Heat Rising

What was a slow Hot Stove season just a couple weeks ago is a slow Hot Stove season no more. The days immediately following the Winter Meetings are often full of activity, and this year was no exception. The week between Christmas and New Year’s, on the other hand, tends to be quiet. So, now seems to be a good time to pause and take a fantasy-angled look at the most notable moves that have been made since the baseball world departed from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando.

Carlos Santana signs with Phillies – This was a somewhat surprising move, as the
Phillies should not be mistaken for a contending team. But, Philadelphia does have a promising young core of position players, and the Santana deal certainly makes for a more dangerous lineup. The 31-year-old switch-hitter is coming off a fine 2017 campaign in which he swatted 23 homers while tallying a career-best 90 runs. Santana’s fantasy value doesn’t change much. If anything, his home run upside improves with the move to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. If you decide to pass on the elite class of first basemen, Santana is a fine consolation prize. Note that he is especially appealing in OBP leagues (career .365 OBP).

Evan Longoria traded to Giants – And you thought Longoria would finish his career with the Rays?  Nope. Although, it is extremely rare for players to spend a career with one team these days, it will be strange to see Longoria donning a different uniform. Following a stellar 2016 season, the veteran third sacker turned in a so-so performance last year, batting .261 with 86 RBI but only 20 home runs, his lowest total since his injury-shortened 2012 campaign. At this point in his career, Longoria is the kind of boring player who fantasy owners should neither be overly excited nor overly hesitant to draft if the price is low enough.

Matt Kemp traded to Dodgers – In what amounted to a salary dump trade, the Dodgers got the best player in the deal while cutting ties with Adrian Gonzalez, whose days as a productive big league hitter could be over. Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Charlie Culberson were also included in the package for Kemp but Gonzalez and Kemp, who will be earning the same $21.5 million salary in 2018, were the key players. The bad news for Los Angeles is that Kemp is signed through 2019, so he might not even be on the club’s Opening Day roster if they can find a taker for at least a portion of the $43 million remaining on his contract. Kemp belted 35 homers in 2016 but injuries limited him to just 115 games last season. When healthy, however, his performance was solid enough to suggest that a return to top-30 OF status is a possibility for 2018 if he can avoid the DL. Kemp offers some sneaky profit potential as a third or fourth outfielder in mixed leagues.

Stephen Piscotty traded to A’s – One of the biggest fantasy busts of 2017, Piscotty could benefit from a change of scenery in his quest to get his big league career back on track. Sure, last season was extremely disappointing, but it would be a mistake to simply forget about his 2016 stat line of .273-22-85-86. The cost-conscious A’s must love that he’s signed through 2022 for a grand total of $29.5 million, and fantasy owners will love it when they draft him outside the top-50 outfielders and he delivers top-30 OF numbers.

Fernando Rodney signs with Twins – We keep doubting Rodney but despite some ugly outings, he always pitches just well enough to hang onto the closer job. Expect more of the same in 2018. If you’re solely focused on saves and don’t care about ERA and WHIP, Rodney is your guy.

Yoshihisa Hirano signs with Diamondbacks – Who knows what to expect from Hirano, but as an effective closer in Japan, the right-hander belongs on the mixed league radar for now. Then again, Archie Bradley could start and finish the season as Arizona’s ninth inning man, in which case Hirano would not belong on the mixed league radar.

Mitch Moreland re-signs with Red Sox – Very quietly, Moreland has averaged 22 homers and 75 RBI over the past three seasons. But, he was a batting average liability in both 2016 and 2017. On the bright side, Moreland batted a respectable .267 at Fenway Park last year, so if he can improve upon his 2017 .226 road average, Moreland may no longer be a batting average liability. Consider the first sacker/DH a decent late-round pick in deeper mixed leagues.

Zack Cozart signs with Angels – Cozart is fresh off a career year in which he boasted a .297/.385/.548 slash line with a single-season high 24 homers. And, I need to see him do it again. Until then, I won’t be seriously targeting Cozart in mixed league drafts. Keep in mind that prior to 2017 the third sacker had never hit more than 16 home runs or posted a batting average above .258 over a full season.

Jhoulys Chacin signs with Brewers – Chacin was a pleasant surprise last season, but check out his home/road splits. Owning the righty in 2018 might not be such a pleasant experience now that he will no longer be calling San Diego home.  Over 16 Petco Park outings, the veteran righty was 9-3 with a 1.79 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. In 16 road starts, he went 4-7 with a 6.53 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP. Scary indeed.

Matt Moore traded to Rangers – Moore doesn’t really deserve a place in this article, but as a frustrated owner of the southpaw in Mixed Auction Tout Wars this past season, I could not help but include him. Even if he stayed with the Giants, the 28-year-old would not have been mixed league relevant. Now he moves from pitcher-friendly AT&T Park to Arlington.

Good luck.

Zach Steinhorn is the 2016 Mixed Auction Tout Wars champion. Follow him on Twitter @ZachMLB

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