Fantasy fallout: Mets sign K-Rod, acquire Putz in three-team trade (Part 2)

In Part 1, I looked at how the recent flurry of moves by the New York Mets affected Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Now let’s take a look at the affect on the closer market and on some of the lesser names involved in the trade. To quickly refresh ourselves about the trade:

Mets receive: Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green
Indians receive: Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena
Mariners receive: Aaron Heilman, Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, Ezequiel Carrera, and Maikel Cleto

Fallout: Aaron Heilman and Brandon Morrow

For the past few weeks, word has been that the Mets were marketing Heilman as a starter and that several teams were interested. It’s very possible the Mariners decide to use him in the rotation, which makes Brandon Morrow the odd man out unless they make another move to clear room. As it looks right now, the rotation for the M’s looks like this:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Erik Bedard (could be non-tendered)
  3. Carlos Silva (essentially unmovable)
  4. Jarrod Washburn (could be moved)
  5. Aaron Heilman (?)

If Heilman starts, that’s three spots locked in. If Bedard is non-tendered or Washburn is traded, Morrow would likely start, but he might instead begin the year closing games.

Brandon Morrow

+------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+-------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+
| YEAR | AGE | GS | IP   | ERA  | LIPS ERA | DIPS WHIP | K/9   | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% | BABIP | HR/FB |
+------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+-------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+
| 2007 |  22 | 60 | 63.3 | 4.12 |     4.89 |      1.64 |  9.38 | 7.11 |   -0.05 |   34 | 0.329 |   3.8 |
| 2008 |  23 | 45 | 64.7 | 3.34 |     3.72 |      1.30 | 10.44 | 4.73 |    0.66 |   32 | 0.207 |  12.8 |
+------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+-------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+

Morrow made big strides with his control in 2008 in addition to cranking his K/9 up a point. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher, but if he can maintain most of those control gains he’ll make a fine closer. His fastball is simply ridiculous at 97 MPH (on average!) with lots and lots of rise (more than a foot according to PITCHf/x). He’d also make quite the interesting pick as a starter, as of right now it’s not looking like we’ll get to see that.

Aaron Heilman

+------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+
| YEAR | AGE | G  | IP   | ERA  | LIPS ERA | DIPS WHIP | K/9  | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% | BABIP | HR/FB |
+------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+
| 2006 |  27 | 74 | 87.0 | 3.62 |     3.79 |      1.22 | 7.55 | 2.90 |    0.34 |   44 | 0.286 |   5.4 |
| 2007 |  28 | 81 | 86.0 | 3.03 |     4.06 |      1.21 | 6.59 | 2.09 |    0.24 |   46 | 0.256 |   9.1 |
| 2008 |  29 | 78 | 76.0 | 5.21 |     4.33 |      1.50 | 9.47 | 5.45 |    0.26 |   43 | 0.323 |  13.3 |
+------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+

Heilman’s LIPS ERA has risen each year since he became a full-time reliever (for those who don’t recall, Heilman was drafted in the first round as a starting pitcher out of Notre Dame). This year, he cranked his strikeout rate up three points, but his walk rate went up more than three points itself, all while Heilman’s BABIP and HR/FB went well above league average. This led to a miserable season on the surface and only a so-so season peripherally.

My main concern with Heilman as a starter, however, is his lack of a breaking pitch. He has a great two-seam fastball and a nice change-up (actually looks like he might throw a change-up and splitter), but taking a quick look at his PITCHf/x data, we see that his slider is really isn’t anything special.

In 2007, he didn’t throw the slider at all, so it’s possible he’s still re-learning it (he threw a slider at Notre Dame, in the minors, and a bit in 2005 and 2006) and it will improve in 2009. It was apparently good at some point, though I’ve seen reports like these on pitchers who’s sliders really aren’t very good, so it’s hard to say.

Heilman could end up doing well as a starter with just the fastball and change with a few sliders mixed in, but his peripherals as a reliever would never have been great for a starter, and they’d surely take a hit once the switch is made. If you’d like, you could take a late round flier on Heilman (as we noted with Putz, Safeco does inflate strikeouts), but I see him as mostly a high-risk, medium-reward selection. In the end-game, I’m opting instead for the high-risk, high-reward guys.

