Fantasy baseball impact of the biggest winter meetings moves

Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball's winter meetings have come and gone, and many fantasy baseball players have seen their values shift as a result of the transactions from the past week. ESPN's fantasy analysts share their thoughts on some of the most notable trades and signings to happen as a result of the league's meetings in Las Vegas.

Andrew McCutchen signs with the Philadelphia Phillies: Now 32 years old and no longer the base stealer that made him a top-12-overall player as recently as 2014, McCutchen picked a good landing spot for slowing the statistical effects of the aging curve. After spending nine seasons in Pittsburgh and four-fifths of another in San Francisco, calling extreme pitchers' parks his home, he'll finally call a homer haven his home in Citizens Bank Park, which from 2014 through 2018 had the greatest right-handed home run park factor (1.294) in baseball. McCutchen's fantasy value would be maximized as a leadoff or No. 2 hitter rather than 5 or 6, but in Philly, a return to the 30-homer plateau isn't out of the question. He's now a much more appealing top-30/OF3 in mixed leagues. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Carlos Santana traded to the Cleveland Indians and Edwin Encarnacion traded to the Seattle Mariners: Encarnacion and Santana are not what they used to be -- who among us is? -- but each can still aid a fantasy team. The fact they were dealt for each other is interesting ... and for all we know, Encarnacion isn't done moving. In each of the past two seasons, Encarnacion has been a borderline top-10 fantasy first baseman, while Santana finished in the 20-24 range at the position. There's little reason to expect different results in 2019. Encarnacion has hit at least 30 homers in seven consecutive seasons, and while there were signs of trouble last season in his chase rate and other things, he provides more power than most, including Santana. He walks a ton, but hits for modest pop. Fantasy value shouldn't change much for either, and I'll note Santana 10 rounds after Encarnacion is nice value, as he could rebound a bit back in the American League, but only one of these guys is worth a top-50 pick. It's safe, reliable power from Encarnacion ... wherever he winds up. -- Eric Karabell

Ian Kinsler signs with the San Diego Padres: Ian Kinsler is 36 years old and far from his 30-homer, 30-steal days, but he'll have fantasy appeal if you can stomach the new baseline for his disappointing batting average, which I can because double digits in home runs and stolen bases remains a valuable commodity in the later rounds. Heading to the Padres on a two-year deal might seem odd, since San Diego does not feel like an immediate contender and boasts no shortage of awesome middle-infield prospects, but perhaps we should reassess. Does Kinsler's arrival mean Luis Urias moves to shortstop? Not necessarily, but we would be fine with that. Does it delay the big league debut of Fernando Tatis Jr.? I doubt it. Kinsler can play third base, too, and while you might think he is too old for your team, note he has averaged 21 home runs, 15 steals and 91 runs the past three seasons. Take the under on those stats for 2019 in San Diego, but not that far under. I think he plays regularly, and even in a pitchers' park -- and he could end up with another contender like in July 2018 -- he can be a top-20 second baseman in fantasy. -- Eric Karabell

Jake Bauers traded to the Cleveland Indians and Yandy Diaz traded to the Tampa Bay Rays: My initial reaction to the Rays' part of the three-team deal that also sent Encarnacion to Seattle and Santana to Cleveland was, "WHAAAAAA?" Days later, my reaction remains, "WHAAAAAA?" Bauers and Diaz might be polar opposites in terms of their hitting approach, with Bauers more of an all-or-nothing type thus far in the bigs and Diaz a high-contact, hit-'em-hard-but-generally-on-the-ground type, but if the Rays saw untapped power in the latter, they might've done just as well sticking with Bauers. Bauers is a pull-power type whose swing could thrive in Cleveland's friendly-to-powerful-lefties ballpark, giving him a 25-homer chance at the expense of batting average, though it admittedly could be a long trip to get there, evidenced by his .154/.268/.243 slash line in the Rays' final 50 games of 2018. Diaz finished in the 95th percentile in terms of average exit velocity in limited time last season, and while his so-so defense casts uncertainty upon his role, perhaps the Rays saw something -- launch angle, perhaps -- they can tweak. It's a slight boost in deep-mixed/AL-only appeal for both, and that also potentially applies to Rays prospect Nathaniel Lowe, who could man first base in the absence of a deal for Encarnacion or another veteran. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Charlie Morton signs with the Tampa Bay Rays: Morton to Tampa Bay on a two-year deal might seem surprising, but it is a perfect fit, really. Morton is not someone fantasy managers expect to make 30 starts, anyway, even though he did so in 2018 with the Astros, but so what if he falls short? This new version is a major strikeout option with his fastball-curveball combo, and the Rays know how to utilize their pitchers. Morton's record for durability is a bit frightening, but fantasy managers should pay for 150 excellent innings with excellent strikeouts. I do not expect the numbers to alter much in Tampa Bay. There will be a stint or two on the disabled list, precious few outings in which Morton gets seventh-inning outs, and perhaps it is more like 12 wins than 15, but again, this is a top-30 fantasy hurler that too many fantasy managers are scared of. If the Rays are not scared, then you should get over it, too. -- Eric Karabell

