he did not pick the best landing spot for his fantasy value. Fantasy managers would have preferred the veteran to join a club with a homer-happy venue and stacked lineup but will instead settle for plenty of RBI opportunities behind on-base machine Juan Soto. Cruz could produce 30 long balls and drive in 90 runs, but he might struggle to cross home plate more than 70 times in a shallow Nats lineup. His current Yahoo ADP of 119 overall feels appropriate in points leagues but a little bit rich in roto formats. The signing of Cruz by the Nats also represents a slight uptick in the draft value of Soto, who now has more potential to turn his high on-base percentage into a league-leading runs scored total.
Yusei Kikuchi signs with the Toronto Blue Jays
Yusei Kikuchi has shown flashes of excellence in his big league career but has never put everything together across a full season. For example, he roared out of the gate last year with a 3.48 ERA in the first half before logging a 5.98 mark after the All-Star break. His strikeout rate stayed consistent throughout the campaign, but his control rate trended in the wrong direction when he struggled down the stretch. Now a member of a Blue Jays squad that plays out of a hitter-friendly home park and is part of an offensively-charged division, Kikuchi initially appears to be someone who should be an afterthought in 2022 drafts. But pitching coach Pete Walker has recently done great work with pitchers, helping Robbie Ray break out while getting a bounce-back campaign out of Steven Matz and keeping the likes of Jose Berrios and Hyun-Jin Ryu on a successful path. I have enough faith in Walker to consider Kikuchi with a late-round pick in 12-team leagues.
Alex Colome signs with the Colorado Rockies
The Rockies did not have a good closer option on the roster and Alex Colome has 155 career saves, which makes the right-hander the leading candidate to handle ninth-inning duties. Still, Colome usually posts a low strikeout rate and was ineffective (4.15 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) with the Twins last season. There is a decent chance that the veteran compiles 20 saves but also posts ratios bad enough to negate any mixed-league value.
My best advice for Yahoo managers is to leave the 33-year-old undrafted and make him earn a fantasy roster spot by starting the season on a strong note. Meanwhile, those who held out hope for Daniel Bard (20 saves, 5.21 ERA in 2021) can likely move on to another reliever.
… And more to come — keep it locked!
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Source: Yahoo Sports