The trade deadline is an exciting time of the year for baseball fans—at least those who are fans of contenders—but it is a more nebulous time for fantasy players. As you scan the news to see which players have switched leagues and can now be bid on in your AL or NL-only leagues, remember that new teams can have other implications for players. Here are four players I expect to improve their numbers if they end up on different teams.
If Justin Morneau is traded…
He will hit 12 home runs in the second half.
At his peak, Justin Morneau hit 30 or more home runs in three of four seasons. However, since 2009, Morneau has been derailed by concussions. From 2010 to 2011, Morneau fell short of a single season of playing time, and even in 2012, in 134 games, he failed to reach even 20 home runs.
While concussion symptoms will remain the narrative for Morneau’s steep decline from his MVP production, another factor has sapped his power. Opening in 2010, Target Field has proven to be the death of all left-handed power. In fact, in 2012, only PETCO Park in San Diego and AT&T Park in San Francisco have been more penalizing of left-handed power.
Here are the bottom-five parks for left-handed home runs in 2012:
|Park||HR as L||HR as R|
|PETCO Park (Padres)||81||96|
|AT&T Park (Giants)||87||93|
|Kauffman Stadium (Royals)||90||96|
|Target Field (Twins)||90||98|
|Marlins Park (Marlins)||91||93|
You may recall Joe Mauer hitting 28 home runs in 2009 and then dramatically falling off to nine and 10 the next two seasons. The new ballpark is a major reason for that.
Last season, Morneau hit 12 home runs on the road versus only seven at home. This season, he has just six total, all at home. However, with a 38.0 percent flyball rate, slightly up from last season, Morneau is due to see more homers regardless of where he plays. A new team will only help.
If Alex Rios is traded…
He will have 50 RBI in the second half.
Alex Rios hasn’t exactly disappointed so far this season. His 11 home runs and 45 runs are near his full-season pace from a year ago, and he already has 16 steals, nearer the pace of his career-best 34 in 2010. The major problem for Rios has been run production—Rios has just 38 RBI—and no wonder. It can be pretty difficult to knock in runners when there are none on base.
The White Sox have scored the second-fewest runs in the majors this season. Their 311 runs are 22 fewer than the hapless Astros. They are one of five teams with an on-base percentage below .300. Rios’ .268 average with 11 home runs is practically identical to the line of Brandon Phillips, who has 64 RBI. Of course, most teams don’t have Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto at the top of their order, but even a middle-of-the-pack offense will dramatically improve Rios’ RBI totals if he is traded.
Since Ricky Nolasco was traded…
He will win eight games in the second half.
Max Scherzer is the first pitcher to start a season at 13-0 since 1986. You may not be surprised, then, that Scherzer leads baseball with 6.29 runs of support per game. Near the other end of that spectrum, with only 2.89 runs of support per game, is Ricky Nolasco, who has started this season with a record of 5-8 despite a 3.85 ERA and 3.50 FIP.
Nolasco has made 18 starts this season. He has pitched at least five innings in every start. Twelve times, he has pitched six innings or more. And Nolasco has allowed more than four runs only twice. The Dodgers, his new team, are near the bottom of the league in runs scored this season, but they have been in the upper half of teams in runs scored over the last month with Yasiel Puigin the majors.
If Nolasco duplicates his performance from the first half, he should win more than half of his starts on the Dodgers.
If Jake Peavy is traded…
He will have an ERA under 3.50 in the second half.
Jake Peavy has a 4.30 ERA so far this season, nearly a run higher than his 3.37 ERA last year. However, his 3.74 FIP is nearly identical to his 3.73 FIP from a year ago. There are several factors pointing to improvements for Peavy.
First, there is his 11.8 percent home run to flyball rate. Peavy never has had a rate over 10.1 percent in his previous three seasons in Chicago. Second, Peavy has stranded only 70.8 percent of baserunners, down from his 75.5 percent career average.
Both the home run-to-flyball rate and strand rate should improve no matter if Peavy stays or goes. However, the one thing that almost certainly would improve for Peavy if he were traded is his defensive support. The White Sox defense has cost its pitchers an estimated 33 runs this season according to Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved numbers. Only the Angels, Mariners and Phillies have been worse this year.
The Diamondbacks, Pirates, Reds, Braves, Rangers, Orioles, Red Sox and Yankees all are in the thick of their races, and each has double-digit Defensive Runs Saved. Only the Tigers, Athletics and Cardinals are in the negative double-digits among contenders.