Wilson Ramos signs with the New York Mets: As a Mets fan, I was very upset when Rene Rivera left the team (via waivers) in late 2017. Offensively, he was mediocre at best, but it was how well he handled the pitching staff that was sorely missed once he was gone. In 2016, the Mets' ERA was 2.75 with Rivera behind the plate. It was 3.47 with Kevin Plawecki and 4.27 with Travis d'Arnaud. If Rivera provided a big boost for the likes of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, imagine what Ramos -- who always seemed to be in lockstep with Max Scherzer back when he was with the Nationals, calling two no-hitters for the ace, as well as one for Jordan Zimmermann -- will be able to do to boost the overall value of the New York staff. Additionally, Ramos has fantasy value of his own with the bat. He's No. 8 among catchers with a .324 wOBA (minimum 2000 at-bats since 2013) and is one of only seven backstops with 90-plus home runs during that same span. That number would certainly have been higher if not for the torn ACL he suffered in late 2016, but with a full 2018 under his belt, a 20-HR 2019 would not surprise me at all. -- AJ Mass

Justin Bour signs with the Los Angeles Angels: The Angels' signing of Bour piqued my interest in one regard: Angel Stadium had baseball's best left-handed home run park factor in 2018 (1.360), partly the product of the team lowering the fences by 10 feet in right field. He'll clutter the team's first base/designated hitter battle between Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani, but with Ohtani probably not quite ready to play by Opening Day and Pujols a defensive liability, Bour could play a lot more than you might expect. He's a cheap power option, perhaps more so than Bauers, in the same larger leagues. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Nathan Eovaldi signs long term with the Boston Red Sox: Eovaldi became a star in the playoffs and fantasy managers are likely to overrate him a bit in spring drafts ... because that is what tends to happen. I do like Eovaldi, but this is not Morton, for example. Morton made 55 starts the past two seasons and comes off a 201-strikeout campaign. Eovaldi missed 2017 with his second Tommy John surgery and made 21 starts for the 2018 Red Sox and Rays. Is there Morton-like upside? Of course there is! Eovaldi always threw hard, but now his cutter misses many bats. I will worry about durability, and the Red Sox could handle him carefully. I doubt Eovaldi pitches more than 150 innings, for example, but Morton won 15 games over 167 innings for the Astros, so this could be a top-20 starting pitcher. I cannot rank him that way, though. It is nice that Eovaldi returned to the Red Sox, but I am more likely to let other fantasy managers overpay for someone who is far from a sure thing. -- Eric Karabell

J.A. Happ signs long term with the New York Yankees: After being traded to the Yankees near the July deadline last season, Happ started 10 games for the pinstriped Bronx residents the rest of the way. He went undefeated at 7-0, with a 2.81 ERA and a .223 BAA, not to mention the stellar 4.07 K/BB rate. While you can't spell happy without Happ, you can spell unhappy with him, too. Unhappy is exactly what New York was after Happ allowed five runs in two innings against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Nevertheless, the good clearly outweighed the bad here, and Happ is expected to soon finalize a two-year deal (with an option) to remain in the Yankees' rotation. In 15 career starts at Yankee Stadium, Happ has posted a 3.39 ERA and .219 BAA -- the vast majority of which came against New York bats. That's far better than his career marks of 3.90 ERA and a .248 BAA. Even if he performs at those levels, the Yankees should be thrilled with that from a back-end starter. Fantasy managers in 10-team mixed leagues, on the other hand, will likely have far more options available to them when rounding out the rotation. There's still a lot of player movement left to go, but for today, Happ is only a borderline top-50 SP. -- AJ Mass