If Morrow ends up starting and not Heilman, however, Heilman would be a real candidate to close games and an excellent sleeper. This trade also helps the value of the rest of the M’s bullpen (Cesar Jimenez, Mark Lowe, etc.) since there might not be a clear-cut closer if Morrow starts.

Fallout: Franklin Gutierrez

Power
For sections that are divided, the left section shows his numbers with the Indians and the right shows his numbers translated to the Mariners.

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+--------+-------+---------+--------+-----+---------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | HR | tHR    | HR/FB | tHR/FB  | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB%  |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+--------+-------+---------+--------+-----+---------+
| 2007 |  24 | Indians | 271 | 13 | 12 / 9 |    17 | 16 / 13 |     16 | 2.7 | 39 / 42 |
| 2008 |  25 | Indians | 399 |  8 |  5 / 6 |     7 |  4 /  8 |     10 | 0.0 | 36 / 39 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+--------+-------+---------+--------+-----+---------+

Gutierrez flashed nice potential in 2007, but took a huge step back in 2008. He would put up respectable enough power numbers in a neutral park, but Jacobs did him no favors and Safeco won’t be much kinder. He wouldn’t have hit a single ball out of Jacobs given neutral weather for the park and would have hit just one out of Safeco this year. Safeco will allow him to hit more fly balls, and he’ll likely get regular playing time, but I wouldn’t expect more than 15 homers given 550 at-bats.

Contact
For sections that are divided, the left section shows his numbers with the Indians and the right shows his numbers translated to the Mariners.

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+---------------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | tBA           | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+---------------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| 2007 |  24 | Indians | 271 | 0.266 | 0.264 / 0.268 |  72 | 0.326 |  0.329 |  15 |     15 |      16 |
| 2008 |  25 | Indians | 399 | 0.248 | 0.249 / 0.258 |  78 | 0.299 |  0.317 |  17 |     39 |      62 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+---------------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+

Gutierrez figures to hit for a higher batting average in Seattle, but not much higher. He’ll still be below average and won’t be helping many fantasy teams. He made some nice strides with his contact rate, but it’s still below average. Coupled with his so-so power and mediocre BABIP numbers, Gutierrez is simply an unspectacular player.

He’ll steal a few bases, but he won’t have much fantasy value unless he gets a good spot in the batting order. This is a possibility with Raul Ibanez leaving and Adrian Beltre a trade candidate, but overall Gutierrez doesn’t look like much more than a deep mixed league or AL-only pick.

Fallout: The rest

The rest of the guys involved in this trade really don’t see much change in their fantasy value. I really liked Joe Smith as a sleeper candidate for saves, but the Mets didn’t seem to view him that way. Sean Green doesn’t figure to get involved with K-Rod and Putz around, and none of the prospects are close to the majors or figure to make much of an impact. You can keep an eye on Carp, but he isn’t anything too special.

Endy Chavez derives the majority of his value from defense and won’t be much of a fantasy threat, and Jeremy Reed will simply take his bench spot for the Mets (which is a clear downgrade from a pure baseball perspective).

Fallout: Ben Francisco

I’ll cover Francisco in more detail at a later date, but this trade pretty much assures Francisco of regular at-bats. He makes a very nice sleeper this year.

Fallout: Closer’s market

The three-year, $37 million contract given to K-Rod was far below what he was looking for earlier in the off-season. This sets the bar very low for closers, and with the only big-market team now out of the game, guys like Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, Trevor Hoffman, and even more so Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz, may get signed to smaller contracts with smaller market teams. It’s currently looking like the Indians will sign Wood. The Angels’ name is being floated around a little bit, and it seems like they might end up with one of these guys if the price is right. That’s bad news for Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields.

This also makes it more likely that guys like Huston Street and Matt Capps will stay put. Why would teams give up prospects for a closer when they can sign one for pennies? This doesn’t bode well for their potential replacements, namely Manny Corpas.

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