Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 18 June 2009
July is just around the corner and that means that the MLB non-waiver trading deadline is coming up. With it comes the potential for a whole slew of moves which could affect fantasy teams and the value of certain players as contenders try to fortify themselves for a run at the playoffs.
Up until last month that probably meant the crown jewel player probable to be was A’s outfielder Matt Holliday -- a free agent at the end of the year and a top offensive player all around. He’s had a slow first half by his usual standards (.275-8-37-32-4) but much of that has to do with playing in pitcher friendly Oakland and not having a huge amount of support behind him.
Kevin Millwood could be dealt - which would probably increase his fantasy value
However all of that may have changed with the announcement from Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks that he’s be willing to sell controlling interest in the team due to serious financial difficulties which forced him to default on $525 million in loans which were collateralized by the Rangers and Dallas Stars (both of which are owned by Hicks Sports Group). That may sound innocuous enough, but economizing already started in Texas as Hicks axed roughly 10 percent of his staff earlier this week. That leads to a lot of speculation that salary dumping isn’t far behind.
And the Rangers have a significant number of players who’d be of interest to big market teams who could ship prospects and cash for players who either are already earning big salaries or are arbitration eligible. That list includes Michael Young ($13 million), Kevin Millwood ($12.8 million), Vicente Padilla ($12 million), Ian Kinsler ($3.2 million), Hank Blalock ($6.2 million), Frank Francisco ($1.6 million), Marlon Byrd ($3 million) and young star Josh Hamilton (arbitration eligible and probably due at least $6 million) and that list doesn’t even count secondary players who other teams will be more than willing to gamble on.
That could change everything leading up to the deadline and no doubt several savvy General Managers have already put in calls to the Rangers to ascertain just who is available for trade in the next 40 or so days. Sadly fantasy GMs can’t make that same call to the Rangers to get a feel as to if the Rangers are really going to go into fire sale mode.
While the Rangers currently stand in first place in the AL West, no one seriously thinks they will hold off the Angels without adding more pieces to their team. Those pieces might well be the antithesis of an organization struggling with financial problems because those pieces will likely cost big money and will require trading cheap players and prospects making little money in order to secure them.
Realistically it probably puts the Rangers firmly into the seller category over the next month or so. That means fantasy owners may find themselves taking a big hit offensively when hitters are traded away from one of the most offensive parks in the game.
That should be a big concern to owners of Ian Kinsler, the best second baseman in fantasy today. Kinsler’s away splits this year are dramatic -- .346-10-29-32-7 at home, but just .182-7-17-13-4 on the road.
Among hitters Kinsler’s splits are probably the most dramatic, but the story could actually be more about the pitchers as both Millwood and Padilla are among the most highly salaried players on the team and both before they got to Texas were pretty decent pitchers. That could mean a significant rise in value for both these players if they are shipped off (and it’s likely as everyone needs pitching for the playoff). While neither are likely to suddenly become elite (pretty much impossible I would think), there are plenty of teams who could use pitchers capable of posting a 4.00 or less ERA.
Unless you are in an AL only league, fantasy owners shouldn’t jump the gun here, but keep abreast of the situation and keep listening for trade rumors. A little extra attention could be key to gaining an advantage in the next few weeks. A fire sale in Texas could change just about everything.