Many times over the past few weeks both Karl and I teased the trade deadline as a time of great change. A time of both frustration and new possibility. So it should be no surprise (none whatsoever!) that this much ballyhooed deadline passed with very little activity to speak of.
In the interest of not dwelling on it (and because it’s late) let’s dive right into today’s wire.
Tyson Ross | San Diego Padres | SP | ESPN: 1.5 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 3 percent; CBS: 8 percent
YTD: 2-4, 2.90 ERA in five starts
It took injuries to Jason Marquis and Clayton Richard to give Tyson Ross another shot in the San Diego rotation, and even though the Padres were one of the few teams adding players at the deadline (by acquiring fellow starter Ian Kennedy) it seems like Ross’ job in Petco is safe for now. That alone would be encouraging for fantasy owners looking for a deep-league waiver addition. The fact that he’s pitched so well this year makes it doubly so.
In his two starts since rejoining the Padres rotation, against the Diamondbacks and Brewers, Ross has fanned 13 and walked just three in 14 innings. Those are impressive results, even if one of those teams is missing its baddest hitter (hi Ryan Braun!). It’s an incredibly small and (nearly) worthless sample to analyze, but his numbers overall this season are surprisingly strong. His ERA (2.90) is indeed pacing ahead of his (3.65) and his xFIP (4.11) but those are both respectable numbers, particularly for a guy who is available almost everywhere.
It’s true that Ross is not exactly a prospect, at 27-years-old, and his minor league track record has many pedestrian numbers. But it’s also true that Ross is throwing harder right now than ever before. Maybe more importantly, he has more separation between his fastball and change up than ever before, too.
Ross’ fastballs are clocking in this season at 93.9 miles per hour, nearly 1.5 faster than last season. Lest we attribute that to the time he’s spent pitching in short bursts out of the pen, Ross was around 96 in both of his starts last week. While he’s seen that rise in velocity, it might be just as important to his overall success that he’s essentially been able to maintain the speed on his previous changeups. I’m not a pitching coach, but it seems likely that widening that gap makes success more likely.
And he’s had success this year. His sub-3 ERA is not here to stay, but he shows many encouraging signs that he could be a worthy addition to fantasy rosters down the stretch. He pitches in a rather extreme pitchers park, in a division that lacks an offensive juggernaut (unless you count the Dodgers or Rockies, and I’m not sure I do). He gets tons and tons of groundballs (51.8 percent this year), and he strikes out twice as many batters as he walks (19.3 percent vs. 9.9 percent). He’s getting more swings outside the zone this year than ever before (32.1 percent), and his swinging strike rate is higher than it has been in the previous two seasons (8.8 percent).
There are things to like here. As always with guys this available this late in the season (of course) there are things to dislike as well. Namely his lack of a track record of sustained success (in the major leagues or minor leagues), and the fact that his two strong starts came against weak offensive teams. But, hey what do you want? This is the waiver wire, man. We go where others are unwilling to tread.
Recommendation: Deep league (or AL-only) fodder.
Alex Rodriguez | New York Yankees | 3B | ESPN: 8.3 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 16 percent; CBS: 34 percent
ZiPS projection: .253/.335/.412 in 104 games (preseason projection)
Yes, I know. Things aren’t going very well for A-Rod right now, and we should probably address that before I talk about his current fantasy value.
1. Nobody likes A-Rod. I don’t like A-Rod, you probably don’t like A-Rod, Major League Baseball doesn’t like A-Rod, his own team doesn’t even seem to like A-Rod. I get it. I think it’s a tad overblown, personally, but I get it.
2. He’s clearly not the same A-Rod who hit most of those 647 home runs anymore, and it’s unlikely he ever will be again.
3. Seemingly every single day a new story breaks about how A) He’s going to be suspended forever as a result of his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, or B) How his own team is sabotaging his attempt to return from injury this season in the hopes that they won’t have to pay his salary (if he doesn’t play, insurance picks up the tab).
I know all that. Everyone knows all that. The thing is, right now these stories are dominating the narrative for A-Rod, and somewhat rightly so. Things are not going very well, and every time they seem to hit rock bottom, a new story comes out that illuminates an even greater depth to come. My counterpoints, as a fantasy baseball writer seeking value where most see none:
1. Who cares, really? Fantasy titles aren’t given on how collectively kind your team is. And most of these guys are probably jerks anyway. At the very least A-Rod is just one jerk among many. At the most, he’s the biggest of them all. Does the difference really matter to you?
2. This does not mean A-Rod’s offensive ability is completely gone. He still can be a pretty good player, and he owns the skills that made him one of the best players of all time. Some of that may have been steroid induced, and that’s certainly a risk here, BUT pretending A-Rod’s past production was all a result of performance enhancing drugs is also a risk.
3. Ryan Braun accepted his sentence because he’s hurt, his team is in last place, and he seemingly has a long career still ahead of him. Almost none of those things are true with Rodriguez. He claims he’s healthy, he’s on another Double-A rehab assignment, his team is 3.5 games out of the wild card, and this is the tail end of his career. It’s either now or never. If anyone is going to fight a suspension and have that appeals process carry over into the offseason, it’s Alex Rodriguez. I rallied against those who were shocked that Ryan Braun is serving his suspension now, and it’s entirely possible A-Rod never plays a major league game again. BUT it’s also entirely possible he comes back next week and provides league-average offensive production.
My advice? Zig where others zag. The suspension talk is dominating the headlines right now, but what’s lost in that is that A-Rod might actually come back this year. And he still might have something left in the tank. Or not. Either way, it’s worth a shot, and his ownership rates are criminally low for a guy with 647 career home runs still on the right side of 40 years old.
Recommendation: It’s rare we write about players with 600 home runs here in the Waiver Wire corner of The Hardball Times, but such is the power of A-Rod’s current narrative. He’s worth rolling the dice on if you have a need. As likely as it is that he doesn’t come back, it’s entirely possible that he does, and does in a big way. Don’t be shocked when that happens, just take my advice now.