This week in (fantasy) baseball

It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions.

So here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We’ll do this on a regular basis. If you feel I’ve missed anything important, please don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.

Orioles trade Jeremy Guthrie to Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom

With less than a week to go before pitchers and catchers report, Colorado and Baltimore shored up their starting rotations by swapping pitchers who can eat up innings.

Guthrie, who turns 33 in April, has averaged more than 30 starts over the past five years but has never realized the potential the Indians saw when they made him a first-round draft pick 10 years ago. Last year, he finished 9-17 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.341 WHIP and allowed more hits than innings pitched.

For a guy who’s surrendered an average of more than 26 home runs a season since 2007, moving to Coors Field won’t exactly help his fantasy value next year. But at least he enters spring training with a guaranteed spot in the rotation, and could benefit from facing National League lineups for the first time in his career.

Hammel is a similar case, a guy with a career 4.99 ERA who should at least hold down a steady rotation job but offer fantasy owners little else on a team headed toward another 90-loss season. Entering his age-29 season, Hammel comes off the highest BB/9 and HR/9— and lowest K/9—of his career since becoming a full-time starter, and was shuttled between the rotation and the bullpen during the season’s final two months.

By far the most interesting variable to come out of the deal is Lindstrom, a guy with closing experience who could give current ninth-inning man Jim Johnson a possible challenge in the season’s early months. Manager Buck Showalter expressed interest late last year in moving Johnson to the rotation, but that was before the team acquired Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen, fleshing out a top five that should include Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta. If things fall apart, a pile of warm bodies, including Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland and Tommy Hunter could step in to eat up innings.

That means Johnson will likely stay at the back end of the bullpen, where he posted decent numbers last year after taking over for Kevin Gregg. But Lindstrom’s presence—along with that of newly signed Luis Ayala—gives Showalter backup options, and could make for an interesting position battle next month.

Rangers sign Conor Jackson to minor league deal

Jackson’s stock has fallen sharply since he posted three straight .800-plus OPS seasons several years ago. Last year, in 390 plate appearances split between the A’s and the Red Sox, Jackson, 29, posted a .244/.310/.341 line with just five home runs and 43 RBIs. But he can play at all four corner infield and outfield positions, and could provide Mitch Moreland with a right-handed-hitting platoon partner if the Rangers so desire. Jackson might be far from an exciting fantasy candidate, but while his prospects for a steady job are less than clear, any slugger calling Arlington home could have some fantasy value, so keep an eye on how his spring training unfolds.

Russell Branyan receives spring training invitation from Yankees

Although the Yankees are still looking for a left-handed designated hitter to complement Andruw Jones, the team agreed to terms Wednesday with the 36-year-old Branyan. Obviously, there’s little guarantee Branyan will make the team, let alone hold down a regular job, but it’s worth remembering he swatted 31 and 25 home runs in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Last year, Branyan compiled a .197/.295/.370 line in 146 plate appearances between the D-backs and Angels, and never earned a full-time job with either club. He’s strictly an afterthought as far as fantasy is concerned, though anyone wearing pinstripes in a premier hitters’ park retains the potential to make an impact, so he might be worth keeping an eye on in spring training.

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